DARK HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
SQUABBLES AND SCHISMS
The word 'Catholic' means 'universal' - and so the Church of Rome would like
to be considered. But these claims have been disputed since early on. Quarrels
have been frequent; wholesale splits have divided a Church that's never been
more militant than in its frequent internal feuds.
'If a kingdom is divided within itself, that kingdom cannot stand.'
'One holy, Catholic and apostolic Church,' says the Creed. If only it could be so simple. Every one of those words has caused controversy at one time or another. The first word, 'one', which sounds self-evidently true, has arguably been the most hotly contested, so many have been the divisions and the splits.
Jews vs Gentiles
Scarcely, in fact, had Jesus left this Earth than his followers were bickering over the actual shape that 'Christianity' should take. The Church was to invest a great deal in the figure of St Peter - Petrus, the punning
St Paul preaches in an image from a sixteenth-century edition of his own 'Epistle to the Romans'. Whilst his insistence on reaching out to the Gentiles caused real controversy, it arguably made Catholicism - and Christianity in general - what it is today.
NO IT DID NOT; PAUL HAS BEEN VERY MISUNDERSTOOD; HE TAUGHT ONE FAITH FOR BOTH JEW AND GENTILE. TODAYS POPULAR CHRISTIANITY IS NO WHERE CLOSE TO THE THEOLOGY OF PAUL - Keith Hunt
'rock' on which Christ had promised to build his Church. If the head of the Apostles had had his way, however, Christ's religion might have remained a minor sect of Judaism. It had been St Paul, the 'Apostle of the Gentiles', who had argued for the Christian duty to 'go and teach all nations' and promoted Catholicism as a creed for all humankind. As a result, a great many scholars see Paul - not Peter - as Christianity's real founder after Christ himself. It was certainly he who, as proud of his Roman citizenship as he was of his Jewish identity, led the drive to centre the Church on what was then the central city of the world.
AGAIN NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH; PAUL AND PETER HAD THE SAME THEOLOGY; THE SAME AS ALL THE APOSTLES OF THE ONE TRUE FAITH, ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS. TODAYS POPULAR CHRISTIANITY DID NOT COME FROM PETER OR PAUL, IT CAME FROM A FALSE THEOLOGY FROM ROME, AFTER THE DEATH OF PETER AND PAUL AND ALL THE ORIGINAL APOSTLES, JOHN BEING WITNESS TO THE CORRUPTIONS TAKING PLACE [AS HE LIVED TO NEAR THE END OF THE FIRST CENTURY AD], AND SO WRITING ABOUT THEM IN HIS LETTERS AND THE BOOK OF REVELATION - Keith Hunt
Popes and Anti-Popes
The degree to which differences of opinion and emphasis between Paul and Peter actually tipped over into outright conflict is far from clear - scholars dispute the matter to this day. One thing is for sure, though: factionalism flared up early and recurred with frequency thereafter - whether over doctrine or ritual or simply the will to power. Fighting over the papacy dates back just about to the very start of that
PETER AND PAUL HAD NO DIFFERENCES ON THEOLOGY; ALL THE ORIGINAL APOSTLES OF JESUS WERE ONE IN UNITY OF THEOLOGY - Keith Hunt
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, was criticized for readmitting into his congregation those lapsi who'd literally 'lapsed' in the face of fierce persecution under the Emperor Decius in the early 250s. He himself stood firm, and was indeed to be martyred when the next crackdown came along in 258.
A liberal avantla lettre, Pope Callixtus I was considered too easy-going and forgiving in his attitudes by many in the third-century Church. His critics went so far as to elect an anti-pope in opposition
to his reign.
institution's history in the third century. (Despite the Gospel story, few serious historians of the Roman Catholic Church believe that St Peter was 'Pope' in anything remotely like the later sense.) The anointment of Callixtus I in 217 provoked a storm among those who saw his forgiving attitude to adulterers and remarried clergy as over-lax, and prompted the election of an 'anti-Pope' in the person of Hippolytus.
