Inspiration from history for the Holy Father

Buona sera, Pope Francis! Or should it be buongiorno at this time of day? Whatever! You should be OK if you stick to being kind to animals, nursing lepers, and all that, like, good, stuff your sainted namesake did. Oh, yeh, and the poverty, chastity and obedience thing: fine if you practise it, not so great if you preach it. We can do without poverty, thank you very much, and as for the other two, no way, Francesco!
Now St Francis of Assisi, like many of Christianity’s most impressively holy devotees, was never actually ordained as a priest. Just in case you, Holy Father, feel you need inspiration from those who were ordained, especially your predecessors on the Throne of St Peter, Heretic TOC thought you might appreciate a little reminder of the “best” of them:
Sergius III (904–911) murdered his predecessor to come to power, defiled his corpse, fathered an illegitimate son to his mistress who was 14 at the time, and then ensured it was his bastard son that would take his pontificate upon his death.
John XII (955-964) was a notorious sex fiend. He had sex with women and men in the papal palace and when visitors refused his attentions he went ahead and raped them anyway. The same hospitality was extended to his two young sisters. He held massive orgies and took particular pleasure in defiling holy sites, such as the tombs of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. He personally castrated one of his subdeacons and then cut the rest of him up. He turned the sacred palace into a brothel, blinded then murdered his confessor, toasted the devil and invoked pagan gods during dice games. He even refused to make the sign of the cross!
Benedict IX (1032-1048) Youngest pope ever, as young as 11 or 12. Like John XII he had sex with and raped men, women, boys, and girls – oh, and animals. He was also a back-stabber (literally) and tended to torture/drown/burn/flay-to-death first and then ask questions later.
John XXIII (1410-1415) Very confusing: this was “antipope” John XXIII, not to be confused with the “good” 20th century Pope John XXIII. As pope, he violated virgins and nuns, lived in adultery with his brother’s wife, engaged in “sodomy”, bought the Papal Office, sold cardinal offices to children of wealthy families, and “openly denied the future life”: Holy Father, that last one’s really pushing it!
Innocent VIII (1484-1492) Not so innocent: had 16 children by various married women. Appointed the brutal Thomas of Torquemada as the Inquisitor General of Spain, and ordered all rulers to deliver up heretics to him (Heretic TOC would not have lasted long!)
Alexander VI (1492-1503) Swindled his way onto the throne. Used his daughter Lucrezia, whom he is said to have had an affair with, to lure a succession of wealthy merchants into “marrying” her.  As soon as a wealthier merchant turned up the pope would declare the marriage invalid and she would become available to the new bidder. Alexander held “bunga bunga” parties Silvio Berlusconi would have envied. One of them, known as the Banquet of Chestnuts, is actually a part of recorded papal history. Fifty prostitutes would bring in baskets of chestnuts and empty them out on the floor. The women’s clothes would then be auctioned off and once they were naked they would crawl around on the floor picking up the chestnuts, their vulvas well exposed for clerical appraisal and selection for fucking – with the pope joining in. According to historian William Manchester, “Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the pope greatly admired virility and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity.”
Leo X (1513-1521) Leo was made an archbishop at the age of 8 and a cardinal at 13. He appointed cardinals as young as the age of 7. Really keen on burning heretics.
Paul III (1534-1549) He murdered relatives, including poisoning his mother and niece, to inherit the family fortune. He had two cardinals and a bishop hacked to death with swords when he tired of their theological conversation. Notoriously corrupt, he controlled some 45,000 Roman prostitutes, taking a cut of their earnings: so he was a pimp pope, big time! His most well-known lover was an attractive young lady named Costanza Farnese. She was his daughter!
Julius III (1550-1555) Last but certainly not least in our papal naughtiness stakes. Here Heretic TOC hands over the narrative, somewhat edited, to the Something Awful website account (see below). It’s not what I would have written, but it’s done with admirable brio: “Once he was elected pope, Julius III looted the papal coffers to renovate his mansion in Rome. He hired only the best (including Michelangelo). He was known to have a thing for younger men. Alright, he liked to have sex with kids. Okay, he was infamous for having sex with kids. That mansion of his was decorated with statues and frescoes depicting kids having sex with each other. Julius III didn’t just let slip that he molested kids, he flaunted it. He decorated his house to flaunt it. He didn’t need Martin Bashir to ask him about sleeping with some crippled white kid, Julius III was having Michelangelo chisel sculptures of mouth rape. He was blinging with child porn. Controversial poet and scholar Giovanni Della Casa wrote a poem about Julius III in which Della Casa defended the practice of sodomizing young boys. The poem was known throughout Italy and was written while Julius III was the pope. That’s like the 16th century equivalent of having a top 5 song on the Billboard charts name-dropping you as a child rapist…He had a tendency to appoint hot underage studs to the position of cardinal, but took things to a whole new level when he adopted a 13-year-old beggar called Innocenzo. He raised the kid as a sort of foul-mouthed gay slut who hung out in Rome and was bestowed with the title of cardinal-nephew. Julius slept in the same bed as Innocenzo (another misnamed “innocent”!) and boasted of the boy’s sexual prowess.”
Whew! Hot stuff! Can all this be the gospel truth? Well, the gossip and scandal mongers of times gone by were probably just as given to hype and fabrication today’s tabloid tattlers, and as I have knocked up this story in a hurry from some possibly dodgy websites I am certainly not going to swear by every detail. In broad terms, though, serious historians accept that popes in the Mediaeval and Renaissance eras were hardly as pious at St Francis. Even in more modern times the record is not exactly unblemished: as late as 1858 Pius IX kidnapped a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara. And successive popes were still castrating choirboys “for the greater glory of God” at that time.  It was not until 1902 that the Vatican issued a decree banning castrati from the Sistine chapel. But recent research indicates that popes have carried on with the practice, employing castrati on the pretext that they had been accidentally castrated, for example by falling from a horse or by an animal bite. This may have gone on until as recently as 1959.
One thing is sure: priestly fondling of acolytes and altar-boys in recent decades ranks very low indeed in the long record of “historic” clerical abuse, even if we look no further than the popes themselves.
Heretic TOC acknowledges various online sources, especially Something Awful, which is really something marvelous, rather along the lines of the BBC’s inspired Horrible Histories series for kids. See The 6 Most Awful Popes for quite a lot more awfulness! Also: List of sexually active popes, Banquet of Chestnuts, Evil Popes, Canterbury Atheists, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, Chapter 66.

