DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     April 13, 1999     vol. 10, no. 72


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      We now arrive at a time in Church history that can best be considered a black mark on the glorious 2000 annals of Holy Mother Church. It didn't happen overnight but after a series of abuses by bad popes that preceded Pope Alexander VI who was a paradox of power. Few were as well prepared politically to take over the reins of the Church, but no one was as ostensibly ill-prepared to sit on the throne of Peter for this 214th successor of the first Apostle openly flaunted the sixth and ninth commandments and the vow of celibacy not to mention the sins of pride and avarice. His regime closely parallels the United States' current president today. In regards Alexander VI licentious conduct, the public looked the other way, rationalizing that if he was doing a good job and the economy was good and the Renaissance flourishing, then what did it matter what he did in private life? Sound familiar? Because of this implicit acceptance of his wayward ways and sins, Alexander VI continued unchecked exploiting everyone for his own gains, including his own children who he used as trump cards to achieve kingdoms and riches. In short, he was a poor excuse for a Pope if there ever was one as we shall see over the next few installments.
Installment One-Hundred

Pope Alexander VI: The lust for power and prestige
part one

          Because of the impact both good and bad that Pope Alexander VI had on Holy Mother Church and the course of history, we will devote several issues to this controversial pontiff, born in Spain and a member of the captilizing Borgia clan. When Pope Innocent VIII passed away on July 25, 1492 there was a mad scramble to succeed him. Cardinal Rodrigo de Borgia was not the favorite but those who were could not muster the necessary two-thirds votes to put them over the top. After several ballots Borgia began campaigning for himself, moving stealthily among the cardinals with promises galore if they would elect him. He also enlisted the help of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, a notorious man who had ambitions himself and sought to rise to the top on Alexander's coattails. Thus an unlikely alliance was formed. Many historians claim Alexander attained the papal throne through simony, but proof could never be produced and so it must be left to speculation. Nevertheless, it is known that he secured his election with his own vote which gave him just enough to put him over the top. He assumed the crown during lavish ceremonies in Rome on August 11, 1492. Before we delve into his papacy, we need to review his background and see where this man came from and the questionable moral character of a man who was chosen to set the example for Christians the world over.

          Rodrigo de Borgia was born at Jativa, Spain near Valencia on January 1, 1431 to Jofre Lancol and Isabella Borgia who was the sister of Cardinal Alfonso Borgia, the man who would become Pope Callixtus III. With such a high-ranking prelate as his uncle, young Rodrigo was lavished with special privileges. He was sent to study at Bologna and in the second year of his uncle's pontificate, he was named a cardinal deacon at the unheard-of-age of 25 and no priestly training. Yet he was quickly ordained before becoming cardinal and placed in charge of a number of bishoprics and abbeys. A year later in 1457 Callixtus appointed his nephew Vice-Chancellor of the Holy See. It was the beginning of a lucrative career for the young Rodrigo who amassed great wealth and, for reasons we cannot fathom except that he was bringing money into the Church, he kept the same position through the next four pontiffs including Callixtus' successor Pope Pius II then Pope Paul II and Pope Sixtus IV. During this time he kept accruing vast riches for himself and living a licentious life of lust. Despite having been ordained and vowing to uphold the vow of chastity, he openly flaunted it by having several affairs and fathering numerous illegitimate children. Though he would take care financially of all those he sired, he held a special interest for those he had by the aristocratic Roman mistress Vannozza Catanei which would come after Pius II publicly rebuked him, chastising him for his scandals. Yet that had little or no effect on Rodrigo's wanderlust. Ten years after being called on the carpet by Pius II, he entered into an illicit tryst with Catanei by whom he had Juan Borgia in 1474, Cesare in 1474, Lucrezia two years later, and Goffredo in 1482.

          In the most blatant form of nepotism, Rodrigo would reward his children once he became the 214th successor of Peter. Even before becoming pontiff he had married off one of his daughters from an earlier affair. It was Girolama who he betrothed to a Spanish nobleman. Having accrued great riches he purchased from the Spanish monarchy the Duchy of Gandia and gave it to another son Pedro Luis. When Pedro died, he turned it over to Juan Borgia. What is interesting is that the latter fathered a son who would father a son who would become Saint Francis Borgia and atone for many of the sins of the rest of the Borgia clan. While Francis was the holy one, Rodrigo's son Cesare was the evil counterpart and he made a critical error when he appointed Cesare as the ecclesiastical representative for the Borgia clan in 1480 which made Cesare eligible for the ecclesial ranks after Pope Innocent VIII absoved him of being a bastard son. Cesare was only 18 years-old when his father Pope Alexander VI made him the Archbishop of Valencia. Yet Cesare never set foot in the Archdiocese nor even accepted ordination. He not only was a bastard son, but a bastard priest, posing in the cloth while not being of the cloth. Alexander knew and did nothing. As we shall see in the next few installments, it would greatly mar his pontificate. Alexander sent his youngest son Goffredo to Spain appointing him also as a prelate. Alexander's daughter Lucrezia or better known as the notorious Lucretia Borgia was promised to a Spanish baron as well but the marriage never took place. Throughout his papacy Alexander used his children for his own worldly purposes and there are even reports that this poor excuse for someone to occupy the holy seat of Rome had an incestuous affair with Lucretia and a child was the result.

          It was this kind of behavior that marked the life of this man who would be Pope and whose iron rule would both make a demarcation in the evangelization of the New World and pave the way for the mass exodus of so many from the True Church as we shall see in future installments. In installment one-hundred-one we will breakdown the early years of Alexander VI's papacy.

    Next issue: Pope Alexander VI: The lust for power and prestige part two

April 13, 1999       volume 10, no. 72


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