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BY THE MIDDLE OF THE SECOND CENTURY AD HAD BECOME SO DIFFERENT FROM THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH, BOTH POLYCRATES AND POLYCARP OF THE TRUE CHURCHES IN ASIA MINAOR [NOW TURKEY] NEEDED TO GO TO ROME TO DEBATE THEOLOGY WITH THE BISHOP OF ROME - TO NO AVAIL; ROME WENT ON ITS OWN PATHWAY WITH ITS OWN DIFFERENT CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY - Keith Hunt
Many commentators, impatient with what they see as the hypocrisy and cynicism of the modern Church, point to the 'purity' and 'idealism' of the early Christians. Fair enough, perhaps, and yet in justice it should be noted that the supporters of these rival Popes fought deeply unedifying battles with one another in the streets of Rome. Many were killed and wounded before the quarrelling was brutally cut short by a renewed round of persecution on the part of a still-hostile Roman state. Undignified although their squabbling may have been, both presumptive pontiffs found a degree of nobility in death, each ending up as a martyr for his faith.
TRUE; THE ROMAN THEOLOGIANS WERE WILLING TO STICK TO THEIR THEOLOGY EVEN UNTO DEATH. THEY DID I'M SURE BELIEVE GOD HAD GIVEN THEM THIS THEOLOGY; HENCE DECEIVED EVEN TO DEATH - Keith Hunt
Not long after, in 251, the election of Pope Cornelius sparked another bitter conflict: some considered that their new leader had been craven in keeping his head down during the Emperor Trajan's Decius persecution. Novatian, elected in opposition to Cornelius' authority, was the first in a little line of anti-Popes representing this purist faction.
Later 'heresies' were often really reformist movements brought about by impatience with the bureaucracy or the corruption of what had become a big and unaccountable institution. In the early days of the Church's history, however, important points of doctrine had yet to be ironed out and there was a feeling that key ideas were up for grabs. Arianism is a good example. Its proponents argued - with Arius, an Egyptian monk - that Christ, although an inspiration, had not in fact been divine. St Ambrose led the fight against this heresy as Bishop of Milan in the fourth century, but it continued to flourish, being taken up by many within Europe's ruling class. It was finally halted in its tracks in 381 by the Emperor Theodosius' condemnation at the Constantinople Conference. That same year the Nicene Creed clearly rejected Arianism's claims. But its influence persisted in outlying regions of the West.
The fifth century brought the Nestorian Schism. An Archbishop of Constantinople, Nestorius claimed that Christ as God and Christ as Man were not two different aspects of the same being but actually two distinct persons. This heresy was taken up especially in the east, leading to the breaking-away of the so-called Assyrian Church. Monophysitism, by contrast, held that Christ had only one aspect, the divine. Its supporters were fiercely at odds with the Nestorians in the East. And on the streets of Rome itself, where what may sound like the most exquisitely rarefied of theological discussions, were all too often pursued with sticks and knives leaving hundreds killed and wounded.
YES AS THE FALSE DECEIVED THEOLOGIANS HAGGLED OVER DOCTRINES [THE TRUE APOSTOLIC FIRST CENTURY MEN, AFTER SETTLING THE "CIRCUMCISION" QUESTION [ACTS 15] WENT ON IN HARMONY AS TO THE TRUE PRACTICES AND DOCTRINES OF GOD - Keith Hunt
IN THE BOX
In 853, on the death of Leo IV, a female impostor is said to have ascended St Peter's throne. At first undetected in her male garb, she was finally discovered two years later, her gender revealed in the most public way possible. Suddenly, writes Jean de Mailly, during a papal procession through the streets of Rome, she gave birth to a baby before the eyes of an astonished crowd. Astounded and indignant, seeing II Papa so spectacularly exposed as a mama, the post-partum pontiff was dragged off behind a horse and stoned to death. Legend had it that from that time for several centuries successive Popes were enthroned for coronation in a chair with a hole in the seat through which a groping attendant could ascertain the existence of testicles beneath their robes. The story of Tope Joan' was to grow in the telling, becoming a staple of anti-clerical satire in the Reformation period - and it's an intriguing little parenthesis in papal history, true or not.
It's easy to see the appeal of the Pope Joan story, however questionable the evidence. Could this most patriarchal of institutions have been a matriarchy - however briefly? Protestants may have sneered, but many Catholics have wondered wistfully whether women might have a place in the hierarchy of the Church.
