Parts of the above summaries of some of the various nasty Popes are taken from an Australian (or New Zealand) web site that no longer seems to be on-line. However, that site got its information from the various books listed. See also the various sites linked to.
VICTOR 189-198 Friends with the lewdest concubine in Emperor Commodus' palace, which he frequently visited. [From: How Christianity Grew Out of Paganism, by Joseph McCabe]
CALLISTUS 217-222 Had embezzled bank money and was jailed prior to his stint as Bishop of Rome (Pope). [From: How Christianity Grew Out of Paganism, by Joseph McCabe]
MARCELLINUS 296-304 Though still regarded as both Saint and Martyr in official Catholic literature, Catholic historian Duchesne proves that he died in bed (thus he was not a martyr). And the official Papal Chronicle admits that he abjured (renounced) the Christian faith. [From: A Rationalist Encyclopaedia by historian and former Franciscan monk Joseph McCabe].
DAMASUS I 366-383 Renounced his wife and kids when he became Pope, after seizing the throne through the use of violence. He also encouraged the budding fraudulent relic industry. When pope, he introduced the first heresy bull and yet consorted with the "principle females of the city" [Sex Lives of the Popes, Nigel Cawthorne].Damasus ("the tickler of matrons ears," as some of his priests called him)Tried and found guilty of adultery but on the intervention of the Emperor Gratian, was acquitted. Canonised after his death and now regarded a Saint.
-- The Story of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
SIXTUS III 432-440 Tried for seducing a nun. In the absence of witnesses, he could not be convicted. He nevertheless hinted at an admission of his guilt by alluding to Jesus' statement on adultery, where no one should cast stones unless one is free of sin.
LEO I 440-461 "A warped, sadistic torturer" "who brutally tortured" [Sex Lives of the Popes, Nigel Cawthorne] the followers of Manichaeanism which had been declared a heresy. He had at least two children on becoming Pope. He was the first Pope to claim the right to put anyone who disagreed with him to death.
This Church Father, Saint and Pope,Leo I was the first in a long line of popes to arrange for punishment of heresy and all beliefs other than Christianity. Having no legal authority of his own, Leo I induced the Emperor's edict to punish and pursue the Pelagianists, the Priscillianists in Spain, and the Manichaeans in the whole Roman empire, the first organized persecution of Christians by Christians. The infamous edict was even written in the papal secretariate.
At the same time bishop Optatus of Mileve called for capital punishment of the Donatists, another Christian sect of the time.
[Link, referencing Abermals krähte der Hahn by Karlheinz Deschner]
GREGORY I 590-604 He was the first pope to enter the relic industry. He convinced the nobleman Dynamius that the cross he sold him (for lots of money) contained the 'filings' from chains worn by the blessed Apostle, St Peter himself, and that it would therefore free Dynamius forever from sins. After this first marketing success, the Pope embarked on duping more gullible Christians by selling them the "keys of St Peter 'wherein are found the precious filings and which by the same token also remit sins'" [Holy Horrors by James A. Haught]....he [Gregory] laid the foundation of the temporal power and wealth of the Papacy through this fortunate belief of his that the end of the world was really approaching at last. A man with possessions, the Bible said, had as much hope of getting through the eye of a needle as of getting through the narrow gate of heaven. So the men who had large estates in Italy passed them over to the Papacy and looked for the heavens to open.Pope Gregory the Great also opposed secular learning and had Rome's last collections of old Roman works destroyed:
Pope Gregory ... was the greatest slave-owner in the world in the sixth century. Announcing that the end of the world was to come in 600 A.D., he kindly allowed land-owners and slave-owners to hand over their property to the Church -- God would not damn the Church for its wealth -- and enter monasteries. The Papacy soon had an income from land, of about two million dollars a year; a stupendous sum in those impoverished days. Enormous numbers of slaves tilled the eighteen hundred square miles of the Church's property. Gregory freed them occasionally: when they got money. He never condemned slavery. He would not allow any slave to become a cleric, and he expressly reaffirmed (Epp. vii, 1) that no slave could marry a free Christian.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe, historian and former Franciscan monkHe heard that Bishop Desiderius, of Vienne in Gaul, was conducting a small school, and he wrote him a letter (Migne edition, bk. XI, ep. liv) of which I may translate a passage:After that we heard a thing that cannot be repeated without a feeling of shame -- namely, that you are teaching grammar to some. This troubled us so greatly, and filled us with so deep a disdain, that we fell from our former praise of you to mourning and sorrow, because the praise of Jove must never be heard from the mouth that praises Christ. Think how grave and horrible it is for a bishop to repeat what even a religious layman should not. And, though our beloved son the presbyter Candidus denied the affair, at our pressing inquiry, and tried to excuse you, ye have not lost the suspicion, because it is so execrable for this to be said of a priest that it must be strictly investigated.Desiderius is, in fine, to give up "studying trifles and secular letters" if he is to return to the Pope's favor. ...The bishop's fault was, pure and simple, that he was teaching "profane letters."After Gregory's death there was a tradition in the Church, reproduced in the "Polycraticus" (ii, 26) of John Salisbury, that the Pope had burned the old Roman libraries which still remained on the Capitoline and the Palatine Hills. I have little doubt that the tradition is correct.
... The Julian library at Rome (which, with others, the Pope is said to have burned) contained one hundred and twenty thousand books.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe, historian and former Franciscan monk
HONORIUS I 625-638 The first pope to be branded a heretic - a shame as he was one of the better Popes. "He was condemned as a heretic by the 6th general council", according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. He shared the views of the heretical Monophysites who denied the Incarnation of Christ and believed only in the divine nature of Christ.
LEO III 795-816 Created a spiritual cesspool. Following this Pope's rule, the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle of 836 CE stated that many monasteries had become the haunts of homosexuals and that many convents had become little more than brothels where unwanted babies were killed and buried. The church introduced laws banning priests' mothers, aunts or sisters from living in the houses of priests, since even relatives of the clergy were unsafe as incest was so rife.