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[…] …I posted the below as comment to a response to this post, which is a good read… […]

adamjohn2

Thank you for sharing this with us, Tom. Personally I think that Pope Francis is a breath of fresh air but there again, it is early days. Your thoughts have coincided with mine. Yes, the Church is in a terrible mess, but I think that we have been in worse situations than this. Many thanks for reminding us of this important point.

Dave Riegel

Not sure just what lessons there are here as to promoting the rights of boys to their own sexuality, and the rights of older males to cooperate with inquiring boys. . . .
But this does make me think about how that vaunted “Christianity” went through some horrible episodes besides bad-apple popes – crusades, inquisitions, conquistadors, ad nauseam. The good news – if there is any – is that the various sects of Christianity no longer kill one another to settle doctrinal differences, and evangelism by the sword seems to have gone out of style.
Islam, on the other hand, still indulges in the above noted atrocities – one has only to watch the news to hear on Sunni bombings of Shia marketplaces and Taliban shootings of anyone with whom they disagree, including children.
My question is this: Will Islam ever outgrow its present barbarism, or is there something in the religion, in some – but not all – of its adherents, or in the geomorphism that will perpetuate this mayhem forever?

Edmund

I’m going to commit a new kind of heresy by suggesting you should be careful what you wish for in hoping for the demise of militant Islam. I think I’m as horrified as you by the atrocities, though I’m even more disgusted by American massacres of Moslem children in large-scale bombings of Moslem cities and drone attacks on innocent wedding parties, etc. These seem worse to me, not so much because they have been on a bigger scale, but because they are so much more hypocritical given Americans’ purported extreme concern to “protect” children.
Before getting to my main point, I also need to make it clear that I dislike Islamic teachings on sex as much as Christian ones. I don’t doubt the rise of both religions was the greatest catastrophe in history for those who seek happiness in this life. I cannot though see any link between the past and present willingness of adherents of these religions to resort to violence and the persecution of pederasty. Clearly the post-Christian society that now dominates thinking in the Anglophone country is far more antagonistic towards pederasty than these religions were in practise.
As heretics, we should recognise that the Islamic fundamentalists are easily the world’s most prominent, active and obdurate heretics. They thus stand not only for their own beliefs, but for the very survival of heresy itself.
As a young man during the last decade of the Cold War, I disliked communism and was frightened of nuclear war, but I was still relieved there were two opposing superpowers rather than one. I was uneasy as well as pleased when the Berlin Wall fell, and I think we should now recognise that it was an unmitigated disaster for the cause of man/boy love. Within a few years, the Anglophone countries were not only showing an unprecedented willingness to impose their will by force, but a more insidious and aggressive zeal to export their “superior” moral values to parts of the world that had been happily innocent of their sexual hysteria. The result was the rapid disappearance of openly-practised pederasty in countries where it had survived.
In this single-superpower age, Moslems have been the only people who dare stand up and loudly and clearly say things that outrage Anglophone values, the most obvious example being women’s rights. You may reply that you too think these values are good, to which I have two answers.
First, you should consider how far Anglophone society’s antipathy to pederasty may be the inevitable result of the values it cherishes: equality in all relationships, thus denying the value hierarchical societies found in age-stratified relationships; the equal mingling of the sexes in every sphere of life, thus ignoring the value traditionally homosocial society found in relationships which helped the transmission of specifically masculine skills and values from one generation to the next; etc., etc. If you still think it’s important to uphold these Anglophone values, maybe you should question your support for man/boy love.
