The Criminal History of the Papacy
Part 3 of
Extracted from Nexus Magazine
Volume 14, Number 3
(April - May 2007)
II, "Warrior of Rome"
The papacy continued on its way into
degeneracy with no parallel in the history of world religion,
and that brings us to another militaristic and disbelieving pope. He
was Giuliano della Rovere (1443-1513) and he called himself
Julius II (1503-13). He fought and intrigued like a worldly
prince and was famous for his long and bloody wars. He was
constantly in the field leading his army, firmly convinced of the
rightness of his frightful battles. He led his Catholic troops into
combat dressed in full armor and at one stage was almost captured.
Florentine-born Francesco Guicciardini (1483-1540), the
ablest historian of the time and papal governor of Modena and Reggio,
remarked that Julius II had nothing of the priest but the name,
writing that he was "...a soldier in a cassock; he drank and swore
heavily as he led his troops; he was willful, coarse, bad-tempered
and difficult to manage. He would ride his horse up the Lateran
stairs to his papal bedroom and tether it at the door" (Istoria
d'Italia ["History of Italy"], Francesco Guicciardini, 1537, 1832
ed.; quoted in A History of the Popes, Dr Joseph McCabe, C.
A. Watts & Co., London, 1939, vol. 2, ch. viii, "The Inevitable
He is acknowledged to have had three or
five children while he was a cardinal and was confidently accused by
the leading nobles of Rome of unnatural vices. It is not important
in this outline whether he had three children or five, as most
acknowledge, but other aspects of his conduct must be noticed.
Ferdinand Gregorovius (1821-91), the great German theological
historian who was never unduly prejudiced against popes, considered
him "one of the most profane and most unecclesiastical figures that
ever occupied the chair of St Peter", and said that there was "not a
trace of Christian piety in him" (Geschichte der Stadt Rom im
Mittelalter ["History of Rome in the Middle Ages"], 1859-72, trans.
1895-1902; quoted in Crises in the History of the Papacy, Dr
Joseph McCabe, Putnam, 1916, ch. vi, "The Papacy in the
Christian historians writhe when they
read Pope Julius's declaration expressing a papal belief that
"Christians are the unstable, unlettered, superstitious masses" (Diderot's
Encyclopédie, 1759), and we can clearly understand why he is
dismissed as an embarrassment.
He was not disturbed by a delegation of monks who approached him
expressing criticism of the clergy and the morals of his cardinals.
He had heard the like before; people for centuries past had
complained that popes, cardinals, bishops and priests lived immoral
lives, and that popes loved sex, power and wealth more than being
Vicars of Christ. The pope advised his secretary to take three
mistresses at one time, "in memory of the Holy Trinity", and frankly
admitted that he loved the title "Warrior of Rome" applied to him by
the populace. He had tired of seeing Giulia Farnese playing Virgin
Mary on the fresco; he wished to move into the four chambers once
used by Pope Nicholas V (1447-55), and he wanted these rooms
decorated with paintings congenial to his self-perceived heroic
stature and aims.
In the summer of 1508, Julius summoned Raphael (1483-1529) to
Rome, and around the same time commissioned Michelangelo
(1474-1564) to create an array of works for the Vatican.
Michelangelo subsequently carved a marble statue of him, and Julius
II examined it with a puzzled expression, asking,
"What is that under my arm?"
"A Bible, your Holiness,"
"What do I know of Bibles?"
roared the Pope; "I am a warlord; give me a sword
(Storia d'Italia, op.
cit.; quoted in A History of the Popes, ibid.).
His preference for a sword over a Bible
had its effect in Rome and he became known as "Pope Dreadful" and
"Pope Terror" (ibid.).
Upon his death on 21 February 1513, the populace breathed a sigh of
relief. Unfortunately for them, one of the most disgraceful popes
who ever sat in the papal chair then arrived in the Vatican,
complete with his entourage of military advisers. He was the fat and
amiable Giovanni de' Medici (1475-1521), a former commander
of Pope Julius's papal army.
Pope Leo X and
his infamous proclamation
On 11 March 1513, Giovanni was elected pope and assumed the name of
Leo X. He had not yet been ordained a priest, but this
defect was remedied on 15 March at a Vatican celebration for the
anniversary of the death of Divine Julius (Julius Caesar) (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, 3rd ed., Edinburgh, 1788-97, vol. ix).
It is almost enough to say that apologists who make pretence of
defending Alexander VI and Julius II abandon Leo X to the critical
wolves. He satisfied only those "who looked upon the Papal Court as
a centre of amusement" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., 1897, iii,
p. 227). The belief that Leo began to indulge in unnatural vice
after he became pope was so seriously held in Rome that the two
leading historians of his time recorded the information.
