Bad Popes

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Pope Julius III (Latin: Iulius III; 10 September 1487 – 23 March 1555), born Giovanni Maria Ciocchi del Monte, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 7 February 1550 to his death in 1555.

Julius’ papacy was marked by scandals, the most notable of which is centered around the pope’s adoptive nephew, Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte. Innocenzo del Monte was a teenaged beggar found in the streets of Parma who was hired by the family as a lowly hall boy in their primary residence, the boy’s age being variously given as 14, 15, or 17 years. After the elevation of Julius to the papacy, Innocenzo Del Monte was adopted into the family by the pope’s brother and, by Julius, was then promptly created cardinal-nephew. Julius showered his favourite with benefices, including the commendatario of the abbeys of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy and Saint Zeno in Verona, and, later, of the abbeys of Saint Saba, Miramondo, Grottaferrata and Frascati, among others. As rumours began to circle about the particular relationship between the pope and his adoptive nephew, Julius refused to take advice. The cardinals Reginald Pole and Giovanni Carafa warned the pope of the “evil suppositions to which the elevation of a fatherless young man would give rise”.

Poet Joachim du Bellay, who lived in Rome through this period in the retinue of his relative, Cardinal Jean du Bellay, expressed his scandalized opinion of Julius in two sonnets in his series Les regrets (1558), hating to see, he wrote, “a Ganymede with the red hat on his head”. The courtier and poet Girolamo Muzio in a letter of 1550 to Ferrante Gonzaga, governor of Milan, wrote: “They write many bad things about this new pope; that he is vicious, proud, and odd in the head”, and the Pope’s enemies made capital of the scandal, Thomas Beard, in the Theatre of God’s judgement (1597) saying it was Julius’ “custome … to promote none to ecclesiastical livings, save only his buggerers”. In Italy, it was said that Julius showed the impatience of a “lover awaiting a mistress” while awaiting Innocenzo’s arrival in Rome and boasted of the boy’s prowess in bed, while the Venetian ambassador reported that Innocenzo Del Monte shared the pope’s bed “as if he Innocenzo were his Julius’ own son or grandson.” “The charitably-disposed told themselves the boy might after all be simply his bastard son.”

Despite the damage which the scandal was inflicting on the church, it was not until after Julius’ death in 1555 that anything could be done to curb Innocenzo’s visibility. He underwent temporary banishment following the murder of two men who had insulted him, and then again following the rape of two women. He tried to use his connections in the College of Cardinals to plead his cause, but his influence waned, and he died in obscurity. He was buried in Rome in the Del Monte family chapel. One outcome of the cardinal-nephew scandal, however, was the upgrading of the position of Papal Secretary of State, as the incumbent had to take over the duties Innocenzo Del Monte was unfit to perform: the Secretary of State eventually replaced the cardinal-nephew as the most important official of the Holy See.

Pope Stephen VI (Latin: Stephanus VI; died August 897) was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 22 May 896 to his death. He is best known for instigating the Cadaver Synod, which ultimately led to his downfall and death.

Stephen is chiefly remembered in connection with his conduct towards the remains of Pope Formosus. The rotting corpse of Formosus was exhumed and put on trial, before an unwilling synod of the Roman clergy, in the so-called Cadaver Synod in January 897. Pressure from the Spoleto contingent and Stephen’s fury with Formosus probably precipitated this extraordinary event. With the corpse propped up on a throne, a deacon was appointed to answer for the deceased pontiff. During the trial, Formosus’s corpse was condemned for performing the functions of a bishop when he had been deposed and for receiving the pontificate while he was the bishop of Porto, among other revived charges that had been levelled against him in the strife during the pontificate of John VIII. The corpse was found guilty, stripped of its sacred vestments, deprived of three fingers of its right hand (the blessing fingers), clad in the garb of a layman, and quickly buried; it was then re-exhumed and thrown in the Tiber. All ordinations performed by Formosus were annulled.

The trial excited a tumult. Though the instigators of the deed may actually have been Formosus’ Spoletan enemies, notably Guy IV of Spoleto, who had recovered their authority in Rome at the beginning of 897 by renouncing their broader claims in central Italy, the scandal ended in Stephen’s imprisonment and his death by strangling that summer.

Pope Alexander VI (born Rodrigo de Borja) (Valencian: Roderic Llançol i de Borja, Spanish: Rodrigo Lanzol y de Borja; 1 January 1431 – 18 August 1503), was Pope from 11 August 1492 until his death in 1503.

There was change in the constitution of the College of Cardinals during the course of the fifteenth century, especially under Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII. Of the twenty-seven cardinals alive in the closing months of the reign of Innocent VIII no fewer than ten were Cardinal-nephews, eight were crown nominees, four were Roman nobles and one other had been given the cardinalate in recompense for his family’s service to the Holy See; only four were able career churchmen.

On the death of Pope Innocent VIII on 25 July 1492, the three likely candidates for the Papacy were the sixty-one-year-old Borgia, seen as an independent candidate, Ascanio Sforza for the Milanese, and Giuliano della Rovere, seen as a pro-French candidate. It was rumored but not substantiated that Borgia succeeded in buying the largest number of votes and Sforza, in particular, was bribed with four mule-loads of silver. Mallett shows that Borgia was in the lead from the start and that the rumours of bribery began after the election with the distribution of benefices; Sforza and della Rovere were just as willing and able to bribe as anyone else. The benefices and offices granted to Sforza, moreover, would be worth considerably more than four mule-loads of silver. Johann Burchard, the conclave’s master of ceremonies and a leading figure of the papal household under several popes, recorded in his diary that the 1492 conclave was a particularly expensive campaign. Della Rovere was bankrolled to the cost of 200,000 gold ducats by King Charles VIII of France, with another 100,000 supplied by the Republic of Genoa. Borgia was elected on 11 August 1492, assuming the name of Alexander VI (due to confusion about the status of Pope Alexander V elected by the Council of Pisa).

Giovanni di Lorenzo de’ Medici (later Pope Leo X) is said to have warned after the election, “Now we are in the power of a wolf, the most rapacious perhaps that this world has ever seen. And if we do not flee, he will inevitably devour us all.” Such a criticism, particularly by the very youthful Giovanni, is believed to be highly unlikely: “Precocious though he was, the cardinal would scarcely have made this observation when sixteen years of age.” Even if he did make the comment, though, Michael de la Bédoyère says that it would be “unintentionally complimentary as coming from a representative of one of the leading Italian States about a Pope whose aim it would be to save Italy in defiance of the prejudices and jealousies of its petty rulers”.

It is often alleged, even by some historians, that Alexander and his son, Cesare, poisoned Cardinal Adriano Castellesi, but this is unlikely. (When cardinals died, their wealth automatically reverted to the Church.) There is no evidence that the Borgias resorted to poisoning, judicial murder, or extortion to fund their schemes and the defense of the Papal States. The only contemporary accusations of poisoning were from some of the servants of the Borgias, extracted under torture by Alexander’s bitter enemy Della Rovere, who succeeded him as Pope Julius II.