The East-West Schism
Like the Roman Empire with which by now it had become so closely identified, the Church divided naturally to some extent between East and West. And just as the 'Roman' Empire had come to be led economically and politically by its eastern outpost at Constantinople, the Western Church had played 'poor
St Ambrose, then the Bishop of Milan, bars his cathedral door to Theodosius I in protest against a massacre he has ordered. So impressed was the Emperor at this display of quiet courage that he became the bishop's ally in his struggle against the Arian heresy.
relation' to the institution in the East. All this changed with Charlemagne's coronation in 774. 'Carolus Magnus', or Charles the Great, was King of the Franks but, expanding his influence along an axis spanning the Alps from France and Germany through Italy, he created what became known as the 'Holy Roman Empire'. As the influence of this new superstate grew, so did that of the papacy in Rome, which increasingly challenged the authority of the Eastern Church.
In the centuries that followed, the fortunes of both regions fluctuated, up and down. More and more, though, they thrived or failed independently of each other. Theology followed politics and economics: by the beginning of the eleventh century, the two spheres were starting to go their separate ways. The differences concerned everything from the distribution of divinity among the 'Holy Trinity' and the right of the clergy to marry, to (quite seriously) the pros and cons of leavened versus unleavened bread in the Eucharist. It was indeed this last question that pushed Pope Leo IX to breaking point. In 1054, a legate from Rome laid a papal bull or decree on the altar of Constantinople's Hagia Sophia church, denouncing the actions and pronouncements of the Eastern Patriarch, Michael Kerullarios. The latter, unimpressed, immediately issued his own attack on the papacy: what has come to be known as the East-West Schism was under way.
It was to continue until 1965, at least in ecclesiastical theory, when a resolution was reached by the Patriarch and Pope Paul. To most people, though - even to believers on either side - the Catholic and Orthodox Churches had long since come to seem established as completely separate things.
The coronation of Carolus Magnus - 'Charlemagne' - in 774 wasn't just a magnificent occasion in itself: it tipped the whole political balance of Europe sharply westward. The Holy Roman Empire, a unique coalition between Church and imperial state, was to dominate European affairs for centuries.
The sacred altar, fashioned from every sort of precious material and
beheld as a wonder by the entire world, was broken up into bits and
shared out among the soldiers - as were the other holy treasures of
this splendid shrine ...
IN THE BOX
The Crusade Against Christians
How do we do God's work without the wherewithal? Take it by force from the more vulnerable, if we are to follow the example of the Fourth Crusade. Long resented as an economic threat by rival trading centres in the West, such as Genoa and Venice, Constantinople was diven by dynastic struggles at the start of the thirteenth century. So it was that it seemed a natural next step for the leaders of the Fourth Crusade, when they found themselves short of funds to feed and pay their men, to divert to Constantinople and subject the city to a lengthy siege.
Finding a pretext in the ousting of Emperor Isaac II Angelos by his brother Alexios, they attacked the Christian capital with ferocious force. When they finally succeeded in penetrating its defences, they ran amok, embarking on an orgy of destruction. For three full days and nights they roamed the city's streets, ransacking palaces, churches and houses, looting, raping and killing as they went. Many thousands must have died: it isn't inhumanity that makes the contemporary witnesses focus on the sacrilegious damage to the city's holy places but their sense of symbolism, of a civilization and its sanctity raped and murdered.
'How', asked the Byzantine scholar Nicetas Choniates, having seen this spree of blasphemy, 'am I even to begin to describe the deeds of these wicked men? Alas, the sacred images, instead of being adored, were stamped underfoot! Alas, the holy martyrs' relics were cast down into unclean places! Then finally - one shudders even to hear such things - the consecrated body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ were casually pilled upon the ground or thrown about.' Even Hagia Sophia, that great central shrine of Eastern Christianity, was subjected to vandalism and humiliation of the vilest sort.
'The sacred altar, fashioned from every sort of precious material and beheld as a wonder by the entire world, was broken up into bits and shared out among the soldiers - as were the other holy treasures of this splendid shrine ...
'Mules and horses were led into the innermost sanctuary of the shrine to carry away the treasure. Some, which couldn't keep their footing on the glasslike flooring, fell - and had to be stabbed and killed, so the sacred pavement ended up befouled with blood and gore.'
