The Criminal History of the Papacy
Part 1 of
Extracted from Nexus Magazine
Volume 14, Number 1
(December 2006 - January 2007)
The papal office has an
unparalleled record of corruption and criminality over
the centuries, and the true history of the popes is one
of scandals, cruelty, debauchery, reigns of terror,
warfare and moral depravity.
Some of the dates for the popes and events in papal
history are estimates; even the Church admits as much.
The dates were further complicated by the changes made
to the Julian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII (pope
1572—85) in 1582.
Most Catholics go through life and never hear a word of reproach for
any pope or member of the clergy. Yet the recorded history of the
lives of the clerical hierarchy bears no resemblance to its
modern-day portrayal, and the true stories of the popes in
particular are among the most misrepresented in religious history.
The Catholic historian and Archbishop of New York, John Cardinal
Farley (d. c. 1916), subtly admitted that the,
"old legends of their dissolute
lives may be partly true... that they didn't sternly insist upon
sexual virtue and injustice was a general license of the papal
court, but it is probable that moral improvement was at the
vanguard of their thinking"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci
ed., 1897, iii, p. 207).
The real character of the popes as a
rule has been so falsely represented that many people don't know
that so many popes were not only decadent but were also the most
savage and perfidious of military strategists ever known.
Cardinal Farley added this
"The popes were temporal rulers of
the civil territory and they naturally had recourse to force the
re-establishment or extend the States of the Church until the
conclusion of peace was confirmed ... their attempts to purify
particularly the Duchy of Rome caused them considerable distress
and the need to resort to violence, but always on the side of
mercy ... lives were lost in the service of truth but the legal
basis for the Christian Church to hold and transmit properties
for the benefit of revenues was given to them [the popes] by
Emperor Constantine in 312."
Pecci ed., ii, pp. 157—169)
The comments of the cardinal warrant our
attention, for within them rests a little-known story of the leaders
of the Christian religion and reveals that today's presentation of
popes as incorruptible moral oracles is untrue. The
hidden history of doctrinal foundations that permitted a papal
alliance with conflict and licentiousness, and to what degree
decadence among the clergy is "partly true", provides for an
extraordinary story—one that has no precedent or parallel in the
history of world religions.
In the preface to an official papal
record commissioned for publication by the Holy See, called The
Popes: A Concise Biographical History, the Christian reader is
tactfully prepared for some upcoming and unpleasant facts about
popes with this apologetic admission:
"Some Catholics may find surprises
when they read the papal biographies in this book. The part we
are accustomed to think of the pope playing in the Church may
need a little adjustment."
(The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, Eric John, ed., Burns & Oates, Publishers
to the Holy See, London, 1964, p. 19, published under the
imprimatur of Georgius L. Craven)
This comment provides readers with a
note of caution in dealing with papal history, but in this
biographical history the Holy See did not think it prudent to
publish full details of the true nature of the papal court.
Its real history is intermingled with,
"centuries of trafficking in
ecclesiastical appointments, deceit, scandals, immorality,
aggression, frauds, murder and cruelty, and the true disposition
of the popes is knowingly falsely presented by the Church today"
(A History of the Popes, Dr
Joseph McCabe [1867—1955], C. A. Watts & Co., London, 1939).
For centuries, the Church maintained a
comprehensive account of the lives of the popes who, up until the
11th century, called themselves "ecumenical patriarchs", and amazing
excesses are recorded. Official Catholic records provide
extraordinary confessions of wickedness in the whole Christian
clergy, and the implications surrounding this knowledge begin to
assume major new proportions when considered in light of the central
Church claim of unquestionable piety in the clerical hierarchy.
The editorial committees of the Catholic Encyclopedia claim
that their volumes are "the exponent of Catholic truth" (preface),
and what is presented in this overview is assembled primarily from
those records and without prejudice. In the same spirit, we also
have available several papal diaries, letters and reports from
foreign ambassadors at the Holy See to their governments, monastic
documents, senatorial Roman records as well as access to the
official and ancient registers of the ecclesiastical courts of
Also of great help in this investigation
was the availability of an original version of Diderot's
Encyclopédie, a tome that Pope Clement XIII (1758—69)
ordered destroyed immediately after its publication in 1759. These
documents uniformly report a condition of centuries of extraordinary
debasement in the papal hierarchy and, when considered in
conjunction with the circumstances of their production, their
contents can only be classed as astounding. The pretended holiness
and piety of popes as publicly presented today is not represented in
the records of history, and that provides proof of the dishonesty of
the Church's own portrayal.
