Popes Gone Wild: What the Catholic Church Would Rather You Forget
The man pictured above is the poster boy for Catholic debauchery. His name was Pope Alexander VI. He wasn't the first, nor the last, of a string of simply sinful popes. In fact if he had a trading card the back might read something like this:
"Achievements: Successfully started the world's first recorded crime family, sired at least four bastard children, hosted orgies within the walls of the Vatican, and shunned the poor in favor of flamboyant decadence.
Good Qualities: Severe loyalty to kith and kin (even to the point of almost plunging Italy into all out war just so his bastard children could have the life he wanted for them. Awe.)
Scandals: Still being accused of breaking up his daughter's marriage in favor if an incestuous relationship with himself, whispered to be involved in a few choice assassinations, and oh yes, there was that whole mistress and string of wild Vatican orgy parties...
God's Judgment: Death by slow intestinal bleeding."
Charming guy that pope Alexander VI. Rumor has it his entire bastard clan were murderous and drunk on power. And so the love spread, long after his death. Just the fact he wasn't stabbed or poisoned is a small miracle in itself. I'm just using him to illustrate a point. The papacy is full of scandals, rife for the pages of Catholic Inquirer.
More Papal Oopsies
- Pope Stephen VI was probably the perpetrator of the most bizarre event in papal history. After being elected to be pope he had his predecessor exhumed from his grave, brought into court, and tried for various crimes. The corpse was unsurprisingly found guilty as sin and his three blessing fingers were hacked off as punishment. He was then reburied before he was dug up once again in order to be thrown into the Tiber. Forgiveness anyone?
- Pope John XII didn't even have a good start. He was said to have been born to a fourteen year old mother, sired by a man who was both his father and grandfather. Never one to shun tradition he continued this Oedipal cycle of dysfunction and also took his mother on as a lover. He was only eighteen when he became pope and only twenty-seven when he left it, by way of death. Rumor has it he was murdered during a jealous rage when the husband of one of his mistresses walked in on them in bed. This would indeed be a fitting end to a pope who was such a womanizer he was have said to have violated virgins and widows alike and had so many women filing in and out of the Vatican that everyone said it had been turned into a brothel. Sex wasn't his only downfall though; he was rumored to have murdered several people and was fond of hacking off his enemies limbs. Far from being a saint I think this pope was trying to reach a new record of depravity.
- Pope Benedict IX: Depending on what sources you believe Pope Benedict IX was given the papacy anywhere between eleven and twenty years of age. St. Peter Damian accused him of routinely screwing other men and his four legged friends amongst other crimes. Apparently that wasn't even scratching the surface when it came to grievances thrust into his direction. Bishop Benno of Piacenza accused him of committing, "many vile adulteries and murders." He was also accused of rape and murder by his eventual successor before he decided to be the first and only pope to bring the free market to the papacy, selling his position to his Godfather John Gratian.
- Pope Boniface VIII decided to take the free market a bit further and was accused of simony (that's accepting cash for appointing religious positions) in Dante's infamous Divine Comedy. Though he was alive at the time he showed an uncharacteristic apathy and didn't order Dante tortured, maimed, or killed. Lucky Dante!
- Pope Urban II cowed France into attacking the Muslim world, throwing the region into five hundred years of religious warfare, which as you can see by the current day turned out remarkably well...
- Pope Urban VI is best remembered for his gratuitously violent nature. Like any true psychopath he was said to have complained when his enemies didn't "scream loud enough" under torture. God apparently likes screaming more then He likes hymns.
- Pope John XXII was the first to persecute "witches." Although he was the richest man in the entire world at the time he was still not happy with his lot in life. He deemed that all the "witches" and "heretics" could be accused after death and that all their land should be seized.
Pope Sixtus IV authorized the Spanish Inquisition and all it's various forms of torture to gently convince the Jews, Moors, and Heretics that Catholic love and compassion were the way to God. While all this was going on it's rumored that Pope Sixtus IV was busy fathering children with his eldest sister and carrying on several bisexual relationships. Not surprisingly he was also said to have suffered from syphilis. God's wrath? Maybe for him.
- Pope Gregory XII burned John Huss of Bohemia at the stake after declaring his safety from such a fate. His crime? He spoke out against papal corruption. The pope's response? "When dealing with heretics, one is not obligated to keep his word."
- Pope John XXIII reigned for five years (1410-1415) before he pissed off so many other Catholics that he was striped of his title and declared anti-pope. So what was so bad about this mobsteresque pope? For one he decided to terrorize the students at the University of Bologna by demanding they pay a price to be protected from violent thugs who just happened to be under his order. That's not what earned him his anti-pope title though, that had to be credited to the accusations of murder, rape, sodomy, incest, and piracy.
- Pope Urban XIII struck up a friendship with a young Galileo which is probably what spared his life later on when the pope tried him for heresy. Galileo was sentenced to life imprisonment which was later changed into house arrest. He died nine years later still under house arrest for claiming that a spherical earth revolved around the sun. This decree of heresy was not lifted until 350 years later.
- Pius XII reputation comes from his lack of action rather then from anything he did personally. He was the pope during Hitler's reign of terror and didn't so much as speak one direct harsh word about the man who was slaughtering millions. Hitler was Catholic after all and never antagonized the papacy (which is apparently the one way to get excommunicated.) His continuing refusal to say anything against the Nazi party lasted throughout the war with lame excuses being put forth behind the reasoning as to why this was. He claimed he would not decry any individual atrocities publicly and when faced with the Holocaust he merely claimed there wasn't enough evidence it was actually happening. Perhaps he was afraid of pissing off a people who could easily kill him. But then again, for someone who is supposed to be the closest man to God his moral senses should have outweighed any thought of self-preservation. After all Jesus didn't seem particularly keen on pussyfooting around the corrupt people of his era. Catholicism and Christianity love martyrs!
- Pope John Paul II Publicly condemned all forms of birth control and gay marriage, his only reaction to the pedophile priest scandals was merely to issue a feeble apology for 2000 years worth of pedophile church swapping, record burying, and secret payoffs to families for not denouncing the church publicly. He never condemned the behavior and only started defrocking priests when the masses started to put intense pressure on him to do so. Even so not that many priests were let go compared to what are likely out there. Apparently pedophilia is a more forgivable sin then birth control.
- Pope Benedict XVI - Our current pope was in all the papers when the media realized he was part of the Hitler Youth. Now I get comments like, "That wasn't a voluntary position" but that just doesn't cut it when you're talking about the man who is supposed to be closest to God. If he were really that holy he would have been a martyr, not a pope.
I have merely listed a few personalities in this article. If you dig deep enough you could probably find incriminating accusations about most of the popes to serve through history. In the end I fail to see how any of the men ever elected pope could possibly be closer to God then the rest of the human population when their short comings are so pathetically enormous. Very few of them seem to have any idea what Jesus was talking about with the whole love, compassion, and forgiveness thing and between them all they've probably violated every commandment.