STEPHEN VII (also designated as VI) 896-897 Widely admitted to be a madman, he tried the corpse of his papal predecessor Formosus (exhumed and dressed up in full vestments) for perjury and for coveting the papacy. During the notorious mock trial where a deacon was chosen to answer for the defendant, the corpse of Formosus was found guilty of all charges and dealt a nasty punishment. An uprising caused Stephen to be deposed and thrown into prison where he was later strangled.In the year 896 there was witnessed in Rome a scene which fitly inaugurated one hundred and fifty years of such degradation as has never fallen upon any other religious organization in history. Stephen VI became Pope, after a bloody contest of the various factions. He ordered the body of one of his predecessors, Formosus, who had been several weeks buried, to be brought to the Papal palace. The stinking corpse was clothed in the pontifical garments and propped in the throne. The august representative of Christ and the Holy Ghost, the channel of God's mercy to the human race, gathered his "cardinals" (the name was already in use) and bishops round the ghastly object, and they vented upon it a fury such as one would hardly expect savages to show to a corpse. In the end they cut three fingers from the right hand of the putrid body, and flung it into the Tiber.
...And it was only the beginning. In the very next year Pope Stephen quarreled with his own supporters. They thrust him into a dungeon and strangled him.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe, historian and former Franciscan monk
SERGIUS III 904-911 Murderer and paedophile who created a papal "pornocracy". McBrien's Lives Of Saints states "Few other popes in history can vie with the murderous Sergius III ...[who] was responsible for the deaths of his predecessor [Leo] and his predecessor's rival, the antipope Christopher." In 904, Sergius had Leo and the antipope Christopher thrown into prison where they later were strangled to death. After which Sergius established what became known as the papal "pornocracy". At 45, he had relations with the under-aged 15 year-old Marozia, who bore him a son who would become Pope John XI.In 904 the most turbulent of all the fighting bishops cut his way, literally, to the chair of Peter, and the "Church of God," as the Catholic calls it, became for thirty years a Pornocracy, or "government by whores." My Catholic reader will shrink from the word, but it is from the most respected and most learned of Catholic historians that I borrow it.
...Cardinal Baronius, who uses it placidly, notes in his "Annals," of the year 912, that Pope Sergius III, who had been the moving spirit in the trial of the body of Formosus and had murdered two Popes at least to get the "holy see" for himself, was the lover of "that most powerful, most noble, and most shameless whore, Theodora." Father Pagi, Mansi, the Benedictine editors of the Pope's letters, and even recent Catholic writers like Mgr. Duchesne and Canon W. Barry ("The Papal Monarchy") admit that the evidence is irresistible...
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
JOHN X 914-928 Murdered by lover's daughter. This pope was the lover of Theodora, the wife of a Roman nobleman and senator called Theophylactus. Theodora died, leaving behind a daughter Marozia, the mistress of John's predecessor Sergius III. Marozia's planned for her son by the previous Pope Sergius to succeed next, so she arranged for the death of Pope John X who was deposed, imprisoned and smothered with a pillow.Theodora, wife of one of the highest nobles of Rome, was of such loose morals that the chief writers of her time call her "a whore," and two Popes, Sergius III and John X, were amongst her lovers. Her equally beautiful and equally unscrupulous daughter Marozia also is called "a whore," and Pope Sergius III was so notoriously the lover of the daughter as well as of the mother that the "Pontifical Book" itself, the official Papal chronicle, describes Pope John XI as "son of Sergius III" (by Marozia). These "whores" governed the Papacy and Rome for thirty years. Our chief source of information about them is the contemporary Bishop Liutprand, whose outspoken statements are sufficiently supported by two monkish chroniclers and the official Papal calendar.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
JOHN XI 931-935 The illegitimate son of Sergius III, described by Voltaire as "a debauchee" who spent much of his papacy in the company of "beastly lewd women".
JOHN XII 955-963 A former gang member, John became pontiff at age 16. "A coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel" [-- the Catholic Encyclopedia].
The Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church: "His addiction to pleasure and vice caused grave scandal". According to the chronicler Benedict of Socrate, female pilgrims to Rome were abducted by this Pope because he "liked to have a collection of women". In 962, numerous charges were brought against Pope John XII. A synod comprising 50 Italian and German bishops heard John had made a pact with the Devil and had offered a toast in his honour at the altar. More serious charges on the list included:
"... committing incest with two sisters, of playing dice and invoking the Devil to assist him to win, of creating boy bishops for money, of ravishing diverse virgins, of converting the palace into a seraglio, of lying with his father's harlot, with a certain Queen Dowager and with a widow called Anna and his own niece, of putting out the eyes of his father confessor, ...of setting houses on fire, of breaking windows in the night ..."
John was convicted of incest, adultery and murder, and deposed by the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I. It was alleged that, following his trial, John stole the Lateran treasury and fled to Rome's enemies. Afterwards, John was restored to the papacy. Bishop Crescentius of Protus describes how Pope John was caught sleeping with the wife of another man who then killed the Pope.
BENEDICT V 964-964 Described as "the most iniquitous of all the monsters of ungodliness" by church historian Gilbert who'd eventually become Pope Sylvester II (999-1003). Benedict reigned as pope for about a month after which the Emperor Otto I replaced him with Leo VIII. At least one account claimed Benedict had "dishonoured" a young girl.
JOHN XIII 965-972 "Like the other popes in his family before him, John XIII was condemned as an adulterer", Sex Lives of the Popes by Nigel Cawthorne. The Romans hated him for sadism and rebelled against him. He escaped from imprisonment and dispensed "stern justice" to the conspirators and hanged, blinded and banished from Rome many of its citizens. This Pope too is said to have died at the hands of an enraged husband who had caught him in the act of adultery.
BENEDICT VI 973-974 This "illegitimate son of a monk" was blamed for much of the depravity during his reign: "under his pontificate many French, English and Spanish ladies who came to Rome were seduced or raped there, and stayed on as courtesans" [Sex Lives of the Popes, Nigel Cawthorne]. On the death of his protector, Emperor Otto I, Benedict was seized and dragged to the Castel Sant' Angelo. There, he was eventually strangled to death "for his wickedness" by a priest named Stephen.