Pious Catholic historian and author Bishop Frotheringham
extended this summary of Christian leaders up to his time:
"Many of the popes were men of the
most abandoned lives. Some were magicians (occultists); others
were noted for sedition, war, slaughter and profligacy of
manners, for avarice and simony. Others were not even members of
Christ, but the basest of criminals and enemies of all
godliness. Some were children of their father, the Devil; most
were men of blood; some were not even priests. Others were
heretics. If the pope be a heretic, he is ipso facto no
(The Cradle of Christ,
Bishop Frotheringham, 1877; see also Catholic Encyclopedia, xii,
pp. 700-703, passim, published under the imprimatur of
And heretics they were, with many popes
publicly admitting disbelief in the Gospel story, as we shall see.
These facts are well known to Catholic historians who dishonestly
tell their readers that the popes were virtuous and competent men
with "soaring religious minds" (The Papacy, George Weidenfeld
& Nicolson Ltd, London, 1964). The reality of the matter is that
they were intent only upon their own interests, not those of God,
and cultivated a system of papal vice more assiduously than Catholic
writers of Church history dare to reveal openly.
They were resented by the laity and,
when better economic conditions awakened the minds of a developing
European middle class, there was widespread rebellion against them.
Christian records show that popes were clearly a long way removed
from the modern-day presentation of their character, and in trying
to portray them with a pious past the Church developed a doctrinal
facade that brazenly and deceptively presents them as devout.
With the late-20th-century model of the papacy in one's mind, it is
difficult to imagine what it would have been like in the 16th or
14th centuries, let alone the 10th or the eighth. The now-called
expounders of "Christian virtue" were brutal killers, and "crimes
against the faith were high treason, and as such were punishable
with death" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., xiv, p. 768).
Popes waded through rivers of blood to attain their earthly
objectives and many personally led their episcopal militia into the
field of battle.
The Church ordered its "secular arm" to
force its dogma upon humanity by "mass murder" (The Extermination
of the Cathars, Simonde de Sismondi, 1826), and "the clergy,
discharging in each district the functions of local state officials,
seem never to have quite regained the religious spirit" (Catholic
Encyclopedia, Farley ed., i, p. 507). Apologetic contributors to
Christian history vainly try to portray an air of sophistry about a
papal past that scandalized Europe for centuries and one that is
clearly unsophisticated and primitive.
As the line of popes begins obscurely, we shall begin our assessment
in the year 896 when "a body of nobles with swinish and brutal
lusts, many of whom could not write even their own names" (Annals
of Hincmar, Archbishop of Reims; pub. c. 905), captured the
papacy and drew it to a close 631 years later in 1527 when, under
the subterfuges of Pope Clement VII (1523—1534), Rome fell to
the army of Emperor Charles V.
In this brief evaluation of just a few popes of these centuries, we
"On the death of Pope Formosus
(896) there began for the papacy a time of the deepest
humiliation, such as it has never been experienced before or
since. After the successor of Formosus, Boniface VI, had
ruled only fifteen days, Stephen VII [VI] was raised to
the papal chair. In his blind rage, Stephen not only abused the
memory of Formosus but also treated his body with indignity.
Pope Stephen was strangled in prison in the summer of 897, and
the six following popes (to 904) owed their elevation to the
struggles of the rival political parties. Christophorus, the
last of them, was overthrown by Sergius III (904—911)."
ii, p. 147)
Such periods of "deepest humiliation" to
the papacy were quite recurrent, and have been even into the 21st
century when the extent of priesthood paedophilia was
publicly exposed (Apology of Pope John Paul II, March 2002).
It was Pope Stephen VII (VI), "a gouty and gluttonous old
priest" (Bishop Liutprand of Cremona, c. 922—972), who
ordered the rotting corpse of Pope Formosus to be exhumed from its
grave of eight months, tied upright in a chair and put on trial for
transgressions of the canons. In front of his putrefying body and
dressed in purple and gold regalia stood the pope, his bishops, the
nobles of Rome and Lamberto of Tuscany.
The "trial" was a grotesque and obscene farce. The pope paced
backwards and forwards and shrieked at the corpse, declaring it
guilty. A deacon, standing beside the decomposing body of the
ex-pope, answered on its behalf. In this macabre incident, today
piously called the "Cadaver Synod", the deceased pope was
duly condemned, stripped of his vestments, three fingers cut from
his right hand and his remains dumped into the River Tiber.
"In this disgusting business, he
[Pope Stephen VII (VI)] cannot be excused for what followed. In
declaring the dead pope deposed he also annulled all his acts,
including his ordinations. His grim and grisly role provoked a
violent reaction in Rome, and in late July or early August Pope
Stephen was imprisoned and later strangled."
(The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, ibid., p. 160)
Morbid in its realism, the mental
limitations of ancient popes is thus shown. From these and similar
displays, we understand why the monks at the Eulogomenopolis
monastery, today called Monte Cassino, described the
Asinarian Station (later renamed the Lateran Palace) as "an abode of
wrath, a charnel-house... a place of exotic vice and crime".