The debased state of the curia was a major scandal. Opponents, such as the powerful demagogic Florentine friar Girolamo Savonarola, launched invectives against papal corruption and appealed for a general council to confront the papal abuses. Alexander is reported to have been reduced to laughter when Savonarola’s denunciations were related to him. Nevertheless, he appointed Sebastian Maggi to investigate the friar, and he responded on 16 October 1495:

We are displeased at the disturbed state of affairs in Florence, the more so in that it owes its origin to your preaching. For you predict the future and publicly declare that you do so by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when you should be reprehending vice and praising virtue … Prophecies like these should not be made when your charge is to forward peace and concord. Moreover, these are not the time for such teachings, calculated as they are to produce discord even in times of peace let alone in times of trouble. … Since, however, we have been most happy to learn from certain cardinals and from your letter that you are ready to submit yourself to the reproofs of the Church, as becomes a Christian and a religious, we are beginning to think that what you have done has not been done with an evil motive, but from a certain simple-mindedness and a zeal, however misguided, for the Lord’s vineyard. Our duty, however, prescribes that we order you, under holy obedience, to cease from public and private preaching until you are able to come to our presence, not under armed escort as is your present habit, but safely, quietly and modestly as becomes a religious, or until we make different arrangements. If you obey, as we hope you will, we for the time being suspend the operation of our former Brief so that you may live in peace in accordance with the dictates of your conscience.

The hostility of Savonarola seems to have been political rather than personal, and the friar sent a touching letter of condolence to the Pope on the death of the Duke of Gandia; “Faith, most Holy Father, is the one and true source of peace and consolation… Faith alone brings consolation from a far-off country.” But eventually the Florentines tired of the friar’s moralising and the Florentine government condemned the reformer to death, executing him on 23 May 1498.

While the enterprising explorers of Spain imposed a form of slavery called “encomienda” on the indigenous peoples they met in the New World, some popes had spoken out against the practice of slavery. In 1435, Pope Eugene IV had issued an attack on slavery in the Canary Islands in his papal bull Sicut Dudum, which included the excommunication of all those who engaged in the slave trade with native chiefs there. A form of indentured servitude was allowed, being similar to a peasant’s duty to his liege lord in Europe.

In the wake of Columbus’s landing in the New World, Pope Alexander was asked by the Spanish monarchy to confirm their ownership of these newly found lands. The bulls issued by Pope Alexander VI: Eximiae devotionis (3 May 1493), Inter caetera (4 May 1493) and Dudum Siquidem (23 September 1493), granted rights to Spain with respect to the newly discovered lands in the Americas similar to those Pope Nicholas V had previously conferred on Portugal with the bulls Romanus Pontifex and Dum Diversas. Morales Padron (1979) concludes that these bulls gave power to enslave the natives. Minnich (2010) asserts that this “slave trade” was permitted to facilitate conversions to Christianity. Other historians and Vatican scholars strongly disagree with these accusations and assert that Alexander never gave his approval to the practice of slavery. Other later popes, such as Pope Paul III in Sublimis Deus (1537), Pope Benedict XIV in Immensa Pastorium (1741), and Pope Gregory XVI in his letter In supremo apostolatus (1839), continued to condemn slavery.

Thornberry (2002) asserts that Inter Caetera was applied in the Requerimiento which was read to American Indians (who could not understand the colonisers’ language) before hostilities against them began. They were given the option to accept the authority of the Pope and Spanish crown or face being attacked and subjugated. In 1993, the Indigenous Law Institute called on Pope John Paul II to revoke Inter Caetera and to make reparation for “this unreasonable historical grief”. This was followed by a similar appeal in 1994 by the Parliament of World Religions.

Pope Paul III (Latin: Paulus III; 29 February 1468 – 10 November 1549), born Alessandro Farnese, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 13 October 1534 to his death in 1549.

Slavery and Sublimis Deus
In May–June 1537 Paul issued the bull Sublimis Deus (also known as Unigenitus and Veritas ipsa), described by Prein (2008) as the “Magna Carta” for the human rights of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in its declaration that “the Indians were human beings and they were not to be robbed of their freedom or possessions”. The subsequent implementing document Pastorale officium declared automatic excommunication for anyone who failed to abide by the new ruling.

However, it met with strong opposition from the Council of The West Indies and the Crown, which declared that it violated their patronato rights, and the Pope annulled the orders the following year with the document Non Indecens Videtur. Stogre (1992) notes that Sublimis Deus is not present in Denzinger, the authoritative compendium of official Catholic teachings, and Davis (1988) asserts it was annulled due to a dispute with the Spanish crown. However, the original bull continued to circulate and be quoted by las Casas and others who supported Indian rights.

According to Falkowski (2002) Sublimis Deus had the effect of revoking the bull of Alexander VI, Inter caetera, but still leaving the colonizers the duty of converting the native people. Father Gustavo Gutierrez describes it as “the most important papal document relating to the condition of native Indians and that it was addressed to all Christians”. Maxwell (1975) notes that the bull did not change the traditional teaching that the enslavement of Indians was permissible if they were considered “enemies of Christendom”, as this would be considered by the Church as a “just war”. He further argues that the Indian nations had every right to self-defence. Stark (2003) describes the bull as “magnificent” and believes that it was long forgotten due to the neglect of Protestant historians. Falola notes that the bull related to the native populations of the New World and did not condemn the transatlantic slave trade stimulated by the Spanish monarchy and the Holy Roman Emperor.

In 1545, Paul repealed an ancient law that allowed slaves to claim their freedom under the Emperor’s statue on Rome’s Capitoline Hill, in view of the number of homeless people and tramps in the city. The decree included those who had become Christians after their enslavement and those born to Christian slaves. The right of inhabitants of Rome to publicly buy and sell slaves of both sexes was affirmed. Stogre (1992) asserts that the lifting of restrictions was due to a shortage of slaves in Rome. In 1548, Paul authorized the purchase and possession of Muslim slaves in the Papal states.

Also in 1537, Paul issued the bull, Altitudo divini consilii. The bull discusses evangelization and conversion, including the proper way to apply the sacraments, in particular baptism. This was especially important in the early days of colonial rule, when hundreds and sometimes thousands of indigenous people were baptized every day. One interesting aspect of this bull is its discussion of how to deal with local practices, for example, polygamy. After their conversion, polygamous men had to marry their first wife, but if they could not remember which wife was the first, they then “could choose among the wives the one they preferred.

Pope John XII (Latin: Ioannes XII; c. 930/937 – 14 May 964), born Octavian, was the bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States from 16 December 955 to his death in 964. He was related to the counts of Tusculum, a powerful Roman family which had dominated papal politics for over half a century. He became pope in his late teenage years or early twenties. In 960, he clashed with the Lombards to the south. Unable to control Rome easily, he sought help from King Otto I of Germany and crowned him emperor. John XII’s pontificate became infamous for the alleged depravity and worldliness with which he conducted his office. He soon fell out with Otto, but died before Otto succeeded in his attempt to depose him.

John’s dual role as the secular prince of Rome and the spiritual head of the church saw his behaviour lean towards the former rather than the latter. He was depicted as a coarse, immoral man in the writings which remain about his papacy, whose life was such that the Lateran Palace was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general disgrace. His lifestyle suited the secular prince he was, and his political enemies would use these accusations to blacken his reputation not only to justify, but to obscure the political dimensions of his deposition.