BONIFACE VII 974-985 "A horrid monster" according to Pope Sylvester II (999-1003), and referred to as Malefatius ("Evildoer") by the people of Rome. Having made off to Constantinople with the papal treasury when Holy Roman Emperor Otto II had him driven from Rome, he was replaced by Pope Benedict VII who was succeeded by Pope John XIV. However, the anti-pope Boniface returned to have Pope John's eyes plucked out before having him cast into prison where John died either of starvation or poisoning. According to a synod in Rheims, Boniface "in criminality, surpassed all the rest of mankind".
JOHN XVI 998-1001 Antipope who bought the throne, and who "behaved himself so wickedly that he became generally abhorred by the clergy and people of Rome". The Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III, launched an attack on the church and found John hiding in the Campagna. According to Sex Lives of the Popes by Nigel Cawthorne, Otto had John's nose, tongue and ears cut off. "His eyes were gouged out (and) he was dragged back to Rome where he was thrown in a monastery cell to die".
JOHN XVIII 1003-1003 Poisoned within 7 months of having become Pope. Which was a better record than that of Pope Damasus II (1048-1048) who was poisoned within 40 days.
BENEDICT VIII 1012-1024 Became Pope after assassinating his predecessor, Sergius IV. Pope Victor III (1086-87) spoke of his "rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts". Bishop Beno accused Benedict of "many vile adulteries and murders". The Archbishop of Narbonne accused him of "simony, assassination and usury; of disbelieving the Eucharist and the immortality of the soul; of employing violence to obtain the secrets of the confessional". He also was accused of "living in concubinage with his two nieces and having children by them" and "using the money received from indulgences to pay for the Saracens' invasion of Sicily".
BENEDICT IX (1032-44; 1045; 1047-48) The Catholic Encyclopedia describes him as "a disgrace to the Chair of St Peter". At 12 years old, he became the youngest Pope. In Sex Lives of the Popes, Cawthorne tells us that as a child, the Benedict "manifested a precocity for all kinds of wickedness", including ordering murders. "He also dabbled in witchcraft and Satanism". According to Cawthorne, "He abandoned himself to excessive immorality and the most shameful debauchery" and lived in the Lateran like a Turkish sultan where under his rule the papacy reached the utmost depth of degradation. Such that "by the time he was 23 his riotous conduct was so appalling that there was an attempt to strangle him at the altar during mass on the feast of the apostles". In 1048, the pope was driven from Rome.
SYLVESTER III 1045-1045 Bribed his way into the papacy, this Pope described as "sensual and corrupt" only remained in power for two months. It was said he was closer to Satan than to Christ and consorted with the Devil in the woods. He was excommunicated by Pope Benedict IX. He was afterwards arrested by King Henry III of Germany and confined to a monastery.
GREGORY VI 1045-1046 Simonist of whom it was said that he practised black magic. In 1046, he was found guilty of simony (the buying and selling of spiritual goods and offices) by the synod of Sutri, after which Sutri's King had him deposed.
LEO IX 1049-1054 A gay supporter (although this is a good thing, it isn't for a Catholic Pope). When St Peter Damian, church reformer and author of a book railing against homosexuality, wanted Leo IX to expel homosexuals from the clergy, Leo flatly refused. Sex Lives of the Popes states the following about this: "If he got rid of the gays, perhaps he feared he would have had no one left".
GREGORY VII 1073-1085 Pope who made it compulsory for priests to be celibate. In 1074, Gregory with his mistress Countess Matilda by his side, issued an edict ordering his priests to abandon their wives. The alternative, Gregory said, was to be cursed forever. "The whole body of the married clergy offered the most resolute resistance," according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. In his Sex Lives of the Popes Nigel Cawthorne said the effect of Gregory's legislation was to make "virtual prostitutes of the thousands of innocent wives of bewildered and angry little clergymen" and that "Husbands and wives were separated in large numbers ... (and) many abandoned women committed suicide". In 1081 he gave his French legates orders that every house containing at least one baptised person should pay a tax of one denarius - the tax was paid directly to Gregory himself.
Like Gregory VI before him and Honorius III after him, Gregory VII was said to have had a strong interest in the occult and not a few writers claimed Gregory attained the papacy by conjuration.11th century Pope Gregory VII used the fraudulent Isidorian Decretals as the source of his claim, in the Dictatus papae (1075), of the right to depose princes, emperors and kings. He deposed the Polish King and the Greek emperor, sowing trouble and unrest everywhere. ... In a few centuries following him no less than eight emperors were excommunicated (and some deposed) by the Roman bishops. It was also Gregory who changed the title of the Roman See from Vicar of St. Peter to Vicar of Christ. Thus the title which the pope today claims came, not from Peter, but from Gregory VII and based ultimately on fraudulent documents.The first pope to excommunicate an emperor (Henry IV), Gregory was also said to have used poison to dispose of six bishops and his predecessor, Alexander II. Like Gregory the Great (590-604), Gregory VII believed in not allowing the Bible to be read outside church, reasoning that "reading could provoke thought which could lead to heresy".
It is important to add that Gregory not only used fake documents, he had a whole school set up to manufacture still more fraudulent documents...
This user (and maker!) of fraudulent documents was canonized as a saint ... in the sixteenth century.
[Link, the section The Use of Forgery to Enforce Claims of Papal Supremacy]
Voltaire described Gregory as "the initiator of 500 years of civil war sustained by his successors". Rousing his followers into battle Gregory once famously said: "Cursed be the man who holds back his sword from shedding blood".
VICTOR III 1086-1087 Obtained the papacy with the help of his mistress the Countess Matilda (who had also been mistress to Gregory VII and sat next to Gregory when he had issued his edict on priestly celibacy). After his election and before his consecration, Victor was forced to flee from Rome because of Gregory's outraged followers. It was said of Victor's papacy that "he hardly got through a single mass". Though Victor was beatified in 1887 by Pope Leo XIII, he has not since been canonised a saint.
