Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Demon From Hell Sitting In The Chair Of Peter

Pope Benedict IX

(Text From Various Sources, Edited By Mann Deville)

Pope Benedict IX (1012-1056), born Theophylactus of Tusculum, was Pope on three separate occasions between October 1032 and July 1048.  He is the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only Pope ever to have sold the papacy.

Descended from a family that had produced six previous popes, Benedict was the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum, and was a nephew of Pope Benedict VIII and Pope John XIX, and a grandnephew of Pope John XII. His father obtained the Papal chair for him by bribing the Romans.  Only about 20 years-old at his first election, he was one of the youngest popes in history.

Benedict’s two uncles had both been competent popes and respectable men, but Benedict was a man of very different character.  He had few qualifications for the papacy other than his connections with a socially powerful family, and he led an extremely dissolute life. The historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote that in Benedict, "It seemed as if a demon from hell, in the disguise of a priest, occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses."  The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "a disgrace to the Chair of Peter."

Benedict was the first pope rumored to have been a homosexual.  Pope Victor III, in his third book of Dialogues, referred to his “rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts of violence and sodomy”, and said that Benedict’s life as a pope was so vile, so foul, and so execrable, that I shudder to think of it."

However, British historian Reginald Lane Poole cautioned that Benedict might not have been quite as bad as he has been portrayed: "In a time of acute political hostility accusations, as we know too well, are made and are believed, which in a calmer time would never have been suggested." Poole considered Benedict "a negligent Pope, very likely a profligate man", but notes that the picture presented of Benedict is drawn at a time when the party opposed to him had come to power, and at a time when Benedict had neither friends nor supporters to defend him.

Of Benedict’s pontifical acts little is known, except that he held two or three synods in Rome and granted a number of privileges to various churches and monasteries. He insisted that Bretislav, Duke of Bohemia, should found a monastery as reparation for having carried off the body of St. Adalbert from Poland. In 1037 he went north to meet the Emperor Conrad, and excommunicated Heribert, Archbishop of Milan, with whom he was having a dispute.

In 1044 there was a rebellion in Rome against Benedict, and he was deposed and driven out of the city.  In his place the Romans elected John, Bishop of Santa Sabina, who took the papal name of Sylvester III.

But shortly after Sylvester's election, Benedict was able to retake the city and depose his successor, who fled.  Once again Benedict was pope.

But doubting his ability to maintain his position, and wishing to marry, Benedict decided to abdicate.  He consulted his godfather, the pious priest John Gratian, about the possibility of resigning. He offered to give up the papacy into the hands of his godfather if he would reimburse him for his election expenses.  Happy to rid the See of Rome of such an unworthy pontiff, John Gratian paid Benedict the money and was recognized as pope in his stead, taking the papal name Gregory VI.

But Benedict was unable to win his intended's affections, and he soon regretted his resignation.  Returning to Rome, he once again took the city, remaining on the throne until July 1046, although Gregory VI continued to be recognized as the true pope.  During this period Sylvester III also reasserted his claim to the papacy. A number of influential clergy and laity implored Emperor Henry III to cross the Alps and restore order.

Henry agreed to intervene, and at the Council of Sutri in December 1046, Benedict IX and Sylvester III were declared deposed, while Gregory VI was encouraged to resign, because the arrangement he had entered into with Benedict was considered to be simony. The German Bishop Suidger was crowned as Gregory's successor, taking the papal name of Clement II.

Benedict IX had not attended the council and did not accept his deposition. When Clement II died in October 1047, Benedict once again seized the Lateran Palace, reigning in his usual style for another seven months, before he was finally driven away by German troops in July 1048.  

To fill the power vacuum, the emperor appointed Bishop Poppo of Brixen to be the new Pope.  Poppo took the papal name of  Damasus II

In 1049 Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony and was excommunicated.

Benedict's eventual fate is obscure.  One legend says that he sought refuge at the Byzantine rite abbey of Grottaferrata, becoming a disciple of its saintly abbot, Bartholomew.  Under his new confessor's influence, Benedict abdicated the papacy and gave up his sinful ways.  Later Pope Leo IX may have lifted the ban on him.

Benedict IX died around 1056 and is buried at Grottaferrata.

Emperor Henry III (1016-1056)

(Sources For This Post Include: Wikipedia, The Catholic Encyclopedia, and "A History Of The Popes" By Charles Coulombe.)

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