Testing the Chain of Papal Successors
Authoritative Catholic sources shatter the chain, without help from authorities which the Roman Catholic Church would reject
CATHOLICS claim that Pope Pius XII receives his authority through a long and continuous line of successors, each of whom sat upon the papal throne by divine appointment. Says the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The history of the Catholic Church from St. Peter, the first pontiff, to . . . the present head of the Church is an evident proof of its Apostolicity, for no break can be shown in the line of successors.”1 Now, no chain can be judged by the strength or beauty of a single link or by the soundness of several links. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.
Back in the early days of Christianity, when some of the apostles were still on earth, one would expect to find the strongest links. The canon of the Holy Bible was not closed out until the end of the first century, some thirty-five years after Peter died. Yet no successor is mentioned, notwithstanding the Catholic claim that four successors are presumed to have lived during that time.a
But aside from the fact that the primary and most important link is missing, do we find the rest of the chain in good sound condition? The National Catholic Almanac, 1948, pp. 30-35, adopts from the Annuario Pontificio of 1947, the revised list of popes in which Linus, Anacletus, Clement and Evaristus are said to have succeeded one another during the first century. However, such arbitrary listing is shrouded in great uncertainty, for the famous authorities of antiquity—Iranaeus, Tertullian, Jerome, etc.—all disagree on the matter. Some say that Linus succeeded Peter, yet Jerome says that “most of the Latins” held that Clement was the man. This confusion is understandable when we appreciate that such listings were fabricated out of various traditions a hundred years and more after Peter died.2 Concerning these early bishops of Rome the Catholic Encyclopedia says that Clement I is the first “of whom anything definite is known”;3 that “the earliest historical sources offer no authentic data” about Evaristus who is said to have followed Clement;4 that “the chronology of these bishops of Rome cannot be determined with any degree of exactitude by the help of the authorities at our disposal today”.5
But what all ancient records do agree on is this: the early bishops of Rome exercised no such power as that displayed by the apostles, nor did they have the place of primacy among the other “bishops” which was enjoyed at a later date by the popes of Rome. Leo I (440-461) was the first pope in the real sense of the term.6
Another misconception in the minds of many is the belief that there has been no interruption or break in between those who have occupied the papal chair. History shows, however, that there have been many gaps, some very serious and exceptionally long. After the death of Pope Marcus in 336, for example, the chain was broken for a period of four months. It was what the Catholic Encyclopedia calls a “comparatively long vacancy”.7 But if a four-month breach is considered a long period, what about the time when Pope Boniface IV was made pope in 608 “after a vacancy of over nine months”,8 or when “nearly eleven months” lapsed between the death of John III in 574 and the crowning of Benedict I,9 or when “the Roman See remained vacant for nearly a year” before Dionysius filled it in 259?10 And do you know that “Boniface III . . . was elected to succeed Sabinian [in 607] after an interregnum of nearly a year”,11 that Boniface V “succeeded Deusdedit [in 619] after a vacancy of more than a year”?8 But the worst breaks in the chain, which were mended only with great difficulty, occurred when Melchiades did not ascend the throne for nearly two years after Eusebius died in 309, and again, when there was a gap of three and a half years between the death of Marcellinus in 304 and the ascension of Marcellus I. It was also nearly three years between the death of Clement IV in 1268 and the election of Gregory X.12 The chair was often empty.
PAPAL APPOINTMENT BY POLITICAL INTRIGUE
Proof that the Roman Catholic Church is a divine institution, a theocratic organization, is said to rest on the fact that its headship in the person of the pope is by divine decree. But no! Modern political grafters, influence peddlers, and donators of deep-freezers and mink coats look like petty conspirers compared with past engineers of papal elections.
In 418 two factions each elected a pope, Boniface I and Eulalius, and for five weeks everything was in an uproar, with the clergy and people divided in their allegiance.13 Now it was not by consecrated men or by divine revelation that the question was settled. Rather, it was a profane politician and dictator of the time, Emperor Honorius, who gave Boniface his nod of approval, and, as a consequence, Eulalius was called an antipope. All together, the Catholic Almanac lists thirty-six contenders for the title of pope whom they call “anti-popes”.