But the crowning insult was administered by 'a certain harlot', a companion of the victors, who 'sat in the seat of the Patriarch, singing obscenety and dancing shamelessly'. Outside in the city at large, meanwhile,
'... in the alleys, in the streets, in the churches, cries of complaint, sobbing, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the screams of women, wounds, rape, abductions, the forcible parting of the closest families. Nobles wandered ignominiously; the respectable elderly walked weeping, the wealthy in poverty - their riches stolen. So it was in the streets, on the corners, in the greatest church, in the lowest dives - no corner of the city was left unattacked; there was no sanctuary. Every place in every part of the city was filled with every type of crime. Oh, immortal God, how fearful men's afflictions, how terrible the distress!'
A Pocket Pope
The greater the Church's wealth and spiritual authority, the more significant its political power - paradoxically, this was a source of vulnerability. Determined to annex the Church's influence to their own, Europe's kings and princes tried to push Popes
Nicholas IV might have been remembered for being the first Franciscan pope: instead he's the pontiff who let his Church be drawn into the Italian politics of his time. A genuinely unworldly man, he doesn't deserve the stigma of cynicism - a more ruthless player might have managed to steer clear.
around, intimidate and influence them. The Popes were forced into playing politics themselves.
It was a dangerous game. In 1288, Pope Nicholas IV started seeking the support of Italy's powerful Colonna family. To them, a Pope was just another pawn. In pursuance of their longstanding rivalry with the rulers of Aragon, they persuaded Nicholas to back their allies in France's House of Anjou. He accordingly crowned Prince Charles of Anjou King of Sicily and Naples. The Colonnas saw no need to surrender their special status under Nicholas' successor, Celestine V He even moved his papal court to Naples out of deference to Charles.
Obviously, ignominiously, out of his depth, Celestine abdicated only five months into his papacy, in 1295.
Had he jumped or was he pushed? Baptized Benedetto Caetani, his successor Boniface III was a seriously intimidating figure. Celestine didn't just step down from his papal throne. He actually fled for his life and Boniface had him hunted down. He imprisoned him in a castle, where he died the following year.
Boniface was uncowed by the Colonnas, unfazed by France and unperturbed by the power of Charles II of Sicily and Naples, but his confrontational manner only ended up hastening a crisis that had arguably always been coming. Years of harassment culminated in an abduction and assassination attempt organized by Duke Sciarra Colonna and the Anjoually Guillaume de Nogaret in 1303 - Boniface survived what was to become known in the annals of the Church as the 'Outrage', but died of natural causes a few weeks later.
On the Move
The precedent Celestine had set by resigning from the papacy while in office wasn't to be repeated till the twenty-first century with the controversial abdication of Pope Benedict XVI (see below). But in relocating his court to Naples, it turned out he was establishing something of a trend: the 'Roman' Catholic Church became all but nomadic in the years that followed. While Boniface had restored the papal seat to Rome and his successor Benedict XI remained there, despite the pressure, the French won out after Benedict's death. As Bertrand de Got, the new Pope Clement V had been Archbishop of Bordeaux. He never so much as visited Rome and, four years into his reign in 1309, formally transferred the seat of papal power to Avignon in southern France. On behalf of France's Philip IV, he quickly moved to reinforce French domination in
Seen here in the simple habit of a monk, Celestine V found the pomp and power of the papacy utterly bewildering. Bullied alike by Italy's noblemen and his supposed supporters in the Church, he quit his office in confusion and despair after just five months.
the wider Church by creating no fewer than 19 new cardinals from the country.
Clement V also created a splendid court - so splendid as to make many wonder what all the opulence could have to do with the Christian religion. 'Here', wrote the poet Petrarch, visiting Avignon in 1340, 'reign the successors of the poor fishermen of Galilee; they have strangely forgotten their origin. I am astounded, recalling their ancestors, to see these men weighed down by gold and dressed in purple, vaunting the spoils of princes and of nations; seeing luxurious palaces and battlemented walls, rather than a boat turned upside-down for shelter...
'Instead of sacred solitude, we get a criminal gang, with crowds of cronies; in place of sobriety, we find wild banquets...'
One such banquet, contemporary chroniclers report, had 3000 guests - although even for that number over 120 cattle, 100 calves, 900 kids, 60 pigs, 10,000 chickens, 1400 geese, 300 pike and 200 barrels of wine sounds a bit excessive.