URBAN II 1088-1099 Introduced sex taxes and the Crusades. At the Council of Piacenza in 1095, some 400 clerics and 30,000 laymen passed a resolution finally outlawing the marriage of priests. The result was that many wives were sold into slavery. Seeing an opportunity, Urban II (1088-99) introduced the infamous cullagium - or sex tax - which allowed a priest to keep a mistress so long as he paid an annual fee. In 1095, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II (1088-99) launched the First Crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims. James A. Haught, Holy Horrors: "The crusaders killed nearly as many Christians and Jews as they did Muslims, their intended target". So pleased was the Roman Catholic Church with the achievements of Pope Urban II that in 1881 he was canonised by Pope Leo XIII. Now, the man who launched the Crusades, which altogether claimed the lives of around 56 million individuals, is called Saint Urban (having appeared as a Saint in many martyrologies).
ANACLETUS (1130-1138) Committed incest with his sister and several other female relatives. He was also known for raping nuns.
CELESTINE II 1143-1144 "A brutal sadist". This elderly Pope who fortunately served only 6 months is described in Sex Lives of the Popes as "an honest-to-God brutal sadist". "He had a certain Count Jordan condemned to a horrible death, strapped naked to a scalding iron chair while a red-hot crown was nailed to his head."
CELESTINE III 1191-1198 Denounced as a heretic. As Pope, Celestine III issued a decree that permitted a marriage to be dissolved if it could be proved either the husband or wife was a heretic, which sparked off a wave of persecutions as couples used heresy as an excuse to annul their marriages. For this blasphemous and ridiculous ruling, a future Pope, Adrian VI (16th century) denounced Celestine as a heretic.
INNOCENT III 1198-1216 Money-grabber who launched the infamous 30-year war. In his Corpus Juris, the official law book of the papacy, Innocent III made it quite clear where heretics' property was to go: "The possessions of heretics are to be confiscated," he said. "In the Church's territories they are to go to the Church's treasury". Thus with the possessions of heretics, Innocent supported his expensive taste: a fetish for gold and jewels. He also had a special tiara made from white peacock feathers, covered in jewels and topped by a sapphire.
He had aspirations to rule the world, and insisted on having his feet kissed by everyone he met. In 1204, Innocent oversaw the sacking of Orthodox Constantinople during the Second Crusade. The chronicler Geoffrey Villehardouin said that never since the creation of the world had so much booty been taken from a city. The Christian city of Zara in Hungary was also sacked and destroyed in this Crusade and the non-Christian region of Livonia was conquered in 1199 by his Catholic troops.
Innocent is known to history for launching the Crusade against the "heretical Christians" the Albigenses, Cathars, which resulted in the 30-year war and the murder of one million French citizens.Furthermore, during the fourth Lateran council in 1215, Innocent decreed the most infamous legislature against Jews, forcing Jews to live in ghettos, banning intermarriage, expelling Jews from certain professions, and last but not least forcing Jews to wear a yellow sign on their clothing to mark them as Jews, the historical root of the corresponding Nazi legislation.As expected, the biased Catholic Encyclopedia described Innocent as "one of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages". If such a man is considered one of the greatest, then we know what to expect and fear of the other Popes of the period.
GREGORY IX 1227-1241 Launched the Inquisitions. In 1232, Gregory IX (1227-41) established the first of three Holy Inquisitions under the direction of the Dominican order. Together, the Inquisitions claimed the lives of between 100,000 and 2 million individuals over 500 years, most of whom were burnt. One of the reasons for burning them was the church's age-old principle, Ecclesia non novit sanguinem: "the church is untainted by blood".
INNOCENT IV 1243-1254 Nepotist who first approved torture. The first Pope to sanction the use of torture in the extraction of confessions of heresy during the Inquisition. In 1252 he issued the papal bull called Ad extirpanda "to be exterminated", which remained in effect until 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII replaced it with the far-reaching witchcraft bull.
Innocent followed the principle "the end justifies the means" and believed that as Vicar of Christ he was supreme over all. Known for his nepotism (undue patronage and favouritism towards relatives), Innocent placed relatives in key positions to create a network of loyal supporters. He died in December 1254 just as a rebellion was raised against his papal rule in Sicily.
ALEXANDER IV 1254-1261 Under him, torture was officially sanctioned in 1257. (He elaborated on what Innocence IV had endorsed before him). Torture remained a legal recourse of the church for five-and-a-half centuries until it was abolished by Pope Pius VII (Pope from 1800-1823) in 1816.
NICHOLAS III 1277-1280 Italian poet Dante in his Inferno sent this Pope to Hell for his nepotism and avarice. Nicholas made a private fortune from the Holy Inquisition and was the first pope to make the Vatican palace his residence.
BONIFACE VIII 1294-1303 "His whole pontificate (was) one record of evil" was the description the Irish Cardinal Wiseman gave in The Dublin Review (1844) about this heretic Pope.
Boniface started by tricking his old predecessor, Celestine V (1294), one of the very rare good Popes, into forfeiting the Chair of Peter. Then he had Celestine locked up in a cell where the latter "died of starvation and neglect". On ascending the throne, the 80-year old Boniface proclaimed: "I am pontiff, I am emperor". Boniface conducted simultanous affairs with both his mistress and his daughter and also had at least two male lovers (Giacomo de Pisis and Guglielmo de Santa Floria). On the subject of homosexuality he remarked that "it is no more a sin than to rub your hands together".
He was the first pontiff to organise pilgrimages to St Peter for the fullest pardoning of sins. The Italian chronicler Villani estimated at least 200,000 pilgrims visited the Eternal City daily having joined the Jubilee to Rome. The pilgrims would donate "tributes" for having their sins annulled. The then historian Ventura said the "tributes" received by Boniface were "incomputable". Ventura said he had watched the clerks at the altar of St Paul "raking in the money".
The Colonnas, a distinguished and influential Roman family and traditionally vassals of the pope, supported the Imperialists during Boniface's reign and had formed a secret alliance with Boniface's arch-enemy, Philip the Fair of France. They charged the Pope with gross sexual misconduct, heresy, tyranny, unchastity and "intercourse with the Devil". Boniface sent troops to kill every resident in the Colonna family's ancestral city, Palestrina, massacring 6000 citizens and destroying the historical home of Julius Caesar. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: "Palestrina was razed to the ground, the plough driven through and salt strewn over its ruins".
