Permission From The Pope
by Tim Griffin and Dr. Ada Palmer

by Ada Palmer and Tim Griffin          copyright 2018


Do you remember when King Henry

Married Catherine but then decided

He would rather be with Anne Boleyn

When his older brother died, he made Catherine his bride

But then the Bible told him that’s a mortal sin

To be the king’s a lot of fun but you’ve got to sire a son

And Anne Boleyn was Henry’s only hope

But with his titles and his gold, still he couldn’t get annulled

Because you’ve got to get permission from the Pope.


Another sovereign of state whom you know as Charles the Great

Or if you’re fancy, you can call him Charlemagne

He was causing quite a stir in the courts of Europe

Just to bring the Western world within his reign

He said the world was ready for a Holy Roman Emperor

And to be the H.R.E.’d be dope

He could rise up like the sun, it would be a lot of fun

But first you’ve got to get permission from the Pope!


(bridge) You know to be a Christian king is a pretty awesome thing

But you don’t always get to call the tune

When the ruler of a nation needs a Papal dispensation

He may run the risk of being excommunicated


Then there came a Bible truther by the name of Martin Luther

He’s the priest who put some theses on the door

He was told to quit the whining but there’s no denying

That he rocked the Christian countries to the core

Through the trial and tribulation of the coming reformation

Every nation in the Papal scope

Found they had to pick a side and a lot of people died

Every man against his brother for one ruler or another

‘Cause you’ve got to get permission, with perhaps a few conditions

Or even some revisions of liturgical provisions

Causing violent divisions; can we make our own decisions?

You know a schism is a slippery slope

So you’ve got to get permission from the Pope!


A few years ago, I had the great privilege of being the musical guest of honor at Balticon, an annual convention in Baltimore for science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, anime, and other great geeky stuff. To compound my good fortune, the writer guest of honor was the brilliant Dr. Ada Palmer, a true polymath with impressive achievements in fiction, academia, music, and numerous other areas. She and I had brunch together on a Sunday morning, and this song happened.

Academic standards addressed by this song:
No course on European or early American history makes much sense without the context of the Catholic church's authority over earthly affairs, the Protestant rebellion against that authority, and the often bloody means by which such disputes were settled. For teachers of American history explaining to their students why our founders, a group of mostly Christian men, chose nonetheless to require that their new nation would be secular by law; this song might be a good place to start that discussion.

A note about diversity and inclusion:
This song is aimed at introducing the main idea behind Europe's struggles between the Catholic and Protestant approaches to governance; it is *not* a satire and no disrespect for either faith is intended. At GriffinEd, we strive to honor the diversity of faith (and other things) on our team and in our audience, and we run lyrics on potentially controversial topics (race, religion, politics, etc.) by people who can (and often do!) point out where we may be getting it wrong before we publish. Some songs turn out to need minor revisions for fairness or accuracy, while others go back to the drawing board. If you believe we are getting it wrong on a topic dear to you, please contact us (Tim (at) to let us know how we can do better; and please know one of our core values is to treat all people with kindness and respect.