Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Criminal History of the Popes: Part 3

The history of greed, blood-lust and depravity of many of the popes and the Roman Church hierarchy has been falsified by modern Church historians to present images of piety and humility.

by Tony Bushby

This the 3rd and final article of the series which appeared in Nexus magazine. Parts 1 & 2 appeared previously here.

Pope Julius 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 armour 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 wilful, 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 Reformation"). 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 Decline"). 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," replied Michelangelo. "What do I know of Bibles?" roared the Pope; "I am a warlord; give me a sword instead" (Istoria 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 Encylopedia, 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 licence", 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. 96-99).

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 the cardinals. However, historical records reveal a different story:

"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." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 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 worse. 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."
(Annales Ecclesiastici, 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 dishonourable 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 Inquisition").

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 Luther. The rich were not the only group he targeted:

"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 next." (Catholic Encylopedia, vii, p. 787)

And that was some 500 years before the Vatican received its first banking licence. Lord Bryce (1838-1922), British jurist, author and statesman, summarised the mental and moral qualities of the priesthood that indulgences reflected. 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 it" (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." (Diderot's Encyclopédie, 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, "Medici" entry). 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 Encylopedia, 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. vi). 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 honour 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 favourite satire that developed around him was called the "Gospel according to Marks and Silver", which said:

"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 to it.
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 Encylopedia, 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". (Annales Ecclesiastici, op. cit., tomes viii and xi)

In an early edition of the Catholic Encylopedia (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 practised 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 Encylopedia, 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." (Annales Ecclesiastici, ibid.)

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, 1889). 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, Cambridge, 1985). 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).

Pope Leo's 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" entry). 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., pp. 137-139). 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 dishonourable 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 Encylopedia, 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 Encylopedia, xii, pp. 767-769). This was decades after the boasted "reformation in Head and members" of the Church assured by Pope Alexander VI (Catholic Encylopedia 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 Encylopedia, 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 Encylopedia, xiv, pp. 264-265).

The fraudulent 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 Encylopedias: 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 Encylopedia, 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 Encylopedia, 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 Pater Patrum" (Catholic Encylopedia, x, pp. 402-404). 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 canonisation 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 Encylopedia, 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 Encylopedia:

"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 [530-532]. 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 Encylopedia, 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 fervour 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 standardised 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 standardised 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 Encylopedia, 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 sanitised 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:
" 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." (Catholic Encylopedia, 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 Encylopedia, 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 defence 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 Encyclopédie:

"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 wilful 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 that "the evidence against our Holy Fathers is so strong as to render it impossible to restore their reputation" (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 dishonourable organisation known in the history of civilisation. The apologist who tells his readers that the popes were a fine constructive force is flagrantly opposing historical facts.
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 civilisation, 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 defence of its power, the dishonesty of its credentials and the record of treason to its own ideals.

About the Author:

Tony Bushby, an Australian, became a businessman and entrepreneur early in his adult life. He established a magazine-publishing business and spent 20 years researching, writing and publishing his own magazines, primarily for the Australian and New Zealand markets.
With strong spiritual beliefs and an interest in metaphysical subjects, Tony has developed long relationships with many associations and societies throughout the world that have assisted his research by making their archives available. He is the author of The Bible Fraud (2001; reviewed in NEXUS 8/06 with extracts in NEXUS 9/01—03), The Secret in the Bible (2003; reviewed in 11/02, with extract, "Ancient Cities under the Sands of Giza", in 11/03) and The Crucifixion of Truth (2005; reviewed in 12/02). Copies of these books are available from NEXUS offices and the Joshua Books website

The Criminal History of the Papacy: Part 2

The history of greed, blood-lust and depravity of many of the popes and the Roman Church hierarchy has been falsified by modern Church historians to present images of piety and humility.

by Tony Bushby

This is the 2nd article of the series which appeared in Nexus magazine. Parts 1 & 3 also appear here.

Many of the popes of the 13th to 16th centuries continued the criminal, bloodthirsty and debauched lifestyles of their corrupt predecessors and reached new depths of depravity that the modern Church is keen to keep hidden.

We are still in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and now expand upon the life of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), whom many Catholics exalt above all others and regard as one of the chief constructive forces in the development of European civilisation. When he was elected in 1198, he demanded an oath of allegiance to himself, as pope, from the prefect, who represented the Holy Roman Emperor, and the senators, who represented the Roman people. In that same year, he suppressed all records of earlier Church history by establishing the Secret Archives (Catholic Encyclopedia, xv, p. 287). The Church admits: "Unfortunately, only few of the records [of the Church] prior to the year 1198 have been released" (Encyclopaedia Biblica, Adam & Charles Black, London, 1899). This admission reveals that around twelve hundred years of Christian history are hidden in the Vatican vaults and therefore publicly unknown.

In order to curb the nobles, Innocent gave great power and wealth to his brother, but this nepotism and his despotic conduct aroused increasing anger and in 1203 the Romans flew to arms once more and drove Innocent and his brother into the country. He at length returned to Rome and heavily fortified the old Papal Palace. He proceeded with all the ruthlessness which is characteristic of "great popes", and he was indifferent to the appalling bloodshed which he caused. At the Fourth Lateran Council in April 1215, Innocent III condemned the Magna Carta and demanded that the Jews wear distinctive dress. He also declared that anybody caught reading the Bible would be stoned to death by "soldiers of the Church militia" (Diderot’s Encyclopedie, 1759). But the main purpose of his Council was to develop a plan to expand his military affairs, his intention being ultimately to dominate all EuropeÑa Weltherrschaft, in which he intended to subject all kings and princes to the judgement of the Holy See.

Dominic's "Catholic army" (Catholic Encyclopedia, v, p. 107) was engaged in the annihilation of the Cathars in southern France, and Innocent needed an additional army for an intervention in Germany.

He asked his military adviser, Bishop Grosseteste (d. 1227), one of the most judicious prelates of the age, where he could obtain more papal troops, the advice being: "from the Catholic population, the followers of Christ, a body always incorporate with the Devil" (Diderot’s Encyclopedie, op. cit.; expanded upon in From St Francis to Dante, G. G. Coulton, David Nutt, London, 1908 ed., p. 56). From centuries of Christian history as recorded by the Church itself, it is a simple matter to gather together some fascinating clerical pronouncements, and this is one example of what the papal hierarchy thought about its followers of the time.

