For some reason Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Pope Alexander VI, seems to have reached the status of “worst Pope ever” among Catholics and Anti-Catholics alike.
Whilst the man represented many of the shortcomings of his age, and not even nowadays’ spinmeisters would dare to call him a saintly man, it is remarkable how the man allows Popes like Liberius, or Benedict IX, or John XXII to go unnoticed among the masses. Actually, in most cases if people don’t shoot at Alexander they will shoot at, say, Julius II or Leo X. All Renaissance Popes, you see. It catches the imagination. Sex, War, and Sacred Music. Still, all orthodox ones.
There is, if you ask me, a frequent mistake here, present in a rather extreme way: the confusion of the moral qualities of a man with the way he exercised his office.
No one seems much interested in the fact that, say, Churchill drank like a fish. What they are interested in is how he did his job as Prime Minister, and his private failures are considered a private problem of his exactly as his public work had a very public dimension.
This should, always if you ask me, apply even more to a Pope. If it is true that the business of saving England is of far more consequence than the private failings of the British Prime Minister, then it must be the more true that the business of being the Vicar of Christ with all this entails – worldwide evangelisation, say; or the fight against the world’s values – is of far more consequence than the business of saving England. If every souls has, being infinite, infinite value, then the business of the salvation of souls is an infinitely more important business than the salvation of Britain.
A corrupt Renaissance Pope certainly did put his soul in danger, and certainly did go to hell if he died in state of mortal sin. We cannot know with certainty about anyone of them – not even of Alexander VI – but the impressive string of very bad Popes between, say, the X and the XV century allows us to tell that very probably a number of them did not escape hell.
Such a bad Pope lost, then, his own soul. He did, in case, contribute to the loss of many other souls in his entourage. But in those times there was no Internet or Facebook, no Twitter or even CNN, not even much literacy. The private failings of a Pope were specifically known to a restricted number of people, most of them of the educated sort. Still, most people died with the same faith, the same rules, the same Mass and the same certainties with which they were born. Their world revolved around the Truths of their Faith, with which no Pope dared, or even thought, to tamper. In the economy of their own salvation, the private conduct of the Pope was pretty much near to zero.
Yes, the peasant might have known that high prelates were corrupt, but it’s not that he did not have experience of corrupted powerful men in his own environment – or that he was an angel himself, in most cases -. Yes, it might be said that the corruption of the Church was an element in the march of the great Heresies of the XVI century; but again, every illiterate peasant knew, when he rebelled to the Church, what he was doing, and note no one was more justified in being an heretic then than he is today, and many clergymen and Popes were very corrupted for many centuries before the XVI. Again, the private conduct of the Popes did not enter the life of the common people. They knew God’s rules applied to the powerful clergy as well as to everyone else, and that was rather the end of it. Wise people. They knew Alexander was orthodox; and if he had not been, I doubt they would have had any knowledge of the fact. Still, orthodox he was.
Fast forward to these disgraceful beginnings of the XXI Century. The Pope has, it can be safely said, no mistresses and no illegitimate sons; he does not lead an extravagant life; he is certainly persuaded, “in conscience”, that he is a good man. I cannot imagine he has many fears about his eternal destiny, something Alexander could at least be worried about.
Still, this man will contribute to the loss of millions of souls; he reinforces heretics and heathen in their conviction that there is no need to convert; he downplays the doctrinal solidity of the Church at every step; he leads people to believe they can be saved by merely following their conscience; he tells them they should not be “obsessed” by abortion and homosexuality; he tells everyone there is no need to evangelise; he gnaws and scratches at Catholicism in thousand little and less little ways, some of them clearly heretical, some of them merely stupid; in short, with his intellectual pride he gives scandal and confuses the faithful day in and day out, not with his private conduct but certainly with his public one.
I do not doubt in all ages past most people would have told us a Francis is infinitely more dangerous than an Alexander. More still, they might have had difficulties in even understanding the question: the privately corrupt people were part of their everyday experience, but a Pope behaving like Francis must have been, to them, simply inconceivable.
There can be, therefore, no doubt Francis is much worse, much worse as a Pope than every “Renaissance Prince” you might care to mention; in the same way as a Churchill is infinitely better than Chamberlain as a British Prime Minister irrespective of any private virtue the latter might have had.
I am not very interested in the private conduct of a Pope. Not much more, anyway, than I am interested in the private conduct of Winston Churchill. Every soul has infinite importance. Therefore, the salvation of a Pope isn’t more important than the salvation of Mrs Bridges, the pleasant neighbour of number 23. But think how many millions Mrs Bridges Francis is encouraging on the way to perdition. Pope Alexander was certainly corrupt and scandalous as far as his scandals could go; but Francis has unwittingly – but very arrogantly – made of himself a damnation machine on a planetary scale as his intellectual pride allows him to attack and sabotage Truth at every step and even persuade himself he is doing the right thing. He is, after all, following his conscience. Sounds a bell?
No. Keep your Francis, and give me ten Alexander VI instead, any day.
Catholics complain very often that when heretical priests go around talking rubbish the reaction of the competent bishop is non-existent.
This seems not to have been the case here, where an entire board has been excommunicated for professing the usual Presbyterian nonsense. They wanted priestesses of course, and married priests to boot (says something about their priest, methinks), and communion is not inclusive enough so they wanted to give it to non-Catholics, too.
The bishop who acted and excommunicated the entire board was none other than Raymond Burke, the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura or, if you prefer, the highest-ranking judge in Catholicism after the Pope. Burke is now one of the brightest stars in the Vatican firmament, with a red hat already in the post and a solid reputation as papabile. Goes to show that showing some guts does not have to be detrimental to one’s career. Ah, if ++ Nichols had known….
Seen with European eyes, the entire episode has some strange colours. The church board apparently owns the church. The new bishop makes a reconciliation proposal involving the church’s property rights; the community votes on that and chooses to remain a heretical group owning their own church. Fascinating.
Even more fascinating is the mentality of the remarkable would-be Presbyterian chap formerly masquerading as a Catholic priest, Mr Marek Bozek. Mr. Bozek claims that “the people have spoken, in ancient Rome the Christians used to say ‘Vox populi, vox dei”.
Vox Populi, Vox dei is an old saying (and I think: not Roman, but merely in Latin) which no Catholic would ever take literally or consider theologically meaningful as it goes completely against everything Christianity is and represents. But that’s a feminist priest for you.
In the same ballpark is the statement of a Mr. Zabielski, a formerly excommunicated member of the board who has in the meantime come back to the fold. “I don’t think he’s taking his church in the direction of a Roman Catholic church anymore”, says Mr. Zabielski about Mr Bozek, thus implying that there was a time when supporting priestesses etc. was purest Catholic orthodoxy…. I don’t know how traditional Polish liquors are called but boy, they must be strong.
Be it as it may, Mr Bozek seems not to have very clear what the Church is, but he seems to have very clear that he would like to marry. Perhaps the “chosen one” would soon have a beautiful job as “priestess” already lined up? Still, one is happy that there are people around who still prefer to remain excommunicated and look at the situation in the eye rather than to stay within the Church and spread their heresies from there. At least they won’t be able to say, that day, “I didn’t know this was against the Church’s teaching”…
But look at the positive side: now that Mr. Bozek’s little community of vox populi, vox dei-supporters has decided to have the Truth expertly made to measure by a tailor of their choice, they might be able to follow the example of some daring Anglican “pastoress” and give communion even to dogs. How very inclusive!