December 1, 2020

A (Very) Short Overview Of The Papacy

My oh my. I ask Martha to consider writing something on the papacy and she delivers posts that have me both laughing until my sides hurt, and rejoicing in our incredible sovereign God. In Part One, Martha takes a merry romp thru the history of some of the more, shall we say, colorful Popes over the centuries. This afternoon, she will lead us in looking at the papacy as an instrument of history—and why we need a Pope in the first place. Prepare to be astounded as always as we visit with Martha of Ireland.

One thing everybody knows about Catholicism is that we have a Pope.  And everybody knows what the Pope does, don’t they?  That’s right: the Pope gets up in the morning, puts on his big hat, and spends his day:

  • Trampling on the rights of conscience, particularly when it comes to hounding and persecuting poor, victimised theologians like Charles Curran, who has to keep body and soul together by scratching out a living teaching at some obscure little Nowheresville college called the Southern Methodist University of Dallas (I’ve never heard of it, have you?) and Hans Küng, who has been silenced so effectually that we never hear anything from him at all anymore ever
  • Scheming to take over the world (possibly, though not always, in league with at least one of the following: the Jesuits, the Freemasons, the New World Order, the International Jewish Conspiracy, the Communists, the Fascists, Opus Dei, liberal left-wing Catholics, conservative right-wing Catholics, so-called “Protestants” other than my own Truly True sect, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, the Mafia, trades unions, Big Government, the World Bank and the President of the United States of America regardless of party affiliation.  Sometimes he’s in league with several seemingly-opposed groups at once, but that just shows how sneaky he is)
  • Oppressing women
  • Oppressing GLBT people
  • Oppressing everyone else who isn’t a Catholic
  • Oppressing everyone who is a Catholic beneath the iron fist of his tyranny if they dare exercise their free conscience (see the first point on this list)
  • Polishing his hooves while waiting for the call to throw off his disguise and reveal himself as the Anti-Christ
  • Being implacably opposed to science and scientists (despite the establishment of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Vatican Observatory )
  • Seeking to do away with the pure Gospel and replace it with paganism and the fond inventions of foolish men
  • Committing genocide in Africa because he would prefer millions to die of AIDs rather than overturn “Humanae Vitae” and also because he’s just that evil (see above re: the Anti-Christ)
  • Personally running the Inquisition and overseeing the torture of heretics in the dungeons beneath the Palace of the Holy Office (oh, sure, they renamed it the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but as every newspaper article likes to point out when discussing the current Bishop of Rome, Cardinal Ratzinger was the Prefect of the Congregation before he was Pope – and are we supposed to believe that he really gave up the job?)
  • Generally rubbing his hands together in evil glee, cackling maniacally, and kicking puppies (though the present Successor of the Fisherman is fond of cats, so kittens are probably safe)

However, I can reveal the truth: what the Supreme Pontiff really does, once he gets up in the morning and puts on his big hat, is this.

Well, all right, perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between those two extremes.  Before we get to the boring, dull, factual material this afternoon, though, let’s have a gander at all the fun stuff!

We’ll start with the perennial favourites of every tabloid newspaper and TV exposé: sex, money, politics, power and religion.  It’s all there.  Scandals, betrayals, sin and outright unedifying behaviour all round, up to at least cynicism and functional agnosticism, if not heresy and atheism.

To date (including Pope Benedict XVI), there are 265 accepted Popes.  There are also a whole list of anti-Popes, except that sometimes those who were considered anti-Popes in one generation have been considered legitimate Popes by another, and vice versa – to quote a sidenote from Wikipedia on a favourite Catholic Apocalypse novel of mine, “Lord of the World”, regarding Pope Sylvester III: “Until the first years of 20th century, he was classified as an antipope, so Robert Hugh Benson, in Lord of the World, calls the Last Pope “Sylvester III”, not “Sylvester IV”.  Benson calls Sylvester’s predecessor “John XXIV” and not “John XXIII” because, in 1907, Pisan Antipopes Alexander V and John XXIII were considered “true popes.”  Sylvester seems to have been accepted as a legitimate Pope basically because his predecessor (who was also his successor), Benedict IX, was a real piece of work who got the job through bribery, corruption and a well-connected family and proceeded to – well, look him up yourself and have your eyes opened.  But he was nonetheless considered a valid Pope and if he could be, then so could anyone.