“Silverius,” the son of a former pope by the name of Hormisdas, “had been made pope through the influence of the King of the Goths” in 536. But “the intriguing empress” Theodora of Constantinople conspired to have Vigilius made pope, whereupon Silverius was taken prisoner by Vigilius and soon after died of harsh treatment.14 15 Now which one do you suppose was the “anti-pope”? Astonishing as it is, both are recognized as infallible links in the papal chain!
Concerning other recognized links we read how Pope Romanus in 897 “was deposed by one of the factions which then distracted Rome” and was replaced by Theodore II.16 Again, “owing to the influence of the nobles dominant in Rome, he [John X] was made pope in succession to Lando [in 914]. The real head of this aristocratical faction was the elder Theodora, wife of the Senator Theophylactus. Liutprand of Cremona affirms that Theodora supported John’s election in order to cover more easily her illicit relations with him.”17 This wicked woman’s grandson later became Pope John XIII.18 Then there was Pope John XI, the natural son of Pope Sergius III, concerning whom we read: “Through the intrigues of his mother, who ruled at that time in Rome, he was raised to the Chair of Peter [in 931], and was completely under the influence of the Senatrix et Patricia of Rome.”19 Also, “Marinus II, Pope (942-946) . . . was one of the popes placed on the throne of St. Peter by the power of Alberic, Prince of the Romans, and who, though virtuous, ‘durst not put their hands to anything without his permission.’”20
After John XII died in 964 Leo VIII became pope, but the Romans rebelled and elected another. Again, it was political power backed up with military might that retained Leo in the chain.21 In the days of Pope Gregory V (996-999) a certain political party elected John XVI, but Gregory’s party captured and beheaded him as an “anti-pope”. However, a short time later the same political gang that put up John XVI got the upper hand and placed the next three popes (John XVII, XVIII, and Sergius IV) upon the papal throne.22 How does it come these are not tossed out as illegitimates? Perish the thought! To do so would leave three links missing!
Through politics a layman was made pope in 767, but the Lateran Council repudiated him as an antipope, declaring that no layman could occupy the papal chair.23 And yet, we read that “after Benedict’s death Romanus, though a layman, was elected pope” in 1024 as John XIX.22 Why was this fellow not thrown out? Obviously, to do so would break the chain of successors right in the middle. And when it comes to political bickering over candidates some conclaves for the election of new popes have surpassed anything known in political caucuses of modern times. After Clement IV died in 1268 almost three years were consumed wrangling over a successor, until “a compromise was finally arrived at through the combined efforts of the French and Sicilian kings”.12 For more than two years after the death of Nicholas IV in 1292 a similar political harangue was held.24 And following the death of Clement V in 1314 we are told that for more than two years and three months “the cardinals assembled in Carpentras for the election of a pope were divided into two violent factions, and could come to no agreement”.25
Bribery with favors, promises and money, and the outright purchase of the office of pope, a practice known as simony, existed for many centuries. “At this period [in the sixth century],” the Catholic Encyclopedia says, “simony in the election of popes and bishops was rife among clergy and laity.”26 Pope Benedict IX in the eleventh century sold his popehood to Gregory VI for “a large sum” of money.27 Likewise, Julius II in the sixteenth century “did not hesitate to employ bribery” to gain the papal crown.28
A CHAIN OF DISGRACE AND SHAME!
If all the wicked characters who have worn the pope’s crown were removed from the list of legitimate successors as they should be, seeing that Scripturally they are wholly disqualified even to be called Christians, surely there would be a great section of the papal chain missing. The history of some of those monsters is shocking.