Guicciardini noted that the new pope accepted the pagan
enjoyment of life and was "exceedingly devoted to the flesh,
especially those pleasures which cannot, with decency, be mentioned"
(Istoria d'Italia, 1832 ed., lib. xvi, ch. v, p. 254).
Paolo Cardinal Giovio (Jovius), biographer of Leo X, after
speaking of the pope's "excessive luxury" and "regal license",
claimed to have "penetrated the secrets of the night", adding:
"Nor was he free from the infamy
that he seemed to have an improper love of some of his
chamberlains, who were members of the noblest families of Italy"
(De Vita Leonis Decimi,
Pontificus Maximus, Paolo Giovio, 1897 English ed., lib. iv, pp.
Modern churchmen, however, praise Leo as
"a person of moral life and sincerely religious" (The Oxford
Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross, 1963, 2nd ed.,
p. 799; The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church,
ed. J. D. Douglas, Zondervan, 1974, p. 591), adding that his
pious qualities were responsible for his unanimous election by
However, historical records reveal a
"When Pope Julius died, Giovanni
de' Medici (to become Leo X) was very ill of venereal
disease at Florence and was carried to Rome in a litter. Later,
an ulcer broke and the matter which ran from it exhaled such a
stench that all the cells in the enclave, which were separated
only by thin partitions, were poisoned by it. Upon this, the
cardinals consulted with physicians of the enclave, to know what
the matter was.
They, being bribed earlier [by
Giovanni de' Medici himself], said de' Medici could not live a
month; which sentence occasioned his being chosen pope. Thus
Giovanni de' Medici, then 38 years of age, was elected pope on
false information and, as joy is the most sovereign of all
remedies, he soon recovered his health, so that the old
cardinals soon had reason to repent."
3rd ed., op. cit., vol. ix, p. 788)
A hale and hearty Pope Leo X now
filled the pontifical chair and his first declaration was:
"God has given me the papacy, now
let me enjoy it"
(Encyclopaedia Britannica, 13th
ed., xix, pp. 926-7).
That was an indication of what was to
come from the man who fully developed the sale of "indulgences" into
Christianity and established the framework for yet another military
strike (the 18th crusade since 1096).
The Church made the following apologetic
summary about him:
"As an ecclesiastic, his deficiency
in professional knowledge, his utter indifference to the
restraint of his character, the reputed laxity of his
principles, his proneness to dissimulation, his deeply rooted
voluptuousness and his fondness for the society of musicians,
jesters and buffoons rendered him contemptible, or something
By a course of lavish expenditure in
the indulgence of his own taste for luxury and magnificence, by
the part which he took in the troublous politics of the day ...
Leo completely drained the papal treasury."
Caesar Baronius, Antwerp, 1592-97, folio iii)
Leo gathered about him a company of
gross men: flatterers, purveyors of indecent jokes and stories, and
writers of obscene comedies which were often performed in the
Vatican with cardinals as actors. His chief friend was Cardinal
Bimmiena, whose comedies were more obscene than any of ancient
Athens or Rome and who was one of the most immoral men of his time.
Leo had to eat temperately for he was
morbidly fat, but his banquets were as costly as they were vulgar
and the coarsest jesters and loosest courtesans sat with him and the
cardinals. Since these things are not disputed, the Church does not
deny the evidence of his vices. In public affairs he was the most
notoriously dishonorable Vicar of Christ of the Renaissance
period, but it is not possible here to tell the extraordinary story
of his alliances, wars and cynical treacheries. His nepotism was as
corrupt as that of any pope, and when some of the cardinals
conspired to kill him he had the flesh of their servants ripped off
with red-hot pincers to extract information (Crises in the History
of the Papacy, op. cit., ch. v, "The Popes React with Massacre and
The Church had scarcely a pope more dedicated to expensive pleasures
or by whom money was so anxiously sought than Leo X. Pope
Julius II had earlier bestowed indulgences on all who contributed
towards building the basilica of St Peter in Vatican City, and Leo X
rapidly expanded upon the doctrine. An indulgence was the sale of
dispensations to secure mainly the rich from the threat of burning
or the bogus release from sins such as murder, polygamy, sacrilege,
perjury and witchcraft (Indulgences: Their Origin, Nature and
Development, Quaracchi, 1897).