The pope's intrusion into Germany and, later, Constantinople ended in disaster, and his only success was against the unarmed Cathars. "It is no doubt for this reason that historians have denied to him the title of 'the Great', which he would otherwise seem to have deserved" (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, Burns & Oates, Publishers to the Holy See, London, 1964, p. 226; imprimatur, Georgius L. Craven). At the age of fifty-five, Innocent was "killed by the sword in the interests of the crusade [against the Moors] which had been decided upon at the Lateran Council" (Catholic Encyclopedia, viii, p. 16).

The words of Pope Gregory IX (1227-41; Ugolini di Conti, 1143Ð1241) confirm the Church's suppressive attitude towards unorthodoxy, for he commanded his clergy to instruct "the layman, when he hears any speak ill of the Christian faith, to defend it not with words but with the sword, which he should thrust into the other's belly as far as it will go" (Chronicles of the Crusades, G. de Villehardouin, p. 148). The Romans were so offended with Pope Gregory's malice that he was expelled from the city three times in seven years, and his death, greeted by wild rejoicing, let loose throughout Christendom a flood of disdainful epithets and stories about him.

In 1243, Sinisbaldo Fieschi (c. 1207-1254), a native of Genoa, assumed the papal chair and the slaughters continued unabated. He called himself Innocent IV (1243-54) and "he surpassed all his predecessors in the ferocity and unscrupulousness of his attacks" (The Chronicle of Richard of San Germano, xii, p. 507). After the completion of the annihilation of the Cathars, he turned the military attention of the Church onto the family of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (1194-1250).
Frederick was fondly known as "the Wonder of the World" and he was the last great ruler of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. His family opposed the Catholic army, and Frederick and later his son Conrad spent their lives locked in fierce battles with papal troops.

Frederick complained that the pope, whom he called "a dragon of a poisonous race", aspired to be the feudal monarch of the whole of Europe, and Frederick fought against the attempted papal takeover of his vast estates.
Here is Church confirmation of its ongoing butchery, cited from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"Pope Alexander IV (1254-61) ... was easily led astray by the whisperings of flatterers, and inclined to listen to the wicked suggestions of avaricious persons ... he continued Innocent IV's policy of a war of extermination against the progeny of Frederick II ... and the people rose against the Holy See ... the unity of Christendom was a thing of the past." (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, pp. 287-288)
As for "unity", it is a relative term, for within Christianity it never existed, nor does it exist to this day. The people of the city of Rome supported the cause of Frederick's family and turned out in arms, and once more a pope hastily retreated to the provinces.

The story of the next four popes is almost entirely the record of the struggle with Frederick's family--a struggle which at some stages was so unjust, so patently inspired by sheer hatred and greed, that it disgusted Christendom and disgusts every non-Catholic historian today.

Then, recorded in Church documents, is one of the strangest pontificates in papal history:

"Ten days after the death of Nicholas IV (1292), the twelve cardinals assembled in Rome but two years and three months were to pass before they gave the Church a pope." (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, op. cit., p. 19)
The history of these peculiar elections (now called conclaves) is sodden with corruption and is one of the most amazing volumes in historical religious literature yet to be fully revealed. However, in 1294, and for some obscure reason, the weary cardinals agreed to make Pietro di Morrone (1215-1296) the new pope, called Celestine V. Before and during the time of his pontificate, he lived a hermit's life in a cave in the wild mountains of Abruzzi, south of Rome, a fact that has proved difficult for the modern-day Church to dismiss.

With Celestine, we see another of the Church's confessions of the ignorance and uncritical simplicity of the papal office, extending over fifteen hundred years of Christian history. The cardinals were disquieted when the humble monk ordered them to come to his cave, but they went and there they consecrated him as pope.
In one of our main reference sources, The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, Celestine is described as a man of "limited learning and completely lacking in experience of the world" (p. 238).

However, in the pope's absence, the powerful machinery of the Church Militant flourished under the management of the warrior-cardinal of Ostia, Latino Malabranca, a man with extensive military experience (Diderot’s Encyclopedie).

King Charles II of Naples, wanting papal favours, sent a deputation to the cave to escort the pope to Naples to meet him. Celestine arrived and created a daily public spectacle of conceding extraordinary and unlimited privileges to Charles. The cardinals, now realising that the pope was "of disastrous simplicity", were moved to demand his resignation (The Papacy, George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd, London, 1964, p. 87).

Chief among those who pressed him to abdicate was Benedetto Gaetani (or Caetani) (1234-1303), a rich and robust prelate of great ambition. It was widely believed that Gaetani had a speaking tube put through the walls of the pope's room, and a "voice from heaven" bade him resign. Celestine V was convinced that "God had spoken to him" and he abdicated.

Then, in February 1296, Gaetani purchased the papacy from the cardinals for 7,000 gold florins and became Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). Celestine was immediately imprisoned in a grim castle and was so brutally treated that he soon died.

A traitor to the faith
In enriching his own family, the Gaetani--especially Pietro, a son of very doubtful character--Boniface VIII entered into a bitter quarrel with the Colonna, a powerful family responsible for constantly driving the popes from Rome. When Stephen Cardinal Colonna, the brother of James Cardinal Colonna, seized a cargo of the pope's gold and silver destined for the Gaetani family, Boniface VIII excommunicated the entire Colonna family and declared a crusade against it. The family replied with a manifesto in which it accused Boniface VIII of acquiring the papacy by fraud and appealed against him to the judgement of a General Council. Under the leadership of one of his cardinals, Boniface's army destroyed the property of the Colonna and scattered the family members all over Europe.