It is for this purpose that Liudprand of Cremona, a partisan of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I, gives an account of the charges levelled against him at the Synod of Rome in 963:

Then, rising up, the cardinal priest Peter testified that he himself had seen John XII celebrate Mass without taking communion. John, bishop of Narni, and John, a cardinal deacon, professed that they themselves saw that a deacon had been ordained in a horse stable, but were unsure of the time. Benedict, cardinal deacon, with other co-deacons and priests, said they knew that he had been paid for ordaining bishops, specifically that he had ordained a ten-year-old bishop in the city of Todi … They testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father’s concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse. They said that he had gone hunting publicly; that he had blinded his confessor Benedict, and thereafter Benedict had died; that he had killed John, cardinal subdeacon, after castrating him; and that he had set fires, girded on a sword, and put on a helmet and cuirass. All, clerics as well as laymen, declared that he had toasted to the devil with wine. They said when playing at dice, he invoked Jupiter, Venus and other demons. They even said he did not celebrate Matins at the canonical hours nor did he make the sign of the cross.

However, other contemporaries also accused John of immoral behaviour. For example, Ratherius of Verona wrote:

What improvement could be looked for if one who was leading an immoral life, who was bellicose and perjured, and who was devoted to hunting, hawking, gaming, and wine, were to be elected to the Apostolic See?

In the end though, much of the subsequent extreme condemnation of John XII is derived from the accusations recorded by Liudprand of Cremona. So according to fiercely anti-Catholic Louis Marie DeCormenin:

John XII was worthy of being the rival of Elagabalus … a robber, a murderer, and incestuous person, unworthy to represent Christ upon the pontifical throne … This abominable priest soiled the chair of St. Peter for nine entire years and deserved to be called the most wicked of popes.

The historian Ferdinand Gregorovius was somewhat more sympathetic:

John’s princely instincts were stronger than his taste for spiritual duties, and the two natures—that of Octavian and that of John the Twelfth—stood in unequal conflict. Called as he was in the immaturity of youth to a position which gave him claims on the reverence of the world, his judgment deserted him, and he plunged into the most unbridled sensuality. The Lateran palace was turned into an abode of riot and debauchery. The gilded youths of the city were his daily companions … The son of the glorious Alberic thus fell a sacrifice to his own unbridled passion, and to the anomalous position which he held as Prince and Pope at the same time. His youth, the greatness of his father, the tragic discords of his position, claim for him a lenient judgment.

Even Horace Mann, a papal defender, was forced to acknowledge:

There cannot be a doubt that John XII was anything but what a Pope, the chief pastor of Christendom, should have been.

Pope Boniface VIII (Latin: Bonifatius VIII; born Benedetto Caetani, c. 1230 – 11 October 1303) was pope from 24 December 1294 to his death in 1303. Caetani was of baronial origin with family connections to the papacy. He succeeded Pope Celestine V, a Benedictine, who had abdicated from the papal throne. Boniface spent his early career abroad in diplomatic roles. In the College of Cardinals, he discriminated not only against the Benedictines but also members of the Colonna family, some of whom had contested the validity of the 1294 papal conclave that elected him following the unusual abdication of Pope Celestine V. The dispute resulted in battles between troops of Boniface and his adversaries and the deliberate destruction and salting of the town of Palestrina, despite the pope’s assurances that the surrendering city would be spared.

On Maundy Thursday, 4 April 1303, the Pope again excommunicated all persons who were impeding French clerics from coming to the Holy See, “etiam si imperiali aut regali fulgeant dignitati.” This included King Philip IV, though not by name. In response, Guillaume de Nogaret, Philip’s chief minister, denounced Boniface as a heretical criminal to the French clergy. On 15 August 1303, the Pope suspended the right of all persons in the Kingdom of France to name anyone as Regent or Doctor, including the King. And in another document of the same day, he reserved to the Holy See the provision of all present and future vacancies in cathedral churches and monasteries, until King Philip should come to the Papal Court and make explanations of his behavior.

On 7 September 1303, an army led by King Philip’s minister Nogaret and Sciarra Colonna attacked Boniface at his Palace in Anagni next to the Cathedral. The Pope responded with a bull dated 8 September 1303, in which Philip and Nogaret were excommunicated. The French Chancellor and the Colonnas demanded the Pope’s abdication; Boniface VIII responded that he would “sooner die”. In response, Colonna allegedly slapped Boniface, a “slap” historically remembered as the schiaffo di Anagni (“Anagni slap”).

According to a modern interpreter, the 73-year-old Boniface was probably beaten and nearly executed, but was released from captivity after three days. He died a month later. The famous Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote:

And when Sciarra and the others, his enemies, came to him, they mocked at him with vile words and arrested him and his household which had remained with him. Among others, William of Nogaret, who had conducted the negotiations for the king of France, scorned him and threatened him, saying that he would take him bound to Lyons on the Rhone, and there in a general council would cause him to be deposed and condemned…. no man dared to touch Boniface, nor were they pleased to lay hands on him, but they left him robed under light arrest and were minded to rob the treasure of the Pope and the Church. In this pain, shame and torment, the great Pope Boniface abode prisoner among his enemies for three days…. the People of Anagni beholding their error and issuing from their blind ingratitude, suddenly rose in arms… and drove out Sciarra della Colonna and his followers, with loss to them of prisoners and slain, and freed the Pope and his household. Pope Boniface… departed immediately from Anagni with his court and came to Rome and St. Peter’s to hold a council… but… the grief which had hardened in the heart of Pope Boniface, by reason of the injury which he had received, produced in him, once he had come to Rome, a strange malady so that he gnawed at himself as if he were mad, and in this state he passed from this life on the twelfth day of October in the year of Christ 1303, and in the Church of St. Peter near the entrance of the doors, in a rich chapel which was built in his lifetime, he was honorably buried.

He died of a violent fever on 11 October, in full possession of his senses and in the presence of eight cardinals and the chief members of the papal household, after receiving the sacraments and making the usual profession of faith.

Burial and exhumation
The body of Boniface VIII was buried in 1303 in a special chapel that also housed the remains of Pope Boniface IV (A.D. 608-615), which had been moved by Boniface VIII from a tomb outside the Vatican Basilica in the portico.

The body was accidentally exhumed in 1605, and the results of the excavation recorded by Giacomo Grimaldi (1568-1623), Apostolic Notary and Archivist of the Vatican Basilica, and others. The body lay within three coffins, the outermost of wood, the middle of lead, and the innermost of pine. The corporal remains were described as being “unusually tall” measuring seven palms when examined by doctors. The body was found quite intact, especially the shapely hands, thus disproving another spiteful calumny, that he had died in a frenzy, gnawing his hands, beating his brains out against the wall. The body wore ecclesiastical vestments common for Boniface’s lifetime: long stockings covered legs and thighs, and it was garbed also with the maniple, cassock, and pontifical habit made of black silk, as well as stole, chasuble, rings, and bejeweled gloves.

After this exhumation and examination, Boniface’s body was moved to the Chapel of Pope Gregory and Andrew. His body now lies in the crypt (grotte) of St. Peter’s in a large marble sarcophagus, inscribed BONIFACIVS PAPA VIII.