Is it any wonder that my dearly beloved Dante has only one Pope, and that one is St. Peter, in his Paradiso, one Pope in his Purgatorio but an entire sub-section of one of the Circles of Hell in the Inferno chock-full of Popes?

We’ve even had three Popes at the one time, primarily due to the Avignon schism in the 14th century which ended up with (1) the French papal court in Avignon electing its own claimants (2) the cardinals who had remained in Rome electing theirs and (3) the Pisans also having a go, which I don’t know how they managed to get involved.  Yes, we can’t even agree which Pope was which, sometimes.  Yet more evidence that Catholicism is not an organised religion.

And that brings us up to the Renaissance, which is when the fun really begins.  The Borgias!  Nepotism! Mistresses!  Enriching your family, both legitimate and illegitimate!  Incest!  Poison!  Fun for all the family!  (Probably not quite as exciting as later poets and chroniclers have given us to understand, but fun all the same).  Not all Borgias, either, but a good selection of pontiffs more interested in power-politics in Europe, playing the French off against the Spanish, and going to war than in being pastors.  We come to Martin Luther’s old friend, Pope Leo X, one of the Medicis, who is alleged to have said on his election, “Since God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it,” and who was more of a lover than a fighter (well, more of a humanist than a fighter, let us say; unlike the warlike Julius II; Leo was more interested in endowing and supporting learning and charitable institutions.  And his pet white elephant, Hanno).

It was also Leo who blew through all the revenues accumulated by Julius, and who then was responsible (amongst other schemes for making money) of licensing the likes of Tetzel.  Yes, that Tetzel of Reformation fame.  Leo also ignored the importance of what was happening with Luther and the other reformers, brushing it off as a squabble of German monks and they’d think differently when they were sober.  However, to be fair to Leo, his attention was diverted more by the threat of the Ottoman emperor Selim I, and with trying to patch up some kind of peace between the European powers so that a crusade could be launched (this fell through, but the reality of the threat was demonstrated by Selim’s successor, Suleiman the Magnificent, who made it all the way to Belgrade and was only stopped in his advance at the siege of Vienna).  He was succeeded by Adrian VI, who was Dutch, attempted to stay out of politics, embarked on cleaning up the various abuses in the Church, launched the Counter-Reformation, was wildly unpopular with the Roman people because he wasn’t lavish and scholarly but rather pious, and died after four years of this thankless struggle.

Enter Clement VII, another Medici, who was much more worldly.  Unfortunately, he got himself into a tussle with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and came off much the worse: see the Sack of Rome, which is why, ever since 1527 when the Swiss Guard died nearly to a man (147 out of 189, the remainder left with the Pope as his guard) to protect the flight of the Pope, we still have to this day these ceremonies (it’s all in Italian, unfortunately, but fast-forward to about 4:38 when the action starts).

Because Clement had been so soundly beaten by Charles, when it came to the annulment of Henry VIII’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Charles’ aunt, he was not inclined to do anything to offend the Habsburgs (quite apart from the theological and canon law difficulties).  So Henry got his back up and the Reformation kicked off in England.

Things quietened down a bit in the next three centuries, apart from the on-going loss of temporal power, the spread of Protestantism, and various ins and outs.  Really, we haven’t had a good heretic or anti-Pope for ages by now.  It’s all gotten terribly boring – well, apart from waiting to see will this guy finally be the one to come out as the Anti-Christ?  No luck as yet, but hope springs eternal!




  1. Ben from Guildford says


    (woo first comment!)

  2. If the Pope is Brain, who is Pinky?

    • Pinky is, naturally, the Red Pope (the Prefect in charge of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (it used to be known as the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith Propaganda Fide up to 1967).

  3. Dan Crawford says

    Many thanks for a truly informative and funny early morning history lesson.

