Author Topic: The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?  (Read 4637 times)

Offline Dave Armstrong

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Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia)
Detail from a Fresco of the Resurrection, painted in 1492 - 1495 by Pinturicchio



The Wikipedia article, "The Bad Popes" follows the list of eight scoundrels, from Russell Chamberlain"s book of the same name:

Pope Stephen VI (896-897), who had his predecessor Pope Formosus exhumed, tried, de-fingered, briefly reburied, and thrown in the Tiber

Pope John XII (937-964), who gave land to a mistress, murdered several people, and was killed by a man who caught him in bed with his wife.

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044,1045,1047-1048), who "sold" the Papacy

Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303), who is lampooned in Dante's Divine Comedy

Pope Urban VI (1378-1389), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.

Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), a Borgia, who was guilty of nepotism and whose unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in a coffin.

Pope Leo X (1513-1521), a spendthrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7 of his predecessors reserves on a single ceremony

Pope Clement VII (1523-1534), also a Medici, whose power-politicking with France, Spain, and Germany got Rome sacked.  One can follow the links to individual articles from Wikipedia, or else links to Catholic Encyclopedia articles below:

Pope Stephen VI (896-897)

See also: Wikipedia: "Cadaver Synod"

Pope John XII (937-964)

See also: Wikipedia: "Pornocracy" / "Rule of the Harlots" [roughly the period of 904-963]

Pope Benedict IX (1032-1044,1045,1047-1048)

Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303)

Pope Urban VI (1378-1389)

Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503)

See also: Wikipedia: "The Devil's Charter"
See also: Wikipedia: "Banquet of Chestnuts" [October 30, 1501]

Pope Leo X (1513-1521)

Pope Clement VII (1523-1534)


See also the article, "Good and Bad Popes," by J. Dominguez. He writes:

Quote
Unfortunately, there was a line of Borgia and Medici Popes that were horrible. This was the manure that fertilized the ground for the Protestant Reformation. There were several bad Popes in the middle ages. Some sold Cardinalships to fund armies. It was not pretty... Rodrigo Borgia (A.K.A. Alexander VI) used his daughter Lucrezia getting her married with important men for political reasons ... some even call him (pardon the expression) a "pimp!!!" . . .

There have been about ten corrupt popes, out of a total of 264 [3.7%]. The most infamous pope in history was probably pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) who had seven illegitimate children as a cardinal, which he openly acknowledged.

In his article, "The Popes and Sanctity," Deacon Gerald A. Foley observed:

Quote
It might be worth while mentioning the "Renaissance Papacy" in general. This period, which extended from the papacy of Paul II (1464-71) up to Pius IV (1159-65), has the reputation for producing popes who were all either immoral, corrupt, or both. This is not in fact the case. With the exception of Pope Alexander VI already mentioned, many of these popes were in fact neither corrupt nor immoral. It must be admitted, though, that they may not have given the Church the leadership She needed during this time, especially with regard to reform and he calling of the needed Council (namely, Trent). Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84), for example, was a holy man. Julius II (1503-13) certainly loved the Church, and was the pope responsible for commissioning the new St. Peter's. But he wasn't as committed to reform as perhaps he should have been. Even Pope Leo X (1513-21) was not a corrupt man, though his lifestyle was self-indulgent. Pope Adrian VI (1522-3) was a holy man. With the exception of Julius III (1550-5) the later popes of this period (Paul III (1534-49), Marcellus II (1555), Paul IV (1555-9) and Pius IV (1559-65)) all were committed to reform. . . . Only a handful have been truly corrupt. It is surely a sign of the divine institution of the Papacy that this is so. Even those corrupt popes never taught anything against faith or morals.

 
The infamous 'Cadaver Synod" of 897
(source)

The Wikipedia article, "Controversial Popes" lists another infamous pope:

Pope Sergius III (904-911) had his predecessors Pope Benedict IV and Pope Leo V strangled to death in prison. In Rome, he was supported by 3 major families, one being the Theophylacts. One of their daughters, Marozia, he had a child, the latter Pope John XI. He is considered to be responsible for starting a period known as The Rule of the Harlots.

[link to Catholic Encyclopedia article]

Wikipedia: "List of sexually active popes"


"There have been forty popes since 1565. None of them are known to have been sexually active during their papacy."

Some more "bad popes", not on the above lists:

Pope Clement VI (1342-1352) according to contemporary writer Petrarch held dissolute life both before and after his election to the papacy. Countess of Turenne was ostensibly his main mistress.

[link to Catholic Encyclopedia article]

Pope Julius III (1550-1555) was accused of having homosexual relations with his adoptive nephew Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte whom he made a cardinal shortly after his election to the papacy. Some others claimed also that he was his father. None of this allegations, however, have been confirmed with certainty.

[link to Catholic Encyclopedia article]

Catholic apologist Patrick Madrid, in his book, Pope Fiction (San Diego: Basilica Press, 1999) offers a fitting summary:

Quote
Clearly, Christ entrusted the role of Apostle to weak, even at times wicked men, But does that fact somehow disqualify them from fulfilling the purpose for which He called them? Of course not. God's grace is more powerful than man's sin, and the same is true when it comes to the papacy.

Yes, there have been some wicked popes. Corruption, immorality, even murder, were sins committed by some bishops of Rome. But what does that prove, except that they, like the Apostles, were not always faithful to the graces God gave them? This is true of all of us, to one extent or another. The fact that there have been bad popes -- and that's a fact no Catholic disputes -- does not disprove the doctrine of the papacy.

. . . The fact is, most of the popes have been good -- even heroically good -- men. They have been, on the whole, good examples of Christian virtue and perseverance in the apostolate. That fact is very easily forgotten by critics of the papacy.

