Tuesday, 14 May 2013

APOSTOLICAL SUCCESSION.[OF THE EARLY POPES]

 To the Editor of the Examiner.
 Sir— In the controversy recently published between "M. I." and Dr. Valentine, the former writing of the status of the Roman Church, says (page 13)—" That she can show a chain of Apostolic succession from Peter to Pius, * extending across nineteen centuries, and every year of those centuries not a single link being wanting." 
 How easy it is to make statements, to "multiply words without wisdom," especially when truth is not an element in the discussion.
    Having some knowledge of the history of the Church, and also of those who have occupied the Papal chair, I was much struck with the prominent manner in which this much-vaunted "chain" was introduced ; and recollecting the terrible records of the tenth century, I could not restrain my desire to ask "M. J. " what sort of links they were that constituted the "chain" during this dark period ? They must have been singularly tensile, if not irrefragible—well suited to all ages and circumstances of priestly life!
 But as I am not going into any controversy, I will simply give a short precis of the most faithful records of the tenth century, and leave my readers to draw their own inferences. But that they may not be startled by the facts I have to bring forth, I will shortly promise that one of the most eminent historians and advocates of the Roman Church (Baronius) write of, this period, as follows:—" During this century there was the very abomination of desolation in the temple and sanctuary of the sea Lord. On the chair of St. Peter sat, not men, but monsters in the shape of men. Vainglorious messalinas filled with fleshly lusts, and cunning in all the forms of wickedness, governed in Rome and prostituted the chair of St. Peter for their minions and paramours."
 Now when such testimony as this is borne by one of their own historians, one known to be favorably disposed to the cause of their Church, and desirous of shielding all its members, so far as a historian of repute could dare to do, and who has dared much to redeem this Church from infamy, what inferences, are we not warranted in drawing from such a deplorable picture as this?   But my object is not to run over the long list of those who have occupied the Papal Chair, and select such atrocious monsters as have from time to time disgraced it ; such as Benedict the 9th, Urban 6th, John 23rd, Sixtus 4th, Paul 2nd Alexander 6th, or Julius 3rd. I will confine my sketch to the tenth century, commencing at the death of Benedict the 4th, in the year 903, until the accession of Sylvester 2nd, 999, during which period no pontiff of eminence for either piety, learning, or morality, occupied the chair of St. Peter. On the contrary, men of the most infamous, cruel, and profligate character were mostly the occupants of the so-called Apostolic throne. I may as well here state that during the greater part of this period Rome was ruled by three women, notorious for their beauty, their wit, and their wickedness— Theodoræ, mother and daughter, and Marozia. These women were not only exquisitely beautiful, they were highly intellectual, their natural qualifications of the highest order, and their educational acquirements far beyond those usually attained in those unlettered ages.  Well, these women so illustrious for their beauty, so famous for their wealth, and so notorious for their wit and wickedness, so managed to enthral the Counts of Tusculum, the Dukes of Spoleto and Tuscany, as to get the entire power of the Papal See into their own hands, and which they kept for more than half a century.  Leo the 5th succeeded Benedict 903, but very shortly after his accession to the Chair was violently deposed and imprisoned by his own chaplain, one Christopher, who was again driven from the usurped See by another usurper, Sergius the 3rd.   Sergius the Third was the paramour of Morozia, with whom he lived in open criminality, and by whom he had a son, who afterwards became Pope, under the title of John XI., whose notoriety for infamy stands pre-eminent. He was placed upon the throne at the age of nineteen. Sergius took forcible possession of the Papal Chair, through the powerful influence of the Marozian faction, in the year 904. his whole life was one scene of debauchery and profligacy ; he died in 911, and was succeeded by Anastatius III., a man altogether unknown either to the ecclesiastical or literary world ; his very handsome person and captivating address was his whole recommendation for the Apostolic chair, save that his conduct was in accordance with the prevailing ethics of the Marozian period. He did not occupy the Chair for more than twelve months, when he was succeeded by one Lando, who was the paramour of Theodora the mother; Rome was at this time entirely under the control of this trinodi of beauty, wit, and wickedness.
  But poor Lando's occupation of the Pontifical seat was of short duration. For on his elevation to the Apostolic chair, the Archbishop of Ravenna sent one of his priests with the usual congratulations. Unfortunately for poor Lando, this man happened to possess a magnificent physique, remarkably fine features, and very elegant manners; dangerous properties in juxaposition with these women of wit and wickedness. With such powerful commendations we are not surprised that he found favor in the eyes of Theodora the mother, and that poor Lando—the vicegerent of heaven—one of the holy successors of St. Peter—one of the bright links of the Apostolic chain! one upon whose lips, for a few short months, had hung the issues of life and death! Yes, this great earthly potentate, under the frowns of wit and wickedness, was obliged to abstract himself from his own potentiality and infallibility, and retire into private life "a wiser, if not a better man," and our man of the magnificent physique quietly took possession of the chair of St. Peter (which poor Lando had occupied for a few short months), and assumed the title of John X. What had conclaves, consistories, or Colleges of Cardinals to do in such cases as these? Simply what they were bidden by this trinodi of wit and wickedness! Such were the channels of grace through which this bright chain of Apostolic descent had to be dragged.
