Posts Tagged ‘Papacy’

Machiavelli’s Role Model

Posted in General, On This Day on August 11th, 2016 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Pope_Alexander_VIDonald Trump could have warned the College of Cardinals about cheap Hispanic labor. However, on this day in 1492, the College elected Roderigo Borja as Pope. Obviously, the Italian boys were not so eager to have the job. Their bribes were only half as much as Roderigo’s, and Roderigo was willing to assimilate. His mistresses were Italian, and he even adopted a more Italian pronunciation of his surname: Borgia. (But his green card would have identified him as Pope Alexander VI.)

But as Donald Trump could have warned them, you let one of them in….Yes, Roderigo had a big family; and with six children, a Pope can’t get by just from skimming the profits of bingo nights. His daughter Lucretia was attractive, so he had no trouble arranging three lucrative marriages for her–and he oversaw her becoming a widow in time for the next marriage. (Annulments took too long, even for a Pope’s daughter.) Then, there was the irrepressible Cesare. Dad made him a cardinal when Cesare was 17, but the boy showed secular interests: murder, pillage and conquering all of Italy. Well, Roderigo could hardly refuse his son (especially if the son might kill him), and the Pope actually liked the idea of Italy as a family heirloom.

Such a conquest was, however, a rather daunting goal. The Italian city states were always at war, but the wars barely amounted to misdemeanors. Ferrara would seize an acre from Rimini, and Rimini might retaliate by defacing a fresco. And the Papal States definitely were not supposed to attack anyone. But Roderigo was not much for etiquette. (For instance, he referred to his children as his children; every other pope pretended that his spawn were only nephews and nieces.) He invested Cesare with the full military resources of the Papal States (Stop laughing; you could buy a lot of mercenaries with purloined Church funds.) But, yes, that would not be enough to quickly conquer the peninsula.

Fortunately, the Pope was a man of faith: he fervently believed in his own craftiness and everyone else’s gullibility. So, Roderigo encouraged the King of France to invade Italy. Once the French invaded in 1494, the Pope then began encouraging Spain to defend its possessions in Southern Italy. Roderigo was even negotiating with the Ottoman Empire. Somehow, he expected to play everyone off against each other and end up with all of Italy. He might have even succeeded but for one miscalculation. Seventy-year-old men have a tendency to die, and in 1503 men usually died at 45. Roderigo had beaten the actuarial table but he couldn’t do it indefinitely. Without Dad, Cesare was without an empire and Lucretia was stuck in her third marriage.

Nonetheless, Roderigo definitely left an legacy. The name Borgia is still remembered. And Spain, allied with the Holy Roman Empire, would be fighting France over the control of Italy for another 30 years. In fact, the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire were so preoccupied with Italian politics that when a German theology professor complained about the Church’s corruption, no one paid any attention to Martin Luther (except the population of Northern Europe).

Cardinal Sins

Posted in General, On This Day on September 24th, 2010 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

September 24, 1143:  Pope Innocent II Dies and Henceforth Lives Up To His Name

At one time, picking a Pope was simple.  The congregation convened in a catacomb and elected whoever wanted his name on the top of the to-be martyred list.  In the fourth century Constantine at least prolonged the Pope’s lifespan if not his  job security.  Until the 8th century, the Pope was a third-string bureaucrat subject to the whims of Constantinople; some Popes “retired” to Byzantine prisons–although they probably were more comfortable than anything still in standing in Rome.  But Pepin the Short, his boy Charlie, and a surprisingly efficient French army improved the status of the Papacy, making the Pope the biggest landholder in Rome.

And with that extra incentive, every robber baron in the vicinity now wanted to be Pope.  A Pope was chosen by the people of Rome; in other words, who ever had the toughest mob.  Criminal gangs were establishing dynasties of Popes.  In response to the chronic scandal, German Emperors would periodically march into Rome, oust the Italian scoundrel and replace him with a (surprise) German bureaucrat who, by no coincidence, was the Emperor’s relative.  Of course,when the German Army left, the ousted Italian scoundrel usually returned and drove out his German replacement.  This frequently left the Church with two Popes.