  4. Amazing! Miss Martha, I’ve often wondered…What kind of shoes does the Pope wear? It must be terribly difficult to accessorize with all those vestments, and the hat…

    • Lee, glad you asked that.

      The answer of course is that he wears red shoes (no, not Prada, as reported early in his pontificate).

      A blessed Ascension Thursday to you all!

      • Wow…they look quite like bowling shoes!

        Thanks, Miss Martha, for the links. They have been quite helpful in my spiritual growth and development :o). Looking forward to Part II!

        • More interesting(?) anecdotes about Papal footwear: the red shoes are believed to have their origins in the special footwear of the Roman aristocrats, as either they wore red, or the equites wore high-heeled shoes (a descendant of the riding boots their class as cavalry would have worn) or even deriving from the taboos (including dress, which may have included special footwear) associated with the pontifex maximus.

          More likely, they were to do with Byzantine court dress. The custom arose of kissing the Pope’s foot in token of vassalage/doing him honour, so the Popes used to wear special red slippers with a gold-embroidered cross. Leo X, the Medici pope mentioned above, was the despair of his chamberlain as he loved hunting, spent as much time as he could on a horse, and was nearly constantly in hunting boots “so how are the people supposed to kiss his feet?”

          • Dana Ames says

            Many holy (and wealthy) folk portrayed in icons have the dearest little red shoes, especially Mary 🙂


  5. Ann Marie says

    Thank you for this! I’m a Catholic revert, and my Baptist in-laws hold some of the beliefs you listed in the first part of your essay. They quote a great grandfather who could “prove” the pope was the anti-Christ by totaling up various numbers (the number of popes? the years of their reigns?) to get 666. They also say things like “and Catholics believe the pope is the Messiah!” So I can attest that the misconceptions you discussed, while intertwined with your delightful sarcasm and wit, are based on actual opinions.

    My in-laws are wonderful people, but sometimes, I just want to hide under the picnic table at family functions and pray the topic of religion doesn’t come up. It’s so sad, because we’re all Christians.

    My question is, when you hear the usual anti-Catholic stuff from people who you know are firmly grounded in those opinions, do you gently try to explain what the Church really believes per the catechism? Or do you just let it go, realizing that it won’t change their minds anyway?

    • I would agree with you that there is a strain of irrational anti-Catholic sentiment throughout the Protestant community, especially amongst American Evangelicals. However, there are nevertheless totally legitimate reasons to dislike and even abhor the Catholic faith. Then again, I suppose there are legitimate reasons to dislike and abhor any faith really, Calvinistic, Islamic, Russian Orthodox, American Evangelicalism, and so on.

      Nevertheless, Catholicism in many ways set the foundations of Christianity, and it is because of this that the Catholic faith bears bigger responsibility and more blame when comes to modern problems within Christianity.

      • When I was new to fundegelicalsim I learned quickly what a good fundegelical does!!! In my second guys Bible study (EVER!!!) in the fundegelical empire known as Campus Crusade for Christ I had an encounter that revealed how evil Catholicism really was. We were at a park bench in the student union of this unnamed university, and the worshipped Crusade leader was going around asking, “Where do you go to church?” And people said, “First Pres”,’Evangelical Free of xyx”,”First Baptist”, etc.. and he came to me and was pointing his finger at me. I said St. Theresa, and the group came to a stop. It became silent, people stared at me, my Crusade director stared provocateily at me. I didn’t say it, but I wanted to ask, “Did I say something wrong?” After 30 seconds of this staring at me he said nothing and moved onto the next person. I knew then and there that Catholicism is Satanic!!! You see John MacArthur is correct…. 😯

        • Was there the sound of a tolling bell as a single tumbleweed blew past? 😉

          Not mocking your experiences, but that’s wonderful, Eagle. A deathly hush fell on all assembled as the true horror sunk in – at least they seem to have regarded you as a brand snatched from the burning, and not a secret Vatican spy.

    • Well, being Irish, the anti-Catholic stuff I hear is from my fellow-Catholics 🙂

      Although, sharing an island with the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley, you do get to hear the blast of the trumpet against the legions of Satan (or used to, although he’s quietened down a great deal nowadays). I remember well when he stood up in the European Parliament when John Paul II was addressing it and denounced him as the Anti-Christ.