In some chronicles, Boniface VIII is accused of intimacy with a French countess. We cannot confirm this, but against the Catholic report of his learning and goodness we put the undisputed fact that his nepotism and simony were scandalous. So were his papal bulls, which were designed to assert the absolute supremacy of his authority. Early in his seven-year papacy, in 1296 Boniface issued the first of two of the most famous bulls in Christian history. Its tone recalled the papal thunderbolts of Gregory VII (1073Ð85), and its opening words, Clericis laicos, gave it a name. Its first sentence made a truthful admission and reveals the moral ugliness within Christianity: "Antiquity reports that laymen are exceedingly hostile to the papacy, and our experience certainly shows this to be true at present." Distaste for the popes probably reflected a secret doubt as to their claim of a divine origin to their religion. This bull was aimed particularly at the king of France, Philip IV, the grandson of St Louis, but failed to achieve its purpose. Then, on 18 November 1302, Boniface VIII issued his iniquitous "Bull of Two Swords" (Unam Sanctam, "The One Holy"), which formalised the framework of Christianity's core structure for centuries to come. The pope's bulletin declared that the Church controlled "two swords", that is, two powers:

"Both swords are in the power of the Church, the spiritual and the temporal; the spiritual is wielded in the Church by the hand of the clergy; the secular is exerted for the Church by the hand of its military ... and the spiritual power has the right to establish and guide the secular power, and also to judge it when it does not act rightly... Consequently, whoever opposes the two swords of the Church opposes the law of God." (Bull Unam Sanctam, Boniface VIII, 18 November 1302; overview in Catholic Encyclopedia, xv, p. 126)

The Church under Boniface VIII became a worldly ruler and seized vast territories that it called the "States of the Church". It wasn't until 1870 that Italian patriot bayonets finally recovered the stolen regions and restored them to a united Italy. At that time the Italians, under Victor Emmanuel II, king of Sardinia and Piedmont, took back Rome and the adjacent papal territories and declared the Eternal City the capital of the newly formed United Kingdom of Italy. The Papal States, with 15,774 square miles and three million taxpaying inhabitants, were thus removed from the Vatican's investment portfolio and vanished forever from the map of EuropeÑand from history. The Church, with the exception of 108 acres of the Vatican City, no longer had any ill-gained Earthly European dominion to rule and its temporal sovereignty came to an end.

But the story of Boniface VIII is not yet over. The article on him in the Catholic Encyclopedia runs to nine pages, and these are nine pages of uselessness with admissions of character faults but desperate evasions of serious charges. However, early editions of Encyclopaedia Britannica reveal the truth about this pope, and the entry about him is written by Professor Rockwell, a distinguished ecclesiastical historian. He explains the hostility towards the pope by saying: "Avarice, lofty claims and frequent exhibitions of arrogance made him many foes É he was believed by many to be in league with the Devil" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed., 1797).
It's interesting to note that after the publication of the 11th edition in 1898, the Catholic Church purchased Encyclopaedia Britannica and in a few short years new editions devoid of "offending" material superseded earlier versions that had now been ordered destroyed (History in the Encyclopedia, D. H. Gordon and N. L. Torrey, New York, 1947); also, The Good News of the Kingdoms, Norman Segal, Australia, 1995). In due course, in 1943, Encyclopedia Britannica was assigned to the Roman Catholic University in Chicago (Encyclopedias: Their History Throughout the Ages, 1966, two editions; the second edition pays particular attention to Encyclopaedia Britannica). In subsequent decades, Church missionaries went door to door the world over selling the sanitised Encyclopaedia Britannica into millions of unsuspecting households. Persons in a position to compare earlier editions with "under Church management" editions should do so for personal confirmation that a new and fictitious Christian history was written and published, omitting the previous damaging information. Negative comments about Boniface VIII were some that were deleted and other sentences modified, but Professor Rockwell's name was retained.

The Cambridge Mediaeval History (eds Gwatkin and Whitney, The Macmillan Co., 1911Ð13, vol. vii, p. 5), which records the general sentiment or judgement of modern historians, says that "the evidence seems conclusive that he [Boniface VIII] was doctrinally a sceptic and concealed under the mitre the spirit of mockery". King Philip IV of France, supported by civilian lawyers concerned to exalt his authority against that of the pope, opposed the Bull Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII. He summoned his Parliament in Paris and laid before it an impeachment of the pope for heresy, simony and rapacity. Boniface was specifically accused of "...wizardry, dealing with the Devil, disbelief in Jesus Christ, declaring that sins of the flesh were not sins, and causing the murder of Pope Celestine and others. He had a certain 'idol' in which a 'diabolical spirit' was enclosed whom he was in the habit of consulting É a strange voice answered him" (A History of the Popes, Dr Joseph McCabe, C. A. Watts & Co, London, 1939).

In 1303, Pope Boniface VIII was seized at Anagni, to where he had fled, and was delivered to Paris to be tried. Sciarra Colonna and his embittered family were at the French court and a General Council was convened at the University of Paris. Before five archbishops, 22 bishops, many monks and friars, Boniface VIII jeered habitually at religion and morals, and made this remarkable statement:
"There was no Jesus Christ and the Eucharist is just flour and water. Mary was no more a virgin than my own mother, and there is no more harm in adultery than in rubbing your hands together." (A History of the Popes, McCabe, ibid.)

He was transferred back to Rome with a strong escort provided by the Orsini family, who feared papal troops would attempt to free him. He was in so tempestuous a rage that respectable chroniclers of the time say that he went insane and committed suicide. That is improbable, but he died in prison a month later in October 1303, probably of poisoning or strangulation, not of "the shock of the brutal assault on him" as the Church opines (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, op. cit., p. 239). His enemies spread abroad a report that, in his last moments, he had confessed his league with the demon and died with flames issuing from his mouth.

Popes banished from Rome
The havoc and scandal leading to and resulting from the internal and external papal wars, the blood, terror and viciousness, and the unspeakably debased social conditions which made it all possible in the name of Christ can be but faintly imagined. The unpopularity of the popes was such that over the centuries many of them were murdered or driven from Rome by mobs or imperial enemies. For a total period exceeding 240 years between 1119 and 1445, popes were regularly and forcibly evicted from Rome, reigning variously in Avignon, Anagni, Orvieto, Viterbo, Siena, Florence, Pisa and Perugia.

As early as 1119, for example, the locals revolted against Pope Gelasius II (1118Ð19), who fled to Gaeta in southern Italy by rowing down the River Tiber in a dinghy. As he escaped, the angry crowd ran along the river's edge, hurling stones, arrows and foul abuse at the rapidly disappearing pope.

Similarly, Pope Gregory VIII (1187) was so hated for his crime of blinding his opponents (as was Pope Adrian III, 884-85) that the locals tied him backwards on a camel and paraded him through the streets of Rome, screaming vulgarities at him and pelting him with rocks until he was dead (Diderot’s Encyclopedie).
To avoid impending charges of murder, Pope Calixtus II (1119-24) desecrated the alleged tomb of St Peter and fled to Constantinople with "silver panels from the doors", "thick plates of gold" that had covered the altars and "a solid gold statue" (A History of the Popes, McCabe, op. cit.).