(pp. 131-132)

Madrid goes on to cite the example of the high priest Caiaphas in the Bible during the time of Jesus, and how God used a sinful man, even a wicked one, to "utter inspired prophecy" (John 11:49-55). Another example he gives is the authority of the Jews who occupied the "seat of Moses" (Matthew 23:1-3). We need not mention Judas, whom the Lord Himself chose (and he is called an apostle along with the others), and the weak example of the first pope, Peter, whom Jesus called Satan (Matthew 16:23), and who denied Jesus (John 13:38).
My blog,  Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, contains 2500+ papers & 50+ separate web pages. I'm a full-time author / apologist. Also two Facebook pages and a Twitter account. Over 40 books of mine are available in ePub /  mobi ($4.99), & PDF ($1.99) formats; also 15 free radio interviews. Info. & instant purchase at:
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Offline tedjenczewski

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #1 on: December 13, 2007, 03:53:06 pm »
Thanks for bringing this subject up in the forum and supplying all the reference matrials. I am in a bible study with protestants and one member will occasionally bring up things the  bad popes supposedly did, and thereby proceed to undermine one of the major tenets of the Catholic Faith, and thereby all of the teachings. I will spend considerable time re-reading this and looking at all the reference material. Aything else you add will be appreciated. This topic is one of the big stones our separated bretheren throw at the Church and thereby justify their own heresies.
"...the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1Tim 3, 15

CajunRick

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #2 on: December 13, 2007, 06:31:37 pm »
In my opinion, the fact that the Church has survived several truly horrific popes and still not committed a doctrinal error speaks volumes to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of our Savior that the gates of hell would not prevail.  At times of crisis, great saints have always risen to renew the Church, from Ignatius of Loyola to Benedict to Francis of Assisi to Thomas Aquinas to John Paul II.

There were particularly bad popes at the time of the Great Schism with the Orthodox, and at the time of the Protestant Revolution.  These were the worst times in the history of the Church, and yet it survived.  Thank God!

Offline Pani Rose

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #3 on: December 13, 2007, 08:31:49 pm »
There have been bad popes, bad clergy, bad laity, but the Church has  always survived.   Christ said that the gates of hell shall  not prevail against it.  It sure has tried, but the Holy Spirit  has never left the Church, despite our failings - as we all fall short  of the glory of God, for no man is sinless except for Christ -   so the Church is Holy because it has been guided by the Triune God.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love.   (Zephaniah 3:17)

Pani Rose

Offline tedjenczewski

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2007, 08:33:18 pm »
You are certainly correct  using the word "revolution" rather than "reformation". I have been at Dave's website for the last two hours reading the stuff on Calvin. We are led by protestants to believe that Luther and Calvin "reformed " the Catholic faith by renewing what had been once before. In actuality they denied most of the Catholic theology  and developed what has now become a whole bunch of  theologies.
"...the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth." 1Tim 3, 15

CajunRick

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2007, 04:51:58 am »
Quote from: tedjenczewski
You are certainly correct  using the word "revolution" rather than "reformation".
Luther did indeed cause a reformation, but it was carried out at the Council of Trent and within the Magisterium of the Church.  It is unfortunate that Luther chose not to stay and help it to happen, but conditions in Europe and in his personal life at the time did not allow it. 

Of course, I in no way condone the actions of the Protestant revolutionaries (they threw out the baby with the bath water), but in fact there were real abuses in the Church at the time, and a reformation was indeed needed.  Through the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit it happened and the Church emerged stronger and better for it.

It was not the first time such a reform was needed, and it will not be the last.  In fact, a true reformation in the Church is underway right now.  It's an exciting time to be Catholic!

Offline Dave Armstrong

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2007, 12:32:29 pm »
Glad y'all liked this post. It was written in response to a private inquiry (I answer some "hard questions" for CHNI as part of my job, beyond this forum). So I wanted to share it with a general audience, as this does often come up. It disproves nothing whatsoever against Catholicism. If anything it is a strong proof that the Church is uniquely guided by God to have only ten or so really bad popes in 2000 years. I dare say no other major institution could come remotely close to that record.
My blog,  Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, contains 2500+ papers & 50+ separate web pages. I'm a full-time author / apologist. Also two Facebook pages and a Twitter account. Over 40 books of mine are available in ePub /  mobi ($4.99), & PDF ($1.99) formats; also 15 free radio interviews. Info. & instant purchase at:
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Offline sewnsew

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2007, 07:32:07 am »
Thank you for the article- One of our tennagers- (Guess which one!) has mentioned the "bad popes" Leo in particular- so I was able to casually toss out a question- "Do you know how many Pope we have had?"  his response when I told hime was wow that many- then I asked how many of them were "bad" and agian when I told him his answer was "is that all" he then figured out the percentage on his own. I didn't say another word. He will ponder on that for a while.
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CajunRick

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The "Bad Popes": How Many Of 'Em Were There? How "Bad" Were They?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2007, 10:34:58 am »
Quote from: kimdyuma
I asked how many of them were "bad" and agian when I told him his answer was "is that all"
Of course, terms like "bad" are subjective.  Some people think Pius XII was "bad" for not confronting Naziism more strongly; some think John XXIII was "bad" for convening Vatican II; some think Paul VI was "bad" for revising the liturgy into the vernacular and issuing Humanae Vitae; etc.  But even the worst of the popes have never succeeded in doing long-term damage to the Church.

Pick any number and you'll find people who think it should be more, and people who think it should be less, so no list can ever be definitive.  But if you compare it to the list of "bad" U.S. presidents, or "bad" English kings, or "bad" African dictators, or just about any other list of the kind, you'll find the popes of the Catholic Church compare quite favorably.