List of sexually active popes
Since the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church has formally required priests and bishops to be celibate. Celibacy is a practice and discipline, however, going back to the early Church, even if it were not absolutely required of all ordained previously. In this context, celibate is not synonymous with sexually abstinent; celibate means not married; it entails sexual abstinence because of a separate church doctrine requiring sexual abstinence outside of marriage. The discipline of celibacy is not considered one of the infallible immutable dogmas, but Catholic doctrine does say that virginity and celibacy, lived out as abstinence, are higher than marriage, following the Letters of Paul of Tarsus and confirmed by a dogma in the Council of Trent (see clerical celibacy). For example, in some cases a married Protestant minister or Anglican priest who becomes a Catholic may be ordained to the priesthood. In particular, present-day church law allows the College of Cardinals to elect a married man to the papacy. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men are routinely ordained to the priesthood, but not to the episcopate. According to the Gospels, Saint Peter was married. According to early Catholic tradition, St. Peter founded the Christian community in Rome and became its bishop.
Some popes were sexually active before their election as pope; and it has sometimes been claimed that other Popes were sexually active during their papacies.
Periods in parentheses refer to the years of their papacies.
Allegedly and factually sexually active popes
There have been 254 popes. There are various classifications for those who were sexually active at some time during their life:
Popes married before receiving Holy Orders
- Saint Peter, whose mother-in-law is mentioned in the Bible as having been miraculously healed (Mat 8:15). Peter (Cephas) was also shown to be married (leading about a wife) during his apostleship in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (9:5).
- Pope St. Hormisdas (514–523) was married and widowed before ordination. He was the father of Pope Silverius.
- Pope Adrian II (867–872) was married, before taking orders, and had a daughter.
- Pope John XVII (1003) was married before his election to the papacy and had three sons, who all became priests.
- Pope Clement IV (1265–1268) was married, before taking holy orders, and had two daughters.
- Pope Honorius IV (1285–1287) was married before he took the Holy Orders and had at least two sons: one of them became podesta of Urbino and died before 1279, and the other one became Roman senator and died in 1306
Popes sexually active in violation of Catholic teachings on sexual morality
Sexually active only before receiving Holy Orders
- Pope Pius II (1458–1464) had at least two illegitimate children (one in Strasbourg and another one in Scotland), born before he entered the clergy.
- Pope Innocent VIII (1484–1492) had at least two illegitimate children, born before he entered the clergy.
- Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585) had an illegitimate son before he took holy orders.
Sexually active after receiving Holy Orders
- Pope Julius II (1503–1513) had at least one illegitimate daughter, Felice (born in 1483, twenty years before his election). Some sources indicate that he had two additional illegitimate daughters, who died in their childhood.
- Pope Paul III (1534–1549) held off ordination in order to continue his promiscuous lifestyle, fathering four illegitimate children (three sons and one daughter) by his mistress Silvia Rufina. He broke his relations with her ca. 1513. There is no evidence of sexual activity during his papacy.
- Pope Pius IV (1559–1565) had three illegitimate children before his election to the papacy.
Sexually active during their pontificate
Along with other complaints, the activities of the popes between 1458 to 1565, helped to bring about the Reformation.
- Pope Sergius III (904–911) was supposedly the father of Pope John XI by Marozia (Source: Liber Pontificalis, Liutprand of Cremona).
- Pope John XII (955–963) (deposed by Conclave) was said to have turned the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano into a brothel and was accused of adultery, fornication, and incest (Source: Patrologia Latina).
- Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, again in 1045 and finally 1047–1048) was said to have conducted very dissolute life during his papacy.
- Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) had a notably long affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei before his papacy, by whom he had his famous illegitimate children Cesare and Lucrezia. A later mistress, Giulia Farnese, was the sister of Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. For rumors of Alexander's sexual activity see Banquet of Chestnuts. He fathered a total of at least seven, and possibly as many as ten illegitimate children.
Popes who have been accused of being sexually active since the Counterreformation (1565)
There have been forty-one popes since 1565. None of them are known to have been sexually active during their papacy.
- Legends surrounding the papacy
- The Pope Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See, Matthew Bunson, Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1995.
- The Papacy, Bernhard Schimmelpfennig, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984.
- Lives of the Popes, Richard P. McBrien, Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1997.
- Papal Genealogy, George L. Williams, McFarland& Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 1998.
- Sex Lives of the Popes, Nigel Cawthorne, Prion, London, 1996.
Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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