The last recorded pope to be evicted from Rome was Eugenius IV (1431Ð47), who spent most of his nine-year exile living in the brothels of Naples (Diderot’s Encyclopedie).

In 1309, under the papacy of Clement V (1305-14; Bertrand de Got, 1264-1314), the Romans expressed so much displeasure at papal criminality that the whole Christian bureaucracy was physically evicted from Rome to the city of Avignon in southern France. It was there that the popes resided permanently for seven decades until 1377, in palaces built behind stone fortifications, where they created a complicated bureaucratic administration. In Jewish circles the expulsion was called "the Babylonian captivity of the popes", and the mounting resentment against the papacy that flooded Europe was justified.

Famous Italian scholar and statesman Francesco Petrarch (1304-74) lived for years on the outskirts of Avignon and compiled a mass of detail about the papal lifestyle that fell under his observation. He left one of the most amazing pictures of Church sordidness that is to be found in any literature available on the Christian religion. He was the greatest intellectual writer of his age, and powerful sovereigns of the day competed for his presence at imperial courts. In his book Letters without a Title, Petrarch described the papal court at Avignon as "boiling, seething, obscene, terrible ... a fountain of dolour where Jesus Christ is mocked, where sesterce [money] is adored, where honesty is called foolishness and cunning called wisdom ... all this you may see heaped up there" (Letter Var. VII). He said that Avignon surpassed in vice any city of antiquity, and no one knew mediaeval life and literature better than Petrarch. He gives details of the obscene gaiety of life in the papal court that "raged like a moral pestilence ... a school of falsity, and a temple of heresy" (Letter Misc. XVIII).

A friend of the Colonnas, Petrarch was invited to address the Senate in Rome, and on Easter Sunday 1341 he arrived in the capitol clad in the robes of his friend and admirer, King Robert of Naples. There he delivered a powerful indictment against the Avignon popes and their cardinals, saying, in summary, that they were "... swept along in a flood of the most obscene pleasure, an incredible storm of debauch, the most horrible and unprecedented shipwreck of chastity. The attachment of the popes to Avignon is due to the fact that they have built there, as it were, a paradise of pleasure, a celestial habitation in which they dwell without a god as if they were to continue to dwell there forever" (Letter VIII).

The sybaritic Pope Clement VI (Pierre Roger, 1291Ð1352; pope 1342Ð52) purchased Avignon from the queen of Naples and made his Palace of the Popes one of the most brilliant in Europe, a glamorous court where papal relatives and guests were constantly entertained with balls, banquets and tournaments. Petrarch's judgement of Clement was exceedingly severe. He had had both personal and epistolary relations with Clement, and Petrarch, a realist when he chose to be, described the pope thus:
"...foul with indulgences, bald, red-faced, with fat haunches, half-covered by his scanty gownÉbent not so much by age as by hypocrisy. Impressive not by eloquence, but by a frowning silence, he traverses the halls of the whores, overthrowing the humble and trampling on justice." (Petrarch, Letters without a Title (Epistolae sine nomine), University Press, USA, 1969, Letter Misc. VII, p. 98)

Petrarch added that Clement VI occasionally rode around the city "...not in the midst of a marvelling crowd, but to insults and sneers ... he is the head of pompous processions, mounted on a white horse, feigning holiness. Before him goes his staff dressed in bright attire, making gestures to attract attention, trumpets sounding and banners fluttering in their hands." Petrarch speaks of the inordinate amount of time and effort Clement VI spent preparing for his parades, and "on his horse he was in constant fear lest the wind should disarrange his perfumed garb" (Letter Var. XV).

The "best" pope of the Avignon period, by Catholic standards, was Jacques Fournier (c. 1285Ð1342) who, at his coronation in the Dominican priory at Avignon on 8 January 1335, took the name Benedict XII (1334-42). There were, however, contemporaries such as Bishop Mollet, the learned Catholic historian of the Avignon popes, who regarded him as "a Nero, death to the laity, a viper to the clergy, a liar and a drunkard" (A History of the Popes, McCabe, op. cit., p. 115). Bishop Mollet admits that Benedict XII drank heavily, but according to the gospels so did Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). Some writers say that it was this pope who gave rise to the popular saying "drunk as a pope", and that his harshness and arrogance narrowly restricted what influence for good he had.

It was at Avignon that a series of forged documents was produced, today called the False Isidorian Decretals. In that fraud, popes and their associates compiled a series of fictitious letters, back-dated them to earlier centuries and wove them around a series of "official laws" that made the Church the absolute master of all Europe, Asia Minor and Egypt. Voltaire (1694-1778) termed the Isidorian Decretals "the boldest and most magnificent forgery that ever deceived the world". Then there were the remarkable and immense Pseudo-Areopagite Forgeries and the bitter persistence of the papacy in clinging to them after exposure. Since this is not a history of the Roman Church but of the popes, we will leave the subject of fake Catholic documents for another time.

France withdraws its support for ChristianityWe now move forward a few decades with some remarkable information drawn from the De schismate of Dietrich von Nieheim (c. 1338-1418), a contemporary German lawyer of high character who was in the papal service for some decades. Dietrich witnessed the outrages he writes about, and he describes a pontificate that the Church admits was "one of the most disastrous in papal history" (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, op. cit., p. 275). This was that of Bartolomeo Prignano (1318-1389), who became Pope Urban VI in 1378 and reigned until his death in 1389. Writing with strictly Christian sentiment, the Church said that he was "pious, but very vigorous" (ibid.).

Immediately upon his election, Urban VI hired a troop of fierce mercenary soldiers, who were then commonplace, and drove his rivals into the country. Before setting out to recover the papal possessions in the south, he sold the sacred vessels of the Roman churches which he had promised to his sons and daughters. He reaped a rich harvest by confiscating property from the wealthy nobles and creating saleable offices for an additional 37 bishops. Charles III, the king of Naples, was disgusted and sent an army to attack him, but Urban escaped over the rear wall of the Papal Palace. When he returned, the cardinals, who had discussed among themselves a plan to depose him, begged him to check his indecent displays of temper. However, Urban imprisoned six of them in the papal dungeons and had them tortured.