'These are but the prelude to
their orgies. I will not count the
number of wives stolen or virgins
More specifically, fleshly sins were by no means absent. 'Prostitutes swarm on the papal beds', said Petrarch, and he went on:
'I will not speak of adultery, seduction, rape, incest: these are but the prelude to their orgies. I will not count the number of wives stolen or virgins deflowered. I will not tell of how they pressure the outraged husbands and fathers into silence, nor of the wickedness of those who willingly sell their women for gold.'
'Avignon', he summed up, was 'the foundation of anguish, the dwelling-place of wrath, the school of errors, the temple of heresy ... the false guilt-laden Babylon, the forge of lies, the horrible prison, the hell on Earth.'
EVEN BACK THEN, THOSE WITH ANY SENSE OF MIND, ANY NORMALCY OF MNIND, COULD SEE THE ROMAN CHURCH WAS ANYTHING BUT CHRIST'S TRUE CHURCH. IT WAS, AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN, "BABYLON, MYSTERY RELIGION" - Keith Hunt
Avignon provided the papacy with a secure base away from the politicking and intriguing of Italy. The protection - and the lavish support - of France was to come at a very high price, however: the Church faced losing all autonomy.
IN THE BOX
Oxymoronic as it may be to modern eyes, the idea of the 'military priest' seemed sensible enough in the topsy-turvy Christian thinking of the Crusading era. The 'right' of the pilgrim to visit the Holy Places of the Middle East had to be defended; with all its talk of 'turning the other cheek' and loving one's enemies, Christianity had to be upheld, if necessary, at the point of a sword. Hence the establishment of several orders of armed priests in the Holy Land (not to mention the Teutonic Knights of Christendom's northern frontier). Perhaps the most famous of these were the Knights Templar. So called on account of their founding priory on Jerusalem's Temple Mount (in fact a corner of the confiscated Al-Aqsa Mosque), the Knights Templar were tasked with providing support for pilgrims visiting Christ's City.
Given the manifold dangers of the journey - not just in the Middle East, but all the way, whether by land or sea, it made sense for one aspect of this support to involve a form of banking so that travellers didn't have to carry quantities of gold. On the back of what became a thriving business, the Templars grew extremely rich, their fortune soon attracting envious glances from Europe's monarchies. Philip IV, heavily in hock to the order, began briefing against them assiduously in the 1300s, cooking up claims of everything from financial malfeasance to sodomy.
Clement V obediently ordered a crackdown and the Knights were suppressed: 15,000 priests were arrested and many of them tortured on the rack. Highly-coloured testimony about blasphemous rituals, homosexual orgies, idol-worship and grand-scale corruption was wrung out under extreme duress. Ironically, if unsurprisingly, the main financial beneficiary was Philip IV who won twice over, writing off his debts and securing much of the Templars' wealth.
THERE IS A FULL STUDY IN THIS SECTION OF MY WEBSITE, DEVOTED TO THE TRUTH OF THE KNIGHT'S TEMPLAR. YOU WILL NOTE: ROMAN CATHOLIC AGAINST ROMAN CATHOLIC, EVEN TO TORTURE AND DEATH, WAS JUST PART OF LIVING IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC WORLD OF THAT TIME - AGAIN CLEARLY SHOWING WE ARE HERE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE TRUE CHURCH OF CHRIST, BUT A CHURCH INFLUENCED BY, OR DIRECTLY CONTROLLED BY SATAN THE DEVIL AND HIS DEMONS - Keith Hunt
A Faith Without Foundation
Did any of this matter? Strange as it may seem today to think of the 'Roman' Catholic Church being administered from southern France, there was arguably nothing wrong with a relocation of this kind. 'My kingdom is not of this world', Jesus had said in scripture: if the Church's realms were essentially spiritual, did it matter where its Earthly headquarters were? Initial indications were that it didn't. The Church appeared to be flourishing in France, growing steadily in splendour and in wealth - if this had brought with it some questionable moral behaviour - pace Petrarch, that was by no means entirely new.
Philip IV of France was responsible for suppressing both the Knights Templar and the Jews. His motives in the two cases were much the same. Fearing both groups as brotherhoods at work within his state, he also coveted their money - both had accumulated great wealth in the banking business.