Posthumous trial
After the papacy had been removed to Avignon in 1309, Pope Clement V, under extreme pressure from King Philip IV, consented to a posthumous trial. He said, ” It was permissible for any persons who wanted to proceed against the memory of Boniface VIII to proceed.” He gave a mandate to the Bishop of Paris, Guillaume de Baufet d’Aurillac, and to Guillaume Pierre Godin, OP, that the complainants should choose prosecutors and determine a day on which the Inquiry would begin in the presence of the Pope (coram nobis Avinione). The Pope signed his mandate at his current place of residence, the Priory of Grauselle near Malusan (Malausène) in the diocese of Vasio (Vaison), on 18 October 1309. Both the King of Aragon and the King of Castile immediately sent ambassadors to Pope Clement, complaining that scandal was being poured into the ears of the Faithful, when they heard that a Roman pontiff was being charged with a crime of heresy. They had a point, in that the persecution implied that a pope was not infallible in matters of faith and morals. Complaints also came from Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

On 27 April 1310, in what was certainly a peace gesture toward the French, Clement V pardoned Guillaume Nogaret for his offenses committed at Anagni against Boniface VIII and the Church, for which he had been excommunicated, with the condition that Nogaret personally go to the Holy Land in the next wave of soldiers and serve there in the military. By the end of Spring 1310, Clement was feeling the embarrassment and the pressure over the material being produced by Boniface’s accusers. His patience was wearing thin. He issued a mandate on 28 June 1310, in which he complained about the quality of the testimony and the corruption of the various accusers and witnesses. Then he ordered the Quaesitores that future examinations should proceed under threat of excommunication for perjury. A process (judicial investigation) against the memory of Boniface was held by an ecclesiastical consistory at Priory Groseau, near Malaucène, which held preliminary examinations in August and September 1310. and collected testimonies that alleged many heretical opinions of Boniface VIII. This included the offence of sodomy, although there is no substantive evidence for this, and it is likely that this was the standard accusation Philip made against enemies. The same charge was brought against the Templars.

Before the actual trial could be held, Clement persuaded Philip to leave the question of Boniface’s guilt to the Council of Vienne, which met in 1311. On 27 April 1311, in a public Consistory, with King Philip’s agents present, the Pope formally excused the King for everything that he had said against the memory of Pope Boniface, on the grounds that he was speaking with good intentions. This statement was written down and published as a bull, and the bull contained the statement that the matter would be referred by the Pope to the forthcoming Council. The Pope then announced that he was reserving the whole matter to his own judgment.

The XV Ecumenical Council, the Council of Vienne, opened on 1 November 1311, with more than 300 bishops in attendance. When the Council met (so it is said), three cardinals appeared before it and testified to the orthodoxy and morality of the dead pope. Two knights, as challengers, threw down their gauntlets to maintain his innocence by trial by combat. No one accepted the challenge, and the Council declared the matter closed. Clement’s order disbanding the Order of the Knights Templar was signed at the Council of Vienne on 2 May 1312.

Pope Urban VI (Latin: Urbanus VI; c. 1318 – 15 October 1389), born Bartolomeo Prignano, was the Roman claimant to the headship of the Catholic Church from 8 April 1378 to his death. He was the most recent pope to be elected from outside the College of Cardinals. His pontificate began shortly after the end of the Avignon Papacy. It was marked by immense conflict between rival factions as part of the Western Schism, with much of Europe recognizing Clement VII, based in Avignon, as the true pope.

Pope Benedict IX (Latin: Benedictus IX; c. 1012 – c. 1056), born Theophylactus of Tusculum in Rome, was bishop of Rome and ruler of the Papal States on three occasions between October 1032 and July 1048. Aged approximately 20 at his first election, he is one of the youngest popes in history. He is the only man to have been pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy.

He was the nephew of his immediate predecessor, John XIX. In October 1032, Benedict’s father obtained his election through bribery. However, his reputed dissolute activities provoked a revolt on the part of the Romans. Benedict was driven out of Rome and Sylvester III elected to succeed him. Some months later, Benedict and his supporters managed to expel Sylvester. Benedict then decided to abdicate in favor of his godfather, Gregory VI, provided he was reimbursed for his expenses. Benedict subsequently had second thoughts and returned, and attempted to depose Gregory. A number of prominent clergy appealed to King Henry III of Germany to restore order. Henry and his forces crossed the Brenner Pass into Italy, where he summoned the Council of Sutri to decide the matter. Benedict, Sylvester and Gregory were all deposed. Henry then had Clement II elected in December 1046.

While Benedict IX has a bad reputation as pope, R.L. Poole suggests that some of the accusations directed against him be understood in the context that they were perpetrated by virulent political enemies.

Benedict IX’s reign was incredibly scandalous, and factional strife continued. Ferdinand Gregorovius, a historian otherwise severely critical of papacy, 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.” Horace K. Mann calls him “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter”. He was the first pope rumoured to have been primarily homosexual. Pope Victor III, in his third book of Dialogues, referred to “his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts of violence and sodomy. His life as a pope was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.”

According to Reginald Lane Poole, “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.” He further suggests the credibility of such accusations was determined by probability rather than proof, and a reaction to the Tusculan hegemony. Poole observes that “we have to wait until he had discredited himself by his sale of the Papacy before we hear anything definite about his misdeeds; and the further we go in time and place, the worse his character becomes”. Poole considers 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 was in the ascendant, and he had neither friends nor supporters.

Pope Benedict IX was briefly forced out of Rome in 1036, but returned with the help of Emperor Conrad II, who had expelled the bishops of Piacenza and Cremona from their sees. Bishop Benno of Piacenza accused Benedict of “many vile adulteries and murders”. In September 1044, opposition to Benedict IX’s dissolute lifestyle forced him out of the city again and elected Sylvester III to replace him.

Benedict IX’s forces returned in April 1045 and expelled his rival, allowing Benedict to resume papacy. Doubting his own ability to maintain his position, and wishing to marry his cousin, Benedict decided to abdicate in May. 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. John Gratian paid him the money and was recognized as pope in his stead, as Gregory VI. Peter Damian hailed the change with joy and wrote to the new pope, urging him to deal with the scandals of the church in Italy, singling out the wicked bishops of Pesaro, of Città di Castello and of Fano.

Benedict IX soon regretted his resignation and returned to Rome, taking the city and remaining on the throne until July 1046, although Gregory VI continued to be recognized as the true pope. At the time, Sylvester III also reasserted his claim. A number of influential clergy and laity implored Emperor Henry III to cross the Alps and restore order. Henry intervened, 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 simoniacal; that is, to have been paid for. A German, Clement II, was chosen to succeed Gregory VI. Benedict IX had not attended the council and did not accept his deposition. When Clement II died in October 1047, Benedict seized the Lateran Palace in November, again becoming pope, but was driven away by German troops in July 1048. To fill the power vacuum, the German-born Damasus II was elected pope and universally recognized as such. Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony in 1049 and was excommunicated.

