Saturday, March 27, 2010


Recently, in what has become a grand tradition, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the pope himself has found himself caught in scandal, having been found to have engaged in conduct allowing the abuse to take place. Specifically, when it was found that Father Lawrence C. Murphy of Milwaukee molested over 200 boys, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger decided against a defrocking despite urges from local Archbishop Rembert Weakland. He also, as Archbishop of Munich, allowed an admitted pedophile to return to parish work; the pedophile would reoffend.

There have been calls for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, to resign. Don't count on him going anywhere. Most of the points I'm raising are covered in the linked article, but here goes anyway.

First off, the pope can't be fired. He's there as long as he wants. There is precedent for firing a pope- Silverius was deposed by a Byzantine general, Belisarius, in 537 and demoted to monk on allegations of treasonous correspondence with the Goths- but papal power has increased greatly since then, formally if not secularly.

The pope can resign, but according to canon law, he can only do so of his own volition. He can jump, but he can't be pushed. And given that the pope's inner circle has circled the wagons, Ratzinger clearly has no desire to jump.

And the last pope to actually resign did so in 1415, Gregory XII, and he only did so because there were three people claiming to be pope at the time- one an antipope (which means he doesn't officially count), one ruling from Rome, and one ruling from Avignon, France. Others have made plans for potential resignation, but none have followed through for almost 600 years.

Which, of course, leaves him to serve out his tenure as little more than one more member of the Catholic Church that's seen as a kid-diddler, even if he didn't do any of it himself. And it leaves the rest of us more or less disregarding and discrediting the Church until such time as we do need a new Pope.

That all said, in an effort to have some unique content, let's do some Papal trivia.

*Before John Paul I, the most recent pope to take a name that had not already been taken by a predecessor was Pope Lando. Lando served for six months from 913-914 and there isn't much known about him. He's so forgotten that he once had a song dedicated to him on the basis of being the 'most unimportant pope'.
*Until John II in 533, popes used their personal names as their regnal name. Why did John II take another name? Because his personal name was Mercurius, and Mercury was a Roman god.

*The first 35 Popes have been canonized. Liberius is #36. The 13 Popes that came after Liberius have been canonized too.
*The most recent canonized pope is Pius X, who served from 1903-1914.

*The numbering of popes by name has gone a bit wonky over the years due to antipopes, mistaken spellings and whatnot. For example, Martin's count is two high because of the count being mistakenly lumped in with that of Marinus. But, according to how the Church has it, the numbering for each name used stands as follows:

23- John
16- Benedict, Gregory
14- Clement
13- Innocent, Leo
12- Pius
9- Boniface, Stephen
8- Alexander, Urban
6- Adrian, Paul
5- Celestine, Martin, Nicholas, Sixtus
4- Anastasius, Eugene, Felix, Honorius, Sergius
3- Callixtus, Julius, Lucius, Sylvester, Victor
2- Adeodatus, Agapetus, Damasus, Gelasius, John Paul, Marcellus, Marinus, Paschal, Pelagius, Theodore
1- Agatho, Anacletus, Anicetus, Anterus, Caius, Conon, Constantine, Cornelius, Dionysius, Donus, Eleutrus, Eusebius, Evaristus, Eutychian, Fabian, Formosus, Hilarius, Hormisdas, Hyginus, Lando, Liberius, Linus, Marcellinus, Mark, Miltiades, Peter, Pontian, Romanus, Sabinian, Silverius, Simplicius, Siricius, Sisinnius, Soter, Symmachus, Telesphorus, Valentine, Vigilius, Zachary, Zephyrinus, Zosimus

*To date, popes have come from the following modern-day countries, as far as anyone can tell: Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, 'Roman Africa' (which here likely means either Algeria or Tunisia, and most likely the Carthage area of Tunisia), Spain, Syria, United Kingdom.

*Until John Paul II in 1978, a new pope went through a coronation ceremony. Part of this ceremony included the new pope being told "Annos Petri non videbis", which translates to a preliminary adminoshment that the new Pope won't be able to live long enough to match St. Peter's tenure.

Ratzinger could have used it.

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