      There’s a kind of purity and maintenance of tradition to such attitudes that is almost refreshing.

      As to how I deal with it: I don’t. We leave all that up to the albino assassin monks (but you didn’t hear me say anything about them) 😉

    • Ann Marie, the totalling up of numbers is to do with numerology (that is, assigning values to letters of the alphabet). There are several systems of doing this, depending whether you’re going by Hebrew or Greek, etc.

      The one used here would be one wherby an alleged Papal title “Vicarius Filii Dei (Vicar of the Son of God)” is added up to come to 666, thereby proving that the Number of the Beast applies to the Pope.

      The trouble with that, though, is that (as I said) there are variant systems so you can add numbers and come up with different totals. Besides which, the usual title used is “Vicar of Christ” (not “Vicar of God’s Son”), but that would spoil the effect.

      The link to the “Anti-Christ” above includes the numerological explanation as given by Dr. J.A. Wylie in his classic “The Pope is the Anti-Christ”:

      “Behold upon his tiara these Latin words carefully preserved down through the ages.


      God has told us.

      ‘Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.’ Revelation 13:18.

      Now certain Roman characters have numerical values.

      I=1; V=5; X=10; L=50; C=100; D=500.

      Now let us count the number of the man at the Vatican. God has told us to do it.

      V = 5 F = — D = 500
      I = 1 I = 1 E = —
      C = 100 L = 50 I = 1
      A = — I = 1
      R = — I = 1
      I = 1
      V = 5
      S = —

      112 + 53 + 501 = 666

      So the numerical value of the Pope’s title on his golden crown at his public coronation, namely ‘VICARIVS FILII DEI is that remarkable number 666.

      The pope is the antichrist. It is clearly demonstrated from SCRIPTURE, HISTORY, – AND FROM HIS OWN LIPS.”

      As you can see, they had to do a little fudging: use the Roman numerical values (instead of Greek or Hebrew, which are the usual ones for “Bible decoding”), ignore certain letters of the title (because the Romans never assigned a value to S or A) and of course, ignore the fact that this title (or indeed, any title) isn’t actually written “on his golden crown at his public coronation” (there’s a good article listing and describing various tiaras that Popes have possessed and used here).

      But I imagine Dr. Wylie’s work, which dates from 1888, is what your Baptist in-laws are quoting (unbeknownst to themselves).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I first heard of that PROOF (TM) in a Seventh-Day Adventist End Time Prophecy book pubbed in the 1950s. Didn’t know they knocked it off from some Victorian-era anti-Catholic work, but it didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me is their source wasn’t Hislop’s Two Babylons; that seems to be the most quoted (and ripped off) Victorian anti-Catholic book in history.

        • Adventists have all the good ones. The latest I’ve heard is the next pope will be Sixtus VI (maybe with another “six” name in there – Sixtus Hexus VI?). Checking the list of popes, the last Sixtus was V, so it does work out.

          • If there’s a Cardinal Sestito (the Italian surname derived from “Sixtus”) in the next conclave, we should all be very worried, so 🙂

            (If a Six gets elected and takes as his regnal name Six who’s the sixth Six, that makes the three Sixes necessary).

            Maybe we should be worried anyway, since the Prophecy of St. Malachy says the next Pope will be “Peter the Roman” and he’s going to be the last one?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            The latest I’ve heard is the next pope will be Sixtus VI (maybe with another “six” name in there – Sixtus Hexus VI?). Checking the list of popes, the last Sixtus was V, so it does work out.

            (If a Six gets elected and takes as his regnal name Six who’s the sixth Six, that makes the three Sixes necessary).

            It seems an obvious shtick for End Time Prophecy choreography, but I can remember only one End Times novel (title lost in the mists of time) that used it, amid all the Brother Bartholemews and Romanian Robert Redfords.

        • There’s your next novel all plotted out, HUG! Between me, nedbrek, and you, we’ll have a best-seller on our hands! Move over, Dan Brown, and let the real Catholics have a go!