Dietrich von Nieheim was there, and he describes how the pope read his breviary in a loud voice to drown out their moans, while his son jeered at the victims. After a time, the pope escaped with his prisoners in chains and fled by sea to Genoa. Only one of the cardinals, Englishman Adam Easton, was ever heard of again, and few doubt that the pope had the others killed. Flitting from town to town, his son's vices causing him to be repeatedly expelled, Urban VI attempted to raise money for a crusade against Naples but in 1389 died of poisoning, another thoroughly disreputable pope.

Pietro Tomacelli (1356-1404) then seized the papacy as the "kindly and tactful" Boniface IX (1389-1404) and whipped up the trade in sacred offices until the papal bureau looked like a stock exchange (The Popes, op. cit. p. 278). The pope's agents now sold not simply a vacant benefice but the "expectation" of one, so that staff watched the age and health of incumbents--and if, when an expectation was sold, another priest offered a larger sum for it, the pope declared that the first priest had cheated him and sold it to the second. Dietrich von Nieheim says that he saw the same benefice sold several times in one week, and that the pope talked business with his secretaries during Mass. The city cursed him and was in wild disorder.

In 1400, Boniface IX announced a jubilee, and pilgrims, mindful of the recent horrors of the Black Death and knowing that journeying was fraught with peril, made their way to Rome in the course of the year. Conditions in Rome itself were bad, and the pitiably impoverished inhabitants were making the most of their opportunities to rape, murder and rob the pilgrims.

Boniface IX was succeeded in 1404 by the "gentle and virtuous" Innocent VII (Cosmo Migliorati, 1336-1406) (Catholic Encyclopedia, vii, 1910, p. 19). He maintained the 16-year-old scandal of the Western Schism created by the existence of multiple popes, and bitterly opposed his rivals. He enriched his relatives, who were so insufferable that Rome expelled them and the pope with the customary bloodshed.

In the meantime, the French cardinals had elected Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna, 1328-1423) as a successor to Clement VII, but with the condition to fulfil, which he promised under oath, that he would make every effort to end the schism between him and his rival, Angelo Corraro (also Cortarrio or Corrarrio) (1336-1417), who became Pope Gregory XII in 1406. A schism, in the language of theology and canon law, is the rupture of ecclesiastical union and unity and, as pope, Benedict XIII refused to take a single step toward such unity. He took refuge in Avignon, and all France demanded his abdication. He then had to defend the Avignon palace against an attack by the French army, yet the greedy and vindictive Spaniard clung to his papal rags for more than 20 years while all Europe derided him. It was Pope Benedict XIII who took the extraordinary step of seeking out and destroying all copies of two second-century books that contained "the true name of Jesus Christ" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1797, "Jesus Christ" entry). He created four new cardinals specifically to single out for condemnation the secret Latin treatise called Mar Yesu, and then issued instructions for all copies of the mysterious Book of Elxai to be destroyed.

On 21 May 1408, King Charles VI of France (1368-1422) published a decree withdrawing the French Catholic Church and all French citizens from obedience to Pope Benedict XIII. He nullified his country's support for Christianity and declared France religiously neutral--a decision that was upheld until a Frenchman was elected pope years later.

At that time, Benedict XIII and Gregory XII were two legal but conflicting popes in a war of ambitions, and each believed that he alone should be the "only pope". Benedict XIII had earlier caused a scandal by his merciless taxation of the clergy of France and Spain, and a national Church Council voted against his unpopular decisions. It was now clear to all parties involved that in spite of his pre-election promise to resign as pope in the interests of the schism between his rival, he was determined to oust his opponent in Rome and maintain his position at all costs. While he and his troops were making their way to Rome, he learned by messenger of a legally elected third pope, Alexander V (1409-10). It is not known what Benedict XIII and Gregory XII thought of this development, but the Roman people greeted the news with dismay. Christianity now had three lawful popes, each with an army and each bitter rivals. Let the Catholic Encyclopedia bear clerical witness:
"The Great Schism (1378-1417) rent the Church. As cardinal he [Alexander V] had sanctioned the agreement of the rival Colleges of Cardinals to join in a common effort for unity. He thus incurred the displeasure of Gregory XII, who tried to depose him. At the Council of Pisa (1409) he [Alexander V] preached the opening sermon, a scathing condemnation of his rival popes, and presided at the deliberations of the theologians who declared those popes heretics and schismatics ... in the rival Catholic world ... his legitimacy was questioned, and the Christian world was chagrined to find that instead of two popes it again had three." (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, pp. 288-9)

Alexander V died suddenly of suspected poisoning in 1410, and the Italian cardinals elected the Pisan Baldassare Cossa (c. 1370-1419) to replace him. He called himself Pope John XXIII (1410-1415) [not to be confused with Pope John XXIII, 1958-63; see next section], and to date he was the most corrupt man to have worn the tiara. The vices of Cardinal Cossa, who had bribed electors, were well known to the cardinals and all of Italy, and nothing could show more plainly than this election the depth to which the papacy had sunk. Whether he was the son of an Italian pirate, as Dietrich says, we need not stop to consider. For 15 years he had been the head of the popes' corrupt financial system and had led papal troops and mercenaries with all the ferocity and looseness of commanders of that age. Dietrich adds that, as papal legate at Bologna, Cossa had exacted a personal commission from gamblers and prostitutes. On these matters, it is enough to say that the cardinals who elected him were, like all Europeans, aware of his reputation, and we remain content with the official ecclesiastical description of his character.

Prostitutes at a Church council
After contemplating the disgusting spectacle of three greedy popes for four years, prelates and leading laymen of the Church persuaded Emperor Sigismund to convoke and preside at a Church General Council at Constance in 1414. It was an uncanny four-year event that defied understanding, and "the incontinence practised by the churchmen demoralised the city in which it was convened" (Samuel Edgar's The Variations of Popery, London, 1838, 2nd ed., p. 533). The priests employed 1,500 prostitutes, whom they called "vagrant strumpets" (ibid.), who refreshed them of an evening after their days of arguing in the Council. The sacerdotal fornicators, it seemed, were very liberal with their favours to the professional ladies. One courtesan, it is said, gained 800 florins, an immense sum in those days. She was treated very differently from John Huss (Jan Hus) and Jerome of Prague. The reverend debauchees enriched the prostitute and burned the reformers at the stake.