For a sum of money, property or some
penitential act, a pardon was conveyed, or a release from the pains
of purgatory or guilt or the forgiveness of sins was granted to any
person who bestowed wealth upon the Church. The year after his
election, he sold the archbishopric of Mainz and two bishoprics to a
rich, loose-living young noble, Albert of Brandenburg, for a
huge sum and permitted him to recover his investment by the sordid
traffic in indulgences which a few years later inflamed Martin
The rich were not the only group he
"Here ... the love of money was the
chief root of the evil; indulgences were employed by mercenary
ecclesiastics as a means of pecuniary gain ... money was
extracted from the simple-minded among the faithful by promising
them perpetual happiness in this world and eternal glory in the
vii, p. 787)
And that was some 500 years before the
Vatican received its first banking license. Lord Bryce
(1838-1922), British jurist, author and statesman, summarized the
mental and moral qualities of the priesthood that indulgences
He said that its concept was,
"a blatant fraud against the naive
... a portentous falsehood and the most unimpeachable evidence
of the true thoughts and beliefs of the priesthood which framed
(The Holy Roman Empire, Lord
Bryce, 1864, ch. vi, p. 107; Latin text, extracts, p. 76).
To replenish the coffers and maintain
his "luxuriant abundance", Leo expanded the sale of indulgences into
a major source of Church revenue and developed a large body of
priests to collect the payments. In forming his plans, he was
assisted mainly by his relative Laurentius Pucci, whom he
made Cardinal of Santi-quattro, and Johann Tetzel, a
former military officer of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. They
appointed a series of retailers to keep pace with the disposal of
goods given to pay for indulgences, and he and his team then set off
on a mission through Italy to entice more sales.
This picturesque overview is drawn from
Diderot's Encyclopédie, and provides one reason why Pope Clement
XIII (1758-69) ordered all volumes destroyed immediately after
its publication in 1759 (The Censoring of Diderot's 'Encyclopédie'
and the Re-established Text, D. H. Gordon and N. L. Torrey, Columbia
University Press, New York, 1947):
"The indulgence-seekers passed
through the country in gay carriages escorted by thirty
horsemen, in great state and spending freely. The pontiff's Bull
of Grace was borne in front on a purple velvet cushion, or
sometimes on a cloth of gold. The chief vendor of indulgences
followed with his team, supporting a large red wooden cross; and
the whole procession moved in this manner amidst singing and the
smoke of incense.
As soon as the cross was elevated,
and the Pope's arms suspended upon it, Tetzel ascended the
pulpit, and with a bold tone began, in the presence of the
crowd, to exalt the efficacy of indulgences.
The pope was the last speaker and
cried out, 'Bring money, bring money, bring money'. He uttered
this cry with such a dreadful bellowing that one might have
thought that some wild bull was rushing among the people and
goring them with his horns."
1759; expanded upon in History of the Great Reformation of the
16th Century, J. H. Merle d'Aubigné, 1840, London ed. trans.
Prof. S. L. MacGuire, 1942, vol. 2, p. 168)
Tetzel and the priests associated
with him falsely represented their task and exaggerated the value of
indulgences so as to lead people to believe that "as soon as they
gave their money, they were certain of salvation and the deliverance
of souls from purgatory" (Diderot's Encyclopédie).
So strong was the Protestant movement's opposition to the sale of
indulgences that Pope Leo X issued a bull called Exsurge Domine,
its purpose being to condemn Martin Luther's damaging assertions
that "indulgences are frauds against the faithful and criminal
offences against God" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., op.
cit., vol. ix, p. 788; also, James Moore's Dublin Edition, 1790-97,
Around 45 years later, the 18-year-long
Council of Trent pronounced "anathema against those who either
declare indulgences to be useless or deny that the Church has the
power to grant them" (Catholic Encyclopedia, vii, pp. 783-4).
To further finance his lifestyle, Leo borrowed prodigious amounts of
money from bankers at 40 per cent interest. The booming brothels
simply did not bring in enough tax money, even though there were
6,800 registered prostitutes servicing a male citizenry of fifty
thousand. His gifts to relatives, friends, artists, writers and
musicians, his lavish maintenance of an unprecedented court, the
demands of the new St Peter's, the expense of the Urbino war and
payments to Tetzel for preparation for the next crusade were all
leading him to bankruptcy.
Leo's army was defeated when the French king Francis I
(1494-1547) successfully invaded Italy in 1515, and the Vatican was
forced to concede the loss of the control-and the revenue-of the
entire French Church. In Rome, however, the bankers despoiled
themselves. The Bini firm had lent Leo 200,000 ducats, the Gaddi
32,000, the Ricasoli 10,000; moreover, as Cardinal Pucci had
lent him 150,000 and Cardinal Salviati 80,000, the cardinals
would have first claim on anything salvaged. Leo died worse than
bankrupt (Crises in the History of the Papacy, op. cit., ch.
As security for his loans, he'd pledged
the freehold of churches, monasteries, nunneries, the Villa Medici,
Vatican silverware, tapestries, valuable manuscript collections,
jewellery and the infamous Chair of Peter, built by King Charles the
Bald in 875 and falsely displayed in the Vatican foyer until 1656 as
a true relic upon which St Peter once sat.