Reign of the Whores
Bishop Liutprand of Cremona, whose Antapodosis treats
papal history from 886 to 950, left a remarkable picture of the vice
of the popes and their episcopal colleagues, maybe with a little
"They hunted on horses with gold
trappings, had rich banquets with dancing girls when the hunt
was over, and retired with these shameless whores to beds with
silk sheets and gold-embroidered covers. All the Roman bishops
were married, and their wives made silk dresses out of the
Their lovers were the leading noble
ladies of the city, and "two voluptuous Imperial women", Theodora
and her daughter Marozia, "ruled the papacy of the tenth
century" (Antapodosis, ibid.). Renowned Vatican historian Cardinal
Caesar Baronius (1538—1607) called it the "Rule of the
Whores", which "really gave place to the even more scandalous
rule of the whoremongers" (Annales Ecclesiastici, folio iii,
All that Bishop Liutprand reveals
in detail about Theodora is that she compelled a handsome young
priest to reciprocate her passion for him and had him appointed
Archbishop of Ravenna. Later, Theodora summoned her
archiepiscopal lover from Ravenna and made him Pope John X
(pope 914—928, d. 928).
John X is chiefly remembered as a military commander. He took
to the field in person against the Saracens and defeated them. He
indulged in nepotism, or the enrichment of his family, and his
conduct prepared the way for a deeper degradation of the papacy. He
invited the Hungarians, who at this time were still half-civilized
Asiatics, to come and fight his enemies and thus he brought a new
and terrible plague upon his country.
He had no principles in his diplomatic,
political or private conduct. He spurned Theodora and enticed
the charming young daughter of Hugh of Provence into his papal
bedroom. Spurned, Theodora then married Guido, Marquis of Tuscany,
and together they carried out a coup d'état against John X. Theodora
died suddenly by suspected poisoning, and John X entered into a
bitter quarrel with Marozia and the leading nobles of Rome. John had
brought his brother Peter to Rome, raised him to the rank of
nobility, and heaped upon him the profitable offices which the elder
nobles had come to regard as their preserve. It was an internal
struggle for power.
The nobles, led by Marozia, drove
Peter, Pope John and their troops from the city. The pope and his
brother increased their army and returned to Rome, but a body of
Marozia's men cut their way into the Lateran Palace and murdered
Peter before the pope's eyes. John was captured, declared deposed in
May 928 and smothered to death with a pillow in the Castel Sant'
Marozia and her faction then appointed Leo VI (928)
the new pope, but replaced him seven months later with Stephen
VIII (VII). He ruled for two years and then Marozia gave the
papacy to her son, John XI (c. 910—936; pope 931—35). He was
illegitimately fathered by Pope Sergius III, as "confirmed by
Flodoard, a reliable contemporary writer" (The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, ibid., p. 162).
Sergius had previously taken the
papacy by force with the help of Marozia's mother, Theodora.
Both Theodora and Sergius took a leading part in the earlier outrage
on the corpse of Formosus, and Sergius was later accused of
murdering his two predecessors. The Church defended itself, but in
doing so revealed that he wasn't the only pope sexually involved
"It is commonly believed that Pope
Sergius, although a middle-aged man, formed a union with the
young Marozia and by her had a son, the future Pope John XI.
Most of the information we have on the career of Marozia and the
Roman scandals in which she and a series of popes were involved
is derived from hostile sources and may be exaggerated."
(The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, ibid.)
With sacerdotal dictatorship, Marozia
ruled Christianity for several decades from the papal castle
near St Peter's, and dealt with everything Christian except routine
matters. She could not sign her own name, yet she was the head of
the Christian Church—a fact known to historians who have at least an
elementary acquaintance with the papal record. She was amorously
aggressive, callous, densely ignorant and completely unscrupulous.
She appointed ruthless warrior-bishops to strengthen her factions,
and she triumphed in her rule over opponents.
To translate the words of the Roman
people literally, they called her "the Popes' whore" (plural)
and she was directly responsible for selecting and installing at
least four popes. Modern-day apologists say her promotions were
"scandalous", but those popes are now accepted by the Church as
"legitimate" successors of St Peter. At the time, however, large
bodies of good folk deeply resented the obscene farce the papal
religion had become and turned upon it with disdain and anger.
Later in his papacy, Pope John XI took ill and Marozia
temporarily installed an elderly monk in the papal chair. He
subsequently refused to resign and was forcibly removed to a prison
cell to be starved to death. John XI then resumed his position and
exhausted his remaining wealth hiring soldiers to restore order in
Rome. The city was heavy with a feeling of revolt against the Church
and the appalling clerical morals that existed throughout Italy.