There were grounds, then, for arguing that the move to Avignon hadn't actually done the papacy too much harm - even that it had done it a degree of good. After Clement's death in 1314, six successive Popes reigned from Avignon.
This surely represented stability of a sort? Granted, it was a stability founded in immorality and decadence (Gregory XI, who reigned from 1370 to 1378, was widely believed to have been Clement VI's son). But it was still stability. The real cost - and it was to be considerable - was to the Church's autonomy. Behind the scenes, the French Crown was wielding unprecedented - and ever-growing - power.
Ultimately, indeed, it came to threaten the Church's very existence. The move to France had left the Church in Italy bereft. Rome in particular had become a city without a purpose, its role of so many centuries lost. The population had plummeted: something like 25,000 people rattled round in a vast and yet increasingly decrepit city-shell that had housed a million and a half in the early days of Christianity at the Empire's height. It was scarcely a city, more a strange and lonely
Under Urban VI, the Church reasserted its independence of the French Crown - much to the vexation of Charles V. Not to be outdone, the King created his own pope and set him up in Avignon: the Church was once again divided by this 'Western Schism'.
wilderness where packs of wolves wandered along its deserted streets. Rome wasn't the only victim here. The wider Church was feeling ruined as well. Queen Bridget of Sweden had joined St Catherine of Siena in lobbying for a return to Rome. Across Christian Europe, believers were coming to feel that if the Church could be ruled from Avignon as well as it might be from Rome, it wasn't the Catholic Church to which they felt they belonged.
HOW MANY KNOW THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS NOT ALWAYS HEADQUARTERED IN ROME? MOST CATHOLICS WOULD NEVER GUESS THIS WAS THE CASE IN THE HISTORY OF THEIR CHURCH - Keith Hunt
A Proliferation of Popes
Typically, the return to Rome when it came was not to be dictated by religious reasons but by the Church's mounting fear that it might lose its lands in Italy. Instability in the country encouraged Pope Gregory XI to intervene before one of the warring aristocrats decided to help himself to the Papal States - those territories supposedly gifted to the Church under the 'Donation of Constantine' (see above). His move with key courtiers from Avignon to Rome in 1377 seems to have been more a diplomatic mission than a wholesale restoration of a Roman papacy, but in 1378 his death of a bladder problem left his retinue marooned in Rome. There, the people rose up, and it was really in response to the pressure of the mob that the cardinals held a hasty election and anointed a new - and Italian - pontiff, Pope Urban VI.
The clerics got more than they had bargained for: Urban was an exacting chief and a zealous reformer. Many in the Church's own hierarchy found themselves increasingly in sympathy with an indignant Charles V of France. The French Crown had by no means finished with a papacy it had come to look on as its own possession. Charles accordingly endowed his own 'Pope', Clement VII. Three centuries on from the great East-West Schism, the Church had been divided once again: this new 'Western Schism' carved western Christendom in two.
In the decades that followed, the split was to continue: four further 'anti-Popes' were to be elected as French counters to the Popes of Rome. Called to arbitrate in the dispute, the Council of Pisa (1408) made matters even worse - for a time the Church boasted not just two Popes but three. Finally, reason prevailed and in 1417 Pope Martin V received the recognition of the entire Catholic Church.
A Spanish Splinter-Church
Arguably the last of the Avignon Popes (although even that title isn't undisputed), Benedict XIII was well-meaning enough, as far as it went. He'd impressed his
IN THE BOX
THE PIRATE PONTIFF
The last of the anti-Popes, John XXIII is very definitely not to be confused with the 'Blessed' Pope John XXIIII, famous as the great reformer of the modern Church. Born Baldassare Cossa on the Isle of Ischia, 'John' seems to have worked in mysterious ways to reach his clerical vocation, serving first as a pirate (two of his brothers were executed for their crimes) and then - worse, it might be argued - as a lawyer. He was in his 30s before he became a priest, and appears to have relied heavily on his old connections in Ischia's pirate bands as he bullied, schemed and possibly murdered his way up the rankings of the alternative papacy. In 1413 he was forced to flee to Florence, but was caught and compelled to appear at the Council of Constance - he again escaped and fled, but was captured, deposed and put on trial. As the English historian Edward Gibbon was to put it wryly, 'The most scandalous charges were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest.' Apparently, the charge sheet might have included the seduction of over 200 matrons, widows and virgins - 'to say nothing of an alarming number of nuns'.