Secondly, however much you dislike Islam, you might recognise that without it there would be no effective voice of dissent to any of anglophone society’s most deeply-held beliefs. The idea of serious dissent might become literally unthinkable, all hope of radical change lost forever.
Real social change generally comes from economic change. With the Far East, and China in particular, rising so extremely fast to economic dominance, I think there is hope that younger heretics may live to see the day when the saner and more practical attitudes to sex and child-rearing still typical there prevail. In the meantime, it is essential that the idea of different beliefs possibly prevailing is not lost, and I look to Islam to hold that door open.
[TOC: Very thoughtful and interesting, Edmund. Thanks. I’ve had gripes from a couple of people over inconsistency on my part regarding the stated 200-word limit on length of posts. I make no apology for running in full this post of over 600 words. Not only is it well argued, it is also directly relevant to an important point raised by another commentator, and it takes us into interesting new territory. This contrasts sharply with some long posts which tend just to be rambling reiterations of familiar themes.]

Scholarbones

US imperial moralism, in recent years, has been doled out under the operating banner of: “To take our finacial aid, you must adopt our values”. It is astonishing how many nations have buckled under the weight of that fell dictum — to the detriment of their centuries-old sexual tolerance. M T-W.

Gil Hardwick

I believe I am finally getting the drift. Call me dumb if you will.
To this day I remain profoundly grateful to have been raised in the dissenting tradition. I remain answerable to no man, subservient to no man, but will meet my maker on the day appointed and we’ll have our little chat then.
All the rest of this stuff, I find to be endless chatter going around and around in circles. It happens through belief that there is such a thing as external authority to which one must refer. Except, all there is, is other people. Some woman dressed in a silly costume and a funny hat is still just another person. Some guy dressed in an even sillier costume and funnier hat is still only another person.
Nothing that comes out of their mouth is any more or less valid or reliable than what comes out of my mouth. Why would I be paying any attention to them at all, beyond where we concur anyway? In short, here at least, if the Catholic Church can’t sort itself out finally it will lapse into irrelevance.

Kit Marlowe

Poverty, obedience, and chastity are three unfashionable virtues. I fear they’re all underrated, in part because the church has never been very good at expressing the idea that none of them are any good at all unless willingly accepted, and they certainly cannot be demanded or coerced. I think of them as similar to the Muslim notion of ‘submission’ (Islam), itself badly understood in a western capitalist culture where we (myself included) seldom submit willingly to anything except our immediate desire for gratification. “Submission” doesn’t mean oppression by a rigid and hierarchical power-structure (though, like the Christian virtue of obedience, it has often been convenient for the powerful to interpret it this way).
Submission, obedience, chastity, and poverty are – if willingly and gladly accepted – intended to be a path to freedom from enslavement to desire. I think of Paulo and Francesca in the second circle of Dante’s Inferno – the lovers buffeted about by the ceaseless, directionless winds of desire. As a whole culture, we seem to be thrown about constantly by the storms of our various lusts, Christians (and, I imagine, Muslims) as much as anyone else. Is it a bad thing if religious faith attempts to offer a way out of this predicament? Not everyone will want to renounce desire for everything other than God, and not all of us who might aspire to do so will be able to (perhaps especially when the church itself offers such an equivocal example). Still, it strikes me as a worthwhile ideal in principle: loving submission of the restless human will to the unbending will of God. Even those who are not believers themselves can surely admit that the idea is not without its attractions.