John XI then set out to recover and secure the rich temporal domains
of the papacy, but in 936 he died. Thus, in this condensed
description, we learn with amazement of the days when loose women
ruled the Holy See and a Christian doctrine had not yet been
Sold amidst New Depths of Wickedness
As incredible as it may seem, the papacy then sank to a lower depth
of wickedness and remained in this condition for nearly a thousand
years. Christian historians airily brush aside the true nature of
the popes, saying that they never regarded them as "impeccable" and
ignoring the fact that they committed outrages against every
standard of human decency.
Pope John XII (Octavian, c. 937—964, pope 955—964, The
Popes, A Concise Biographical History, ibid., pp. 166-7) was
another in the succession of impious popes and he opened his
inglorious career by invoking pagan gods and goddesses as he flung
the dice in gambling sessions. He toasted Satan during a drinking
spree and put his notorious mistress/prostitute Marcia in charge of
his brothel in the Lateran Palace (Antapodosis, ibid.).
He "liked to have around him a
collection of Scarlet Women", said the monk-chronicler Benedict
of Soracte, and at his trial for the murder of an opponent his
clergy swore on oath that he'd had incestuous relations with his
sisters and had raped his nuns (Annals of Beneventum in the
Monumenta Germaniae, v). He and his mistresses got so drunk at a
banquet that they accidentally set fire to the building. It would be
difficult to imagine a pontiff who was farther removed from
saintliness, yet in an age when the average life of a pope was two
years, he held the throne for 10 years.
However, his life came to a sudden and
violent end when, according to pious chroniclers, he was killed by
the Devil while raping a woman in a house in the suburbs. The
truth is that the Holy Father was thrashed so severely by the
enraged husband of the woman that he died of injuries eight days
later. Emperor Otto then demanded that the clergy select a
priest of respectable life to succeed John XII, but they could not
The new pope, Leo VIII (963—965),
was a layman drawn from the "civil service who was put through all
clerical orders in one day" (ibid.). Leo VIII is reckoned by the
modern-day Church to be "a true Pope", but "his election is a
puzzle"—one that canonists have not cared to unravel (ibid.).
The Catholic Encyclopedia gives additional accounts of papal
"The Popes 'Benedict' from the
fourth to the ninth inclusive (IV—IX) belong to the darkest
period of papal history... Benedict VI (973) was thrown into
prison by the anti-pope Boniface VII (d. 983), and strangled by
his orders in 974. Benedict VII was a layman and became pope by
force, and drove out Boniface VII. Pope Benedict IX [c.
1012—1055/1065/1085; pope 1032—45, 1047, 1048] had long caused
scandal to the Church by his disorderly life. His immediate
successor, Pope Gregory VI [1044—46], had persuaded Benedict IX
to resign the Chair of Peter, and to do so bestowed valuable
possessions on him."
(Catholic Encyclopedia, i,
Anti-pope Boniface VII was
described by Gerbert (to become Pope Sylvester II, 999—1003)
as "a horrible monster that in criminality surpassed all the rest of
mankind", but the "scandal" of Pope Benedict IX deserves
special mention. His name was Grottaferrata Teofilatto (Theophylact,
in some records) and in 1032 he won the murderous scramble for the
wealth of the papacy. He immediately excommunicated leaders who were
hostile to him and quickly established a reign of terror. He
officially opened the doors of "the palace of the popes" to
homosexuals and turned it into an organized and profitable male
brothel (The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages,
Horace K. Mann, Kegan Paul, London, 1925).
His violent and licentious conduct
provoked the Roman people, and in January 1044 the residents of the
city elected John of Sabine, under the name of Pope Sylvester III,
to replace him. But Sylvester was quickly driven out by Benedict's
brothers and fled for his life into the Sabine hills.
Benedict IX then sold the papacy to his godfather, Giovanni
Graziano, who assumed the papal chair as Pope Gregory VI,
but in 1047 Benedict reappeared and announced he was reclaiming the
The Church added that he was,
"...immoral... cruel and indifferent
to spiritual things. The testimony to his depravity shows his
disinterest in religious matters, and his disrespect for an
ascetic life was well known. He was the worst pope since John
(The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, ibid., p. 175).
Upon his death, undertakers refused to
build him a coffin. He was surreptitiously buried in a cloth under
the cover of darkness. Four succeeding popes then briefly held the
papal position, and the following paragraph from the Catholic
Encyclopedia is pregnant with evidence of the moral depravity of
the entire priesthood:
"At the time of Leo IX's election in
1049, according to the testimony of St Bruno, Bishop of Segni,
'the whole Church was in wickedness, holiness had disappeared,
justice had perished, and truth had been buried; Simon Magus was
lording it over the Church, whose popes and bishops were given
to luxury and fornication. The scientific and ascetic training
of the popes left much to be desired, the moral standard of many
being very low and the practice of celibacy not everywhere
Bishops obtained their offices in
irregular ways, whose lives and conversations are strangely at
variance with their calling, who go through their duties not for
Christ but for motives of worldly gain. The members of
the clergy were in many places regarded with scorn, and their
avaricious ideas, luxury and immorality rapidly gained ground at
the centre of clerical life. When ecclesiastical authority grew
weak at the fountain head, it necessarily decayed elsewhere. In
proportion, as the papal authority lost the respect of many,
resentment grew against both the Curia and the papacy.'"
