The sudden death of Pope Anastasius II had the clergy and laity scrambling to elect a new Pope. Both Pope Symmachus and archpriest Laurentius were elected within hours of each other. Supporters of both thought that each man was officially “elected”. Strong Words were said,accusations were….accused,fists were thrown,and now we’ve got a minor riot in the streets. Christians gone mad! King Theodoric of Italy had to step in and make a decision. He declared that Symmachus had been elected first and that everybody needed to just simmer down. Pope Symmachus then made it a rule that only the clergy,(and later,only the Cardinals),and not the laity,could elect the Bishop of Rome. Anyone that campaigned for the position during a sitting Pope’s Papacy would be disposed. The ways of electing a Pope would change but this basic rule of not campaigning for the job has stayed in place for 1500 years.
Not content to observe the ruling of the King,sore loser Laurentius and his sore loser supporters started spreading a smear campaign that Pope Symmachus was misusing Church funds,engaging in immoral behavior and even accused him of celebrating Easter on the wrong date. Words were said….fists were thrown….well,you know the rest. Once again,King Theodoric is called. In a fit of spite,Pope Symmachus basically locked himself in St.Peter’s and refused to dignify the false allegations. Due to these actions,the King assumes his guilt and rules that Laurentius is now the Pope. Refusing to acknowledge the King’s ruling,Pope Symmachus still performs his Papal duties under house arrest(while Anti-Pope Laurentius rules from the Lateran Palace). Over the next four years Rome has a dueling Pope situation(cue the Holy banjos). During this time,a synod of Bishops supporting Symmachus had gathered enough evidence against Laurentius and presented it to the King. Once again,King Theodoric is called(again!),and now he rules in favor of Pope Symmachus and tells Anti-Pope Laurentius to act like a tree and get out of here…….(thank you Biff Tannen)