In 1303, Boniface was brought to trial for his actions by a parliament in Paris, led by Philip the Fair. The charges against him included not believing in life after death, sorcery, dealing with the Devil and declaring that the sins of the flesh were not sins. A knight from Lucca said Boniface had told him there was "no other life but this one". Another witness testified Boniface had said the Eucharist was nothing more than "just flour and water". Boniface was also charged with the more serious crimes of simony, rape and the murder of his predecessor, Pope Celestine.
Before his death, Boniface joked he had as "much chance of going to Heaven as a roasted chicken". Being placed in solitary confinement at age 86, he died from "suicide" or "madness", after which Philip the Fair got Pope Clement V to have Boniface's body dug up and burnt as a heretic.
CLEMENT V 1305-1314 Nepotist who conspired with French King Philip the Fair to persecute the Templars, accusing them of Zoroastrian heresy and of being Mithradates "soldiers of Mithras".
Clement was the first Pope to leave Italy in order to run the Holy See from Avignon in France, residing in the expensive papal palace there. The reason for the move to Avignon was attributed to better hide his frequent soliciting of prostitutes. In order to pay for his expensive lifestyle, the Pope sought to persecute the Templars to gain their accumulated wealth, since by this time the Order of the Knights Templar had great wealth (as well as vast influence all over the Christian world).
Following the Council of Vienna in 1310, the knights were brought before General Inquisitor Imbert on fabricated charges of sodomy, blasphemy and heresy. Many were relentlessly and horrifically tortured. In 1310, 54 knights were publicly burned at Paris outside the Porte St-Antoine. They maintained their innocence to the end, which was proven in 1312 by the bull Vox in excelsis issued by Clement. Therein the Pope admitted that he had "no sufficient reasons for a formal condemnation of the order" [Catholic Encyclopedia]. Nevertheless, the Pope and King Philip continued persecuting the Templars to extinction, when in 1314 their Order's last grand master, Jacques de Molay, was burnt.
The nepotist Clement had made five of his family cardinals. By the time of his death he had left the papal treasury depleted "from excessive personal use". Two centuries later, Calvinists would destroy Clement's monument.
JOHN XXII 1316-1334 This Avignon Pope was described as the world's richest man upon his death. The Catholic Encyclopedia justified his wealth by stating that he "had need of large revenues, not only for the maintenance of his court, but particularly for the wars in Italy". Pope John tried to convince the church's followers, including the clergy, that Christ did not live in poverty as depicted in the New Testament and put to death at least 114 Franciscan monks who disagreed with him. In his bull, Cum inter nonnullos, he declared it was heresy to suggest Jesus and his apostles owned no property. The notorious cullagium, the sex-tax that Urban II had made applicable to priests who had mistresses, John now extended to include celibate clergymen too. Any priest that did not pay up was immediately excommunicated.
BENEDICT XII 1334-1342 "A death to laity, a viper to the clergy, a liar and a drunkard" and inquisitor. This former inquisitor and Cistercian cardinal-priest was noted for the merciless, indefatigable and skilful way he extracted confessions from alleged heretics. He personally sent some of his victims to the stake.
Petrarch, the poet, said Benedict was an unfit and drunken church leader whose palace at Avignon was "the shame of mankind, a sink of vice, a sewer where is gathered all the filth of the world" and where "everything [that] breathes is a lie: the air, the earth, the house and above all the bedrooms". The poet Alvaro Pelago said of his Holiness Pope Benedict and his clergy: "Wolves have become masters of the church".
CLEMENT VI 1342-1352 Had a mistress (Cecile, Countess of Turenne) and lived a dissolute and extraordinarily lavish lifestyle while around him the laity of Avignon died of the Bubonic Plague. He taxed the impoverished people excessively in order to maintain his lifestyle and to pay for his expenses at a time when they were already suffering greatly because of the Plague. Unsurprisingly, the people of Avignon cheered his death. Clement VI slept with prostitutes and had dozens of mistresses. When he died, 50 priests said Mass for the repose of his soul for 9 consecutive days, but it was generally agreed that this was not going to be nearly enough to prevent the dead Pope from going directly to hell. His tomb was desecrated by the Protestant Huguenots and his remains removed and burned.
URBAN VI 1378-1389 Warmonger who resorted to bribery, and who, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was poisoned. Described as "one of the most unstable popes in history" in Richard McBrien's Lives Of the Popes. He ordered England to fight against France because France had taken the side of his rival, Clement VII. He promised indulgences and other "spiritual rewards" to anyone who would take up arms.
Before 1380 he was known for his drunken rages, even having climbed the Vatican battlements at one time to excommunicate the gatherings below.
In 1380 Urban excommunicated the King and Queen of Naples. This caused 6 Roman cardinals, tired of Urban, to conspire with the King and Queen to have the Pope deposed. However, their plans having failed, Urban had them tortured and had 5 of them executed.
BONIFACE IX 1389-1404 Simonist, nepotist and murderer.
"A murderer who used simony to fill the depleted papal coffers", according to Sex Lives of the Popes and who "also charged for indulgences, the canonisation of saints and the authentication of recently discovered religious relics, such as Christ's foreskin which was doing the rounds at the time." "It is said that he charged one ducat for every document he signed as pope ... much of the money went to his brothers, his 'nephews' and his mother." He also granted permissions for Jubilees to be held in cities outside Rome, resulting in vast amounts of cash being channelled back into the papal treasury.
BENEDICT XIII (1394-1417) Gave a dispensation to the twenty-nine-year-old Richard II of England to marry Isabella, the seven-year-old daughter of the King of France.
ALEXANDER V 1406-1410 Glutton who died by poisoning.
"A famous glutton who spent half the day eating" - Sex Lives of the Popes by Nigel Cawthorne. Ten months after being elected pope, he was poisoned by the former pirate, Cardinal Baldassare Cossa who would succeed Alexander as Pope John XXIII.
JOHN XXIII 1410-1415 (John XXIII is not the same as Angelo Roncalli, who got the same number in 1958.)