To replenish his treasury, Leo had created 1,353 new and saleable
offices, for which appointees paid a total of 889,000 ducats
(US$11,112,500 in 1955 values). He nominated 60 additional
chamberlains and 141 squires to the 2,000 persons who made up his
ménage at the Vatican, and received from them a total of 202,000
ducats. In July 1517, he named 31 new cardinals, chosen "not of such
as had the most merit, but of those that offered the most money for
the honor and power". Cardinal Porizzetti, for example, paid
40,000 ducats and altogether Leo's appointees on this occasion
brought in another half a million ducats for the treasury.
Even blasé Italy was shocked, and the
story of the pope's financial transactions made Germans share in the
anger of Luther's October 1517 revolt. Some cardinals received an
income from the Church of 40,000 ducats a year and lived in stately
palaces manned by as many as 300 servants and adorned with every art
and luxury known to the time. All in all, Leo spent 4,500,000 ducats
during his pontificate (US$56,250,000 in 1955 values) and died owing
400,000 more (A History of the Popes, op. cit., vol. 2).
A favorite satire that developed around
him was called the "Gospel according to Marks and Silver",
"In those days, Pope Leo said to the
clergy: 'When Jesus the Son of Man shall come to the seat
of our Majesty, say first of all, 'Friend, wherefore art Thou
come hither? And if He gives you naught in silver or gold, cast
Him forth into outer darkness.'"
(A History of the Popes,
Dr Joseph McCabe, ibid., vol. 2, chapter on "The Age of Power")
It was Pope Leo X who made the
most infamous and damaging statement about Christianity in the
history of the Church. His declaration revealed to the world papal
knowledge of the Vatican's false presentation of Jesus Christ
and unashamedly exposed the puerile nature of the Christian
religion. At a lavish Good Friday banquet in the Vatican in 1514,
and in the company of "seven intimates" (Annales Ecclesiastici,
Caesar Baronius, Folio Antwerp, 1597, tome 14), Leo made an amazing
announcement that the Church has since tried hard to invalidate.
Raising a chalice of wine into the air,
Pope Leo toasted:
"How well we know what a profitable
superstition this fable of Christ has been for us
and our predecessors."
The pope's pronouncement is recorded in
the diaries and records of both Pietro Cardinal Bembo (Letters and
Comments on Pope Leo X, 1842 reprint) and Paolo Cardinal Giovio (De
Vita Leonis Decimi..., op. cit.), two associates who were witnesses
Caesar (Cardinal) Baronius (1538-1607) was Vatican librarian for
seven years and wrote a 12-volume history of the Church, known as
Annales Ecclesiastici. He was the Church's most outstanding
historian (Catholic Encyclopedia, New Edition, 1976, ii, p. 105) and
his records provide vital inside information for anybody studying
the rich depth of falsification in Christianity.
Cardinal Baronius, who turned down two
offers to become pope in 1605, added the following comments about
Pope Leo's declaration:
"The Pontiff has been accused of
atheism, for he denied God and called Christ, in front of
cardinals Pietro Bembo, Jovius and Iacopo Sadoleto and other
intimates, 'a fable' ... it must be corrected".
op. cit., tomes viii and xi)
In an early edition of the Catholic
Encyclopedia (Pecci ed., iii, pp. 312-314, passim), the Church
devoted two-and-half pages in an attempt to nullify the most
destructive statement ever made by the head of Christianity. It
based the essence of its argument on the assumption that what the
pope meant by "profitable" was "gainful", and "fable" was intended
to mean "tradition".
Hence, confused Catholic theologians
argued that what the pope really meant was,
"How well Christians have gained
from this wonderful tradition of Christ".
But that isn't what he said.
It is from Christianity's own records that Pope Leo's statement
became known to the world. In his diaries, Cardinal Bembo,
the Pope's secretary for seven years, added that Leo:
"...was known to disbelieve
Christianity itself. He advanced contrary to the faith and that
in condemning the Gospel, therefore he must be a heretic; he was
guilty of sodomy with his chamberlains; was addicted to
pleasure, luxury, idleness, ambition, unchastity and sensuality;
and spent his whole days in the company of musicians and
buffoons. His Infallibility's drunkenness was proverbial, he
practiced incontinency as well as inebriation, and the effects
of his crimes shattered the people's constitution."
(Letters and Comments on
Pope Leo X, ibid.)
On behalf of the Church, Cardinal
Baronius officially defended Pope Leo's declaration, saying it
was "an invention of his corroded mind"
(Annales Ecclesiastici, op. cit., tome iv),
but in applauding the pope's tyrannical conduct supported the
essence of his testimony on the grounds of the infallibility of the
Church of Rome:
"Of his wicked miscarriages, we,
having had before a careful deliberation with our brethren and
the Holy Council, and many others, and although he was unworthy
to hold the place of St Peter on Earth, Pope Leo the Great
[440-461] originally determined that the dignity of Peter
suffers no diminution even in an unworthy successor.