vi, pp. 793-4; xii, pp. 700-03, passim)
Pope Leo IX (b. 1002, d. 1054)
was an unscrupulous adventurer who spent his pontificate touring
Europe with a quota of armed knights and left the world worse than
he found it. The Church called him,
"Lapsi" (lapsed), coyly admitting
that "he defected from the faith... he fell away by actually
offering sacrifice to the false gods (thurificati)... it is not
known why he recanted his religion"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci
ed., iii, p. 117).
St Peter Damian (1007—72), the
fiercest censor of his age, unrolled a frightful picture of decay in
clerical morality in the lurid pages of his Book of Gomorrah,
a curious Christian record that remarkably survived centuries of
Church cover-ups and book-burnings.
"A natural tendency to murder and
brutalize appears with the popes. Nor do they have any
inclination to conquer their abominable lust; many are seen to
have employed into licentiousness for an occasion to the flesh,
and hence, using this liberty of theirs, perpetrating every
After a lifetime of research into the
lives of the popes, Lord Acton (1834—1902), English historian
and founder-editor of The Cambridge Modern History,
summarized the militarist papal attitude when he observed:
"The popes were not only murderers
in the great style, but they also made murder a legal basis of
the Christian Church and a condition of salvation."
(The Cambridge Modern History,
vol. 1, pp. 673-77)
Maybe they took their example from
Jesus Christ who, after being made king, issued this
"Bring my enemies here that did not
wish me as king, and kill them in my presence"
(Gospel of Luke, 19:27, Mount
Sinai Manuscript of the Bible, British Museum, MS 43725, 1934).
The Catholic Bible provides a
"But those, my enemies, which would
not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them
Popes today do everything in their power
to present Jesus as a harmless religious preacher and a
prophet of peace, but carefully refrain from entering into
discussion about this Gospel passage, one that nullifies everything
that Christianity purports to represent.
and Rival Imperialist Popes
Around the time of St Peter Damian, we find a reference to
the existence of a papal navy crewed by Christian warrior-sailors.
It was originally founded in 881 by Pope John VIII (pope
872—882; d. 882), but details of its size or missions do not
publicly exist (Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 6, 1973, p.
572). However, from a later solitary reference to "the Pope's
fighting fleet" recorded in 1043 (Diderot's Encyclopédie,
1759), it was still operational at that time.
This extraordinary record was found in
documentation once belonging to the powerful Roman Crescenti
family, who played an important part in papal coups from the
middle of the 10th century to the beginning of the 11th century. The
Pope's Navy was still operational in the 16th century, some 700
years after its inception, for Pope Gregory XIII (b. 1502; pope
1572—85) commissioned Giorgio Vasari (1511—74) to paint a
picture of the fleet while it was moored at the port of Messina in
The true significance of records of such a military force nullifies
the modern-day presentation of the "sweetness and light" that the
Church today says Christianity brought to the world.
Further apologizing for centuries of pandemonium caused by popes,
and giving a smear of whitewash to their actions, the Vatican has
admitted that at the time of Pope Alexander II (1061—73) "the
Church was torn by the schisms of anti-popes, simony and clerical
incontinence" (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p. 541).
The development of a multiplicity of
popes simultaneously operating in confliction with each other is a
little-known episode in Christian history and provides clear
evidence of the existence of powerful factional opponents scheming
to gain solitary control of the Papal States.
"The Church was disturbed many times
in her history by rival claimants to the papacy... the strife
that originated was always an occasion of scandal, sometimes of
violence and bloodshed"
(Catholic Dictionary, Virtue &
Co, London, 1954, p. 35).
Initially, rival imperialist popes were
elected by noble French families to root out Roman ecclesiastical
vice, and subsequently new elements appeared in a variety of ways,
enduring for 400 years.
In modern times, the Church labelled the anti-popes
"devils on the chair of St Peter", claiming that they were
unlawfully appointed (Catholic Dictionary, ibid.). That
distinction, however, is purely arbitrary, for each multiple pope
was canonically elected at Church conclaves.
Here is an extraordinary confession from
"At various times in the history of
the Church, illegal pretenders to the papal chair have arisen
and frequently exercised pontifical functions in defiance of the
true occupant. According to [Cardinal] Hergenrother (d.
1890), the last anti-pope was Felix V (1439—49). The same
authority enumerates twenty-nine in the following order...
(Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p.
