Pope John XII was a scoundrel,to put it best,and at worst he was said to have “soiled the Chair of Peter for 9 years”. When the ruler of all of Rome,Alberic II,was on his deathbed,he forced all of the clergy to promise to elect his son Prince Octavianus to the Papacy(once the current Pope passed away). Octavianus was all of 18 when he became the Holy Father and if you were to wonder how a spoiled rich child of the most powerful man in Rome would act as Pope,you would not be disappointed.
Whoring,gambling,hunting,drinking,fighting(check,check check..) During his reign,Pope John would be accused of rape,of incest,of blinding his confessor and castrating a Cardinal,basically a demon from Hell. Oddly enough,when he did care about actual Catholic business,he was strangely very serious and dedicated to the growth of the Church in Spain,England and Germany. He appointed many great men to be Bishops in these countries(I guess so they could do the hard work while he played)
Pope John’s downfall came when he personally led armies into northern Italy to reclaim Papal lands stolen by the King of Italy. When his men stumbled he requested aid from King Otto of Germany. King Otto smashed the Italian forces and helped to assure Papal control of the region. All he requested in return of his services was for Pope John to crown him Holy Emperor,which John did. Once this took place Pope John immediately started to plot King Otto’s demise(swell guy!) The offended King Otto promptly marched back into Rome and ran John out of the country. Otto elected a new Pope(Leo VIII)to replace John but the disposed Pope soon gathered reinforcements and set his eyes on reclaiming the Vatican. All out war was brewing between John and Otto when our devious Pope met his end in a most demeaning way. He was having…..let’s say “relations” when he was brutally beaten to death by a jealous husband. Credit due to the Catholic Church in that they never shy away from the darker parts of their history. If we were to somehow ask Pope Francis what his thoughts are on Pope John XIII,he’d for sure acknowledge that yes,that guy was a pain in the ass.
“The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.” – Hilaire Belloc
Born of a noble Roman family,Pope Adrian’s Papacy began under a dark cloud. A very dark and terrible cloud. When Adrian was younger and before becoming a priest,he was married and had a daughter. When he separated from his wife,Adrian entered into the clergy and moved his way up the ranks from Deacon to Cardinal and was finally(reluctantly)elected Pope in 867. Repercussions from the recent past came storming back to the Papacy when Eleutherius,the brother of disgraced Anti-Pope Anastasius,saw an opportunity to pay back Rome for all the trouble his family had been put through. Eleutherius took revenge in the worst way possible,by kidnapping and murdering the former wife and the daughter of Pope Adrian II. Awful. Just awful. Although it’s not known if he was involved,Anastasius was excommunicated(again),and his brother was put to death. Pitiful Pope Adrian went on to continue the work started by previous Pope Nicholas and eventually died five years to the day that he was elected.
Pope Sergius II was a terrible Pope. He came to the chair of Peter through violent intimidation from his supporters and then spent the entirety of his term basically crippled with gout. Sergius was so indisposed that his brother Benedict actually took over running things most of the time,much to the dismay of the clergy. Benedict loved money and was not opposed to accepting bribes in exchange for high ranking jobs within the Church. Terrible. Things came to a head in 846 when an army of Muslim invaders attacked and looted St.Peter’s basilica while Sergius hid behind the walls of Rome. The Roman people looked on the Muslim invasion and subsequent destruction caused by it as Divine retribution from God for all of the Pope’s crimes. Sergius passed away shortly afterwards,but I could find no mention of what became of his sleazy brother. I hate writing about bad Popes,but these guys were still human and for all the good and even great Popes we’ve had,we still had some duds in the bunch.
The only real interesting thing about Pope Sergius II was that he was played by John Goodman in a awful sounding movie called “Pope Joan”. This movie concerns the legend of a woman who disguised herself as a man and worked her way unrecognized up through the Church and to the Papacy. This is nonsense. The elections of Popes at this time were highly contested affairs that almost always provoked riots and almost always needed intervention from kings or emperors to settle. This reason alone is enough to dispute this myth,as I doubt someone could simply sail past all of these contentious obstacles without being found out. The lack of legitimate documentation from history or even the Church’s enemies and the lack of a specific actual time frame when this all would have taken place are more reasons to dispel “Pope Joan”.