Saturday, December 15, 2007

Interesting People: Pope Benedict IX

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHow does one pick just one Pope to focus on? You have Alexander VI, the "Borgia Pope" who was installed in 1492 and fathered four children while leader of the church. You have Pius IX, whose hand-picked prime minister was fatally stabbed in public, before angry pro-democracy protesters trapped Pius in his offices until he caved in to their demands. That doesn't even get into the crunchy legends such as Pope Joan. But for today, let's focus on Benedict IX.

What can you expect when a kid becomes Pope? Not much, even if that person becomes pope three times. Some tales have him becoming Pope at 20, others at...12. Actually, to put a finer point on it, the Catholic Encyclopedia calls him a "disgrace to the Chair of Peter. Well!

Benedict became Pope in 1032, when many Catholics were recovering from the letdown of not being Raptured/killed with the return of Jesus. At this time, the Papacy was basically a minor kingship, replete with its own troops and lands, so unsurprisingly the Chair was the subject of a great deal of maneuvering. Four years into Papacy -- about the time kids here get their learner's permits -- he was driven out of Rome by an angry mob. A friendly king re-seated Benedict, and a mob drove him off a second time.

And he came back. Decided he didn't like it, so his archpriest paid him a large sum of money to buy the Papacy from him, and became Pope Gregory VI. What was life like under Benedict IX. Accusations of homosexuality and even beastiality never went away, and he was excommunicated for simony ( selling holy offices). One future pope named him "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest" and another named him "devoted to pleasure" according to the future Pope Victor III and then abbot.

So apparently, no matter what the current pope does, he won't even be the worst Benedict in history...

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