Each opposing papal hierarchy was
supported by formidable military factions, and the subject of popes
warring against each other is a topic too vast even to summarize
here. Their struggles for power were conducted with amazing
bitterness, and the word "schism" is not strong enough to describe
the depth of the fury that raged for centuries within the Christian
religion. Catholic historians admit that,
"even now it is not perhaps
absolutely certain from the two lines of popes who was pope and
who was anti-pope, or which anti-pope was a legal anti-pope"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci
ed., iii, 107; also, Catholic Dictionary, ibid.).
This is luminous clerical reasoning, but
there is more to this peculiar side of Holy See history and
it is found in a book called Secrets of the Christian Fathers,
written in 1685 by Roman Bishop Joseph W. Sergerus (d. c.
He provides evidence from Church
archives at his disposal that at some periods in papal history
there were four popes occupying the papal chair(s), each in a
different building, city or country, operating independently with
their own cardinals and staff and holding their own canonical
councils. He names them, and one example from 12 quadruple sets of
popes is that of the self-declared Pope Benedict XIV (1425) who, for
years, rivalled popes Benedict XIII (1427), Clement VIII (1429) and
Martin V (1431).
In more recent times, Church historians
have ingeniously referred to the fourth member of the quadruple set
as "a counter anti-pope" (The Popes: A Concise Biographical
History), and stated that,
"this is not the place [in Church
reference books] to discuss the merits or motives of the
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci
ed., iii, pp. 107-8; Catholic Dictionary).
The introduction of the word "anti-pope"
was a retrospective move by the Church to eliminate the reality of
simultaneously serving popes and thus provide itself with a singular
continuous ministerial succession of popes from St Peter to Benedict
XVI today. Investigation of the Church's own records, however,
reveals that the claim of an unbroken papal continuity is false.
Bishop Bartolomeo Platina
(1421—81), a Christian historian and the first prefect (1475—81) of
the embryonic Vatican Library, admitted that direct lineage "was
interrupted by repeated periods after Nicholas I (pope 858—867); an
interregnum of eight years, seven months and nine days, etc., etc.".
Those breaks are piously called
"vacations" and are recorded by Bishop Platina as totalling "127
years, five months and nine days" (Vitae Pontificum ["Lives
of the Popes"], Bishop Platina, first pub. c. 1479; also Catholic
Encyclopedia, xii, pp. 767-68).
However, Platina failed to record
the "vacations" that occurred in the nine centuries or so preceding
Nicholas I, for,
"unfortunately, few of the records
(of the Church) prior to the year 1198 have been released"
(Encyclopaedia Biblica, Adam &
Charles Black, London, 1899).
Clerical insiders know writings
purporting to record the lineage of popes are false, saying:
"As for the pretend catalogues of
succeeding bishops of the different assemblies from the days of
the apostles, exhibited by some ecclesiastical writers, they are
filled up by forgeries and later inventions. Thus diocesan
bishops came in, whose offices are considered as corruptions or
dishonest applications, as dictated by the necessities of the
Church, or of instances of worldly ambition."
(The Authentic and
Acknowledged Standards of the Church of Rome, J. Hannah, DD,
1844, p. 414)
However, humanitarian and biblical
scholar Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466—1536) got it right when
he frankly stated that "succession is imaginary" (Erasmus, in Nov.
Test. Annotations, fol. Basle, 1542), simply because its modern-day
portrayal is contrary to recorded historical fact.
Around 50 years after the time of Pope Alexander II (d.
1073), an influential and opposing faction elected Lamberto of
Bologna as Pope Honorius II (1124—30) and the Church
maintained its two rival popes, each bitter and warring opponents
both living murderous, debauched and luxurious lifestyles.
There is no doubt that Honorius was
determined to buy or force his way into the papal chair and he
succeeded, preserving his position for the term of his life. Upon
his death, two new popes, Anacletus II (1130—38) and Innocent II
(1130—43) were elected and consecrated on the same day by opposing
clerical factions. Before his election, Pietro Pierleoni
(anti-pope Anacletus II) was military leader of a rival army whose
family had fought for 50 years (in total) for control of the Holy
See—a confrontation subtly called the "Fifty Year War" by the Church
If we can believe his enemies, he
disgraced the papal office by his gross immorality and his greed in
the accumulation of lucre. When Pierleoni died in 1138, his faction
elected Victor IV to the papal chair (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p.
447). The Church remained in bitter conflict, still under the
divided control of two popes, neither possessing a Bible and each
operating independently (Confessions of a French Catholic Priest,
Mathers, New York, 1837).
