Monday, June 9, 2008

Crappy Popes

Yes, we've had them. In spades. It's probably one of the most common refuges of the anti-Catholic apologist. Of course, nine times out of ten they have no clue who these crappy popes are or why they are allegedly so bad. Typically, the ones they'll rattle off are bad because they happen to be (gasp!) Catholic.

Still, it's good to admit that there are some lowlights and the backstory behind their shenanigans. I recommend The Bad Popes by ER Chamberlin. It's a very balanced work that takes the reader through a number of papal bottom-feeders with good documentation and a willingness to view all sides of the story.

For example, he debunks the popular story that Alexander VI was the nadir of Catholic history. In fact, by the time Chamberlin is done, you'll wish some of these other guys were half the pope Alexander was.

You get a good run through of the Pornocracy (it's a real word) with real pieces of work like John XII and Benedict IX. There's at least one pope who probably went insane (Urban VI) and whose acts would lead to the Great Western Schism. There were guys who were too busy getting fat to see the horrors of the Reformation springing up around them (Leo X). And still others who were just so inept and incompetent that you can't help but pity them (Clement VII).

There are probably half a dozen or so popes that Chamberlin doesn't name that could have gone on the list as well. For example, Honorius contributed to the spread of monothelitism and Stephen VI gave us the Cadaver Synod. Still, the book is as thorough as a single volume of this sort is going to be. Lots of folks might think that reading these types of things could disillusion a Catholic about the Faith. It's actually the opposite. To paraphrase Pius VI, seeing these idiots and jerks in charge of the Church and Her endurance through the ages is about the best proof of Her divinity that there is. After all, if She wasn't divine, these guys would have destroyed Her long ago.

1 comment:

David said...

Don't forget the boy Pope, Benedict IX and his purported love of domestic animals