          It’s the Year 20__ (I’ll leave it up to you two how far- or near-future you want to go) and in the Eternal City, an ancient ritual is carried out with all the pomp of empire and all the cutting-edge technology of today. Gathered in Conclave, sealed away from the outside world, these scarlet-robed men have the fate of nations in their hands.

          The TRUE machinations of Papism revealed! The SECRET PROPHECIES that steer the Church! Only a handful of top-level Vatican officials know the shocking truths hidden in –

          – THE MALACHY CODE!!!!!

          • Only problem is that I am only a former Catholic 🙂

            As long as the book ends with the Pope repenting of his pride and domination in sackcloth and ashes, I’m on-board! 😛

          • No, see, that’s all to the good, nedbrek! You can do the whole ‘hero explains why the Catholics are eeeevill’ bit – maybe he’s an ex-Catholic himself who saw the light?


            And sorry, but the book is going to have to end with the Pope ending up in the Lake of Fire – Anti-Christ and all that, you know.

          • Oh, ok. That works too 😛

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            It’s the Year 20__ (I’ll leave it up to you two how far- or near-future you want to go)…

            “In the Year 2525,
            If Man is still alive;
            If Woman can survive,
            What will they find?”
            — Zager & Evans

      • And apparently it goes back as far as the 1600s:

        “The earliest extant record of a Protestant writer on this subject and addressing the phrase Vicarius Filii Dei is Andreas Helwig in 1612. In his work Antichristus Romanus he took fifteen titles in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin and computed their numerical equivalents in those languages, arriving at the number 666 mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Out of all these titles, he preferred to single out Vicarius Filii Dei, used in the Donation of Constantine, for the reason that it met “all the conditions which [Cardinal] Bellarmine had thus far demanded.” Besides being in Latin, the title was “not offensive or vile,” but rather was “honorable to this very one.” (The sum works as follows: VICARIVS FILII DEI = 5+1+100+1+5+1+50+1+1+500+1 = 666, where ‘U’ is taken as ‘V’, see U for interchangeability reasoning).

        Helwig suggested that the supposed title was an expansion of the historical title Vicarius Christi, rather than an official title used by the Popes themselves. His interpretation did not become common until about the time of the French Revolution. Some later Protestant figures claimed that Vicarius Filii Dei was an official title of the Pope, with some saying that this title appeared on the papal tiara and/or a mitre.”

        So there you have it! Does the President of the Southern Baptist Convention have his own pet white elephant? Is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland mentioned by name in Scripture? Do earnest scholars write tomes about the Bablyonian titles of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Is there a Dan Brown novel in the offing about the Secretary of the Conference of the Methodist Church? No? Hah!


        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          His interpretation did not become common until about the time of the French Revolution.

          When France lost its collective mind/head, and modern Conspiracy Theory began in the aftermath as damage control spin.

          Also where I acquired my Net handle.

          Does the President of the Southern Baptist Convention have his own pet white elephant? Is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland mentioned by name in Scripture? Do earnest scholars write tomes about the Bablyonian titles of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Is there a Dan Brown novel in the offing about the Secretary of the Conference of the Methodist Church?

          Over at TV Tropes (good way to time-warp away an entire day), there’s a trope entry titled “All Christians are Catholic” that deals with exactly this trope.

          • Considering that once you’ve entered TV Tropes, that’s the rest of the day and night gone in a haze of recursive link-clicking, are you sure this isn’t another Secret Vatican Plot to take over the world?


          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

            ROFL!! I was thinking the same thing, Martha! That site is so good and yet so bad for productivity! Dozens and dozens of tabs open….

  6. So why do we need a pope in the first place? Is this just mere satire or do you actually plan on writing something insightful?

    I really don’t think this is something we should be joking about to be honest. The Papacy has done immeasurable harm upon the Christian faith, one could possibly even argue that many of today’s problems within Christianity stem from the inadequacies of the Catholic faith before the Reformation. Had the Magisterium gotten it right, there would have been no need for the Reformation and the great chaos and hullabaloo that ensues to this very day. Perhaps the greatest indictment of the Papacy can be seen in Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor.

