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To some it might seem, considering the interests of religion alone, desirable to omit all biographical reference
to the popes; but this cannot be done with Apology for referring to justice to the subject. The essential principle the biography of the papacy, that the Roman pontiff is the of the popes. vicar of Christ upon earth, necessarily obtrudes his personal relations upon us. How shall we understand his faith unless we see it illustrated in his life? Indeed, the unhappy character of those relations was the
inciting cause of the movements in Germany, France, and England, ending in the extinction of the papacy as an actual political power, movements to be understood only through a sufficient knowledge of the private lives and opinions of the popes. It is well, as far as possible, to abstain from burdening systems with the imperfections of individuals. In this case they are inseparably interwoven. The signal peculiarity of the papacy is that, though its history may be imposing, its biography is infamous. I shall, however, forbear to speak of it in this latter respect more than the occasion seems necessarily to require; shall pass in silence some of those cases which would profoundly shock my religious reader, and therefore restrict myself to the ages between the middle of the eighth and the middle of the eleventh centuries, excusing myself to the impartial critic by the apology that these were the ages with which I have been chiefly concerned in this chapter.
On the death of Pope Paul I., who had attained the pontificate A.D. 757, the Duke of Nepi compelled some
bishops to consecrate Constantine, one of his from A.D. 757. brothers, as pope; but more legitimate electors subsequently, A.D. 768, choosing Stephen IV., the usurper and his adherents were severely punished; the eyes of Constantine were put out; the tongue of the Bishop Theodorus was amputated, and he was left in a dungeon to expire in the agonies of thirst. The nephews of Pope Adrian seized his successor, Pope Leo III., A.D. 795, in the street, and, forcing him into a neighbouring church, attempted to put out his eyes and cut out his tongue; at a later period, this pontiff trying to suppress a conspiracy to depose him, Rome became the scene of rebellion, murder, and conflagration. His successor, Stephen V., A.D. 816, was. ignominiously driven from the city; his successor, Paschal
I., was accused of blinding and murdering two ecclesiastics in the Lateran Palace; it was necessary that imperial commissioners should investigate the matter, but the pope died, after having exculpated himself by oath before thirty bishops. John VIII., A.D. 872, unable to resist the Mohammedans, was compelled to pay them tribute; the Bishop of Naples, maintaining a secret alliance with them, received his share of the plunder they collected. Him John excommunicated, nor would he give him absolution unless he would betray the chief Mohammedans and assassinate others himself. There was an ecclesiastical conspiracy to murder the pope; some of the treasures of the Church were seized ; and the gate of St. Pancrazia was opened with false keys, to admit the Saracens into the city. Formosus, who had been engaged in these transactions, and excommunicated as a conspirator for the murder of John, was subsequently elected pope, A.D. 891; he was succeeded by Boniface VI., A.D. 896, who had been deposed from the diaconate, and again from the priesthood, for his. immoral and lewd life. By Stephen VII., who followed, the dead body of Formosus was taken from the grave. clothed in the papal habiliments, propped up in a chair, tried before a council
, and the preposterous and indecent scene completed by cutting off three of the fingers of the corpse and casting it into the Tiber; but Stephen himself was destinod to exemplify how low the papacy
had fallen: he was thrown into prison and strangled. In the course of five years, from A.D. 896 to A.D. 900, five popes were consecrated. Leo V., who succeeded in A.D. 904, was in less than two months thrown into prison by Christopher, one of his chaplains, who usurped his place, and who, in his turn, was shortly expelled from Rome by Sergius III., who, by the aid of a military force, seized the pontificate, A.D. 905. This man, according to the testimony of the times, lived in criminal intercourse with the celebrated prostitute Theodora, who, with her daughters. Marozia and Theodora, also prostitutes, exercised an extraordinary control over him. The love of Theodora was also shared by John X.: she gave him first the archbishopric of Ravenna, and then translated him to Rome, A.D. 915, as pope. John was not unsuited to the times; he organized a confederacy which perhaps prevented Rome from being captured by the Saracens, and the world was astonished and edified by the appearance of this warlike pontiff at the head of his troops. By the love of Theodora, as was said, he had maintained himself in the papacy
for fourteen years; by the intrigues and hatred of her daughter Marozia he was overthrown. She surprised him in the Lateran Palace; killed his brother Peter before his face; threw him into prison, where he soon died, smothered, as was asserted, with a pillow. After a short interval Marozia made her own son pope as John XI., A.D. 931. Many affirmed that Pope Sergius was his father, but she herself inclined to attribute him to her husband Alberic, whose brother Guido she subsequently married. Another of her sons, Alberic, so called from his supposed father, jealous of his brother John, cast him and their mother Marozia into prison. After a time Alberic's son was elected pope, A.D. 956; he assumed the title of John XII., the amorous Marozia thus having given a son and a grandson to the papacy. John was only nineteen years old when he thus became the head of Christendom. His reign was characterized by the most shocking immoralities, so that the Emperor Otho I. was compelled by the German clergy to interfere. A synod was summoned for his trial in the Church of St. Peter, before which it appeared that John had received bribes for the consecration of bishops, that he had ordained one who was but ten years old, and had performed that ceremony over another in a stable ; he was charged with incest with one of his father's concubines, and with so many adulteries that the Lateran Palace had become a brothel; he put out the eyes of one ecclesiastic and castrated another, both dying in consequence of their injuries ; he was given to drunkenness, gambling, and the invocation of Jupiter and Venus. When cited to appear before the council, he sent word that “he had gone out hunting;” and to the fathers who remonstrated with him, he threateningly remarked " that Judas, as well as the other disciples, received from his master the power of binding and loosing, but that as soon as he proved a traitor to the common cause, the only power he retained was that of . binding his own neck.” Hereupon he was deposed, and
Leo VIII. elected in his stead, A.D. 963; but subsequently getting the upper hand, he seized his antagonists, cut off the hand of one, the nose, finger, tongue of others. His life was eventually brought to an end by the vengeance of a man whose wife he had seduced.
