Pope Alexander VI


#1

I’m looking for some brainstorming from our great Catholic Apologists out there regarding one of the most immoral (if not the most immoral) Pope in the papacy’s history - Pope Alexander VI who was pope from 1492-1503.

Here’s a bio on him - it’s quite lengthy, but very detailed:

newadvent.org/cathen/01289a.htm

Here’s an interesting quote from the bio:

[quote=Pope Alexander VI]So little have Catholic historians defended him that in the middle of the nineteenth century Cesare Cantu could write that Alexander VI was the only Pope who had never found an apologist. However, since that time some Catholic writers, both in books and periodicals, have attempted to defend him from the most grievous accusations of his contemporaries.
[/quote]

What’s the best way to defend our faith against his misdeeds?


#2

Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone …” (John 8:7).

It would be nice if only saintly men rose to leadership positions in the Church but Jesus never said that Church leaders would not behave hypocritically. In fact, he said that there would always be weeds among the wheat (Matt 13:24-30). However, Jesus did say that we are to practice and observe whatever our religious leaders tell us (but not necessarily what they themselves do) (Matt 23:2-3; also see Heb 13:17). Jesus also said that he himself would judge Church leaders very harshly, if they used their position of authority to abuse others (Luke 12:41-48; also Matt 18:6-7).

From reading the Acts of the Apostles, it is clear that the Apostle Peter was the leader of the Church after Jesus’ Ascension. Yet, Peter, at least once, scandalized believers by his hypocritical behavior, as described in Gal 2:11-13. Despite this, the faith remained true and the Holy Spirit even inspired St. Peter to write two infallible letters, 1st & 2nd Peter.

To my knowledge, Pope Alexander VI declared no new dogmas. So, despite his hypocritical behavior, the faith remained true and, if you believe in the promise of Jesus, the faith will always remain true and never be overpowered by the gates of Hades (Matt 16:18).

Also, to my knowledge, Pope Alexander VI, has not been nor is he ever likely to be canonized as a saint by the Church.


#3

[quote=Stylteralmaldo]I’m looking for some brainstorming from our great Catholic Apologists out there regarding one of the most immoral (if not the most immoral) Pope in the papacy’s history - Pope Alexander VI who was pope from 1492-1503.

Here’s a bio on him - it’s quite lengthy, but very detailed:

newadvent.org/cathen/01289a.htm

Here’s an interesting quote from the bio:

What’s the best way to defend our faith against his misdeeds?
[/quote]

By simply accepting that the Popes are human beings like us.

Please do keep in mind that while the Popes may be infallible when teaching from the Chair on matters pertaining to faith and morals, they are not necessarily impeccable when it comes to their personal lives. This is one thing everyone, both Catholic and non-Catholic should understand, that infallibility is one thing, impeccability is another.

If indeed the Church is a hospital for sinners, then even the Pope could be ill with sin.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#4

Alexander VI is the pope I recall first when I think of bad popes, but I’m not very familiar, even familiar, with many of the bishops who succeeded St. Peter at Rome. Alexander is said to have “acquired” the Chair of Peter and ascended to it on 11 August 1492, shortly before Columbus’s encounter with the New World. Alexander, nevertheless, was concerned with the missions and protecting the free will of the “Indians” and wrote in several letters (bulls?) that any subjugation to Spanish or Portuguese rule should depend on the free will of the Indians.


#5

In the past threee years a biography of Lecretia Borge, Alexander’s daughter, was published here in the US. I think it is fairly accurate and is an interesting read. It contains a wealth of material concerning Alexander VI.


#6

[quote=RobedWithLight]By simply accepting that the Popes are human beings like us.
[/quote]

I think this may be the key…I think using a pope such as Alexander VI as an example may help dispel the myth that Catholic’s somehow think that we believe Popes are immune from sin or human error judgements …which of course isn’t the case.

I think the defence of our faith needs to be defended from the “supposed” weakest link in our armor…Alexander VI certainly fits the bill…:wink:

Thanks to all for the information. :slight_smile:


#7

The following, from my notes, are not in the same “class” as Alexander VI, but demonstrate that all are human beings:

One of the Greek Fathers, Origen did enjoin self-castration; he took this to be the meaning of Matt. 5: 29,30, and while a youth deprived himself of his virility in order to avoid the sin of lust.