[see Catholic Encyclopedia, i,
pp. 289, 294, passim]
In regard to the keys, as Vicar of
Christ he rendered himself to put forth this knowledge truly;
and all do assent to it, so that none dissent who does not fall
from the Church; the infamy of his testimonial and conduct is
readily pardoned and forgotten."
Later, John Bale (1495-1563)
seized upon Pope Leo's confession and the subsequent Vatican
admission that the pope had spoken the truth about the "fable of
Christ" and "put forward this knowledge truly" (Annales
Ecclesiastici, ibid.). Bale was an Englishman who had earlier joined
the Carmelites but abandoned the order after the Inquisition
slaughtered his family (Of the Five Plagues of the Church
[originally titled The Five Wounds of the Church], Count Antonio
Rosmini [Catholic priest and papal adviser], 1848, English
trans. by Prof. David L. Wilhelm, Russell Square Publishing, London,
He became a playwright and in 1538
developed lampooning pantomimes to mock the pretended godliness of
the Catholic Church and "parodied its rites and customs on stage" (The
Complete Plays of John Bale, ed. Peter Happé, Boydell & Brewer,
After the public disclosure of the
hollow nature of Christianity, "people were rejoicing that the
papacy and the Church had come to an end" (Of the Five Plagues of
the Church, op. cit.), but later Christian historians acrimoniously
referred to the popular theatrical production as "that abominable
satire", dishonestly claiming that it was the origin of Pope Leo's
frank admission (De Antiqua Ecclesiae Disciplina, Bishop
Louis Dupin [Catholic historian], Paris folio, 1686).
successors and the sacking of Rome
Catholic apologists say that a "really religious pope" succeeded Leo
X, but they do not freely say why or how. From what information we
have about him, it seems that he was ridiculed by the people of Rome
and lasted a little over a year. The Conclave that elected him, held
at a time when half of Germany was in Protestant revolt, is
described by Catholic professor F. H. Kraus in The
Cambridge Modern History as "a spectacle of the most disgraceful
party struggles ever seen in the papacy" (1902 ed., "Conclaves"
The conflicts of greed reached a
deadlock and Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens (1459-1523), a
Dutchman from Utrecht who could not speak the Italian language, was
subsequently elected pope in absentia.
He later entered Rome as Pope Adrian VI
(1522-23), promising reform in the Church and saying,
"We, prelates and clergy, have gone
astray from the right path, and for a long time there is none
that has done good, no, no one"
(Secrets of the Christian
Fathers, Bishop J. W. Sergerus, 1685, 1897 reprint, p. 227).
Since it was standard procedure for
Romans to drag statues of a pope through the mud after the pope's
death, the new pope issued a bull declaring the practice illegal.
After looting his wine cellar in response, the Roman populace
laughed him out of existence. He died on 14 September 1523, and the
Romans gave vent to their hatred for the foreigner in a pasquinade
"in a language that had not been heard since the days of Bernard of
Clairvaux" (d. 1153) (The
Papacy, George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1954, op. cit.,
The later Church frankly conceded that
Pope Adrian VI "was hated by all and loved by none", adding that
"however regarded, the pontificate of the last non-Italian pope was
only an episode" (ibid.).
The next Conclave took 20 days and the cardinals were in such a
hurry to receive another round of bribes that they strutted to the
Sistine Chapel dressed in the garb of fashionable cavaliers, with
plumed hats, gay vests, mantles, silver spurs and flowing robes.
Giulio de' Medici (1478-1534), a bastard child of the great
Florentine family, made them the highest bid and he became Pope
Clement VII (1523-34). Under his papacy, Rome fell in 1527.
It is an extraordinary story, one which space prevents our giving a
full account of, and is yet another little-known episode in the
bizarre history of the Christian Church. Pope Clement was as
treacherous and dishonorable in his public conduct as his cousin,
Pope Leo X, and drew upon himself the contempt as well as hatred
of all who had dealings with him. His excesses shocked Europe, and
it was his crooked ways and his cowardly subterfuges which led to
the taking and pillaging of Rome by Christian troops of the Spanish
king Charles V (1500-58; later Holy Roman Emperor, 1530-58).
Stung by Clement's perfidy, the emperor
launched his cardinal-led army upon the city on 6 May 1527, and so
savage was the attack that the population of Rome was reduced from
98,000 to 32,000 in eight days. Included in the carnage were the
deaths of 147 Swiss Guardsmen in the Vatican. Again, papal nepotism
and the lust for territory had brought ruin upon the Romans: this
time, arguably the worst rape of a great city in history. Rome was
laid waste, its churches profaned, its treasures plundered, its
libraries pillaged, people murdered, and nuns raped and tortured to
death by what the Church called "a rabble of miscreants".
(Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., ii. p. 166).
Catholic writers put against this the contemporary activity of
various Church reformers in parts of Italy and the refusal of
Clement to grant King Henry VIII a divorce from Catherine of Aragon.
But, said Cardinal Cajetan,
"it was a just judgment of the
people ... the papacy aimed henceforth at becoming an 'ideal
government' under a spiritual and converted clergy"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, xii, pp.
This was decades after the boasted
"reformation in Head and members" of the Church assured by Pope
Alexander VI (Catholic Encyclopedia xiv, pp. 32-33).
So here the Augean stables were at
length cleansed; the papacy, for the seventh time in its own
editions of the Catholic Encyclopedia, is recorded as having "sunk
to its lowest ebb" but now promised to become an "ideal government",
and the Vatican confessed that "the demand for reform in the Church
was, in fact, not unjustified".
(Catholic Encyclopedia, xiv, pp.
Book of the Popes
What we may today call the "foreign policy" of the papacy during our
631-year overview brought an incalculable volume of savage warfare
and bloodshed upon Italy and Europe. The papacy can only be relieved
of the charge of savagery on the ground that popes were determined
at any cost to have an earthly kingdom and its revenues.
In pursuance of that purpose, the papal
office has demonstrated a record of centuries of unparalleled
corruption and criminality, and to hide this fact the Church
provided itself with concocted books about its popes that are "wise
and salutary fictions" ("Contradictions in the Catholic
Encyclopedias: A Record of Conflictions in Accredited Church
Expositions", Major Joseph Wheless [Judge Advocate, USA],
American Bar Association Journal, 1930 [vol. no. unknown]).
Few readers know how freely it is acknowledged that the popular
Catholic versions of the history of the popes are composed of
forgeries and are used today with great profit in Christian circles.
The Vatican flooded the world with false information about its
popes, the most blatant examples being the famous, or infamous,
Book of the Popes (Liber Pontificalis) and the Liberian
Catalogue, both notorious for their fictitious accounts of early
and mythical "successors of St Peter"
(Catholic Encyclopedia, ix, pp. 224-225;
also Pecci ed., ii, p. 371).
These books provide a collection of
glowing diatribes describing the pontificates of docile and devout
popes, many of whom never existed, and has about it the spurious air
of ingenuousness that so often amuses the reader.
Book of the Popes is an official papal work, written and kept in the
Vatican, and its introduction claims to "preserve for posterity the
holy lives and wonderful doings of the heads of the Church
Universal" (Catholic Encyclopedia, ix, p. 224). However, if patient
readers care to glance at the synopsis of each pope as given, they
will see that the Church knows nothing whatever about the pontiffs
of the first six or seven centuries, and not one of them is a
clearly defined figure of history.
The summations of popes are decorated
with the official halo of sanctity, but the Bollandist priest,
Father Delehaye, a leading Catholic investigator of this kind of
literature, said "there is no evidence whatever that the papal
genealogies are based upon earlier sources" (The Legends of the
Saints, Father Delehaye, 1907 English ed., quoted and expanded upon
in The Popes and Their Church, Dr Joseph McCabe, C. A.
Watts & Co., London, 2nd ed. revised, 1924, p. 13).
Simply put, there were no Christian popes for many centuries; they
were the Mithraic fathers of Rome, and,
"the chief of the [Mithraic]
fathers, a sort of pope, who always lived at Rome, was called
(Catholic Encyclopedia, x, pp.
Some even called themselves after the
Zoroastrian god, an excellent example being Pope Hormisdas
(514-523), whose name is Persian for Ahura Mazda.
Of him, the Church said "his name
presents an interesting problem" and added this curious comment:
"St Hormisdas owes his canonization
to an unofficial tradition"
(The Popes: A Concise
Biographical History, Burns & Oates, Publishers to the Holy See,
London, 1964, p. 81).
His "considerable numbers of
recalcitrant bishops" were devotees of Ahura Mazda, supporting
Mithraic doctrine (ibid.).
We need to understand that many ancient popes, who in modern times
have been presented as dignified gentlemen isolated from every taint
of mundane interest, never existed. The Church has admitted that its
papal biographies (Book of the Popes and the Liberian
Catalogue) are not candid digests of pious men of considerable
erudition but are untruthful fabrications: "Historical criticism has
for a long time dealt with this ancient text in an exhaustive way
... especially in recent decades" (i.e., late 1800s-early 1900s)
(Catholic Encyclopedia, v, pp. 773-780; also ix, pp. 224-225,
passim) and established it "historically untenable" (ibid., passim).
The Church confessed that the Book of the Popes is a phony
record, retrospectively compiled in the deceptive manner of most
clerical writings. This admission is found in the Catholic
"In most of its manuscript copies
there is found at the beginning a spurious correspondence
between Pope Damasus I [366-383] and St Jerome [c.