The extent of papal transgression is expanded by the words of
the Church through the Pecci edition (1897) of its Catholic
"At the time of Gregory VII's
elevation to the papacy (1073—85), the Christian world was in a
deplorable condition. During the desolating period of
transition, the terrible period of warfare and rapine, violence,
and corruption in high places, which followed immediately upon
the dissolution of the Carolingian Empire, a period when society
in Europe seemed doomed to destruction and ruin, the Church had
not been able to escape from the general debasement to which it
had so signally contributed, if not caused. The tenth century,
the saddest perhaps in Christian annals, is characterized by the
remark of Cardinal Baronius (Vatican historian,
1538—1607) that 'Christ was asleep in the vessel of the
Pecci ed., ii, pp. 289, 294, passim; also vi, pp. 791-95)
Another peculiar event from the annals
of Christianity takes us into the 12th century and this piece of
evidence makes us wonder just what was going through the minds of
the popes. After an intriguing conclave lasting 10 weeks,
Gherardo Caccianemici was elected pope in 1144 and adopted the
name of Lucius II. Modern Catholic historians look upon him
as "a pillar of the Roman Church" (The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, ibid., p. 215), but the truth of the
matter is much different.
The Italians saw with dismay the new
papal policy in which Pope Lucius II ordered a crusade against his
own flock in Rome. Eleven months later, he personally led papal
troops into battle and stormed the city. However, the residents, led
by Giordano (Jordan) Pierleoni, rose up against him and the pope's
army was defeated with great loss of life. Badly wounded in the
battle, Lucius II died of injuries on 15 February 1145 (The Pope
Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See, Matthew Bunson, Crown,
New York, 1995).
Inquisition and the Crusade against the Cathars
The "glorious 12th century", which for some reason the faithful
exalt proudly above all others of the Dark Ages of Faith, was
ushered in with the horrific
Inquisition and the 35-year crusade
the Cathars (sometimes called
"By this term [Inquisition] is
usually meant a special ecclesiastical institution for combating
or suppressing heresy" (Catholic Encyclopedia, viii, p.
26)—"heresy" simply meaning "holding a different opinion".
Its introduction was the only time in
Christian history when the Church was united in purpose and spoke
with one voice.
The Inquisition became a
permanent office of Christianity and, to justify the tribunal's
principles, the popes introduced a potent instrument in the form of
an additional series of fictitious documents called the "Forged
Decretals of Gratian". The assembled forgeries are some of the
greatest impostures known to mankind, the most successful and most
stubborn in their hold upon unenlightened nations.
The darker features of this period are not in dispute among
authoritative historians, and here, if ever, we must proceed with
severe discrimination. In this period of Christian history, hundreds
of thousands of people were butchered by the Church and the fairest
half of France was laid desolate. In 1182, Pope Lucius III
(1181—85; d. 1185) gained control of the official apparatus of the
Church, and in 1184 declared the Cathars heretics and authorized a
crusade against them. A crusade is a war instigated by the Church
for alleged religious ends, and was authorized by a papal bull.
Eighty-six years earlier, in 1096, Pope Urban II (1042—99;
pope 1088—99) sanctioned the first of eight Church crusades that
extended in time to a total of 19, and they continued unabated for
475 years (1096—1571). Heresy, said the Church, was a blow in the
face of God and it was the duty of every Christian to kill
heretics. Earlier still, Pope Gregory VII (1020—85; pope
1073—85) officially declared that "[t]he killing of heretics is not
murder" and decreed it legal for the Church and its militants to
kill non-believers in Christian dogma.
Up until the 19th century, popes
compelled Christian monarchs to make heresy a crime punishable by
death under their civil codes, but it was not heresy that instigated
the crusade against the Cathars:
its purpose was to "yield the papacy
additional land and revenues, and the popes engaged in
brutalities, threats and all kinds of stratagems to attain their
(The Story of Religious
Controversy, Dr Joseph McCabe, 1929, p. 40).
The Cathars, a peaceable and pious body
of people, were now singled out by the Christian hierarchy for total
destruction. We find it hard today to realize the commotion raised
by Christianity and the ardour of the popes' bitter campaigns
against the Cathars, and later against the progeny of
Frederick II and then the Knights Templar.