Gil Hardwick

Submission, Obedience, Chastity, Poverty?
Religious faith of this sort creates its own weird predicaments, constructs its own mazes, then poses the ostensibly insoluble, hyperintellectual problem of finding a way out.
Better to simply burn The Inferno, cut the Gordian knot, get a grip, get a life finally. Hie these nuns back to the nunnery.
I remain to this day profoundly grateful for my dour Scottish Presbyterian upbringing, holding me in good stead through a lot of bad shit; not at all dull and prudish as the English imperialists make of us but while admitedly bucolic nonetheless heirs to the Enlightenment, and a tenet based not on this waxing and waning between extremes but moderation in all things.
Anything else is insanity. Way past time it was right off the agenda.
Today my sons are wealthy and prosperous; a regolith geochemist and a heavy steel vehicle builder, with girlfriends with degrees of their own; one a petrochemical geologist and the other a barrister, while these impoverished others remain so.
I subscribe to Edmund. Any Pope who sets such an example has my supreme blessing.

Scholarbones

Well said, Kit! Submission, or any kind of self-effacement, sounds like an awful bore. Yet sometimes, the subjugation of self can lead to good, positive feelings. I was in the R.A.F. for twelve years — as both a technician and as a pilot — and the feeling of being a part of something greater than one’s self was definitely a counter to the idea of being “told what to do all the time”: which is the commonest complaint of service people.
I stress that the mind and a person’s sexuality were always free, no matter what I was required to do in my corporeal existence. What facts of what I then thought — and whom I wanted to bed — were completely private. The ruling of myself by duty was never a bar to my imagination — or to my deepest desires. M T-W.

Gil Hardwick

Maybe this is a big part of the issue, Michael.
After my boarding school years I had a very long technical background prior to entering university, to end up studying anthropology.
I’ve thought about this. Yes, while we yearn at times for human contact, I yet suggest that our critics stand back a little, become less emotionally involved; as I know the feminists and queers would criticise me for saying, less hysterical.
Currently I am consulting on the question of men’s transition from work to home, after they have knocked off for the day.

Scholarbones

One of the most arresting moments of Pope Francis’s election was when a cardinal came out onto the balcony and shouted “Habemas Papam!” I was pleased to know what he meant… Then — was my imagination — I saw a beautiful boy in the thick of the cheering crowd. He was wearing a broad yellow belt. On the belt, the bold legend cautuined: “CRIME SCENE — DO NOT CROSS”. OK, I imagined it… M T-W.

Edmund

I must protest these outrageous calumnies of Julius III, my favourite Pope. How dare you, Sir, make this benign patron of beautiful art and a beautiful boy “certainly not least” in your list of murderers, rapists and pimps.
“Looted” the papal coffers indeed! He was the Pope for goodness sake. Since when has using one’s own coffers to beautify the papal residences been “looting”? Would you rather the Villa Giulia had never been built, the funds diverted to a more austere cause, the entrapment and burning of heretics perhaps? Is it a crime to have had the wisdom to choose the greatest artists of the time and to have had the good taste to make exquisite naked boys an important subject for their talent?
So far as I can determine, no historical source alludes to any sexual activity on Julius’s part, save his one famously passionate love affair with his “Cardinal-Nephew” Innocenzo, who could hardly more clearly have been willing. I am astonished that you have seen fit to quote from a source that characterises this as “molesting.”
The use of such an anachronistic term as “gay slut” to describe a 16th-century boy should at once ring alarm bells that the “Something Awful” website is totally untrustworthy hyperbole. As a matter of fact, apart from his acts of prowess in the papal bed, Innocenzo is known sexually only for his multitudinous fornications with women, one of which nearly lost him Papal favour.
Since Innocenzo was the Pope’s only recorded lover, he can hardly prove a “tendency to appoint hot underage studs to the position of cardinal”. This claim would seem to be a confusion with the Pope’s understandable promotion of those who shared his fine taste. The references to “child porn” and “mouth rape” are simply pure invention.
Rather than besmirching the name of such a paragon, your words of advice to His Holiness ought rather to include a recommendation to canonise this most noble of his predecessors at once. That would certainly be the top priority of the pontificate of a Pope Edmund, as it would send the world exactly the right message.