 Nor was this John a bad man in many respects. He was one of the most magnificent swordsmen of the day! He had fought many battles, he had stormed a Turkish fortress, he had killed a great many men with his own hand —he was, in short, "one of the mightiest men of war that ever hold the keys of St. Peter, and could wield a sword with any knight of the age." But what then? Are these the fitting qualifications for one to guide us to that everlasting home where "the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest ?"
   But granting him generous and unselfish as most men of high courage are, he was still under the influences of those wanton and wicked women, than whom no more dissolute and dangerous rulers over existed. It is said by some writers that John did not occupy his present position by choice but by pressure. It is generally acknowledged that he was a man of great ability and daring, and well qualified for the temporal necessities of the times. His military powers were never questioned ; but his qualifications for the chair of St. Peter were of the most meagre description —he had neither the claims of ecclesiastic attainments, nor the qualifications of the scholar. Notwithstanding his position with Theodora the mother, and his exalted status of pontifical dignity, Marozia the daughter became jealous, and failing to attract his attention was so exasperated that she determined upon his destruction. This wretched and heartless woman with her husband Guido Duke of Tuscany, now ruled in Rome by force and intrigue, and therefore found little difficulty in carrying out any scheme, however cruel, revolting, or brutal. "  She communicated this bloody design to her husband, and prevailed upon him not only to approve but to be the instrument of destruction in carrying it into execution.  Accordingly on a certain day this wretch when the Pope and his brother Peter were together in the Lateran Palace, broke in at the head of a band of ruffians, killed Peter before his brother's face, then seizing the Pope, dragged him to prison, where he soon died." It is said by other historians that he was murdered, which considering the demons by whom he was surrounded is most probable.
  Leo the Sixth succeeded the unfortunate John through the same pure channel of Apostolic descent, and was permitted only to occupy the Papal chair for the short space of six months, when it is said he was sacrificed, like his predecessor John, by the same infamous and wicked faction, which now ruled supreme in Rome. His death took place in 928.
 Stephen the VIII., was now placed upon the Apostolic chair by Marozia alone, for Guido, her husband, was dead. This pontiff was wholly unknown to fame, either as an ecclesiastic or a scholar ; nor was he permitted long to enjoy the fatal chair, for in the year 930 he was removed, by a suspicious death, to make room for Octavian, the son of Marzoia and Lugius the Third, who, while yet in his minority, was shamelessly placed in the Apostolic chair under the title of John the Eleventh. In these appointments there was no appeal made to conclaves or consistories ; nor was any protest offered by the prelates or clergy against so shameless a prostitution of priestly power! John was kept upon the throne by the intrigues and influence of his wretched mother, who had now married Hugh of Provence, King of Italy. But such was the scandalous depravity of their lives that they are unfit for publication. The habits of Hugh were so coarse, vulgar, and brutal, that he was driven with ignominy from the Roman states, while the wretched Marozia herself was imprisoned by her own son Alberico, who now ruled Rome under the title of "Prince and Senator of all the Romans."
   John himself was so closely watched by Alberico that he had little chance of promoting further mischief, and died under suspicion of violent means. Nor was this sad state of things confined to the Curia alone, for one historian writes—"The great ecclesiastics of Italy were mingled up in most of the treacherous and bloody transactions of the period."
   On the death of John, Leo the Seventh was placed upon the Apostolic Throne by Albuico, who now reigned in Rome with undivided authority. Leo was a man of average natural abilities and moderate acquirements ; very little is known of him, but whenever he is mentioned he is spoken of as a highly moral and irreproachable character. He died in the year 939.
  Stephen the Ninth succeeded Leo, in the year 940, one of the creatures of the Marozian faction, and of whom less is known than of any of the occupants of the papal chair. It is only known that he was placed in the chair by Alberico without any conclave, or even appeal to the clergy, and that he met his death from violence in one of those tumultuous outbreaks which so often occurred amongst the Roman citizens, in the year 942.
   Martin the Third succeeded Stephen in the year 943 and died in 946. During this period bishopricks were bought and sold to the highest bidder; even the Archbishoprick of Milan was bought by one Lanthbert, and the general characters of the bishops were those of secular princes.
