In his LRB review of the first two volumes of Henry James’s collected letters (The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volumes I and II edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias,) Colm Toibin quotes from a letter James sent to his sister, Alice, on Pope Pius IX:
‘When you have seen that flaccid old woman waving his ridiculous fingers over the prostrate multitude & have duly felt the picturesqueness of the scene – & then turn away sickened by its absolute obscenity – you may climb the steps of the Capitol & contemplate the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.’
Plus ca change… Unless of course Marcus Aurelius is intended to represent the glories of an independent and secular state, in which priests were allowed to advise but not to rule.
Thank you James!!Fran