eqfoundation

A “something awful” rip on BoyChat…from 2003…
http://www.somethingawful.com/d/awful-links/awful-link-1797.php
As it were, I was dragged through the mud by a very similar website [portal of evil], years ago…with one of my earlier websites targeted…Sometimes, the archives of websites like this can be amusing to wander through, because they do find a lot of unique content and websites…
…but it should not be forgotten, that the kinds of people these websites attract, are truly bottom feeders…some are of the worst sort, and glean parasitic joy from the pain and hardships of others.
I will never forget the day I was wandering around in the “portal of evil” archives, and found this entire section dedicated to demeaning and making fun of people [mostly mothers], who created websites for their miscarried, stillborn or SIDS infant children…memorial pages, for their dead babies…
…And those were the type of people, who threw stones at me for expressing a different viewpoint on love..
“something awful” is at it’s core, the same as “portal of evil”…A website for people to point and gawk at others…Generally, a place to be cruel towards others.
It’s unfortunate, they don’t have something better to offer the world…
…All the same, I don’t blame Tom, if he just happened across this and wasn’t especially familiar with this sort of website.
– Steve Diamond
[TOC: You’re absolutely right, Steve, I had no idea just how “awful” awful could be. I could have checked, of course, but there is no end to the checking required for the avoidance of all infelicities. Never mind, you have educated me! That’s great!]

Gil Hardwick

My initial response to this piece was somewhat confusing.
What is more interesting to me is the overwhelming number of boys coming to me for help and support over many years, specifically with their various body and sexual hang-ups, after attending Catholic schools.
Yes, I have read John Paul II on his Theology of the Body; nothing to argue about there.
The immediate issue, here locally, is concerned with the notion that if priests and nuns are celibate, why are they on about sex all the time?
Yet at UWA most conspicuously, the place was for nearly 30 years dominated by ‘teaching’ nuns and their feminist cohorts, writing endlessly about rape and incest, and MEN.
It was OK if you are gay or lesbian, but not if you just like to fuck, as a human right not something you have to ask a celibate’s permission, then go back later and confess to them what you did, at risk of finding yourself in prison.
Would somebody like to help me understand what is going on here; what reason do these people find in colonising the planet making everyone wear clothes, inducing fear and guilt about bodies and sex, destroying the traditional coming-of-age ceremonies, holding the place in sexual thrall?
If it is simply a power game, it is causing terrible harm far worse than any Medieval Pope could possibly have dreamed up.

Scholarbones

Those who report outrageous “crimes” usually have an agenda. In first year university, I learned that all texts are rhetorical — even a bus ticket, or the bible… Rhetoric’s basic purpose is to convince people of a “truth”. So, who is convinced by, particularly, moral outrage? Not many, if truth be surmised. But those who would be seen as worthy often adopt the beliefs of the loudest moralist within their hearing.
Now it is these pragmatic toadies that I dislike the most. Their agenda is to be seen as worthy.
The Lord said: “Let there be light, and there was light — and you could see for bloody miles!”. M T-W.

jedson303

In 1973, the new pope (Bergoglio) had been appointed “Provincial” of Argentina for the Society of Jesus. In this capacity, he was the highest ranking Jesuit in Argentina during the military dictatorship led by General Jorge Videla Videla was the one responsible for all that torture and the disapeared ones. (Inspired and supprted by the US in various ways.) I think this will probably mean the end of liberation theology in South and Central America. See here for a more detailed description: http://www.globalresearch.ca/washingtons-pope-who-is-francis-i-cardinal-jorge-mario-bergoglio-and-argentinas-dirty-war/5326675
Jim

peterhoo

The politics of Catholicism is as complex and fascinating as any account of the secret service branches of America, England, Russia, or any large modern nation state. I found this book a good read:
Walsh, M. (2004). Opus Dei: An Investigation into the Powerful, Secretive Society within the Catholic Church (p. 226). New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

adamjohn2

I agree with you that Opus Dei is a fascinating organisation. I used to be involved in it!

peterhoo

Peter de Rosa did in book-form what you have put together here as a post. His book was called “Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy” (1989, Corgi Books, originally published by Bantam Press, a division of Transworld Publishers Ltd., in 1988).
De Rosa had a great deal of respect for Pope John XXIII (Angelo Roncalli), as do a lot of us. De Rosa comments, “He seemed less like a Supreme Pontiff than like a benign Italian grandmother.”
Chapter 20 of his book is titled “Unchaste Celibates”. When de Rosa published in 1988 there was a widespread liberal push to allow Catholic leaders to marry and front-up on the negative outcomes for what I would call a ‘disciplined inspired celibacy’; rather than one based in the notion of charism. Prior to the 1960s de Rosa writes, “The rule allowed no exceptions, not even for the most poignant cases. The story is told of a telegram begging the pope to release a priest from his vows. ‘Either he marries or he burns.’ The reply was even briefer: ‘Let him burn.’ ” I don’t see allowing priests to marry as a ‘cure-all’, but you can see how de Rosa shows the closed mindedness of the Papacy of his day. Let’s see what we are offered now.

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