In the mid-11th century, with a German army in the vicinity, the reformers in Church established new rules for the election of the Pope.  The Pontiff would no longer be the choice of the Roman gangs but elected by a group of Church prelates, establishing specifically for this responsibility.  They would be known as Cardinals.  In the original rules, the Cardinals’ choice would require the approval of the Holy Roman Emperor.  (Remember that nearby German army; as soon as it left, that specific rule was forgotten.)  Oh, yes, the Pope had to be dead for three days before the Cardinals could elect his successor.

But in 1130, the papal election did not quite observe that waiting period.  It had been obvious that Pope Honorius II was dying.  It was also obvious that the majority of Cardinals would elect the rich, charming, reputable Pier Pierleoni the next Pope.  However, his chief rival Gregorio Papareschi had a very effective campaign strategy.  His allies kidnapped the dying Pope.  Since they would be the first to know when Honorius became the late Pope, the Papareschi Party would also be the first to have a Papal election.  They did, and guess who won?  Papareschi now was, however ironically, Pope Innocent II.

Of course, Pierleoni and his allies did not recognize Papareschi’s usurpation.  They had their own Papal election and Pierleoni became, at least to a majority of the Cardinals, Pope Anacletus II.  (Pierleoni evidently did not use a focus group for that name.)  Rome’s populace sided with Pope Anacletus, and Innocent was driven from the city.  In fact, he left Italy, going first to France to plead his cause with the most powerful man in the realm.

Bernard of Clairvaux would have had a deceivingly simple resume:  Oh, he was just a simple monk.  In fact, he was the type of person who would join a committee and within 30 minutes be running it.    And Bernard liked to join lots of committees, especially royal counsels and church councils.  Mesmerizing and manipulating, Bernard ran France and much of the Church.  He definitely was the man whom Innocent had to win over.

And Innocent had one very persuasive argument.  Pierleoni was half-Jewish.  True, the Pierleonis were not only nouveau riche but nouveau Christian.  Grandpa had been the most successful usurer in Rome; even the Popes owed him.  Pope Leo IX (really Bruno von Eguisheim-Dagsburg, cousin of Emperor Conrad II)  coaxed his favorite creditor into becoming a Christian noble.  Now, the grandson of the usurer was claiming to be Pope.  Bernard of Clairvaux wouldn’t stand for that:  “It is an injury to Christ that the offspring of a Jew should have seized for himself the throne of St. Peter.”

Of course, Christ was the offspring of a Jew and so was St. Peter,  but you didn’t try contradicting Bernard with logic.  Pierre Abelard had and was condemned for heresy.  Bernard declared his support for Pope Innocent, which then determined the decisions of French and German church councils, and their respective monarchs went along.  The German Emperor led an army into Italy in 1132 (a now familiar itinerary) to establish Innocent in Rome.  Anacletus was relegated to the quaint category of Anti-Pope, but he was still more popular in Rome than Innocent.  The Pope was only safe there in the company of a German garrison.  In 1139, Innocent did become the uncontested Pope by outliving Anacletus.

On this day in 1143, Innocent II died.  He was never made a saint…but Bernard of Clairvaux was.

Saturday’s Ramblings

Posted in General on July 19th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Rambling 1:

Republican lobbyists are trying to extort contributions to the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Bush Library sounds about as logical as the Gore Vidal Bowling Alley.

Rambling 2:

As you know, this is the 1494th anniversary of the death of Pope Symmachus. During the time of his pontificate (498-514), the chief talent of a pope was sychophancy. Italy was ruled by the Ostrogoths, and the Pope had to play up to the guys with the swords. At the same time, he couldn’t be too nauseatingly obvious about it. After all, at the time the unquestioned leader of Christendom was not a threadbare bishop in ransacked Rome but the Emperor in Constantinople.

However, Symmachus seemed more sincere in his grovelling to the Ostrogoths; so the Byzantine partisans conspired against him. They accused Symmachus of fornication. The Pope successfully defended himself by saying that he only had one mistress. In Italy, that evidently counts as celibacy.

Rambling 2 postscript:

Here is a surprise. The Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Pope Symmachus omitted any reference to the fornication controversy.

Rambling 3:

The South could have avoided the Civil War with a little corporate tact. Instead of referring to its “guest-workers” as slaves, it should have used a more congenial term like “associates.” If Simon Legree had simply described Uncle Tom as an associate, a stakeholder or a team mate, why would Mrs. Stowe or Mr. Lincoln object to such a productive partnership?