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Sex, Violence And Celtic - The Secret History Of The Papacy
Bearing in mind the chequered history of his predecessors, Eamonn McCann reckons Pope Benedict XVI may be letting himself in for a hell of a lot more than he bargained for.
Eamonn McCann, 16 May 2005
None of the religious correspondents kept an eye on the balls. Which is all the more surprising when you consider that the first pope whose balls were eyed was a Benedict.
This was Benedict III. The reason church leaders insisted on viewing his balls was that he was the pope who followed the first and (so far) (as far as we know) only female pope, Joan.
Some accounts preface mention of Joan with weaselly phrases such as “according to legend” or “as some believe.” So let me quote directly from the Catholic Encyclopaedia – anyone who argues against this great work is, a priori and QED, a heretic - which declares that: “She served as Pope for two years, four months and eight days, when she was discovered to be a woman and stoned to death (she gave birth during a papal procession.)”
In The First Sex, Elizabeth Gould Davis tells that: “Joan, a handsome young English girl, made her way to Athens disguised as a monk... Armed with a degree in philosophy, she came to Rome where Pope Leo IV made her a cardinal. Upon Leo’s death in 853, Joan was elected Pope by her fellow cardinals.”
As to where in England Joan came from, the only indication we have comes in a document which mentions her birthplace as Tamesa Aestuarium (the Thames Estuary), close to Londinium. An Essex girl, then.
Anyway, great was the consternation when Joan brought forth a son while processing one feast day afternoon from the Colosseum to the Church of San Clemente. Shocked and appalled by her suffering, the cardinals, after stoning her to death, resolved to take no chances in future. And thus – hotpress readers will already be aware of this, but you’d be amazed how ignorant some people are – a ritual was instituted whereby each new Pope had to sit on a red marble chair with a hole in the seat in the Church of St. John Lateran and undergo a physical examination to prove his sex.
Once a designated cardinal had completed the delving and fondling, a procession would pass by proclaiming, “testiculos habet et bene pendentes.“ (Balls he has and well-hung ones, too).
This tradition was maintained for exactly 700 years, from the election of Benedict III to the reign of Marcellus.
The last time I mentioned this matter, a Church apologist wrote in, somewhat sneeringly, I thought, to point out that that no list of popes, even those compiled by opponents of the One True Faith, has ever included a Pope Joan. You see what I mean about ignorance? Of course there was no “Pope Joan.” Just as there’s no Pope Josef now. Joan took the name “John". Which is why the official Vatican list from 855 to 1601 included a “John VIII, 853-855“. But since 1601, Joan/John having been declared an unperson, Leo has been recorded as living on and reigning until 855. Like many another, Joan was hidden from history.
The next Pope John (872-882), now numbered VIII in all Church history books, was for seven centuries listed as John IX.
None of this rated a mention in mainstream coverage of the election of the latest Benedict. What’s journalism coming to, eh?
Little mention, either, of Benedict X1, easily the most interesting of all the Benedicts. St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) had a lot to say about him.
Damian, a good man of towering intellect who lived a life of strict austerity as a Benedictine monk, was outraged that “that wretch” had “fouled” the name of his Order. “From the beginning of his pontificate to the end of his life, (he) gorged himself on immorality.”
As precocious as Pete Doherty, XI donned the white Benny-cap in 1032 at the age of 11, the position having been bought for him by doting dad, Count Alberic of the House of Tusculum. By the time he was 14, he had fathered a number of children, and most cardinals had moved their mistresses out of the Vatican.
Eventually, following his involvement in a series of particularly savage murders, mostly for money, XI was driven out of Rome, and a chap of feline charm, Sylvester III, appointed in his stead. The House of Tusculum, not one bit happy at this turn of events, soon made Sylvester an offer he would have been extremely silly to refuse – resign and be set up for life in a castle in the Sabine Hills, or have his body sent to the papal kennels as dog-meat. Benny came back.
Strangely, though, a couple of years later, XI, still not yet 30, decided to retire to the country with his third cousin, Greta. Perhaps he was in love. Having negotiated a hefty golden hand-shake – the takings from the 1045 Peter’s Pence collection at all churches in England – he formally relieved himself of the requirement of celibacy and departed amid wild scenes of jubilation. Gregory VI proved that he had the balls for the job, and duly took over.
Two years later, Greta having given him the elbow, Benedict announced that, matter of fact, popes couldn’t retire and that he was still numero uno.
Sylvester, still resentful at his treatment, instantly saw an opening, joined in questioning the validity of Gregory’s appointment and seized St. Peter’s at the head of a hastily-raised army of rustic vagabonds. Things were getting out of hand. There were now three Popes. Henry, King of Germany, reckoned it was time for a no-nonsense intervention. He invaded Rome, kidnapped an elderly cardinal and took him back to Germany as Clement II. Clement excommunicated all other claimants.
Clement died of the cold within a year. Cardinals in Rome then appointed Damasus II. Benedict had Damasus poisoned. But by this time he had made an enemy of virtually every Vatican faction and was forced yet again to flee Rome.
And that was that for the Benedicts for a century and a half, until Benedict XI in 1303, who...
Hold on!, I hear a shout from the back, so what happened to Benedict X?
Now that’s a really interesting question. Thing is, the man listed in unreliable journals like the Catholic Herald as “Benedict X, 1058-1059,” was in fact an Anti-pope, who had come to prominence following a complex….
Ah, fuck it.
I see from Hearts website jambos.net that fans accused of sectarianism for disrupting a minute’s silence at Celtic Park for John Paul have hit back claiming that it’s Celtic which is sectarian: “What has a football club to do with the Pope?”
Such a silly question.
Popes used to fret all day on Saturdays waiting for the Celtic result. So it was widely believed anyway. Not least by Tim McGinn, who, anxious to alert the pontiff to the conclusion of a triumphant season in 1891, telegrammed the Vatican: “Your Holiness, we have won the three cups.”
When Leo XIII failed to respond, McGinn moved a motion of censure at the Glasgow branch of the Irish National League which was only defeated after a message from the archbishop of Glasgow suggesting that Curia officials rather than the Pope himself may have been to blame for this disgraceful neglect of pontifical duty.
Bet you Benedict was a happy bunny on the day of his installation.