As the field gets narrower, the competition gets stiffer, and round two of Pope Madness! is no exception. Our thirty-two Popes get reduced to a Sweet Sixteen, and there were some knock down, drag out fights to get here.
MATTHEW DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS:
Stephen VI vs. Benedict IX- “The Battle of the Baddies”
, known as one of the youngest, if not the youngest, Popes in the history of the Church, rose to power chiefly through his networking skills. He is the only man to have ever been Pope more than once. His first Pontific reign began in 1032 when he was between 18-20 years old. His behavior (so deplorable that was is described by the usually restrained Catholic Encyclopedia as a “disgrace to the chair of Peter) resulted in him being forced out of Rome in 1038, though he returned soon after.
He was again forced out of Rome in 1044, and again returned a year later. In 1045, Benedict’s godfather offered his scandalous godson money in return for abdicating the Papal office, an offer which Benedict accepted. Benedict didn’t stay away from the chair of Peter long, though, and he once again laid claim to the Papacy.
It was Benedict’s behavior that was so odious to the people of Rome. He was said to have been a rapist, a murderer, and to have committed wildly immoral acts within the walls of the Lateran Palace.
, who served as Pope from 896-897, did little for the Church or the Papacy beyond subjecting it to a humiliating and sensational trial. Despite having been made a bishop by Pope Formosus, Stephen had no respect for his predecessor. He ordered the body exhumed, propped up on public display, and made to endure a puppet trial. This trial found Formosus guilty of a number of crimes, his corpse disfigured, and all ordinations he performed annulled. It is unclear if Stephen’s elevation to bishop was included in that nullification.
Result: After consideration, the Rules Committee has reviewed Stephen VI’s conduct and found to use unsportsmanlike conduct, and was subsequently disqualified, leaving Benedict IX to advance to the next round.
MARK DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS:
Sergius vs. Paul VI
Serving as Pope from 687-701, Sergius
’s Pontificate was marked by the Quinisext Council. A meeting between Eastern and Western branches of the Church, the meeting was designed to settle a number of differences in worship. Some of the topics to be covered were the matter of priestly celibacy, whether or not to omit the “Alleluia” during Lent, and the depiction of Christ as the Lamb of God.
Pope Sergius, standing in defiance of an exclusively Eastern-run council, declared death preferable to “erroneous novelties”. In fact, so strongly did he believe in the imagery of Christ as the Lamb of God, that he gave his support to the chanting of the Agnus Dei at the breaking of the Host during the Consecration.
These actions incited the wrath of the Byzantine emperor, who ordered the Pope’s arrest. The attempt was frustrated, however, and Sergius maintained the Papacy until his death in 701.
Born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini, in 1963 he took the name of Paul VI
and became the 262nd Pope.
Any discussion of Paul VI that would do his Papacy justice would be pages and pages long. Which we don’t have space for. But we do have space for bullets!
penned Humanae Vitae
, which clearly outlined the Church’s teachings on the gift of human sexuality
– strongly encouraged the Church to dialogue with the wide world, reaching out to people from all walks of life
– made the current change to the election process of the College of Cardinals, which says only members under the age of 80 may vote for the next Pope
reconvened the Second Vatican Council, which had been suspended upon the death of John XXIII
– named Mary as Mother of the Church
– presided over the changes to the Liturgy following Vatican II, resulting in the “Paul VI Mass”
Result: Both men were humble servants of God who clearly loved His Church and strove to protect it. Both men were strongly involved with ecumenical dialog and navigated the Church through volatile times. However, due to the expanded nature of geopolitics at the time, the influence of Paul VI made a more immediate impact to a larger population than Sergius. And so Paul VI passes on to the next round.
JOHN DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS
Paul III vs. Leo the Great
Though the Papacy of these two men were separated by a millennia (Leo
’s rule began in 440, and Paul
’s started in 1534), the issues they faced had many similarities. Leo battled against Monophysitism, the erroneous belief that Jesus Christ had only one nature, while Paul had the Protestant Reformation to contend with.
Both men squared off against political and military giants of the time. Paul faced off against Charles V, the leader of the Holy Roman Empire, and Leo went toe-to-toe against no less than Attila the Hun.
Leo, a Doctor of the Church, was instrumental in solidifying the primacy of the bishop of Rome and the understanding of Christ’s dual natures. Paul convened the Council of Trent, which clearly outlined the Church’s teachings on a number of subjects from Original Sin to the Sacraments.
Result: Ultimately, the much-needed Counter-Reformation sprung from the Council of Trent, and so for this, Paul III emerges victorious from the matchup.
LUKE DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS
John XXIII vs. PIUS XI “The Epic Battle”
, Pope for 17 years between 1922-1939, was a brilliant man. He held doctorates in philosophy, canon law, and theology, and was considered an expert in ancient languages and manuscripts. He loved mountain climbing, and summited at least four peaks.
As Pope, he argued that the Church is not partial to one form of government over another, so long as God’s law and the ability to practice Christianity were safe. He affirmed the right of the individual to own private property, while insisting that such ownership be ordered toward the common good. He constantly spoke about the family’s importance in society, and decried any institution, be it economic, educational or political, that would harm it.
Pope during the interim years between World Wars, he soundly denounced anti-Semitism, and tirelessly worked to end the “Terrible Triangle” of Catholic persecutions in Mexico, Spain, and the Soviet Union. He denounced racism, communism and fascism, founded Vatican radio, and was known to love and promote science on a deep level, founding the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
In the other corner, we have Pope John XXIII
, who sat in the Chair of St. Peter for less than five years, from 1958-1963. One of thirteen children, his parents were sharecroppers, and named him Angelo.
During World War II, while serving as a papal nuncio, Angelo was single-minded in his work helping refugees, mostly Jews, avoid Nazi persecution. The list of people moved to safety attributed to his intervention is lengthy, impressive, and such that he has been nominated to be named a “Righteous Among Nations”, an honor reserved for non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust.
Angelo was so humble, so completely without aspirations to the Papacy, that his election came completely as a shock. As Pope, he would visits children sick with polio as well as prisoners. To the latter, he was quoted as saying, “You could not come to me, so I came to you.” Papal visits like this were unknown at the time, and his decision to do so caused a sensation.
Keeping with his previous concern for the Jewish people, John XXIII eliminated the word “perfidious” in the description of the Jews in the Good Friday Liturgy, and made a confession for the Church for the sin of anti-Semitism through the ages. He convened the Second Vatican Council, much to the surprise of many.
He didn’t live to see the conclusion of the Council, nor its after effects, as he died due to complications from stomach cancer. Known to many as “Good Pope John”, he was declared Blessed in 2000.
Result: I can’t do it. I can’t choose. Someone has to go through- but which one? And why? Let me know in the combox, and I’ll take simple majority rules on this one.