  Agapetus the Second succeeded Martin, after an interregnum of some years.   He was one of those unknown and unlettered men who at this period polluted the Papal chair, a mere puppet in the hands of the secular authorities ; he died in 955, and was succeeded by John the Twelfth, while yet a boy, "who was as unhappy as his promotion had been scandalous." This licentious Pontiff was son of Alberico, and grandson of the infamous Marozia, and was placed upon the Apostolic throne, before he had attained the age of nineteen. Words fail to convey an adequate idea of the blackness of this monster's character, no vice can be named in which he did not excel; his profligacy exceeded all who had gone before him; he was the most licentious, cruel, and avaricious ruffian who had yet desecrated the papal chair.   A mild delineator of the character of this profligate says "his utter disregard, not merely of religion, but of the commonest forms of morality, truth, honor, decency, were all shamefully defied. The gold and silver vessels belonging to St. Peter's were given as presents to his mistresses and other companions in sensual pleasures; the female pilgrims who visited Rome were decoyed to the Lateran and ruined ; the treasures of the See were squandered away in gambling of every kind; the very show of Divine worship was altogether abandoned, or indecently hurried through ; and the audacious Pope did not scruple publicly to invoke the pagan deities, and mockingly to drink at his revels to the health of the devil !"
  I dare not attempt any detail of the atrocities of this monster, and will only say that when the Emperor Otho the First visited Rome it to enquire into the charges urged against him, by both the clergy and the people, they were as atrocious as they were numerous— adultery, incest, murder, sacrilege ; of having converted the Lateran Palace into a brothel; of having put out the eyes of one prelate,and having castrated another! He was at last caught in illicit connection with a married woman by her husband, who killed him on the spot, in the year 964. The year 965 was remarkable for the competition for the papal chair between Leo the 8th and Benedict the 5th. Sad were the scenes of turbulence and bloodshed between the lawless partizans of each respective competitor. Many were scourged to death, some of the Cardinals frightfully mutilated, nose, hands, and tongue of each cut off ; so that Otho, the Emperor, had again to return with an army and take possession of the holy city. Otho now placed upon the vacant chair the Bishop of Naini, who assumed the title of John the 13th. The conduct of this pontiff was as haughty and imperious to the great mass of the Roman people, that he was unanimously expelled from the city. He died in 972.
 Benedict the Sixth, under the protection of the Emperor Otho, now took possession of this dangerous post, the apostolic see. But such was the turbulent and demoralised state of Rome that they would brook no restraint, nor endure any authority but that of the Emperor, who dying about this time released them from all controlling power. Almost immediately after the death of Otho, one Cardinal Boniface headed a revolt against Benedict, whom they imprisoned in the Castle of St. Angelo in 974, and shortly afterwards caused him to be strangled! This murderous aspirant for holy office assumed the papal dignity; but was shortly deposed, when he fled to Constantinople, where he died. One Cardinal Franco now assumed the pontificate, under the title of Boniface the Seventh. This pontiff was one of the most wicked, cruel, and licentious of any who had yet polluted the apostolic chair. So utterly depraved was he, that Otho the Second found it necessary to interfere, and placed in the chair one Cardinal Conti, whom, assumed the title of Benedict the 7th, 975. The atrocities and brutal cruelties perpetrated between these rival pontiffs and their partizans were so wanton and merciless that Otho was obliged to spend much of his time in Rome to protect Benedict; but unfortunately he died in 983. The pontiff thus left without support, did not long survive his powerful benefactor. He died in 984.   The Bishop of Pavia, now ascended the Papal chair, under the title of John the 14th, Short and full of trouble was the reign of this most unfortunate pontiff. Within a few short months of his elevation he fell a sad victim to the lawless and scandalous brutalities of this ignominious age! John the 15th succeeded this last victim in 985, and passed a short and uneventful reign. It was this John who claimed the right of creating "saints." He died 996, and was succeeded by Gregory the 5th. This pontiff was a relative to Otho the 3rd, and also his chaplain ; but by his arrogance,and want of administrative tact, he became embroiled with the people by whom he was driven out of Rome, when one John, Bishop of Pincenza, was placed upon the throne by the people ; but the Emperor, Otho III., shortly returned and reinstated Gregory. The Bishop of Pincenza was imprisoned, cruelly mutilated, and left to die. Gregory did not long survive these misfortunes ; he died 999. At length arose that most excellent man, that brilliant scholar and divine, Gerbert of Auvergne ; whose attainments, both ecclesiastic and scientific, startled the world, and "whose accession to the Papal chair, in the year 999, under the title of Sylvester II., cast a halo of light around the Papacy, sufficient to shroud for a while the long, dark, lurid stream of crime which had so defamed the tenth century.
 Many thanks for conceding me this space.
Yours very truly, M. G.

  * It is now generally admitted by scholars, that if ever Peter was in Rome, he never held any official position there.


 Launceston Examiner 1 February 1873,

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