Some people can make decisions and create institutions that continue to impact society long after they are gone. Lotario de Segni, better known as Pope Innocent III (1160-1216) and main contributor to Canon Law, was one of these people, as a man who forged the path of a Catholic Church that was at the point of disintegrating.
Gerardo Laveaga tells the story of the life of Pope Innocent III in a novel entitled Innocent’s Dream. Reading this novel will help us understand what lies behind a leader.
In his youth, Lotario led a life of study, always facing the dilemma of choosing between marriage and a life of tradition and ritual. As with many others, he fell in love, became disillusioned and apparently learned to live a humble life.
However, his aristocratic roots, his training as a theologian and jurist, his intelligence and, his diplomatic abilities, led to the development of a remarkable personality who attracted the attention of Pope Clement III.
He gradually ascended the ecclesiastical scale, while at the same time he became convinced that the doctrines questioning the church were proliferating in Europe and the successive Popes who had been appointed did not have the virtues to save Catholicism.
In his youth, Lotario applied the advice given to him by Enrico Dandolo: “The main virtue of a ruler in his capacity to point to a destiny and, also, to build the road that will take his people to that destiny. Be it a political ruler, a spiritual ruler, or a military ruler, he will be such if he is able to invent a purpose and arouse the enthusiasm of his people to achieve it... when there is no direction, the people, churches, armies become dispersed... if there is no road or when there are numerous roads, confusion arises."
At that stage of his life, Lotario was still convinced that the role of the Church was not to impose a single truth, but to create a favorable climate so that all can prosper in the faith, despite their differences. However, he was later to forget this and The Truth was imposed on his mind. This is where his errors began.
For example, he established a police force to supervise orthodoxy, instrumented mechanisms of control, such as confession and indissoluble marriage; everything to indicate the correct path for people to follow and to conserve a united Christianity, while at the same time denying differences of opinion and liberties. In other words, Lotario became an inflexible arbiter.
From my point of view, one of characteristics of a good leader is to know how to make decisions based on information and the knowledge of people who surround you, without suppressing them. Furthermore, you should be resolute but never like Pope Innocent III, inflexible.
Another key point of leadership is to show by example, to be consistent between what you think, what you say, and what you do. Unfortunately, the central character of this story at the end of his life was neither consistent nor tolerant. He strove for everyone to think like he did or he eliminated them. But, for there to be change, and above all, a change of leaders, there should be those who are in disagreement.
At the end of his life, Innocent III realized the error of his ways: “it was necessary to turn back. Responsibility led him to where he was and responsibility now required him to turn back.” It was too late.
Innocent III, without a doubt, one of the most influential personalities in history, teaches us the impact that a leader can have on the future, but he also shows the serious consequences of his errors.