Advice and Info on Immoral popes?

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Puritan Board Freshman
Does anyone know of reliable resources on the Net with regard to History of the Popes and specifically which Popes were more ungodly in practice. (Reliable resources please)
I know all of them are ungodly but specifically whick ones stand out in immoral practices and such.

Secondly: As you all probably know I am a converted Catholic and my family is still Catholic, my mom devotedly so. She has placed the Pope on such a high pedistal and now has been given a book on the History of the popes. I am not sure who the author is but I can only hope he will be a reasonably honest historian who will show that some Popes definetely did not come close to qualifying to be the so called "Vicar of Christ" in terms of morality and Godliness.

I would like to have some info not to confront my mom but to ask questions about these men which might show here that they fall far short of what God requires His people to be especially in leadership positions. Do you think this will be the wrong thing to do?

I do first and foremost pray for my family and know that only God can call and save them.


They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
I found this little excerpt on the website of Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis:

For example, it´s no secret that Pope Sergius III (904-911) illegitimately fathered Pope John XI (931-935). Pope Sergius has been called "œan unscrupulous man" who ruled the Church "œarrogantly" (Quoted from page 162 of The Popes, A Concise Biographical History, edited by Eric John, Imprimatur, George L. Craven, 1962. Originally published in 1964 by Burns and Oates, publishers to the Holy See.)

Alexander VI (1471-1503) had at least six children, four of them by a Roman lady, Vanozzza dei Catanei (Ibid., p. 304.) "œThere is evidence" says The Popes: A Concise Biographical History that Alexander "œmaintained a mistress after he became pope and that her influence persuaded him to make her brother, Alexander Farnese, later Paul III, a Cardinal". Alexander VI became especially known for advancing his children´s careers. John XII (955-964) who became pope at age sixteen, is described in the Catholic Encyclopedia as "œa coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general odium." (Catholic Encyclopedia, (New York: Appleton, 1910) Volume VIII, p. 426). "œThere is no doubt" write the authors of The Popes, "œthat he (John XII) was a scandal to the whole Church" (P. 166).

At times, popes and bishops have accepted bribes for favors, as well as murdered political opponents. For example, Pope Sergius III "œtook the Papacy by force," while Pope John XII is reportedly to have been "œstruck with paralysis while visiting his mistress" and died shortly after; and Pope Sixtus IV was involved in the plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici (The Popes, Eric John, pages 162, 166 and 301). Sixtus IV (1471-1484) made nepotism "œthe chief influence of papal policies." His revenues, which exceeded 60,000 gold ducats a year, "œenabled him to lead a life of luxury which astonished contemporaries and shocked many." (The Popes, Eric John, p. 301). Pope Innocent VIII (1484-1492) a man whose morals were unsuitable for the papacy, would "œopenly avow his illegitimate children." (Ibid., p. 302).

I am sure there is more; from other accounts I would suspect that it was strongly toned down. But it is from the mouth of a catholic.

[Edited on 3-19-2006 by py3ak]


They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Another Catholic website had this:

Dear Cecil:

I've read that a respectable number of disrespectable popes in the early Roman Catholic Church had illegitimate children. I understand that many of these children became cardinals in the church, some eventually ascending to the papal throne with infallibility. Does the Catholic Church officially acknowledge these transgressions, and, if so, how does it rationalize them? Also, is there any truth to the scandalous story of an ancient pope's bastard daughter disguising herself as a man, becoming a respected cardinal in the church, and finally getting elected pope by his/her peers--only to be stoned to death by an angry Roman crowd that discovered "him" hiding an advanced pregnancy under those heavy velvet robes? --Jeffrey R., Madison, Wisconsin

Dear Jeffrey:

A lot of the rumors about the "bad popes" are true, but let's not get ridiculous. The female pope story is generally regarded as a fabrication. "Pope Joan," who supposedly served from 855 to 858, was said to be an Englishwoman who disguised herself as a monk to be with her cleric boyfriend. She went to Rome, where she so impressed others with her learning that she was elected pope. Her secret was discovered when she gave birth during a procession, whereupon she was slain. The story is false, although it was possibly inspired by actual events, about which more in a moment.

But many other papal horror stories are entirely legit. In many cases, in fact, weaknesses of the flesh were the least of the popes' sins. In the Middle Ages many popes were elevated to office following the murder of their predecessors. During one particularly grim period from 882 to 1046, there were 37 popes, some of whom served only a few weeks.

Leo V (903), for instance, had been pope for only a month before being imprisoned and tortured by one Christophorus, who then enthroned himself. Both men were killed in 904 on the orders of Pope Sergius III (904-911). Sergius later had a son by his teenaged mistress Marozia who became Pope John XI (931-935). In 914, according to one chronicler, Marozia's mother Theodora installed her lover on the papal throne as John X (914-928). (Theodora and Marozia effectively controlled the papacy through their menfolk and may be the source of the Pope Joan legend.) John XII (955-963), who ascended to the papacy at 19, was accused, perhaps falsely, of sleeping with his father's mistress, committing incest with his niece, and castrating a deacon.

Murder gave way to bribery as a route to the papacy in later centuries; some 40 popes are believed to have bought their jobs. But the lax attitude toward celibacy remained unchanged. In large part this was because the Church was an important route to wealth and power. Sons of influential families were pushed into Church careers much as we might send a kid to MBA school, apparently with similar expectations regarding morals. Noblemen with mistresses saw no reason to adjust their life-styles just because they had taken vows.

The spectacle of cardinals and popes putting their "nephews" into cushy jobs was a standing joke in Rome for centuries. Innocent VIII (1484-1492) had a son and daughter who lived with him in the Vatican. The notorious Alexander VI (1492-1503), born Rodrigo Borgia, had at least four illegitimate children while still a cardinal, among them the cutthroat Cesare Borgia and the reputed poisoner Lucrezia Borgia (actually, she probably never poisoned anybody). Clement VII (1523-1534), himself illegitimate, had a son whom he attempted to make duke of Florence. Paul III (1534-1539) had four kids; two teen grandsons he made cardinals. Pius IV (1559-1565) had three children, and the list goes on.

The Catholic Church has been reasonably forthcoming about the bad popes, having opened the Vatican archives to historians in the 19th century. The Church acknowledges that the office has been held by unworthy men, but maintains that their spiritual capacities were unimpaired by their temporal failings--a line that one hears more often these days in connection with politicians. The doctrine of papal infallibility applies only to certain formal pronouncements on faith and morals, so it can be argued that the bad popes did not lead the church permanently astray. But it's not a position I would care to defend before a congressional committee.
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