Wednesday, March 14, 2012
It Was Ever Thus
More insane things have happened over the centuries than any writer of fiction could conceive. The prospect of going through them again horrifies.
An example: there was a pope named Formosus ("good looking") who reigned in Rome from October 891 to April 896. His successor (a lovely fellow -- he had been defrocked twice) was gotten rid of after a mere fifteen days by the Spoleto family faction, who put Stephen VI on the throne. He was in turn imprisoned and strangled in August 897, but not until after conducting something known as the Synod Horrenda in January of that year.
Vicar of God on Earth Stephen had Formosus' corpse exhumed eight months after death, had it dressed in the vestments and propped up on the throne, so the poor thing could be put to trial. Our dead friend was appointed counsel, who was wise enough to remain silent. While accused of returning to Rome when he had promised not to, and of accepting the bishopric of Rome while still bishop of the diocese of Porto, the actual complaint was that Formosus had crowned an illegitimate descendant of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor after doing the same earlier for a candidate of Stephen's faction (one Guy of Spoleto). The popes continued in this deadly engagement in temporal politics within their spiritual domain until a really ticked-off H.R.E. thoroughly sacked Rome in the 1500s. They then focused on killing heretics, native Americans, witches and Protestants rather than tangling with well-armed states, and thus survived.
Poor Formosus, though, was not just condemned at his trial and forgotten. The three fingers of benediction on his right hand were chopped off, he was stripped and thrown to the mob in the streets who dragged him to the Tiber River. Some fishermen or a monk (stories differ after 1,000 years) retrieved the corpse, reburied it, and it eventually ended up back in St. Peter's Basilica (for a while). All his ordinations, acts and appointments were alternately reaffirmed or rejected again by succeeding popes, culminating with Sergius III re-exhuming his body again to retry and then behead it. Later it was declared he was never a pope at all (after all that effort to humiliate him).
All these fine leaders of us mere mortals were declared infallible by Pius IX in 1870 in Council, even though that idea had already been declared heresy in 1324. Pius also stated that among the 80 Errors that his flock could never accept were rationalism and liberalism!
And that leads us back to our current situation. No more rationalism or liberalism, says Rick...and no taxes, no civilization, and surely no public secular education. He was born a millenium too late!