After hearing witnesses, the Council drew up a long indictment against John XXIII which ran to 54 Articles, and may be read in any collection of Church Council records available. He was later charged with rape, adultery, incest, sodomy and the murder of Pope Alexander V. After a brief trial he was found guilty, deposed, imprisoned and strangled. The Romans pelted mud and stones at his coffin when it was brought to Rome. There was no public funeral. Gossip of the day had it that during his legation he seduced 200 women and a similar number of men. In modern times, in 1958, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (1881-1963) assumed the papacy and for some reason adopted the same title as the first John XXIII. Vatican historians then set out to remove from its official records all references to the original John XXIII, but they were not completely successful, as papal lists then in publication were soon to come into the public domain.

After two years of wrangling, the cardinals elected Odo Colonna (1368-1431) as Pope Martin V (1417-31), and he and each of his successors made solemn oaths to reform the papacy and the Church, but in fact they sank deeper into the mire. The popes who had preceded Martin V had done so little for the betterment of the city of Rome that when Martin returned in 1420 after a long exile imposed on him for legalising and protecting the abuses of the Curia, he found cows still grazing in its streets.

Martin was so infuriated when he learned that Oxford professor John Wycliffe (c. 1324-1384), some five decades earlier, had translated the Bible into English that in 1427 he had the theologian's bones dug up, crushed and scattered in the River Swift. This was 43 years after Wycliffe's death, and the pope's actions reflect the vagaries of an unbalanced mind, hardly compatible with sanity.

During those "centuries of cultural darkness, the papal court was more depraved than at any period of the Dark Ages" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., ii, p. 337), and the Church hoped that Catholics "looked forward to the time when the religious orders, whose laxity had been occasioned in great measure by the general looseness of the times, would be restored to some sort of discipline" (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, pp. 288-89).

Christian writers regard the 15th and 16th centuries as decadent, but few of them give their readers even a faint idea of the flagrancy of vice, the deliberate corruption of monasteries, the vast spread and public encouragement of prostitution, the indecency of the numerous communal baths, the fiendish cruelty which persisted in spite of the efflorescence of art, and the cynical growth of treachery and lying in international Christian relations. Dr Ludwig Pastor (1854-1928), a sincere German historian of the papacy, almost alone among Catholic historians is candid. He says that "the prevailing immorality in Church orders exceeded anything that has been witnessed since the tenth century" and that "wanton cruelty and vindictiveness went hand in hand with immorality" (A History of the Popes, op. cit., chapter 1, p. 97).

The epoch that occupies us is, without doubt, one of the strangest in Church history, one in which we meet with the greatest amount of crime and decadence. The Church says that a period of "decline followed after the middle of the thirteenth century, when war and rapine did much injury ... the Church suffered again in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries from the prevailing social disturbances" (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p. 145).

Speaking of moral conditions current in the age, the Vatican summarises its position in the time of Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84):
"His dominating passion was nepotism, heaping riches and favors on his unworthy relatives. His nephew, the Cardinal Rafael Riario, plotted to overthrow the Medici; the pope was cognizant of the plot, though probably not of the intention to assassinate, and even laid Florence under an interdict because it rose in fury against the conspirators and brutal murderers of Giuliano dei Medici. Henceforth, until the Reformation, the secular interests of the papacy were of paramount importance. The attitude of Pope Sixtus IV towards the conspiracy of the Pazzi, his wars and treachery, his promotion to the highest offices in the Church of undesirable people are blots upon his career. Nevertheless, there is a praiseworthy side to his pontificate. He took measures to suppress abuses in the Inquisition, vigorously opposed the Waldenses, and annulled the decrees of the Council of Constance." (Catholic Encyclopedia, xiv, pp. 32-33)

One probable reason for Sixtus's negation of the rulings of the Council of Constance is that the gathering decreed that a woman, Joan Anglicus VIII, officially occupied the papal chair for two years in the ninth century (855-58). Unlike Marozia, who ruled the papacy for several decades in the 10th century, Joan was formally elected pope, and thus in Catholic eyes was a legitimate successor of St Peter. Her story entered the mediaeval historical record in Thomas de Elmham's Official List of Popes which said: "AD 855, Joannes. This does not count; she was a woman." Sixtus IV drafted plans for the nunneries to become "brothels filled with the choicest prostitutes, lean with fasting, but full of lust" (A History of the Popes, op. cit.; also similar descriptions of the nunneries centuries earlier are in the Annals of Hildesheim, c. 890).

About this juncture, and after a thousand years of bewildering Church history, the protests of Christendom swelled steadily and then broke into the Protestant Reformation, a religious revolution by force and arms. An apologetic overview of the debauchery of Church morals and minds which made possible this major restructuring of Catholicism is affirmed in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"Churchmen in high places were constantly unmindful of truth, justice, purity, self-denial; many were unworthy and had lost all sense of Christian ideals; not a few were deeply stained by pagan vices; most were common rogues. In the years of Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II, 1458-64), Giovanni Battista Cibo (Pope Innocent VIII, 1484-1492), the career of Rodrigo Borgia (Alexander VI, 1492-1503), the life of Alexander [Alessandro] Farnese, afterwards Paul III (1534Ð49), until he was compelled to reform himself as well as the Curia, the pontiffs showed disregard for the most elementary human virtues." (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, 109, Pecci ed.; also, xii, 767, passim)

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Giovanni Battista Cibo and Rodrigo Borgia are three men worthy of further discussion.

When Piccolomini became Pope Pius II in 1458, he tried to suppress all knowledge of his earlier career as a thief and housebreaker. However, he was unsuccessful: broadsheets depicting his activities were in wide circulation.

After Cibo blatantly bought the votes of cardinals to become Pope Innocent VIII in 1484, he rewarded those who supported him with immense wealth, splendour and glory. As pope, however, Cibo's only interests were women and sex. The Vatican became an establishment overrun by his vast progeny of more than 100 illegitimate children, and the cost of maintaining his women, sons, daughters and grandchildren was enormous. "To the open scandals caused by the pope's morals and policies, the advancement of his bastard children [particularly Franceschetto] and his collaboration with the heathen [women] ... were added the results of corruption in the Curia" (The Popes: A Concise Biographical History, op. cit., pp. 302-04). The contemporary Italian Church historian Valore related that, through gross self-indulgence, Innocent VIII grew immensely fat and by the spring of 1492 had become "a mass of flesh incapable of assimilating any nourishment but a few drops of milk from a young woman's breast" (Historia Ecclesiastica, MS 151, p. 1181).