Benedict IX’s eventual fate is obscure, but he seems to have given up his claims to the papal throne. Leo IX may have lifted the ban on him. Benedict IX was buried in the Abbey of Grottaferrata c. 1056. According to the abbot, he was penitent and turned away from his sins as pontiff.

Pope Pius XII (Italian: Pio XII), born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli; 2 March 1876 – 9 October 1958), was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2 March 1939 to 1958 when he died. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, such as the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.

“Ratlines” were a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe in the aftermath of World War II. These escape routes mainly led toward havens in Latin America, particularly Argentina though also in Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador and Bolivia, as well as the United States, Spain and Switzerland.

There were two primary routes: the first went from Germany to Spain, then Argentina; the second from Germany to Rome to Genoa, then South America. The two routes developed independently but eventually came together. The ratlines were supported by clergy of the Catholic Church, and historian Michael Phayer claims this was supported by the Vatican.

Austrian Catholic bishop Alois Hudal, a Nazi sympathiser, was rector of the Pontificio Istituto Teutonico Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome, a seminary for Austrian and German priests, and “Spiritual Director of the German People resident in Italy”. After the end of the war in Italy, Hudal became active in ministering to German-speaking prisoners of war and internees then held in camps throughout Italy. In December 1944, the Vatican Secretariat of State received permission to appoint a representative to “visit the German-speaking civil internees in Italy”, a job assigned to Hudal.

Hudal used this position to aid the escape of wanted Nazi war criminals, including Franz Stangl, commanding officer of Treblinka; Gustav Wagner, commanding officer of Sobibor; Alois Brunner, responsible for the Drancy internment camp near Paris and in charge of deportations in Slovakia to German concentration camps; Erich Priebke, who was responsible for the Ardeatine Massacre; and Adolf Eichmann,a fact about which he was later unashamedly open. Some of these wanted men were being held in internment camps: generally without identity papers, they would be enrolled in camp registers under false names. Other Nazis hid in Italy and sought Hudal out as his role in assisting escapes became known on the Nazi grapevine.

In his memoirs, Hudal said of his actions, “I thank God that He (allowed me) to visit and comfort many victims in their prisons and concentration camps and to help them escape with false identity papers.” He explained that in his eyes:

The Allies’ War against Germany was not a crusade, but the rivalry of economic complexes for whose victory they had been fighting. This so-called business … used catchwords like democracy, race, religious liberty and Christianity as a bait for the masses. All these experiences were the reason why I felt duty bound after 1945 to devote my whole charitable work mainly to former National Socialists and Fascists, especially to so-called ‘war criminals’.

According to Mark Aarons and John Loftus in their book Unholy Trinity, Hudal was the first Catholic priest to dedicate himself to establishing escape routes. Aarons and Loftus claim that Hudal provided the objects of his charity with money to help them escape and, more importantly, provided them with false papers, including identity documents issued by the Vatican Refugee Organisation (Pontificia Commissione di Assistenza). These Vatican papers were not full passports and thus were not enough to gain passage overseas. They were, rather, the first stop in a paper trail—they could be used to obtain a displaced person passport from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which in turn could be used to apply for visas. In theory, the ICRC would perform background checks on passport applicants, but in practice the word of a priest or particularly a bishop would be good enough. According to statements collected by Austrian writer Gitta Sereny from a senior official of the Rome branch of the ICRC, Hudal could also use his position as a bishop to request papers from the ICRC “made out according to his specifications”. Sereny’s sources also revealed an active illicit trade in stolen and forged ICRC papers in Rome at the time.

According to declassified U.S. intelligence reports, Hudal was not the only priest helping Nazi escapees at this time. In the “La Vista Report” declassified in 1984, Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) operative Vincent La Vista told how he had easily arranged for two bogus Hungarian refugees to get false ICRC documents with the help of a letter from a Father Joseph Gallov. Gallov, who ran a Vatican-sponsored charity for Hungarian refugees, asked no questions and wrote a letter to his “personal contact in the International Red Cross, who then issued the passports”.

The Italian and Argentine ratlines have only been confirmed relatively recently, mainly due to research in newly declassified archives. Until the work of Aarons and Loftus, and of Uki Goñi (2002), a common view was that ex-Nazis themselves, organised in secret networks, ran the escape routes alone. The most famous such network is ODESSA (Organisation of former SS members), founded in 1946 according to Simon Wiesenthal, which included SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny and Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks and, in Argentina, Rodolfo Freude. Alois Brunner, former commandant of Drancy internment camp near Paris, escaped to Rome, then Syria, by ODESSA. Brunner was thought to be the highest-ranking Nazi war criminal still alive as of 2007.

Persons claiming to represent ODESSA claimed responsibility for the unsuccessful July 9, 1979, car bombing in France aimed at Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. According to Paul Manning, “eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes ODESSA and Deutsche Hilfsverein…”

Simon Wiesenthal, who advised Frederick Forsyth on the early 1970s novel/film script The Odessa File which brought the name to public attention, also names other Nazi escape organisations such as Spinne (“Spider”) and Sechsgestirn (“Constellation of Six”). Wiesenthal describes these immediately after the war as Nazi cells based in areas of Austria where many Nazis had retreated and gone to ground. Wiesenthal claimed that the ODESSA network shepherded escapees to the Catholic ratlines in Rome (although he mentions only Hudal, not Draganović); or through a second route through France and into Francoist Spain.

ODESSA was supported by the Gehlen Organization, which employed many former Nazi party members, and was headed by Reinhard Gehlen, a former German Army intelligence officer employed post-war by the CIA. The Gehlen Organization became the nucleus of the BND German intelligence agency, directed by Reinhard Gehlen from its 1956 creation until 1968.

1947 Rome issued ICRC travel document to a Croatian escaping Europe for Argentina.

In his 2002 book, The Real Odessa, Argentine researcher Uki Goñi used new access to the country’s archives to show that Argentine diplomats and intelligence officers had, on Perón’s instructions, vigorously encouraged Nazi and fascist war criminals to make their home in Argentina. According to Goñi, the Argentines not only collaborated with Draganović’s ratline, they set up further ratlines of their own running through Scandinavia, Switzerland and Belgium.

According to Goñi, Argentina’s first move into Nazi smuggling was in January 1946, when Argentine bishop Antonio Caggiano, leader of the Argentine chapter of Catholic Action flew with another bishop, Agustín Barrére, to Rome where Caggiano was due to be anointed Cardinal. In Rome the Argentine bishops met with French Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, where they passed on a message (recorded in Argentina’s diplomatic archives) that “the Government of the Argentine Republic was willing to receive French persons, whose political attitude during the recent war would expose them, should they return to France, to harsh measures and private revenge”.

Over the spring of 1946, a number of French war criminals, fascists and Vichy officials made it from Italy to Argentina in the same way: they were issued passports by the Rome ICRC office; these were then stamped with Argentine tourist visas (the need for health certificates and return tickets was waived on Caggiano’s recommendation). The first documented case of a French war criminal arriving in Buenos Aires was Émile Dewoitine, who was later sentenced in absentia to 20 years hard labour. He sailed first class on the same ship back with Cardinal Caggiano.