    I’m not anti-Catholic btw, as in matter in fact, I find the liturgy and rich history and traditions of the Catholic Church very beautiful and awe-inspiring. I sometimes even get emotional when I enter the amazing cathedrals that still litter the Western world. Nevertheless, it is because of the Catholic church that Christianity is riddled with the problems it has today.

    • Huol, if you’re expecting insight from me, you’ll be a long time waiting. There are herds of zealous apologists out there who will debate you up, down and sideways about this and all other aspects. There are books, talks, radio shows, television shows, pamphlets, CDs, DVDs and (probably) interactive computer games.

      I’m not trying to teach anyone. If, however, it makes you laugh and makes you mad, that’s a reaction. Then it’s up to you: why do you have this reaction?

      What do you believe on this topic (whatever it may be) and why do you believe it?

    • Can I throw a question back at you, Huol?

      Why is the Papacy/Catholicism so important in your view? Why should it have any great influence on the course of Christianity today?

      How or in what way did the/is the Reformation failing, that the obvious abuses and errors which needed to be corrected didn’t get corrected, so that “because of the Catholic church that Christianity is riddled with the problems it has today”?

      What is this influence, and why does it linger?

    • Huol,

      No more damage than any number of evangelicals, word-faith gurus or idiots with special calculators that seemingly can’t pinpoint anything and plaster bill boards with the predictions that make Christianity the laughing post at every water cooler from sea to shining sea.


  7. I read Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor a different way. After all, the parable is written by Ivan, who profoundly misunderstands human freedom. That is, I don’t think we are intended to view the Grand Inquisitor as a statement of Dostoevsky’s own view of the papacy, but rather as a powerful but somewhat confused western athiest indictment of institutional religion.

  8. Josh in FW says

    This is the first time I have ever heard SMU referred to as “some obscure little Nowheresville college”. Maybe it will be a little less obscure when the George W. Bush library has been completed.

    • Well, Josh, obviously the ferocious power of the vindictive Papal persecution means that the poor man is being hounded, positively hounded, from pillar to post and naturally no ‘big-name’ institution is going to give him any hearing, through fear, intimidation and (a good guess would be) the use of the Vatican millions in bribes and kick-backs.

      Naturally he has to keep under the radar by only applying to small, provinical, obscure little institutions that are too remote and unimportant to be taken notice of by the vigilance of the Holy See. Texas, with its tradition of modesty, humility, and never drawing any attention to itself, is a natural fit and perfect refuge.


      • Josh in FW says

        🙂 thanks for the clarifying reply. I get the joke now. I was still half asleep when I first read this and as a Texan my first reaction was, hey Dallas isn’t a nowheresville! Then I lauged because those of us in Fort Worth always like to see Dallas get taken down a notch. I must confess that humility is a particular challenge to us Texans.

        • Seriously, Josh, if you read some of the plaints about freedom of scholarship and stifling of enquiry and the dead hand of orthodoxy and the heavy-handed wielding of power by the Vatican, you’d imagine that the misfortunates on the receiving end were fleeing for their lives, reduced to rags and beggary, when in truth – it’s no bar to them ending up in good positions in reputable colleges.

          I mean, it took the Vatican over twenty years of giving the bloke every chance to explain himself and defend himself and co-operate before they were finally able to shift a rogue Australian bishop – the idea that the Pope has this huge centralised power which he can use however he likes, and that the Vatican is keeping a very close eye on every single Catholic, and swooping in to micro-manage dioceses and parishes and schools and orders – no, it’s not like that at all.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            …the idea that the Pope has this huge centralised power which he can use however he likes, and that the Vatican is keeping a very close eye on every single Catholic, and swooping in to micro-manage dioceses and parishes and schools and orders…

            But Maria Monk, Alberto Rivera, and Jack Chick say so!

            P.S. Don’t forget the Albino Monk Assassins.

