DAILY CATHOLIC    TUESDAY     April 6, 1999     vol. 10, no. 67


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      In the annals of Church history, the time we are currently covering was one of the darkest of times. Disallusionment set in among the masses for those prelates and pontiffs that Christian Europe had come to respect lost all such honor through usury, simony, adultery and other sins that cried to the Heavens for vengeance. Corruption had crept into the Church from the highest levels down and saints were few and far between during this bleak period in Church annals. After the debacle known as Pope Sixtus IV it was all down hill from there with his successor Pope Innocent VIII contributing to the malaise with his abuse of the papal powers through coercion, simony and excommunications as well as turning a blind eye to the runnaway debauchery of the papal court where concubines chased the angels away and satan squarely squatted in the midst of the Vatican. As the Renaissance continued with many institutions and churches being constructed and refurbished, all this finery was a facade as Jesus said so clearly in Matthew 23: 25, where outside they are clean but inside rotting uncleanness. That was the state of things inside the Vatican in the late fifteenth century and throughout Europe the new enlightenment was taking root, growing like weeds for the garden of goodness and holiness that was so sought after by the faithful in looking to the master gardeners of the Church - were missing. Thus, unattended, the gardens of grace were gutted by the seven deadly sins and either rebellion or apathy set in throughout Europe. Sadly, Christendom would never be the same.
Installment Ninety-nine

Pope Innocent VIII: Trying to corral the stallion of rebellion after it has bolted the barn

          As the 213th successor of Peter, chosen on August 29, 1484, Pope Innocent VIII was a buffer, so to speak between two Roman Pontiffs who did more to discredit the Church's position than anyone else of their time. After Sixtus IV's death on August 12th, a concerted effort was launched by Sixtus' nephew Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere to get elected. He would eventually be elected in 1503 when the stallion of rebellion had bolted the barn and he would only help the stampede. Nevertheless, in 1484 he did not have the clout to be elected, but he did have enough influence to nominate someone he could control. That man was 52 year-old Cardinal Batista Cibo, a Genoan by birth who had been the son of a Roman senator. He was totally inexperienced politically-wise and his easy going manner won him over to his peers in the Conclave. Thus he was elevated to the throne, the first in a line of pontiffs whose lustful ways would bring great shame to Holy Mother Church, though in defense of Innocent VIII, he fathered bastard children before his conversion to the priesthood and sought to fulfill his obligations by providing for them via arranging influential marriages for them. To his credit he was celibate once he became ordained. The same could not be said for his immediate successor Pope Alexander VI who we shall cover next week.

          Though historians claim he carried out the tremendous task of pacifying the Catholic states and his inexorable insistence on stopping slave traffic as well as assisting Christopher Columbus in his undertaking to discover the western route to the Indies which ultimately led to the New World, for the most part Innocent was a stop-gap pope who was, in a word lax. This possibly could have been attributed to the fact he was chronically ill. Despite all of this he had inherited a real mess left by Sixtus - debts and debauchery in the Vatican court. Most of the cardinals of that time were not fixed on God's will but rather their own depraved, worldly lust and this aided greatly in distancing many from Rome and helped pave the way for the Reformation that was just a few decades away. When we understand the moral depravity of Rome at this time, we can better understand the mentality of those who bolted; not that we can justify it, but they evidently had no one to appeal to, that's how bad the Church hierarchy had sunk to in these sad times, a blight on the glorious history of the Church.

          Because of his ineptness to control the cardinals' wayward ways and his inefficiency in dealing with political barons, he made many mistakes during his eight year reign. One of his worst was to side with the rebellious barons from Naples against the powerful Ferdinand I, the Neopolitan king who countered by refusing to pay the papal dues. This cut Innocent to the quick for the Holy See was already deeply in debt. To offset this, Innocent made an alliance with Florence's power broker Lorenzo de' Medici to whom the Pope had married off his do-nothing son Franceschetto to Medici's daughter. To make matters worse, Franceschetto had a thirteen year-old illegitimate son whom Innocent made a cardinal. That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back and made the entire College of Cardinals a mockery. The people began to rebel and ignore all of the Church's directives and Innocent wrongly blamed Ferdinand, abusing the powers of the papacy to excommunicate Ferdinand. Even though Innocent would seek a reconciliation and reinstate Ferdinand when he saw the damage he had done and tried to amend his ways, it was too late. The papal state of L'Aquila had been lost and any political prestige went by the wayside as well. To add fuel to the fire, Innocent played all sides and ended up the dolt in all cases. He tried to form a union with the Ottoman empire that backfired when the Pope proved no better than the Sultan Bayezid II by selling cardinalates to the highest bidders...even if they weren't Catholic!!!

          Innocent VIII also inadvertently opened pandora's box by formally recognizing King Henry VII as the rightful king of England whose son King Henry VIII would be the bane to English Catholics throughout the coming century through his lustful, proud, slothful life and that of his illegitimate offspring Elizabeth I. He further alienated Christian Europe by enforcing the Inquisition in Germany under the guise of ridding the country of witches, but it was a political weapon that he and the German barons used forcefully to hold the citizens in check and fear. It was not what the Inquisition had been established for and most probably played a significant role in Martin Luther's disdain for Rome and its policies. Again, we are not condoning Luther's actions for there is no excuse for that, but considering the climate of these times, suffice it to say that it's very possible the Reformation could have been averted had the Church had the quality of leadership it would attract to the papacy after the revolt in the mid-sixteenth century. When he died, from what many believe was gout, on July 25, 1492, the papal states were in anarchy and the coffers empty. The Holy See had sunk to a new low and it only fueled further the flames of rebellion as we shall see next installment when we cover the "Bill Clinton" of the papacy - the lecherous and politically correct Pope Alexander VI - the Borgia Pope and his concubines.

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

April 6, 1999       volume 10, no. 67


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