Shortly after this Argentinian Nazi smuggling became institutionalised, according to Goñi, when Perón’s new government of February 1946 appointed anthropologist Santiago Peralta as Immigration Commissioner and former Ribbentrop agent Ludwig Freude as his intelligence chief. Goñi argues that these two then set up a “rescue team” of secret service agents and immigration “advisors”, many of whom were themselves European war-criminals, with Argentine citizenship and employment.

In 2014, over 700 FBI documents were declassified revealing that the US government had undertaken an investigation in the late 1940s and 1950s as to the reports of the possible escape of Adolf Hitler from Germany. Some leads purported that he had not committed suicide in Berlin but had fled Germany in 1945, and eventually arrived in Argentina via Spain. Within the pages of these documents are statements, naming people and places involved in Hitler’s alleged journey from Germany to South America including mention of the ratlines that were already in existence. Additional CIA documents contain reported sightings and a photograph of a man alleged to be Hitler in 1954. The claim related to the photograph made by a self-proclaimed former German SS trooper named Phillip Citroen that Hitler was still alive, and that he “left Colombia for Argentina around January 1955.” The CIA report states that neither the contact who reported his conversations with Citroen, nor the CIA station was “in a position to give an intelligent evaluation of the information”. The station chief’s superiors told him that “enormous efforts could be expended on this matter with remote possibilities of establishing anything concrete”, and the investigation was dropped.

Aunt Anna’s was an inn in Merano, a town in northern Italy, that was often used as a safe house and stop for SS members, Nazi perpetrators, and war criminals making their escape during the years immediately following the end of the Second World War. For example, Reinhard Kops, a member of the German espionage network, used the inn and stated that Emil Gelny, the SS doctor chiefly responsible for the euthanasia murders in the mental institutions of Gugging and Mauer-Öhling, had also reached this destination.

Nazi flight in the post-war years centred on Italy, a “highway for war criminals” (Reichsautobahn für Kriegsverbrecher), and South Tyrol in particular – a “natural hub for members of SS and business circles to reunite and forge connections between Germany, Italy, Spain and Argentina that would secure their escape”. The German-speaking population of South Tyrol maintained strong ties with German ethno-nationalism, and it was the first German-language region on the route used by Nazi war criminals to be freed from Allied military government controls, by the end of 1945. (Eichmann used the escape route via the Alto Adige to Genoa in 1950, by which time knowledge of this escape route was widespread in SS circles – having reached Sterzing, he moved to the Franciscan monastery in the capital of South Tyrol, Bolzano).

Catholic clergy involvement with the Ustaše covers the role of the Croatian Catholic Church in the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a Nazi puppet state created on the territory of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia in 1941.

On 6 April 1941, Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece. In their military campaign, the Axis forces exploited ethnic divisions in Yugoslavia, and presented themselves as liberators of the Croats. The then-victorious Axis powers set up a puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH), which included Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the parts of Dalmatia not annexed to Italy. Deputy prime minister Maček refused to collaborate in a puppet government, and Pavelić’s Ustaše was installed in power. In Pavelić, Hitler found an ally.

Initially there was enthusiasm for Croatian independence, but the state was in fact under occupation by the German and Italian armies, while the Ustaša commenced a ruthless persecution of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and dissident Croats and Bosnian Muslims. Archbishop Aloysius Stepinac of Zagreb welcomed Croat independence in 1941, but subsequently condemned Croat atrocities against both Serbs and Jews, and involved himself in personally saving Jews. The Pavelić government intended to rid Croatia of its Eastern Orthodox Serb minority in three ways: forcible conversion (1/3), deportation (1/3) and murder (1/3). From around 217,00 to 500,000 people (although the exact number is impossible to ascertain and is disputed by different sides) were killed by the Ustaša, both in massacres and at concentration camps, most infamously the one at Jasenovac. Most of the victims were Serbs, but Jews, Roma and dissident Croats and Bosnian Muslims were also targeted.

Mark Biondich notes that “The younger generation of radical Catholics, particularly those of the crusader organisation, supported the Ustaša with considerable enthusiasm, while the older generation of Croat Populists (HSS) was more reserved and in some cases overtly hostile.” This generational gap between conservative and radical Catholic priests was further reflected by region (urban vs rural), the geographical location of churches and bishoprics, and an individual priest’s relative place within the Church hierarchy. More senior clerics generally disassociated themselves from the NDH. They were also divided by religious orders. The Fransciscans, who had resisted for over fifty years Vatican efforts to turn over parishes to secular clergy, were far more prominently associated with the Ustaša than were the Salesians.

Mass murder occurred through the summer and autumn of 1941. The first Croatian concentration camp was opened at the end of April 1941, and in June a law was passed to establish a network across the country, in order to exterminate ethnic and religious minorities. According to writer Richard Evans, atrocities at the notorious Jasenovac concentration camp were “egged on by some Franciscan friars”. Phayer wrote that it is well known that many Catholic clerics participated directly or indirectly in Ustaša campaigns of violence, as is attested in the work of Corrado Zoli (Italian) and Evelyn Waugh (British), both Roman Catholics themselves; Waugh by conversion.

The Croatian Franciscans were heavily involved in the Ustaše regime. A particularly notorious example was the Franciscan friar Tomislav Filipović, also known as Miroslav Filipović-Majstorović, known as “Fra Sotona” (“Friar Satan”), “the devil of Jasenovac”, for running the Jasenovac concentration camp, where most estimates put the number of people killed at approximately 100,000. According to Evans, Filipović led murder squads at Jasenovac. According to the Jasenovac Memorial Site, “Because of his participation in the mass murders in February 1942 the church authorities excommunicated him from the Franciscan order, which was confirmed by the Holy See in July 1942.” He was also required to relinquish the right to his religious name, Tomislav. When he was hanged for war crimes, however, he wore his clerical garb.

Ivan Šarić, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vrhbosna in Sarajevo, supported the Ustaša, in particular the forcible conversion of Orthodox Serbs to Roman Catholicism. His diocesan newspaper wrote: “There is a limit to love. The movement of liberation of the world from the Jews is a movement for the renewal of human dignity. Omniscient and omnipotent God stands behind this movement.” Šarić appropriated Jewish property for his own use, but was never legally charged. Some priests served in the personal bodyguard of Pavelić, including Ivan Guberina, a leader of the Croatian Catholic movement, a form of Catholic Action. Another priest, Božidar Bralo, served as chief of the security police in Sarajevo, who initiated many anti-Semitic actions.

To consolidate Ustaša party power, much of the party work in Bosnia and Herzegovina was put in the hands of Catholic priests by Jure Francetić, an Ustaše Commissioner of this province. One priest, Mate Mugos, wrote that clergy should put down the prayer book and take up the revolver. Another cleric, Dionysius Juričev, wrote in the Novi list that to kill children at least seven years of age was not a sin. Phayer argues that “establishing the fact of genocide in Croatia prior to the Holocaust carries great historical weight for our study because Catholics were the perpetrators and not, as in Poland, the victims.”

Sister Gaudencija Šplajt (born Fanika Šplajt) was a Catholic nun sentenced by the Partisan military court in Zagreb on 29 June 1945 to execution by shooting for aiding, harboring, and hiding a German bandit, the notorious Ustaša Tolj, and other Ustaše after the liberation of Zagreb.