347-420]. These letters were considered genuine in the Middle
Ages. Duchesne [papal historian, 1584-1640] has proved
exhaustively and convincingly that the first series of
biographies, from St Peter to Felix III [IV, d. 530], was
compiled at the latest under Felix's successor Boniface II
The compilers of the Liber
Pontificalis utilized also some historical writings, a
number of apocryphal fragments [e.g., the Pseudo-Clementine
Recognitions], the Constitutum Sylvestri, the spurious
Acts of the alleged 'Synod of the 275 bishops under Sylvester',
etc., and the fifth-century Roman Acts of Martyrs. Finally, the
compilers distributed arbitrarily along their list of popes a
number of papal decrees taken from unauthentic sources; they
likewise attributed to earlier popes liturgical and disciplinary
regulations of the sixth century.
The authors were Roman
ecclesiastics, and some were attached to the Roman Court ... in
the Liber Pontificalis it is recorded that popes issued
decrees that were lost, or mislaid, or perhaps never existed at
all. Later popes seized the opportunity to supply a false
pontifical letter suitable for the occasion, attributing it to
the pope whose name was mentioned in the Liber Pontificalis."
(Catholic Encyclopedia, v,
pp. 773-780, and ix, pp. 224-225, passim; also regarding the
fraudulent Book of the Popes, see Annales Ecclesiastici, op.
cit., folio xi, and De Antiqua Ecclesiae Disciplina, op. cit.)
The falsity of the Book of the Popes
is thereby shown and the intentional presentation of its
fabricated contents is revealed. English theologian and deist
Anthony Collins (1676-1729), in his celebrated Discourse of
Free-thinking (1713), discussed at length the extent of the
superficial literature that circulates in Christianity.
He said (p. 96):
"In short, these frauds are very
common in all books which are published by priests or priestly
men. For it is certain they plead the authority of earlier
writings that were themselves fake, forged, mangled or
corrupted, with more reasons than any to support their articles
of faith with sinister ingenuity."
The fervor with which the modern-day
work of suppression, misrepresentation, falsification and
concealment of the real disposition of the popes, whose character no
non-Church historian respects, makes the guilt of the successors of
the Church as great as that of those who established the system.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Vatican added to its
cover-up and employed unnamed Mannerist artists to create pious
portraits of popes extending back centuries. After the ruling on the
need for standardized biblical images by the Council of Trent,
Charles Cardinal Borromeo, at one time the manservant to Pope
Sixtus V (1585-90), moved a motion during the First Provincial
Council (1565) forbidding the painting of Christian personages
without official approval from the Church.
The motion was carried, and from that
time on artists needed written approval from the Artist Censor to
the Holy Office on matters pertaining to the creation of
Christian iconography. Bishops were appointed to instruct artists on
the standardized presentation of particularly Gospel subjects and
they were not to proceed without Church permission. Thus, by
necessity, painters of popes purposely and incessantly applied
placid characteristics to the physical appearance of popes who
were, in reality, "men of dubious dispositions" (Catholic
Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., i, p. 326).
Those paintings appear in modern books
and are only creations from the artists' minds, for previous to the
16th century "no authentic portraits of the popes exist" (The Popes:
A Concise Biographical History, op. cit., p. 16).
Thus, in our search for Christianity's "sweetness and light", we
have, as it were, scratched only the surface of the history of the
papacy as recorded by the Church itself. This article is but a
thumbnail sketch of a few popes from a total of 264 listed in The
Popes: A Concise Biographical History (op. cit.), a sanitized
presentation of their lives which subtly excludes detailed
discussion on centuries of double, triple and quadruple popes.
Documenting lurid features emanating
from a long line of popes, carrying names like Adrian, Leo, Clement,
Benedict, Boniface, Gregory, Innocent, Celestine, Pius (pious!),
Alexander, Eugenius (you genius!), Urban and John, falls outside the
limited scope of this critique.
It is not possible here to elaborate on the interminable
political wars and throat-cuttings joyously mooted by centuries of
papal instructions, nor on the infinite blood-lust and
greed of the execrated
Holy Inquisition and of the
never-ending successions of murderous popes, armed Curias
and blood-sodden prelates. Nor is it possible to expand upon
the story of the pope who called himself Lucifer, and another
who used funds from the Vatican's treasure chamber to develop the
finest horse stud in Europe.
