Sunday, February 18, 2007
It often happens that on a blog someone will reject any criticism of the present pope or the one of recent memory. It's as though they believe that the pope has somehow been exempted from any possibility of sin because he has been chosen by the Holy Spirit.
In the current issue of NOR this mindset has turned up in a Letter to the Editor written by a reader who objects to NOR covering Randy Engel's criticism of Pope Paul VI, specifically her claim that he may have been homosexual. Here is what the letter writer said in part:
I do not know why you wrote that Randy Engel, in her bookThe Rite of Sodomy, "says that Paul VI was a homosexual, and she gives evidence for this."...
Worse yet is your statement that "Engel also has doubts about Pope Benedict's manliness," and then repeating the titillating details. You were wrong to publish these horrible things.
I am so upset about the treatment of our Holy Father, but also about the "rite of sodomy," that I can no longer be one of your readers.
Signed T. Gavin King, Claremore, Oklahoma
As it happened the night I read that letter I also read a portion of Malachi Martin's book THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN CHURCH-- a look at the history of the papacy. While I knew there had been bad popes, I had not known until this book just how bad. A couple of choice examples:
When John XIX died under suspicious circumstances in 1033, a relative of John's took his own twelve-year-old son, also called Theophylact, had papal clothes made to fit him, lifted him bodily onto the papal throne, and had him consecrated pope as Benedict IX. The spectacle of this twelve-year-old issuing excommunications, giving his papal blessing, formulating decrees, consecrating bishops, deciding theological matters, was ludicrous enough, but it took more than that to shake the impassive Greeks.(pp 132-133)
Benedict shook them, though. First, the child was bisexual, sodomized animals, and ordered murders. He also dabbled in witchcraft and Satanism. Within less than a year, there was a plot to strangle him. He escaped, and his big brother, Gregory, put him back on the papal throne. The Roman citizenry revolted against him and elected John of Sabina as Pope Silvester III. But Bemedict's family again put him back on the throne, and Silvester III had to flee.
In May of 1033, Benedict found a buyer for the papacy--John Gratin, a rich archpriest. Benedict and John Gratian signed a formal document according to which Benedict, when he resigned the papacy in John's favor, would receive for the rest of his life the entire tribute of the English church--it was called Peter's Pence. John Gratian became Pope Gregory VI. Benedict IX became Theophylact once again, but continued to live in the Lateran Palace, which he converted into the best brothel in Rome. At the same time, living in Rome were Silvester III in St. Mary Major's, and Gregory VI in St. Peter's.
Yes, that shook even the Greeks.
In September 1046, Holy Roman emperor Henry III came to Rome, expelled the two popes and the ex-pope and appointed one of his own German bishops, Suidger of Bamberg, as Pope Clement II, whom the Byzantines took to be a stooge of their mortal enemy, Henry.
Clement didn't last long, however. Theophylact (our former Benedict IX) had Clement II poisoned on October 9, 1047, and once more he climbed back onto the papal throne as Benedict IX. He lasted exactly eight months and nine days--until the Emperor Henry returned to Rome. Benedict took to his heels and Henry put another of his German bishops on the throne, Poppo of Brixin, as Pope Damasus II, on July 17, 1048. But Theophylact's poison acted again, and Damasus II died twenty-three days after his elevation.
Fortunately, Henry had a goodly supply of bishops. He put still another, Bruno of Toul, a member of the powerful Egisheim family, on the throne as Pope Leo IX. Besides receiving King Macbeth of Shakespeare fame in the year 1050, Leo inadvertently slammed the door on Constantinople.
There are many more examples of terrible popes in the book. It would seem that if we are to believe current popolators are right, the Holy Spirit has had considerable difficulty in making good choices in the dark history of the Roman Catholic Church.