Pope Celestine III (1106—98; pope 1191—98) supported the
earlier decision of Pope Lucius III to annihilate every Cathar from
the face of the Earth. To do this, now early in the 13th century,
Pope Innocent III (Lotario di Segni, 1161—1216; pope
1198—1216), "one of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages" (Catholic
Encyclopedia, viii, p. 13), ordered Dominic de Guzman (1170—1223) to
develop a troop of merciless followers called "the Catholic army"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, v, p. 107), and an initial force of 200,000
foot troops was established with assistance from 20,000 mail-clad,
The general populace labelled them the
"Throat-cutters" but Dominic deemed them the "Militia of Jesus
Christ" (ibid.), and he later increased the army by an
additional 100,000 troops. The Catholic writer Bishop Delany
(d. c. 1227) said that the Church's fighting force developed into
500,000 troops against a body of ordinary, unarmed folk who saw
that, in practice, the papal system of religion was frivolous and
The crusade against the Cathars began on 22 July 1209, and it
was a ruthless demonstration of the Church Militant. Arnaud Amaury
(d. 1225), the Abbé of C'teaux, commanded troops bearing a banner
with a green cross and a sword, and members of the French nobility,
including the Duke of Burgundy and the Count of Nevers, accompanied
him. The truth of the matter is that when the army was activated, it
was directed and manipulated unequivocally under the control of the
Church of Christ. With the instructions of Abbé Amaury, the Church
undertook one of the most gruesome massacres of human beings in
What followed was horrific. The crusade started at Béziers, and some
chroniclers say that all inhabitants of the city were massacred
within one week. Some put the number of the dead at 40,000 men,
women and children. It is said that during the first few days, 6,000
or 7,000 people were systematically taken to the Church of St
Magdalene and individually slaughtered. It is a great pity that we
have no reliable records of the population of Béziers. One can only
point out that it was one of the great cities of the prosperous and,
for those days, highly populated Languedoc. What stands out with
certainty about the massacre on 22 July 1209 is its appalling extent
and its indiscriminate nature. But there was worse to come.
It is remarkable that, until recent times, there has been little
comment on the extent of the Church's horrors against the Cathars.
With the increasing interest in Catharism in the last few
decades, there have been attempts on the part of Catholics to
seriously minimize the extent of this outrage and conveniently
downgrade the magnitude of the carnage to irrelevancy. Such efforts
to suppress the truth of Christian history, while not wholly
successful, seem to have strengthened the faith of those who wish to
The way in which Catholic writers now
make light of this appalling papal outrage is shameful. The fact
that popes carried out these murders in the name of Christ is
especially unfortunate for Christians. If we accept the Church's
excuse that the crusaders were men in a mood of deep religious
sentiment who set out to repress a body of people who did not
believe the Christianity formally professed, then we are accepting
an untruth. What is beyond doubt is that when the Catholic army
was mobilized, it was the most appalling killing machine Europe
had ever seen.
The consequence of the sack of Béziers was stunning and was
something analogous to the effects of the atomic bombing of
Hiroshima in the Second World War. It was a horror of a magnitude
exceeding anything in the memory of the people of the Midi. That
popes could authorize such human tragedies to occur in a
purportedly enlightened age is grim proof of the sightlessness that
can be engendered by "blind faith".
After Béziers, Church troops marched triumphantly to Carcassonne,
the greatest fortress of the day. It could justifiably have been
regarded as a prize which could only fall after months or years of
siege, but it succumbed in less than a month after the sack of
Béziers (The Great Heresy, Dr Arthur Guirdham, Neville
Spearman, Jersey, 1977). Europeans shuddered when they heard that
another 5,000 people were slaughtered at Marmande on 26 September
1209, and Guillaume de Tudole records a dreadful description of men,
women and children being hacked to pieces by the Militia of Jesus
That the supposed preaching of Christ
ever came to be the basis of such exuberant aggressiveness against
human beings is a matter for reflection. The records and literature
the Cathars were as ruthlessly
destroyed by the Church as were the living exponents of the faith,
and this evidence is provided in the Catholic Encyclopedia
(iii, pp. 435-37) under a sterilized entry headed "Cathars".
Unable to achieve constant, crushing victories in battle because of
the Cathars' fortifications, the popes embarked upon an official
policy of systematic devastation of their farms, buildings,
vineyards, wheat fields and orchards. The devastation caused by the
Catholic army was immense and the loss to civilization is difficult
to comprehend. Historians estimate that more than 500 towns and
villages disappeared from the map as a result of its depredation.
After three and a half decades of brutality and ruthlessness, the
disdain of Europe deepened when the final battle against the Cathars
took place at their castle stronghold, Montségur, in 1244.
In later times, the Church naively confessed that the motive for its
unprecedented butchery and devastation of the Cathars was,
"their wealth... and their contempt
for the Catholic clergy, caused by their ignorance and the
worldly and the too-frequently-scandalous lives of the latter"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p.
Inquisition," said Bishop Bruno of Segni, a
16th-century Catholic writer, "was invented to rob the rich of
their possessions. The pope and his priests were intoxicated
with sensuality; they despised God because their religion
had been drowned in a deluge of wealth"
(A History of the Popes, McCabe,
Around the same time we have the
complaint of the papal legate Elmeric, who said that the
popes were relaxing their zeal to persecute because there were "no
more rich heretics".
Is there a parallel to these motivations in the history of religion?
We are thought to be offensive if we refuse to speak devoutly of a
divinely guided "Holy Roman Church". Christian writers, with
a habitual indifference to the truth, would have us forget
these facts and accept their artifice that the "Holy Fathers"
were men of pious integrity.
But the worst was yet to come.
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