It is small comfort, but things have been worse in the papacy before. The learned John Bellairs sums up the pornocracy of the ninth century:
There are only a few things that the well-informed Catholic absolutely must know about Church history. These are
Since no Catholic will be called upon to defend Good Popes, and since we know nothing at all about the Lost Popes, let is concentrate upon the Bad Popes.
The worst Pontiff ever to slouch menacingly in a corner of the Chair of Peter was Spatulus III (898-899) who came to power as the nerveless ninth century was dissolving imperceptibly into the tepid tenth. He was, no doubt, a product of his times, born to a family of decayed Roman nobility in an age was Rome was little more than a “battered caravanserai.” To be fair, we must say that Spatulus might have been better if his mother Papella had not kept him in a root cellar from the time he was three till his election at forty-two. As it turned out, he was (to quote the learned Father Roodscreed) “no better and no worse than one might expect.”
Among the more interesting excesses of Pope Spatulus were:
- His love of rock candy. He made a little house out of it in his garden of his villa at Spumanti and took his mistresses there for unspeakable rites.
- His dog Gorgo. “It was much too large,” says Father Grabney in his book The Dog at Rome: Famous Pets of Popes.
- His insistence on dressing up as Amon-Ra and his fortunately averted scheme to be declared an Egyptian deity.
Spatulus was crushed to death by the Curia in 899 after making six necrophiles and a hat fetishist cardinals.
So let us comfort ourselves that we are merely afflicted with Francis, who will eventually be given a suitable sobriquet: Francis the Foolish? Francis the Phony? Francis the Donald Trump of the Catholic Church?