The anti-Pope John XXIII arrives at Constance after his arrest in 1413. He had briefly been one of three popes in the world. Reluctant to give up his place, he fled with his patron, Frederick IV of Austria, but was finally recaptured and forced to yield.
contemporaries by his intellect, his piety and his simple life. But, while he had commitment to his Church, he had none at all to Rome. As Pedro de Luna, he had been born in 1328 into an Aragonese nobility that had always sided with France's House of Anjou and its Avignon papacy. So he had no hesitation in accepting the succession to Clement VII as King Charles's Pope.
And all the indications are that he was a confident, capable and tolerant administrator of 'his' Church. As time went on, however, and the whole idea of the Avignon papacy became more controversial, Benedict appears to have grown defensive - and desperate to justify his reign. This, it has been suggested, was what motivated his campaign for the conversion of Spain's Jews - and his vindictive rage when his efforts abjectly failed. For centuries, believers had looked to the mass recruitment of the Jews to the cause of Christ as a sort of benignly apocalyptic turning-point in religious history. By winning what would have been an enormous coup, Benedict hoped to cast a halo around a papacy he knew had little remaining credibility in the wider Catholic Church.
Outlawing the Jewish Faith
Benedict addressed Spain's Jewish leaders in person, preaching eloquently; they heard him politely, but remained unmoved. He reacted reinstating the strictures of the Fourth Lateran Council (see above) and then going further by banning the possession and study of the Talmud altogether. Synagogues were shut
The Western Schism wasn't to end until, at the Council of Constance in 1417, anti-Pope Benedict XIII was sent packing from his 'papacy' and excommunicated. Even then, in denial, he didn't accept what had happened, and continued with his 'reign' for several years.
Not a monster - or even a mediocrity - Benedict XIII might have made a decent Pope: instead he was anti-Pope at a time when the title had lost all credibility. The less tenable his position, the more tyrannical his rule; the more wayward his measures against vulnerable targets like the Jews.
down, Jewish crafts and medical traditions were outlawed and trade between Jews and Gentiles became illegal. Attendance at Christian services three times a year was compelled. In what might be seen as a rare progressive measure, the 'official' Church rescinded all these measures in 1418.
By then the Church had rescinded his papacy too, but Benedict continued to play at being Pope, in deep denial - he even named a successor, Clement VIII. When Benedict died in 1422, he took up his title - ignored by the wider Church; he even appointed a village priest in Roden, Zaragoza, to follow him - but of this putative 'Pope Benedict XIV' nothing else is known.
Church historians of this time too easily forget the wider impact of the Western Schism: if things were confused at the top, what must they have been like at national and parish level? With two or even three Popes to choose from at any given time, which was a secular ruler to acknowledge, the Roman pontiff or the French-backed Avignon Pope? Since both appointed his own bishops - and each excommunicated the others - how were priests to know if they were serving the 'true' Church? And how were ordinary men and women to be certain that the sacraments they were receiving were truly valid - were they properly married, had their babies truly been baptized and were their departed loved ones correctly laid to rest?
TO BE CONTINUED
WHAT A COMPLETE MESS-UP!! HOW COULD SUCH A CHURCH BE THOUGHT OF AS CHRIST'S TRUE CHURCH? YOUR MIND WOULD HAVE TO BE ALL MUSH, MINDLESS GOOBLOG, TO EVER THINK THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS EVER THE TRUE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH OF GOD, FOUNDED BY THE APOSTLES OF THE LORD JESUS.
NO IT WAS ACTING LIKE IT ALWAYS WAS, FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE FIRST CENTURY AD, THE FALSE HERECY CHURCH, THAT HAD COME INTO THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD, AND THEN LIKE THE APOSTLE JOHN WAS TO WRITE, "WENT OUT OF US" TO FORM ITS OWN FALSE THEOLOGICAL IDEAS, PRACTICES, GOVERNMENT, SCHISMS, AND PERSECUTIONS WITHIN ITSELF, AND TOWARDS OTHERS OUTSIDE OF ITSELF - Keith Hunt