After such details it is almost needless to allude to the annals of succeeding popes: to relate that John XIII. was strangled in prison; that Boniface VII. imprisoned Benedict VII., and killed him by starvation; that John XIV. was secretly put to death in the dungeons of the Castle of St. Angelo; that the corpse of Boniface was dragged by the populace through the streets. The sentiment of reverence for the sovereign pontiff, nay, even of respect, had become extinct in Rome; throughout Europe the clergy were so shocked at the state of things, that, in their indignation, they began to look with approbation on the intention of the Emperor Otho to take from the Italians their privilege of appointing the successor of St. Peter, and confine it to his own family. But his kinsman, Gregory V., whom he placed on the pontifical throne, was very soon compelled by the Romans to fly; his excommunications and religious thunders were turned into derision by them; they were too well acquainted with the true nature of those terrors; they were living behind the scenes. A terrible punishment awaited the Anti-pope John XVI. Otho returned into Italy, seized him, put out his eyes, cut off his nose and tongue, and sent him through the streets mounted on an ass, with his face to the tail, and a wine-bladder on his head.
It seemed impossible that things could become worse; yet Rome had still to see Benedict IX., A.D. 1033, a boy of less than twelve years, raised to the apostolic throne. Of this pontiff, one of his successors, Victor III., declared that his life was so shameful, so foul, so execrable, that he shuddered to describe it. He ruled like a captain of banditti rather than a prelate. The people at The papacy last, unable to bear his adulteries, homicides, bought at and abominations any longer, rose against him. 1045, by In despair of maintaining his position, he put Gregory VI. up the papacy to auction. It was bought by a presbyter named John, who became Gregory VI., A.D. 1045.
More than a thousand years had elapsed since the birth of our Saviour, and such was the condition of Rome. Well may
the historian shut the annals of those times in respectingthis disgust; well may the heart of the Christian biography.
sink within him at such a catalogue of hideous crimes. Well may he ask, Were these the vicegerents of God upon earth—these, who had truly reached that goal beyond which the last effort of human wickedness cannot pass ? Not until several centuries after these events did public
opinion come to the true and philosophical consophical
clusion—the total rejection of the divine claims conclusion at of the papacy. For a time the evils were attri
buted to the manner of the pontifical election, as if that could by any possibility influence the descent of a power which claimed to be supernatural and under the immediate care of God. The manner of election was this. The Roman ecclesiastics recommended a candidate
to the College of Cardinals; their choice had to imputed to be ratified by the populace of Rome, and, after papal elec
that, the emperor must give his approval. There
were thus to be brought into agreement the machinations of the lower ecclesiastics, the intrigues of the cardinals, the clamours of the rabble of Rome, and the policy of the emperor. Such a system must inevitably break to pieces with its own incongruities. Though we may wonder that men failed to see that it was merely a human device, we cannot wonder that the emperors perceived the necessity of taking the appointments into their own hands, and that Gregory VII. was resolved to confine it to the College of Cardinals, to the exclusion of the emperor, the Roman people, and even of the rest of Christendom-an attempt in which he succeeded.
No one can study the development of the Italian ecclesiastical power without discovering how completely it Human origin depended on human agency, too often on human of the papacy, passion and intrigues; how completely wanting
mark of the Divine construction and carethe offspring of man, not of God, and therefore bearing upon it the lineaments of human passions, human virtues, and human sins.
the nature of