        • Speaking of Texans – there are several jokes about Texans visiting Ireland/England/Scotland and comparing local sites and sights with those back home to the detriment of the European ones,so here’s one I know:

          A Texan visits an Irish farm and spends all day bragging about how much bigger everything is back in Texas. Finally, he tells the farmer “Back home in Texas, it takes me all day driving from sun-up to sun-down to get around my ranch!”

          “Oh, yeah”, says the farmer. “I had a car that kept breaking down like that once, myself”.


          • Josh in FW says

            LOL, that’s a good one.

          • Texan visits Australia, and repeatedly offends his host by commenting how everything is bigger and better in Texas. Finally the host gets his revenge when a Kangaroo goes hopping across the road. What is that! cries the Texan. That? asks the Australian host. What that ain’t nothing but a pesky Australian grasshoppper!

    • A library named after George W? Why not after Laura? She’s the one in the family who can read. 🙂

      (hoping the rule still holds that you can get away with anything with a 🙂 after it…)

      • Josh in FW says

        Yes, the wrath of Texas gun toting cowboy politicians has been averted by the 🙂 yet again.
        For those that may not know, SMU most likely got the Presidential Library because it is the Alma Mater of Mrs. Laura Bush. My Alma Mater, Baylor University, also lobbied hard for the library, but Waco is a hard sell even if it is just down the road from Crawford.

      • David Cornwell says

        Ted, I was thinking what you said!

  9. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this post.

  10. Martha,

    Great read. Thanks for all the work. I do think though, although I understand there have been many changes, that much of what the Reformers were getting at in their issues with the Papacy as they knew it in their day was probably spot on.

    But very good reading none the less.


  11. Martha may mention this in the second post later today, but for an excellent history of Christendom, including narratives of each pope, anti-pope, and how the Church knew who was who, check out Warren Carroll’s History of Christendom series.

    Whether you think some popes have done harm or not–or whether you think he has any legitimate authority now–the bishop of Rome has been a key leader in the Church throughout history. He was looked to by all bishops, East and West, as the prince of the Apostles, the successor of St. Peter, to whom appeals for help were made when they were in dire straits.There’s always a few bad apples, but condemning the papacy based on those few is like condemning, say, all law enforcement officers because some are vicious.

  12. Margaret Catherine says

    Lord of the World is one of the best Catholic novels out there (and free for the Kindle, which is how I discovered it). Absolutely brilliant writing, and a wonderful imagining of how the exact moment of end of the world will play out.

  13. Another great moment in papal history: The Cadaver Synod (look it up on Wikipedia) against Pope Formosus in 897… a banner year for intrigue.

  14. Your posts are fun to read!

  15. Danielle says

    Martha, I was supposed only to *peaking* at your article for a moment. And now I am sitting in the Archives, chuckling to myself, and giving away my misdeeds.

    Also… Hanno the Elephant?! I did not know that any Pope had a pet elephant, let alone a white one.

    • Popes get all the cool animals, Danielle. Dürer’s famous illustration of a rhinoceros is based on a written description (he never saw the beast himself) of an Indian rhinoceros that King Manuel I of Portugal sent as a present to Pope Leo X in 1515/16, but unfortunately the poor thing perished in a shipwreck before arriving.

  16. Thanks for a good laugh as well as a good history lesson. You have a much better sense of humor than some I’ve run into who insist that the pope is probably the antichrist, all Catholics worship Mary instead of God, and the priesthood is heretical. That, the humor here and working alongside a very faithful catholic brother almost makes this protestant boy think seriously about crossing the tiber. 🙂

    • Thing about crossing the Tiber is you have to remember, there’s sharks and piranahas in the water. Anyone bound and determined to don their swimming trunks, though – welcome aboard the Barque of Peter: now grab a bucket and start bailing!


  17. Martha, why does the Pope wear that little white beanie, or yarmulke? Is he Jewish?

    • Ted – shhhh! Remember what I said about plotting in conjunction with the International Jewish Conspiracy? You have to make these little concessions here and there 😀

      It’s called the zucchetto.

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

        When one of our priests wore one at Christmas services, I later complimented him on his “Romish yarmulke” and we all laughed.

  18. Hilarious!