The orgy in the Vatican
Upon the death of Innocent VIII, and after 14 days of wrangling and intrigue by the cardinals, Rodrigo Borgia (1431-1503) was elected Pope Alexander VI. During the time of the conclave, armed factions called "squadrons" murdered more than 200 people on the streets of Rome. The splinter groups were angered because Borgia, who had amassed immense wealth, had paid out heavy bribes to the electors before the commencement of the conclave. Eleven cardinals sold their votes to him (Diarium of Burchard appendix to vol. iii) and the Church supports this fact: "That Borgia secured his election by the rankest simony is a fact too well authenticated to admit a doubt" (Catholic Encyclopedia, Pecci ed., ii, p. 309). When proceeding to the Lateran Palace after consecration in St Peter's, he passed under a triumphal arch which bore the motto erected by his supporters: "Caesar was a man; this is a god".

Rodrigo was a member of the infamous Borgia family who derived their prominence and power from Italian politics. His Spanish origins were a factor in his election, since the cardinals wished to avoid electing a Frenchman. He served five earlier popes in the post of vice-chancellor, and his election vacated a large number of lucrative offices and preferments which he promised to those who undertook to vote for him. As early as 1460, when he was cardinal and papal legate, he had been reported to Pius II (1458-62) for holding obscene dances with naked ladies in a garden at Siena, and he continued to enjoy such spectacles until the end of his life. His pontificate provided one of the gravest scandals in the Vatican since the Reign of the Whores, and the parade of his sexual licence was maintained with little or no concealment. It is from the diary of German chaplain Johann Burchard, Pope Alexander VI's master of ceremonies, that we learn the most about the character of this Borgia pope. Burchard personally witnessed Alexander's debauchery and wrote the famous comment saying that "the pope's Christianity was a pretence" (Diarium of Burchard).

Alexander VI was so notoriously infamous and his history so large and well known that he has proved a great embarrassment to the modern Church vainly trying to portray a pious papal past. He has a unique record among the popes for the public prominence of his illegitimate children and the blatancy of his amours in the "Sacred Palace". With his 12 bastard children (Collins Dictionary), including Cesare, Giovanni (Juan), Lucrezia and Jofre, and his numerous mistresses, the "Vatican was again a brothel" (The Records of Rome, 1868, British Library) and his debauched papal court was compared to the ancient "fleshpots" of Caesarea in which St Augustine (d. 430) revelled. Alexander VI was a sexual pervert, and lurid stories were bandied about by the intellectual underworld of Rome.
Venetian Senator Sanuto wrote that the then Cardinal Borgia fancied Rosa Vannozza dei Cattanei, the pretty young married daughter of his chamberlain, whom Borgia paid to arrange a series of secret daytime liaisons with her. As a result of this affair, Cesare Borgia (1475-1507) was born, and the birth certificate acknowledges this.
In his teenage years, a bitter Cesare, in his father's presence, stabbed the chamberlain, decapitated him and pierced his head on a pole with an attached inscription saying: "This is the head of my grandfather who prostituted his daughter to the pope" (A History of the Popes, op. cit., Alexander VI chapter). The evidence is serious.

It was claimed that Alexander VI had sex with Lucrezia (1480-1519), his daughter by Rosa Vannozza dei Cattanei. One wit of Rome called Lucrezia "the pope's daughter, wife and daughter-in-law", and he reportedly fathered "nieces" with her (A History of the Popes, ibid.). It is not worth serious enquiry here whether he had two or three children with Lucrezia, as most acknowledge, but other aspects of his conduct must be noted.

Cesare was Rodrigo Borgia's favourite son. When Cesare was only seven, his father prepared his way to the College of Cardinals by making him a bishop, from which he received a substantial income. When Cesare was eighteen, his father, as Pope Alexander VI, conferred cardinality upon him and later elevated him to commander of the Vatican military in its efforts to extend the Papal States. Cesare grew into a man of clear and powerful intellect and the pope supported him until his death.
Rodrigo gravely abused his position as both a cardinal and the head of the Church in establishing a scheme of family aggrandisement, seen in the rapid advancement of the careers of his children Pedro Luis (1468-88) (for whom he purchased the duchy of Gand’a, the Borgias' ancestral home in Valencia, Spain), Cesare, Giovanni (c. 1476-97) (the second Duke of Gand’a) and Lucrezia.

Ambassadors speak of Cesare's introduction of multitudes of beautiful courtesans into the Vatican for Alexander's sexual pleasure in his later years. Burchard gives us astonishing details of one occasion in which the pope presided at an orgy in the Papal Palace:

"On Sunday evening, 30 October [1501], Don Cesare Borgia gave his father a supper in the apostolic palace, with 50 decent prostitutes or courtesans in bright garb in attendance, who after the meal danced with the servants and others there, first fully dressed and then naked.

"Following the supper, lampstands holding lighted candles were placed on the floor and chestnuts strewn about, which the prostitutes, naked and on their hands and knees, had to pick up with their mouths as they crawled in and out among the lampstands.

"The Pope watched and admired their noble parts. The evening ended with an obscene contest of these women, coupled with male servants of the Vatican, for prizes which the Pope presented.

"Don Cesare, Donna Lucrezia and the Pope later each took a partner of their liking for further dalliances."
(Diarium of Burchard)

Against this backdrop, and because of his debauched lifestyle, Alexander VI could not escape the satirists, pamphleteers and other wits who sold or distributed their deadly epigrams to his opponents.

After the release in 1501 of a Latin-language broadsheet bearing an illustration of Pope Alexander as the Devil and Antichrist, the city of Rome shook with cynical laughter. This broadsheet speaks of Alexander dabbling in black magic and other pagan rituals, of having a Venus emblem inlaid in his personal emerald Christian cross and of having an "offensive" painting of a naked Isis hanging in the papal bedroom (Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects, Milan, 1907 reprint).

At that time, witchcraft was an ecclesiastical rather than a civil concern, and the documentation reveals that the pope's personal beliefs were not that of Christian orthodoxy.

This remark, buried away in a collection of once-suppressed papal pronouncements called Anecdota Ecclesiastica or "Secret Church Histories" (Vienta, Paris, 1822 reprint of 1731 ed.) and confirmed in Diderot’s Encyclopedie reveals what Pope Alexander VI really thought of Christianity: "Almighty God! How long will this superstitious sect of Christians, and this upstart invention, endure?"
We may set aside as negligible gossip the charge of his enemies that Alexander VI made liberal use of poison in his later years, for in serious academic history the claim is reduced to only two disputed deaths.