Cornwell considers Catholic involvement important because of “the Vatican’s knowledge of the atrocities, Pacelli’s failure to use his good offices to intervene, and the complicity it represented in the Final Solution being planned in northern Europe.” Pius XII was a long-standing supporter of Croat nationalism; he hosted a national pilgrimage to Rome in November 1939 for the cause of the canonization of Nikola Tavelić, and largely “confirmed the Ustashe perception of history”. In a meeting with Stepinac, Pius XII reiterated the words of Pope Leo X, that the Croats were “the outpost of Christianity”, which implied that Orthodox Serbs were not true Christians. Pius XII foretold to Stepinac, “The hope of a better future seems to be smiling on you, a future in which the relations between Church and State in your country will be regulated in harmonious action to the advantage of both.”

Undersecretary of State Montini (later elected Pope Paul VI) was responsible for “day-to-day matters concerning Croatia and Poland”. He reported to Pius XII on a daily basis, and heard of the Ustaša atrocities in 1941. In March 1942, Montini asked the Ustaša representative to the Vatican, “Is it possible that these atrocities have taken place?”, and responded that he would view such accusations with “considerable reserve” once the representative called them “lies and propaganda”. Montini’s fellow Undersecretary, Domenico Tardini, told the Ustaša representative that the Vatican was willing to indulge the Ustaša because: “Croatia is a young state. … Youngsters often err because of their age. It is therefore not surprising that Croatia also erred.”

Stepinac was summoned to Rome in April 1942, where he delivered a nine-page document detailing various misdeeds of Pavelić. This document described the atrocities as “anomalies” that were either unknown or unauthorized by Pavelić himself; it is omitted from the ADSS. However, by 1942, the Vatican “preferred to have Stepinac try to rein the fascists in rather than risk the effect that a papal denunciation would have on the unstable Croatian state.”

According to Eugene Tisserant, future Dean of the College of Cardinals, “we have the list of all clergymen who participated in these atrocities and we shall punish them at the right time to cleanse our conscience of the stain with which they spotted us.” Pius XII was well-informed of the involvement of Croatian Roman Catholic clergy with the Ustaša, but decided against condemning them or even taking action against the involved clergy, who had “joined in the slaughter”, fearing it would lead to schism in the Croatian church or undermine the formation of a future Croatian state.

Phayer contrasts the Vatican’s “limited and sketchy” knowledge of the genocide in Poland with “the Croatian case, in which both the nuncio and the head of the church, Bishop Alojzje Stepinac, were in continuous contact with the Holy See while the genocide was being committed.” Cardinal Secretary of State Maglione instructed nuncio Marcone that “if your eminence can find a suitable occasion, he should recommend in a discreet manner, that would not be interpreted as an official appeal, that moderation be employed with regard to Jews on Croatian territory. Your Eminence should see to it that … the impression of loyal cooperation with the civil authorities be always preserved.” According to Phayer, the Vatican “preferred to bring diplomatic pressure on the Ushtasha government instead of challenging the fascists publicly on the immorality of genocide.”

However, according to Professor Rychlak, “Between 1941 and 1944, the Vatican sent four official letters and made numerous oral pleas and protests regarding the deportation of Jews from Slovakia.” Rychlak quotes a letter from Pius himself, dated 7 April 1943: “The Holy See has always entertained the firm hope that the Slovak government, interpreting also the sentiments of its own people, Catholics almost entirely, would never proceed with the forcible removal of persons belonging to the Jewish race. It is therefore with great pain that the Holy See has learned of the continued transfers of such a nature from the territory of the Republic. This pain is aggravated further now that it appears from various reports that the Slovak government intends to proceed with the total removal of the Jewish residents of Slovakia, not even sparing women and children. The Holy See would fail in its Divine Mandate if it did not deplore these measures, which gravely damage man in his natural right, merely for the reason that these people belong to a certain race.”

Rychlak adds:
The following day, a message went out from the Holy See instructing its representative in Bulgaria to take steps in support of Jewish residents who were facing deportation. Shortly thereafter, the secretary of the Jewish Agency for Palestine met with Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII) “to thank the Holy See for the happy outcome of the steps taken on behalf of the Israelites in Slovakia … In October 1942, a message went out from the Vatican to its representatives in Zagreb regarding the “painful situation that spills out against the Jews in Croatia” and instructing them to petition the government for “a more benevolent treatment of those unfortunates”. The Cardinal Secretary of State’s notes reflect that Vatican petitions were successful in getting a suspension of ‘dispatches of Jews from Croatia’ by January 1943, but Germany was applying pressure for ‘an attitude more firm against the Jews’. Another instruction from the Holy See to its representatives in Zagreb directing them to work on behalf of the Jews went out on 6 March 1943.

Die Spinne (German for “The Spider”) was a post-World War II organisation thought to have helped certain Nazi war criminals escape justice. Its existence is still debated today. It is believed by some historians to be a different name (or a branch) of the Nazi German ODESSA organization established during the collapse of the Third Reich, similar to Kameradenwerk, and der Bruderschaft, devoted to helping German war criminals flee Europe. It was led in part by Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s commando chief, as well as Nazi intelligence officer Reinhard Gehlen. Die Spinne helped as many as 600 former SS men escape from Germany to Francoist Spain, Juan Peron’s Argentina, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, the Middle East, and other countries.

Operation Bloodstone was a covert operation whereby the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sought out Nazis and collaborators living in Soviet-controlled areas, to work undercover for U.S. intelligence inside of the Soviet Union, Latin America, and Canada, as well as domestically within the United States. Many of those who were hired as part of Bloodstone were high-ranking Nazi intelligence agents who had committed war crimes.

Pope Saint John Paul II; born Karol Józef Wojtyła 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was elected pope by the second papal conclave of 1978, which was called after Pope John Paul I, who had been elected in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after 33 days. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him. John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and the rest of Europe.

Pope John Paul II has been credited with inspiring political change that not only led to the collapse of Communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Eastern Europe, but also in many countries ruled by dictators. In the words of Joaquín Navarro-Valls, John Paul II’s press secretary:

The single fact of John Paul II’s election in 1978 changed everything. In Poland, everything began. Not in East Germany or Czechoslovakia. Then the whole thing spread. Why in 1980 did they lead the way in Gdansk? Why did they decide, now or never? Only because there was a Polish pope. He was in Chile and Pinochet was out. He was in Haiti and Duvalier was out. He was in the Philippines and Marcos was out. On many of those occasions, people would come here to the Vatican thanking the Holy Father for changing things,

By the late 1970s the dissolution of the Soviet Union had been predicted by some observers. John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and catalyst for “a peaceful revolution” in Poland. Lech Wałęsa, the founder of Solidarity and the first post-Communist President of Poland, credited John Paul II with giving Poles the courage to demand change. According to Wałęsa, “Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of Communism. In Warsaw, in 1979, he simply said: ‘Do not be afraid’, and later prayed: ‘Let your Spirit descend and change the image of the land … this land’.” It has also been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank covertly funded Solidarity.