This antipope is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as "utterly worldly-minded, ambitious, crafty, unscrupulous, and immoral, a good soldier but no churchman". Pope John began his career as the pirate Baldassare Cossa, before studying law in Bologna where he became renowned for his gluttony and lechery. After graduating, he was appointed papal treasurer before buying into the College of Cardinals. He became Pope after taking out his predecessor (by poisoning). John was said to be an atheist who had never taken the sacraments, did not believe in the soul's immortality or the resurrection of the dead. He was also known for his taste for nuns.
In 1414, John was summoned before the Council of Constance which was attended by some 2300 noblemen and 18,000 clergy. There he was convicted on charges including the murder of Alexander V, rape, sodomy, incest and piracy and with "having hired and maintained a sacrilegious intercourse with 300 nuns; violated three sisters and imprisoned a whole family in order to abuse the mother, son and father". The Bishop of Salisbury spoke for most when he said John "ought to be burnt at the stake" for his crimes. Nevertheless, Pope John was only removed from his office "as a murderer, sodomite, simoniac and heretic". He pleaded guilty to murder, adultery, incest and atheism, but was later appointed Cardinal Bishop of Tusculum before becoming Dean of the Sacred College in Rome.
PIUS II 1458-1464 Wrote erotic literature for a living.
Before his election, Pius II (1458-64) was the noted pornographic writer Enea Silvio Piccolomini who was famous for the erotic novel Lucretia and Euralus and had also written the erotic comedy Chrysis. As Pope, he advocated and indulged in total sexual freedom. About Pius, the Catholic Encyclopedia states: "The low moral standard of the epoch may partly explain, but cannot excuse his dissolute conduct" and it claims that he had 2 illegitimate children "one in Scotland, the other at Strasburg". However, historian Gregorovius maintained the pontiff's offspring numbered 12.
PAUL II 1464-1471 Had illicit relations with boys and died in this way at the age of 54. He had expensive tastes, loved luxury and had numerous male lovers. He also spent vast sums of church money on banquets, festivities, entertainments and other "diversions of the Carnival".
SIXTUS IV 1471-1484 The Pope who issued a papal bull sanctioning the Second Inquisition in Spain. According to the Roman Catholic writer Llorente, a secretary in the Spanish Inquisition, 95% of the victims were Jews.
The bisexual Pope Sixtus made cardinals out of 6 "nephews" - who were actually his illegitimate children, where one of them was the result of an incestuous relationship with his sister. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that, prior to his death, Sixtus "fell more and more under his dominating passion of nepotism, heaping riches and favours on his unworthy relations". He also had the Sistine Chapel built.
INNOCENT VIII 1484-1492 Launched the sustained persecutions of the "heretical" Waldensians and issued the notorious witchcraft bull Summis desiderantes affectibus which increased the persecution of those suspected to be witches. The bull appeared in the preface of the official Inquisitor's handbook used by witchcraft trial judges. The book contributed to the murder of many hundred-thousands of people.[Innocent's] infamous Witch Bull of 1484 ... launched several centuries of persecution of so-called witches. Several hundred thousand women, children and men (about 20%) were tortured and burned at the stake or hanged.
[Link, referencing Das Imperium der Päpste by Kühner ("The Empire of the Popes")]He was the first pope to enter the Vatican accompanied by his illegitimate son, Franceschetto, who was known in Rome for his gambling affairs and burglary. Innocent pompously celebrated the wedding of Franceschetto and the wedding of the daughter of Teodorina, his own illegitimate daughter, in the Vatican. [Same Link]Innocent's reign has been described as the "Golden Age of Bastards", because he had sired 8 illegitimate sons and a similar number of daughters whom he openly acknowledged and supported with church funds. To replenish the depleted treasury, he invented new posts which he sold to the highest bidder.
ALEXANDER VI 1492-1503 "The most notorious pope in all history" whose "pontificate was marked by nepotism, greed, and unbridled sensuality" - Lives Of The Popes by Richard McBrien.
Even before Rodrigo Borgia became Pope Alexander, Pope Pius II (who had formerly written pornographic novels) criticised him for his misconduct. The Catholic Encyclopedia said the young Cardinal Borgia "had been so notorious as to shock the whole town and court". Pope Leo X (1513-21) would later describe him as "perhaps the most savage wolf the world has ever seen". Voltaire in his Philosophical Dictionary stated that Alexander "bought his papacy after a sordid past and spent most of his time womanising and hosting orgies".
This incestuous Pope's parties and life, too long and obscene to narrate here, are described in further detail in A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester and in Nigel Cawthorne's Sex Lives of the Popes. See also here. The lives of the cruel and depraved family of Borgias, including two of Pope Alexander's sons and his daughter Lucrezia, are also narrated in these books. Chronicler Johann Buchard wrote of the inhumanity of Cesare, one of Pope Alexander's sons, who was so fond of blood he practised butchery. At one point he massacred a bunch of prisoners, which included women and children, for sport. Cesare, known to have contracted syphilis from one of his mistresses, received a dedication in his personal Spanish doctor's book on syphilis Tractatus contra Pudendarga.
Pope Alexander died by poisoning: in attempting to murder the cardinal Adrian Corneto, the suspicious Corneto had switched his poisoned cup which thus took its effect on Alexander himself. Alexander's successor, Julius II (1503-13), forbade the saying of mass for Alexander's soul on the grounds that "it is blasphemous to pray for the damned".
JULIUS II 1503-1513 Epithet: "Pontefice Terribile". To the great warrior Pope Julius II, "religion was not even a hobby". He loved war over the church and defied canon law by donning full armour and riding off into battle at the head of the papal army to restore papal authority in Umbria. Julius was the pontiff responsible for hiring the Swiss troops who still guard the Vatican.
The Emperor Maximilian described Julius as "a drunken and wicked pope" who, like Cesare Borgia, suffered from syphilis given to him by one of his many "paramours". Not only had he fathered 3 daughters before his election, contemporary chroniclers wrote how he had abused many young men.
His act of introducing a new system of indulgences in order to raise funds for the new St Peter's Basilica was said to have provided fuel for the fire of the Protestant Reformation.
LEO X 1513-1521 "How much we have profited by the legend of Christ" - Leo X, in a position to know.