At least 1 pope was married (children unknown) prior to his elevation to the papacy: St Peter {1st}

At least one Apostle was married with children and grand children. Eusebius’ “Church History” ii. 23;iii,20, tells of Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian who visited Rome about AD 180, and who collected reminiscences about the apostles. It is to Hegesippus that we owe the account of how two grandsons of Jude were summoned before the emperor Domitian and questioned about the Kingdom of Christ.

St Philip, the Evangelist, had four gifted daughters. (Acts 21:8,9.)

At least 6 popes were laymen prior to their elevation to the papacy: St Peter, St Fabian {20th P.}, Leo VIII {133}, Benedict VIII {144th}, John XIX {145th} and Benedict IX {146th}.

At least 4 popes were married with children prior to their elevation: St Felix III {48th}, St Hormisdas {52nd}, Adrian II {107th} and Clement IV {181st}.

At least 1 pope had a mistress/mistresses (unknown illegitimate children), prior to his elevation to the papacy: Boniface VIII{191st}.

At least 8 popes had a mistress/mistresses, and by them illegitimate children, prior to their elevation to the papacy: John XXII {194th}, Pius II {208th}, Innocent VIII {211th}, Alexander VI {212th}, Julius II {214th}, Paul III {218th}, Pius IV {222nd}, and Gregory XIII {224th}.

At least 2 popes had a mistress/mistresses, and by them illegitimate children, AFTER elevation to the papacy: Sergius III {121st} and Alexander VI {212th}.

At least 2 popes were born illegitimate: John XII {132nd} and Clement VII {217th}.

At least 1 pope was the son of a sub-Deacon: St Deusdedit {68th}.

At least 12 popes were the sons of a priest or bishop: St Damasus I {37th}, St Boniface I {42nd}, St Felix III {48th}, St Gelasius I {49th}, Anastasius II {50th}, St Agaptus I {57th}, Theodore I {73rd}, Marinis I {109th}, Boniface VI {113th}, Stephen VI (VII) {114th}, John XV {138th} and Adrian IV {167th} (Nicholas Breakespeare, the first English pope, who gave Ireland to the English King.)

At least 3 popes were the fathers of a future pope: Anastasius I {39th}, St Hormisdas {52nd} and Sergius III {121st}.

At least 3 popes were the sons of or descendants of a pope: St Silverius {58th}, St Gregory I (the Great) {64th}, and John XI {127th}.


#8

Sean O L: What were you implying by pointing out that at least a couple of the apostles were married, including our first pope (who may not have been married when he commenced his ministry, we have no way of knowing for sure, as far as I know)? There is no doctrine that prevents bishops from being married, only the ancient discipline of the Church, which was not yet enforced in the apostolic era, I would imagine. I don’t think this is what you were implying, but I’m just making sure.


#9

G’day twf,

I imply nothing; I simply write some interesting facts - that some of the apostles are recorded as being or having been married and having had children.

As far as St Peter is concerned, please view oblates.org/spirituality/sundays_salesian/sermons_for_lent.php - which demonstrated the fact that St Peter had a mother-in-law.

Mark 1, 30:31 records him having a wife.

I have NO idea whether St Peter remained in the married state or not; neither does anyone else, I suspect.

There is no doctrine that prevents bishops from being married, only the ancient discipline of the Church, which was not yet enforced in the apostolic era, I would imagine. I don’t think this is what you were implying, but I’m just making sure.

I agree entirely. As for the later production of papal children, there were, again, a variety of reasons: some may have been married, had children, widowed, became priests/popes. No probs! On the other hand, some had children illegitimately prior to the clerical state/papacy. A reflection of the sinfullness of all humanity. Others were flagrant fornicators and adulterers following their election to the papacy.

The miracle of the Catholic Church is that despite the sins - which have ranged through the ones mentioned and piracy, theft, murders (even of their predecessors!) and the WHOLE range of mortal sins - the miracle is that the Church HAS endured, and will continue to endure until the end of time.

God bless


#10

Yes, sorry Sean. I didn’t think you would be implying anything, but I just wanted to make sure.

St. Peter did have a mother-in-law, but I just meant that, like you affirmed, we do not know if he was actually married as ‘prince of the apostles’ or not.

Yes it is indeed amazing that the Church has survived. Lately, from time to time, doubts creep into my mind. Can I know for sure that the Catholic Church is Christ’s Church (as opposed to Orthodoxy)? But I always entrust those doubts to Christ through Mary, as I know in my heart that it is indeed Christ’s Church, and I always come across or think of something that puts my doubts to rest in God’s time. You’re little reminder that the Church has survived all this time despite corrupt popes was such a reminder! Thank-you.


#11

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.