John Paul II was criticised by representatives of the victims of clergy sexual abuse for failing to respond quickly enough to the Catholic sex abuse crisis. In his response, he stated that “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” The Church instituted reforms to prevent future abuse by requiring background checks for Church employees and, because a significant majority of victims were boys, disallowing ordination of men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”. They now require dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty. In 2008, the Church asserted that the scandal was a very serious problem and estimated that it was “probably caused by ‘no more than 1 per cent’ ” (or 5,000) of the over 500,000 Catholic priests worldwide.

Pope John Paul was alleged to have links with Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian bank that collapsed in 1982. At the centre of the bank’s failure was its chairman, Roberto Calvi, and his membership in the illegal Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (aka P2). The Vatican Bank was Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder, and the death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 is rumoured to be linked to the Ambrosiano scandal.

Calvi, often referred to as “God’s Banker”, was also involved with the Vatican Bank, Istituto per le Opere di Religione, and was close to Bishop Paul Marcinkus, the bank’s chairman. Ambrosiano also provided funds for political parties in Italy, and for both the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua and its Sandinista opposition. It has been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank provided money for Solidarity in Poland.

Calvi used his complex network of overseas banks and companies to move money out of Italy, to inflate share prices, and to arrange massive unsecured loans. In 1978, the Bank of Italy produced a report on Ambrosiano that predicted future disaster. On 5 June 1982, two weeks before the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Calvi had written a letter of warning to Pope John Paul II, stating that such a forthcoming event would “provoke a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions in which the Church will suffer the gravest damage”. On 18 June 1982 Calvi’s body was found hanging from scaffolding beneath Blackfriars Bridge in the financial district of London. Calvi’s clothing was stuffed with bricks, and contained cash valued at US$14,000, in three different currencies.

The Mafia, communist spies, the Pope JP II and the kidnapped Vatican girl
Girl missing since 1983 was kidnapped on Vatican archbishop’s orders, police told.

Lured to her death by Vatican cardinal paedophile ring or kidnapped in revenge by Italy mobster?’ Enduring mystery of girl, 15, who vanished on way home from flute class after Pope told family, ‘She’s in heaven’. Emanuela Orlandi, 15, vanished without trace in Vatican City in July 1983
She was taken by mobster who lost tens of millions of dollars when Vatican-linked bank collapsed. A Turkish anti-Christian group claimed they took Emanuela to secure release of Mehmet Ali Agca, who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981. (Complet story on YouTube)

Banco Ambrosiano was an Italian bank that collapsed in 1982. At the centre of the bank’s failure was its chairman, Roberto Calvi, and his membership in the illegal former Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (aka P2). The Institute for the Works of Religion, commonly known as the Vatican Bank, was Banco Ambrosiano’s main shareholder. The Vatican Bank was also accused of funnelling covert United States funds to the Polish trade union Solidarity and to the Contras through Banco Ambrosiano.

Marcinkus was the president of the Institute for the Works of Religion, also known as the Vatican Bank, from 1971 to 1989. As early as April 24, 1973, Marcinkus was questioned in his Vatican office by federal prosecutor William Aronwald and Bill Lynch, head of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the United States Department of Justice, about his involvement in the delivery of $14.5 million worth of counterfeit bonds to the Vatican in July 1971, part of a total request of $950 million stated in a letter on Vatican notepaper.

His name and the letter had arisen during the investigation of an international gangster, who eventually served 12 years in prison. Marcinkus said “he considered the charges against him serious but not based enough on fact that he would violate the Vatican Bank’s confidentiality to defend himself…back in the States it was agreed on the highest levels that the case against Marcinkus could not be pursued any further.”

In July 1982, Marcinkus was implicated in financial scandals being reported on the front pages of newspapers and magazines throughout Europe, particularly the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano, in which Propaganda Due (aka “P2”), a Masonic Lodge, was involved (Marcinkus had been a director of Ambrosiano Overseas, based in Nassau, Bahamas, and had been involved with Ambrosiano’s chairman, financier Roberto Calvi, for a number of years). He also was involved with Michele Sindona, who had links with the Mafia.

Upon the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, Marcinkus was promoted within the Vatican bank and remained in office for several years before the scandal widened, after the body of Calvi, whose Banco Ambrosiano had dealt with Marcinkus, was found hanging under London’s Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982. The death of Calvi was seen by some as symbolic because Propaganda Due referred to themselves as the Black Friars. Adding to the troubles, journalist Mino Pecorelli, who had been investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and ties to organized crime, was murdered in 1979 Marcinkus himself was never charged with a crime.

He stepped aside as head of the Vatican Bank soon after, with a board of laymen assuming control of the bank. The Vatican eventually paid £145 million in a settlement with creditors, with Marcinkus observing in 1986 that: “You can’t run the Church on Hail Marys.” Marcinkus later said that he was misquoted, what he actually said was: “When my workers come to retire they expect a pension; it’s no use my saying to them. ‘I’ll pay you 400 Hail Marys.”

He resigned his position on October 30, 1990.

Criminal accusations
In 1984, Marcinkus was named by investigative journalist David Yallop in his book In God’s Name as a possible accomplice in the supposed murder of Pope John Paul I. Yallop made allegations regarding a number of suspects, involving the Mafia and Freemasonry. In 2019, nephew of Lucky Luciano Anthony Raimondi claims he helped his cardinal cousin Paul Marcinkus killing the pope.

In 2008, the case of a missing person was reopened with claims by Sabrina Minardi, a former girlfriend of the boss of the Banda della Magliana gang, Enrico De Pedis. She said that Emanuela Orlandi, daughter of a Vatican employee, was kidnapped on orders of Marcinkus to send a message, and was later killed. Members of Orlandi’s family said they were sceptical of the claims made by Minardi, who has been treated for drug abuse. Investigators remained cautious but are impressed by the accuracy of some details, La Repubblica said.

Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (February 28, 1923 – June 7, 2014) was a Polish American philosopher, phenomenologist, founder and president of The World Phenomenology Institute, and editor (from its inception in the late 1960s) of the book series, Analecta Husserliana. She had a thirty-year friendship (and occasional academic collaboration) with Pope John Paul II.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On 21 July 1542, Pope Paul III proclaimed the Apostolic Constitution Licet ab initio, establishing the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, staffed by cardinals and other officials whose task it was “to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines.” It served as the final court of appeal in trials of heresy and served as an important part of the Counter-Reformation.

This body was renamed the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office in 1908 by Pope Pius X. In many Catholic countries, the body is often informally called the Holy Office (e.g., Italian: Sant’Uffizio and Spanish: Santo Oficio).

The congregation’s name was changed to Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF) on 7 December 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council. Soon after the 1983 Code of Canon Law came into effect, the adjective “sacred” was dropped from the names of all Curial Congregations, and so the dicastery adopted its current name, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope Benedict XVI


On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II, upon the retirement of Franjo Šeper, named Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office”, the historical Roman Inquisition. Consequently, he resigned his post at Munich in early 1982. He was promoted within the College of Cardinals to become Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni in 1993 and was made the college’s vice-dean in 1998 and dean in 2002. Just a year after its foundation in 1990 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger joined the European Academy of Sciences and Arts in Salzburg/Austria in 1991.

Copy from Wikipedia for my list of bad Pope

Abp. Eric Michel

1 thought on “Bad Popes

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