But the cover-ups and support for the vile murders committed by Cesare Borgia, "a coldly inhumane monster", argue for a totally unprincipled character who made his name more malodorous than that of Nero. "That such accusations were made against the Borgia pope and that they managed to survive, together indicate the fear and hatred which he and his son aroused" (The Popes, op. cit., p. 324).

In 1497, Cesare Borgia had his brother Giovanni murdered out of jealousy, and in 1500 organised the murder of Lucrezia's husband, Alfonso of Aragon, because he wanted her to contract an alliance of greater political advantage.

Giovanni "...was fished out of the Tiber with his throat cut... [Alexander] took it as a warning from heaven to repent, and no one felt it more keenly than the pope himself. He spoke of resigning, and proclaimed his determination to set about that reform of the Church 'in Head and members' for which the world had so long been clamoring" (Catholic Encyclopedia, xiv, 32, 33).

But his grief was assuaged by the attentions of his lady loves, notably pretty Guilia Farnese, the fifteen-year-old sister of the "petticoat cardinal" Alessandro Farnese and whose picture as the Virgin Mary adorns one of the great frescoes of the Vatican.

er brother later became Pope Paul III, and we should not be surprised to read in Burchard's Diarium that Guilia's daughter Laura was fathered by Pope Alexander VI.

It was this same pope who had the ascetic Italian religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98) and his two Dominican disciples hanged and then burned for "religious error" at Florence in May 1498.

Amidst his dissoluteness, however, Alexander was aware of the "silent spread of suspicion in the intelligentsia, even in the clergy themselves" about the validity of Christianity, and, realising that his institution could not afford to have its credentials checked, he moved quickly to establish censorship of damaging publications (Diarium of Burchard, op. cit.).

In 1501 he issued an edict ordering that no book discussing the Christian religion be printed without the written approval of the local archbishop or "bearing the personal permission and privilege of the Pope" (Diarium of Burchard, ibid.). This was the beginning of the Index of Prohibited Books, and the suppression of books challenging Church dogma soon became official Vatican policy. It was perhaps the most dramatic form of censorship known to the world, by which the Church for centuries policed the literature available to the public, and it maintained official sanction well into the 20th century.

Alexander VI died in 1503 and his infamous career came to a welcome end. His passing was greeted with celebrations in the streets of Rome; the papal doctor was sent gifts and was congratulated for failing to keep the pope alive.

Soon after his death, his body became black and fetid, lending colour to rumours that he was poisoned. (Historically, the Church of Rome bears the heavy burden of the murder of up to 40 popes, many by poison.) Undertakers and porters, "joking and blaspheming" says Burchard, had trouble forcing the swollen corpse into the coffin built for it.

Gossip added that a little devil had been seen at the moment of death, carrying Alexander's soul to hell. The Romans joked about him, saying that had his mother foreseen the nature of the life her son was to live she would have strangled him at birth.

The same could be said for the mother of the next pope, Julius II, whose life and remarks make Christian historians squirm, for again we find evidence of another disbelieving pope.

Continued in next edition.
About the Author:
Tony Bushby, an Australian, became a businessman and entrepreneur early in his adult life. He established a magazine-publishing business and spent 20 years researching, writing and publishing his own magazines, primarily for the Australian and New Zealand markets.
With strong spiritual beliefs and an interest in metaphysical subjects, Tony has developed long relationships with many associations and societies throughout the world that have assisted his research by making their archives available. He is the author of The Bible Fraud (2001; reviewed in NEXUS 8/06 with extracts in NEXUS 9/01—03), The Secret in the Bible (2003; reviewed in 11/02, with extract, "Ancient Cities under the Sands of Giza", in 11/03) and The Crucifixion of Truth (2005; reviewed in 12/02). Copies of these books are available from NEXUS offices and the Joshua Books website

The Criminal History of the Papacy: Part 1

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.

By Tony Bushby

This is the 1st article of the series which appeared in Nexus magazine. Parts 2 & 3 will also appear here.

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 licence 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 comment:

"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.
(Catholic Encyclopedia, 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 London. 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 pope."
(The Cradle of Christ, Bishop Frotheringham, 1877; see also Catholic Encyclopedia, xii, pp. 700-703, passim, published under the imprimatur of Archbishop Farley)

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 scandalised 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 read:
"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)."
(Catholic Encyclopedia, 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".

The Unholy 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 jealousy: "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 sacred vestments." 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, Antwerp, 1597). 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-civilised 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' Angelo.

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 with Marozia:

"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 developed.

The Papacy 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 find one. 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 debasement:
"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, p. 31)

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 organised 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 papacy. 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 XII" (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 observed. 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.'" (Catholic Encyclopedia, 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) 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. He said: "A natural tendency to murder and brutalise 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 crime."

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, summarised 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 murderous instruction: "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 softer approach: "But those, my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me" (Luke 19:27). 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.

Papal Warships 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 Sicily.

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 apologising 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 labeled 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 the Church:

"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... [naming them]." (Catholic Encyclopedia, i, p. 582)

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 summarise 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. 1701). 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, rivaled 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 multiple claimants" (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 today. 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 Encyclopedia:

"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 characterised by the remark of Cardinal Baronius (Vatican historian, 1538—1607) that 'Christ was asleep in the vessel of the Church'." (Catholic Encyclopedia, 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).

The 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 against the Cathars (sometimes called the Albigenses). "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 authorised a crusade against them. A crusade is a war instigated by the Church for alleged religious ends, and was authorised 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 ends" (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 realise 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 Guzm‡n (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, horse-mounted knights. 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 false.

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 world history.

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 minimise 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 believe. 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 mobilised, 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 authorise 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 Tude records a dreadful description of men, women and children being hacked to pieces by the Militia of Jesus Christ. 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 of 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 sterilised 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 civilisation 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. 268).

"The 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, ibid.). 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.

Continued next issue...
Author's Note:
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.
About the Author:
Tony Bushby, an Australian, became a businessman and entrepreneur early in his adult life. He established a magazine-publishing business and spent 20 years researching, writing and publishing his own magazines, primarily for the Australian and New Zealand markets.
Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Volume 14, Number 1 (December 2006 - January 2007)