Permission From The Pope
by Tim Griffin and Dr. Ada Palmer, 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:
“Gee, 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!


In 2018, I (Tim) 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. 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 violent 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 in its governance; 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 may need 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 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.