Then there is the little-known story of Alberic III, Count of
Tusculum, who purchased the papacy for his 12-year-old son
Theophylactus (Benedict IX; see part one) and the insolence of the
modern Church in describing him as:
"...one of the more youthful
popes, unanimously elected by a special commission to the
cheers of the delighted cardinals, who were all legitimately
appointed and formal cognizance was taken. The cardinal-camerlengo
made the announcement of a pope-elect about eight o'clock on the
morning of the first day, and then the cardinals advanced and
paid him his first obedience or homage (adoratio). After the
Conclave, certain honorary distinctions and pecuniary emoluments
were awarded to the conclavists."
Pecci ed., iii, p. 255)
We also leave for another time the
account of the Conclave which made a pope of a cardinal who had
earlier horrified Europe by ordering the massacre of every man,
woman and child in the Italian city of Cesena in 1379. The savage
thoughts behind this dreadful incident reveal the true nature and
motives of the men in charge of Christianity, and this story is a
cold challenge to Church ethics and pretensions. From those and
similar actions, it is apparent that the papacy viewed the faith of
its followers only as a novel kind of folly.
The Church claims that the choice of every pope was guided by the
Holy Spirit, aided indirectly but effectively by bribery,
armies, warships and weaponry. The power of the papacy rested upon
the "right of the sword" (Bull Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII,
18 November 1302; overview in Catholic Encyclopedia, xv, p. 126),
which the Roman Catholic Church emphatically claims today in its
esoteric Code of Canon Law.
It is revealing to read New Testament
narratives in which Jesus Christ defined his mission:
"I have come not to bring peace, but
a sword" (Matt. 10:34) and instructed his followers to arm
themselves with weapons (Luke 22:36).
The history of the papacy reveals that
the popes took Jesus' advice, for they imputed to Christ
the horrid justification of the sword and the infernal principles of
more than a thousand years of unrestrained criminal activity. The
popes, executors of "a depraved and excessive superstition" (Meditations,
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, c. 180) and whom the modern Church
presents as the centre of love and peace, were in
reality, more often than not, debauched military strategists
indifferent to a Christian moral code.
Whatever one may think of the determination of popes to hold or
expand their temporal power, one cannot entertain any defense of
their nepotism or the corrupt nature of the office itself.
Roberto Francesco Romulus Cardinal
Bellarmino (1542-1621) conceded these truths by admitting that
"the papacy almost eliminated Christianity" and, later, learned
French encyclopaedist Denis Diderot (1713-83) added in his
"From its inception in a mean and
squalid settlement outside the walls of Rome, between the ragged
buildings that fringed the farther bank of the Tiber and
extended to the edges of the marshy Ager Vaticanus
[Vatican Field], the Church of the popes was cradled ... it
developed into a chronique scandaleuse [a chronicle of
scandals] and its survival leaves one to pass an opinion on the
peculiar mind of human nature that allows a system injurious to
good morals to exist.
Such an association could at most be
considered as cause for disbelief. To the students of genuine
history, the facts are so notorious that the alliance of the
papal hierarchy with brutality and treachery, and the willful
neglect of reform, is confronted by the serious prospect of the
spiritual ruin of the Catholic faith."
In our current lenient age, some Church
writers have attempted to purify the character of bygone popes but
Dr Ludwig Pastor (1854-1928), German Catholic historian of
the papacy, frankly admitted the extent of their irreverence, noting
"the evidence against our Holy
Fathers is so strong as to render it impossible to restore their
(History of the Popes from the
Close of the Middle Ages, Ludwig Pastor Freiherr von
Campersfelden; quoted in A History of the Popes, Dr Joseph
McCabe, op. cit., vol. 2).
The mighty spiritual power which popes
possess, which is said to be so valuable to Christians, led to the
most licentious, cruel and dishonorable organization known in the
history of civilization. The apologist who tells his readers that
the popes were a fine constructive force is flagrantly opposing
The Cambridge Modern History, a
most judicious authority, says that,
"the world has rarely seen a more
debased standard of morality than that which prevailed under the
popes in the closing years of the Middle Ages"
(vol. 1, p. 673).
To this could be added the opinion of
this author, based on many years of research, that the true extent
of the disgrace of the papal office was continuous from before the
time of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (d. 814) until well after
the Council of Trent (1545-63) and was eradicated only under the
pressure of Protestantism.
Most Catholics don't know about the real story of the history of the
Church, nor about the harsh and impious nature of their popes. But
as they begin to peer over the barriers the Catholic hierarchy has
raised, they see that the illustrious and authoritative passivity
recorded of the popes has been won by false pretence. The modern-day
claim that popes promoted the mental awakening of Europe
is a particularly bold misrepresentation of the facts.
The world is learning that the papacy,
instead of having guided Europe along a path towards civilization,
has even in its best representatives inaugurated centuries of
conflict and degradation.
The papal office is unique in the history of religion, not only for
the high proportion of disreputable men who have sat in the
pontifical chair but for the blood it has shed in defense of
its power, the dishonesty of its credentials and the
record of treason to its own ideals.
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