He embarked on a Papal life of unimaginable extravagance, indulging in expensive carnivals, bull-fights, banquets, theatrical performances and the like. Like many of his Papal predecessors, he was also widely known to have had illicit relations with boys.
Leo X would often hunt on his private game reserve, which was kept for the exclusive use of himself and his cardinals. Any trespassers caught on the property had their hands and feet cut off, their homes burned and their children sold into servitude.
To raise funds for his lavish lifestyle, Leo sold cardinal's hats to atheists and other unbelievers. In 1515, two years after his election, the vast treasure left by Leo's predecessor Julius II was dissipated. Before his death, Leo tried to pull the church out of its hole by colluding with a German archbishop to sell indulgences. However, this made things all the worse for the Church by causing the emergence of Protestantism.
CLEMENT VII 1523-1534 An atheist like his uncle Leo X, he bought his way into the Papacy, thereby still keeping the power within the influential Medici family. He bribed the conclave cardinals with the princely sum of 60,000 ducats. Clement is described in Sex Lives of the Popes as "a bastard, a poisoner, a sodomite, a geomancer, a church robber".
German historian Leopold von Ranke dismissed Clement VII as "the most disastrous of all pontiffs", because it was Clement who allowed the Sack of Rome by the very same imperial troops who should have been its protectors. And it was Clement who refused the divorce between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon resulting in the establishment of the Church of England. However, being as hypocritical as other Popes, Clement was known to have a mistress: "a Moorish or mulatto slave" according to the Italian historian Gino Capponi. The chronicler Paulus Jovius related "divers abominations": Clement at one time ordered the slaughter of 8000 people, including children, at Cesena.
PAUL III 1534-1549 Incestuous Pope, known for his most vicious persecution of the Protestants.
Prior to his elevation, he had given one of his sisters to the then Pope andhe had been known in the Church for more than twenty years as "the petticoat cardinal". No one in Europe was ignorant that he owed his high position to the fact that his fifteen-year-old sister, Giulia Farnese, had been the mistress of Alexander VI, and that as a cardinal he had had a regular mistress, besides his occasional amours, who bore him four children in his cardinalitial palace. At the very time of his election his son, Pier Luigi, and his daughter, Costanza, were well-known figures in Roman society, and, instead of retiring into a decent obscurity, they came out boldly to enjoy the new wealth and prestige of their Papa.To gain control of his family inheritance, he poisoned several relatives, including his mother and niece. It was widely reported he had incestuous relations with at least two of his sisters, even causing the death of one sister after becoming jealous of her other lovers. Paul also allegedly had incestuous relations with his own daughter, Constancia and even poisoned her husband Bosius Sforza. He killed two cardinals and a Polish bishop to settle an argument over a theological point. Paul III also kept a roll of about 45,000 prostitutes, who paid him a monthly tribute.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe, historian and former Franciscan monk
Like Leo X and Clement VII before him, he too was aware of the truth about Christianity and thus was no believer.
Paul became known in history as the pope who, more than any other pontiff, viciously persecuted the Protestants. In 1542, he established the Holy Office as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy, which effectively launched the Third or Roman Inquisition that sought to eradicate Protestant influences in Europe. Paul's Inquisition introduced a new level of cruelty and barbarism that was said to have "repelled even the Turks and the Saracens".
The Catholic Encyclopedia, unperturbed, described Paul's monstrous reign as "one of the most fruitful in the annals of the church".
JULIUS III 1550-1555 Pope Julius III, like other Popes before him, was also a paedophile. He abused young boys, of which one was his own illegitimate son and another was his adopted son Innocenzo del Monte, whom he had picked up in the streets of Palma. This caused a grave scandal especially when Julius made the 17-year-old Innocenzo first a cardinal and then head of the Secretariat of State.
Besides Innocenzo, he also appointed several other handsome teenage boys as cardinals. Cardinal della Casa's famous poem In Praise of Sodomy was dedicated to his Holiness, Pope Julius III.
PAUL IV 1555-1559 Master torturer, nepotist, whose pontificate was "a great disappointment" according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.
A former Grand Inquisitor and master torturer who, for a generation, was the terror of misbelievers. He was best known for making the Inquisition a powerful engine of government in Italy, the Netherlands and the Orient. A nepotist, he placed his nephew, Carlo Caraffa, at the head of the Holy See's political division. By his bull, Cum nimis absurdum, Paul created one of the first Jewish ghettos based in Rome. Suspecting Jews of aiding the Protestants, Paul forced them to sell all their property and to wear distinguishing yellow hats at all times and forbade them from engaging in commerce of any kind except for the sale of secondhand clothes, called strazzaria. It was said Pope Paul hated women as much as he hated Jews, forbidding any to come near him.
So committed to the idea of torture was Paul, that he gladly paid for new torture instruments out of his own pocket. In 1557, he instituted the notorious Index of Forbidden Books, which severely restricted the reading and writing of books. Titles included Boccaccio's literary classic, Decameron, and Rabelais' bawdy Gargantua and Pantagruel. Shortly before his death, Paul expressed a desire to add occupations to his Index: actors, "buffoons" and "sculptors who create shoddy crucifixes" were among those he had shortlisted. He made himself a despised enemy of the people. On his death in 1559, rioting crowds destroyed the headquarters of the hated Inquisition and released its prisoners. The Catholic Encyclopedia laments his reign as: "He who at the beginning was honoured by a public statue, lived to see it thrown down and mutilated by the hostile populace".
[Perhaps the people were hostile for a reason.]
URBAN VIII 1623-1644 The enemy of science. To Christians, Urban VIII was a famous builder of palaces and fortresses. However, many of the construction contracts went straight to his family and much of the bronze they used came straight from the Ancient Roman Parthenon.