Benedict IX, “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter,” was pope three different times, and even on the last occasion this “wretched creature” still “continued in his wonted manner to disgrace the papacy”.29 30 Upon his election in 1513, Leo X exclaimed: “Let us enjoy the papacy since God has given it to us!” And that he did. “He paid no attention to the dangers threatening the papacy, and gave himself up unrestrainedly to amusements.” Why, even “the papal palace became a theatre” for all kinds of lewd and immoral plays.31 Consider the charges of wickedness laid on the neck of Boniface VIII: “Scarcely any possible crime was omitted—infidelity, heresy, simony, gross and unnatural immorality, idolatry, magic, etc.” He is therefore classified “among the wicked popes, as an ambitious, haughty, and unrelenting man, deceitful also and treacherous, his whole pontificate one record of evil”.32 Prior to becoming pope in 891 Formosus was excommunicated, together with his pals, a band of “disreputable nobles” who were notorious for their crimes, murders and adultery, among whom were “a number of women who were as bad as themselves”.33 34
If celibacy is demanded of the popes of Rome as a standard of virtue and worthiness of the office, then why are not those who were married or who were fornicators disqualified, cast out, and stricken from the list of legitimate successors? As already mentioned, the son of Pope Hormisdas was crowned Pope Silverius.35 Concerning John XVII we read: “Before taking orders he had been married, and had three sons who also became ecclesiastics.”22 Paul III must have had children, for he elevated his two grandsons to the cardinalate.36 The “early private life [of Julius II] was far from stainless, as is sufficiently testified by the fact that before he became pope he was the father of three daughters”.28 Giovanni Cibò, “after a licentious youth, during which he had two illegitimate children,” finally was crowned Pope Innocent VIII. From then on he is noted for “creating new offices and granting them to the highest bidders”.37 Concerning the “dissolute conduct” of the one who became Pius II, we read: “That he freely indulged his passions is evidenced not only by the birth of two illegitimate children to him, but by the frivolous manner in which he glories in his own disorders.”38 Manifestly, these fellows were not as innocent and pious as their names sound.
Pope Sergius III, according to some historians, “put his two predecessors to death, and by illicit relations with Marozia had a son, who was afterwards John XI.”39 40 Then there was Alexander VI, a vile scoundrel indeed! “Even after his ordination to the priesthood, in 1468, he continued his evil ways.” And “towards 1470 began his relations with the Roman lady, Vanozza Catanei, the mother of his four children”. Thereafter he “continued as Pope the manner of life that had disgraced his cardinalate”.41 John XII was no better, “a coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel.” In fiendish vengeance upon opposers he had a cardinal’s right hand cut off, as well as the nose and ears of another official. His death came in 964, after being “stricken by paralysis in the act of adultery”.19
Honestly, do you think for a moment such depraved men could be called apostles of Jesus Christ? Even the Hierarchy would like to forget that such rogues ever lived. But to forget them, to leave even one out, breaks their mythical line of successors, and leaves dangling with no support the fable that the pope of Rome is Peter’s successor. And so they ridiculously hold on to this rusty chain of murderers, robbers and whoremongers, teaching the preposterous lie that such sons of the Devil were chosen by God as His infallible representatives.
REFERENCES CITED FROM CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
1. Vol. 1, p. 649
2. Vol. 9, p. 272
3. Vol. 4, p. 12
4. Vol. 5, p. 646
5. Vol. 7, p. 593
6. Vol. 9, p. 154
7. Vol. 8, p. 561
8. Vol. 2, p. 661
9. Vol. 2, p. 427
10. Vol. 5, p. 9
11. Vol. 2, p. 660
12. Vol. 6, p. 798
13. Vol. 2, p. 659
14. Vol. 13, p. 793
15. Vol. 15, p. 427
16. Vol. 13, p. 163
17. Vol. 8, p. 425
18. Vol. 8, p. 427
19. Vol. 8, p. 426
20. Vol. 9, p. 670
21. Vol. 9, p. 160
22. Vol. 8, p. 428, 429
23. Vol. 14, p. 289
24. Vol. 3, p. 479
25. Vol. 8, p. 431
26. Vol. 8, p. 421
27. Vol. 6, p. 791
28. Vol. 8, p. 562
29. Vol. 2, p. 429
30. Vol. 4, p. 614
31. Vol. 9, p. 162, 163
32. Vol. 2, p. 668, 669
33. Vol. 8, p. 423
34. Vol. 6, p. 139, 140
35. Vol. 7, p. 470
36. Vol. 11, p. 579
37. Vol. 8, p. 19
38. Vol. 12, p. 126
39. Vol. 9, p. 159
40. Vol. 13, p. 729
41. Vol. 1, p. 289