Pope Marinus II could best be described as a “Fly under the radar” Pope. Alberic II of Spoleto was running all things in Rome,including the Papacy,and he handpicked the new Pope because Marinus wouldn’t so much as cough without Alberic’s permission. The previous Pope,Stephen VIII,tried to have Alberic overthrown,and he paid for it with his being tortured and imprisoned. Fearing for his life during the entire time of his Papacy,Marinus did everything he could to stay in Alberic’s good graces. The most interesting thing about Marinus is that his name often got confused with Pope Martin,so some historians thought there were more Martins then there actually were and we would eventually have a Pope Martin IV who was supposed to be a Martin II.
It had been pretty rough going for the last several Popes. Monothelitism was the major conflict between the western and eastern Churches. This was the belief that Jesus only had a Divine nature and this was in opposition to the belief in Rome that Jesus had both a human and a Divine nature. Emperor Constans II of Constantinople favored monothelitism and made frequent attempts to bend Rome to his way of thinking,including the exile and murder of Pope Martin I. Pope Vitalian tread lightly with the emperor but always held firm to the truth. He even hosted Constans in Rome and watched as the emperor helped himself to several statues and other valuable artifacts making a complete nuisance of himself. Contans moved on to other parts of Italy and sometime during his non-goodwill tour,he was murdered in his bathtub. Oh well. That’s a shame. Without the immediate threat of Contans or monothelitism to worry about,Pope Vitalian had a fairly routine Papacy. He is most famous for being the first Pope to introduce organ music into the Mass. Whether or not this is accurate is up for debate as the organ wasn’t in widespread use in Church until around the 12th century. At the very least Pope Vitalian may have introduced it in just a few Churches to test the liturgical waters. Post Reformation,music in Church has been a bone of contention between the different Protestant denominations but the Catholic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy has this to say,”In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things.”
Eugene I was a Holy,kind and charitable man. On the surface he appeared to be kind of a pushover,which is the kind of Pope the emperor wanted in office. Emperor Constans II desperately wanted his view of monothelitism to be accepted by Rome. Monothelitism was the belief that Jesus only had one nature,a Divine one,instead of Church belief that Jesus had both human and Divine natures. The previous Pope,Martin I,had little patience with the emperor and had declared him and his beliefs as heresy. For his trouble,Constans had Pope Martin arrested,exiled,and tortured to death. Before he was Pope,Eugene had never publicly objected to monothelitism so the emperor thought he would just appoint him to the Papacy and clear the way to get what he wanted. Boy was he wrong. Sweet natured Eugene took office and immediately rejected compromise of any kind on the definition of the nature of Jesus. In no way was it even up for debate,so don’t even bother he basically said. The emperor and his lackeys,including the patriarch of the eastern Church,were furious…..FURIOUS(all caps)! Constantinople threatened to roast Eugene like they had roasted Martin,and Constans II was bound and determined to do it……until…..here come the Muslims to save the day(….record scratch…). Invading Muslim armies in the east immediately took precedent over any matters of the nature of Jesus. Contans II took to battle,putting a pin in the issue for a later date and Pope Eugene I was left to happily resume his Papal duties with one less thing to worry about. I based his look on Eugene Levy. It would probably work better with glasses but I don’t know what people used for glasses back then and I’m too lazy to Google.
Angry Pope Theodore I was the next in the line for Popes having to constantly battle the eastern Church over the nature of Jesus. Monothelitism is the belief that Jesus only had one will,a Divine one,as opposed to our Catholic belief that Jesus had both a human and Divine will. This back and forth between the western and eastern Churches over this had been going on for….(forever it seems since this is all I’ve written about on this blog for weeks now). Pope Theodore refused to recognize the new patriarch of Constantinople,Paul,because the previous guy(Pyrrhus)still believed in the Jesus of only one nature when he passed away,which Paul never corrected. Pope Theodore was still irritated because Pyrrhus had once come to Rome and denounced Monothelitism to the Pope’s face,then after leaving town flip-flopped back. This made the Pope so freaking mad that he supposedly wrote out the excommunication of Pyrrhus using consecrated wine on the tomb of St Peter as his desk. Supposedly(I doubt it was this dramatic but it’s still a cool image). On and on went the battle of wills between the two Churches over the nature of our Lord. The emperor of Constantinople was so sick of hearing about it that he jailed a Papal ambassador when the sensitive subject came up. Pope Theodore was sick of all of this too and called for the Lateran Council of 649 to condemn the issue and hopefully put it to rest once and for all. Unfortunately he passed away before the Council could meet and it would be the next Pope(Saint Martin I),who would bear the full brunt of this strife between the two Churches. This wouldn’t be settled for another 40 years after Theodore(six more weeks for me),so maybe by then I’ll learn to spell “Monothelitism” without the spellcheck correcting me.
Oh this Pope…..this Pope caused all kinds of trouble. The patriarch of Constantinople supported the idea of Monothelitism,which suggested that Christ had both a human and Divine nature but only one will,a Divine one. The Catholic Church had always declared that this was heresy,because we believe that Christ had both a human and Divine nature and both human and Divine wills. The patriarch of Constantinople had hoped that the Church could compromise on this and it would help bring Monothelites into the Church. He wrote Pope Honorius about this and the Pope took a “yeah whatever” approach to it……here’s where the trouble began. His general lax attitude wasn’t an issue until his successor Pope Severius(and the next several Popes)took a hard line,or rather the Church’s line,and refused to accept this heretical idea about the nature of Christ. In fact,forty years after his death,a council declared ANATHEMA(!!)to Pope Honorius. Anathema basically means “damned”. The council damned Honorius and all of the other clergy who supported the Monothelites. This Pope’s actions also gave ammo to critics of the idea of Papal Infallibility. This means the Pope is infallible when it comes to the teachings of the Church. Pope Honorius squeaked by this because he never actually taught Monothelitism or tried to change doctrine,he was just lazy about calling it out for being a heresy. The next several Popes,up to the fearless Pope Saint Martin I,will more than make up for this dip in the character of our Holy Father.