Urban VIII is also famous for his persecution of his former friend Galileo, the man who invented the telescope and claimed the earth revolved around the sun - and not the other way around, as many church theologians wanted to believe. In 1611 Galileo had come to the attention of the Inquisition for his Copernican views."To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."Pope Urban had initially offered to write the introduction to Galileo's work, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems, but upon reading it became enraged. The 70 year old Galileo was put before the Inquisition, made to kneel and swear - with his hands on the Gospels - that his theory was a lie. Though Galileo defended himself, he was made to swear he would never again spread his "damnable heresy" and to confirm this oath in a written recantation that read:
-- Cardinal Bellarmine, during Galileo's trial, 1615 CE"Having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the Sun was the center of the universe and immovable, and that the Earth was not the center of the same and that it moved ... I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic Church".A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology (Vol 1), by Andrew Dickson White quotes a Jesuit expressing the Holy Church's views:
-- Galileo Galilei, recanting under duress, 1633"The opinion of the earth's motion is of all heresies the most abominable, the most pernicious, the most scandalous; the immovability of the earth is thrice sacred; argument against the immortality of the soul, the existence of God, and the incarnation, should be tolerated sooner than the argument to prove that the earth moves."In 1832, Galileo's work was finally removed from the Index of Forbidden Books.
-- Jesuit Father Melchior Inchofer (1631)"One Galileo in two thousand years is enough."Link, which has more on Galileo's struggle with the Holy Church.
-- Pope Pius XII, 20th century Pope
The Vatican officially recognized the validity of Galileo's work only in 1992.
PIUS VII 1800-1823 Condemned Bible societies as "a most abominable invention that destroyed the very foundation of religion".
PIUS IX 1846-1878 Anti-semite who was opposed to civil rights, now beatified by John Paul II. Pius invented the doctrine of Papal Infallibility."Divine revelation is perfect and, therefore, it is not subject to continual and indefinite progress in order to correspond with the progress of human reason.... No man is free to embrace and profess that religion which he believes to be true, guided by the light of reason... The church has the power to define dogmatically the religion of the Catholic Church to be the only true religion...It is necessary even in the present day that the Catholic religion shall be held as the only religion of the state, to the exclusion of all other forms of worship... The civil liberty of every mode of worship, and full power given to all of openly and publically manifesting their opinions and their ideas conduce more easily to corrupt the morals and minds of the people... The Roman Pontiff cannot and ought not to reconcile himself or agree with progress, liberalism and modern civilization."
-- Pope Pius IX in his 1864 Syllabus of Errors [Link]Pius IX, pope between 1846 and 1878, was notoriously anti-Semitic: he had forced the Jews of Rome into a ghetto, baptised their children by force, and restricted their rights. He is also accused of kidnapping a Jewish child and raising him as his own son. Some people saw John Paul's apology to the Jews as hypocritical in the context of the Vatican decision to beatify Pius IX. [Ref (BBC)]
Not So Saintly? - Time Magazine, August 27, 2000:The flawed 19th century Pontiff, who once referred to Jews as "dogs," is an odd candidate for canonizationIn addition to that, Pius IX actually believed in the Curse of Ham and that it affected Africans (Ethiopians in particular), even though this has no basis in reality (science) or in African traditional beliefs.
"I am appalled that the Catholic Church wants to make a saint out of a Pope who perpetuated...an act of unacceptable intolerance," declared a professor named Elena Mortara in Rome. Pio Nono [Pope Pius IX], it turns out, had a Jewish problem of his own. Mortara is the great-grandniece of Edgardo Mortara, who was taken from his Jewish parents at age six in 1858 by the papal police and raised--in part by Pius himself--as a Catholic. The incident typified Pius' ham-fisted treatment of the Jews...
He promulgated two of Catholicism's most triumphal doctrines--the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary and papal infallibility.
A true reactionary who saw the secular state, and indeed civil rights, as satanic manifestations, he made it difficult for generations of believers to claim intellectual independence or integrity. Says journalist-historian Garry Wills, who savages Pius in his best seller Papal Sins: "He was a disaster, and his influence has been bad ever since. If you beatify him now, there will be a whitewashing of him, which will involve the church in more dishonesty."
LEO XIII 1878-1903 Anti-human rights and was against unrestrained freedom of thinking.
Even after almost two thousand years of Christian persecution of other beliefs, centuries of Inquisition, and more than a hundred years after the Bill of Rights the Catholic Church was opposed to human rights and democracy. Angrily pope Leo XIII ruled that men by erecting their own political systems contrary to the tenets of Catholicism (see popes above) advocate such pernicious doctrines as that because"all men are alike by race and nature, so in like manner all are equal in the control of their life; that each one is so far his own master that each is free to think (!) on every subject just as he may choose ... Government in a society based in such maxims is nothing more nor less than the will of the people," [Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]which of course was not only absurd in the pope's eyes but wicked and wholly wrong, since"the authority of God is passed over in silence, as if there could be a government whose whole origin and power did not reside in God Himself," [Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885]by which this pope probably meant his own authority. Therefore of course also"the unrestrained freedom of thinking (!) and of openly making known one's thoughts is not inherent in the rights of the citizens" [Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1885](and hence it is)"quite unlawful to demand, defend, or grant unconditional freedom of thought, speech, writing or worship as if these were so many rights given by nature to man." [Leo XIII, Sapientiæ Cristianæ, 1885][From: Christian Hall of Shame]
"Similar to liberty of worship is that worst of liberties, never sufficiently execrated or abhorred, liberty of the Press"...the great achievement of Pope Leo XIII, who at last (in the eighteenth century of Papal power) found the courage to declare that the worker was entitled to "a living wage." But when the clergy found that working men of the nineteenth century were not so easily duped by phrases, and wanted to know what was a living wage, the Pope refused to answer the questions privately submitted to him.
-- The Story Of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
PIUS XI 1922-1939 anti-democratic Pope who helped fascists into power.Pius XI, in his own words a "man with no love for democracy," helped to bring Mussolini's Fascist Party to power in Italy and in 1926 solemnly declared: "Mussolini is a man sent by Divine Providence."He supported Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, by viewing it as a Crusade. Besides having Germany's Papal Nuncio Pacelli (his successor, Pius XII) draw up a treaty with Hitler, he also supported Franco's fascist coup of Spain, upon the success of whichthe pope had Franco's flag raised over the Vatican.The Catholic interest in the Spanish Civil War was then furthered with the military help of fascist Italy and Germany. [Link] PIUS XII 1939-1958 Hitler's Pope.
The Papacy page, mentions the vices and crimes of a few additional historical Popes not listed here.
See also Popes and slavery.