666 Christian Crimes

900 - 999


After only a month in office, Pope Leo V was imprisoned by the anti-pope Christopher. [McBrien, 150; DeRosa, 49; Curran, 62]


Sergius III became pope and reigned until 911. According to many sources, his papacy marks the beginning of "the darkest period in the history of the papacy" and is often referred to as "the pornocracy." Sergius was associated with the powerful Teofillato family (usually referred to as Theophylact), which controlled the papacy for nearly sixty years.

Sergius was originally elected pope in 897 by partisans of Stephen VI, but was deposed by partisans of the late, discredited Pope Formosus, backed by Emperor Lambert of Spoleto. Seven years later the antipope Christopher overthrew Pope Leo V and imprisoned him. Then Cardinal Sergius managed to imprison Christopher and had himself installed as Pope. Soon after assuming the papacy he had both Leo and Christopher murdered in prison. (Most sources confirm these murders, however, the CE ("Pope Sergius III") states that his involvement in the murders is "highly doubtful," and in "Pope Leo V" states that "... it seems more likely that Leo died a natural death in prison or in a monastery.")

Sergius reversed Theodore II's acts (see 897, above), again condemned Formosus and punished his supporters, thus confirming Stephen VI's actions. The CE ("Pope Sergius III") says with understatement, Sergius' policy "gave rise to the greatest confusion." This is because each time a pope was discredited, all his acts were annulled and the offices of the clerics he consecrated were invalidated. The reversals and reinstatements of the actions of Pope Formosus and his successors made it nearly impossible for anyone to determine where they stood at the time.

According to Curran (p. 64-65) Sergius III raped the fifteen year old Theodora II, (daughter of Theophylact and Theodora I) who became pregnant with a boy (Later Pope John XI). McBrien (p. 151) agrees that Theodora II was John's mother by Sergius, but does not mention rape. Martin (p. 123), Grun (p. 106), and Chamberlin (p. 27-28), citing Liudprand's The Book of the Popes, say that John's mother was Marozia, Theodora II's sister. The CE says that the union of Sergius and Marozia was "highly doubtful."

Sergius was involved in gambling, prostitution and other rackets in Rome including murder for hire. In addition, he sold indulgences: he would forgive anything if the price was high enough. For example, he approved the fourth marriage of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI, even though Leo's third wife was still alive. At Leo's behest, Sergius also deposed the Patriarch of Constantinople and drove him into exile. [Curran, p. 64-65. Curran refers to Leo VI as "Leo IV."] The CE states that Sergius "showed his good sense" in validating Emperor Leo VI's fourth wife.


The Canon Episcopi ("church law") decreed that belief in witchcraft was heretical. [Ellerbe, 118] In 1484 (see below) the Church made disbelief in witches heretical.


John, Bishop of Ravenna, became Pope John X with the help of his lover Theodora I, wife of Theophylact.[Chamberlin, 29]


Pope John X was captured by his enemies and put into a dungeon. A year later he died either by suffocation or starvation. [Chamberlin, 35]


The bastard son of the unmarried Pope Sergius III became Pope John XI. Chamberlin (p.34) says that John's mother was Marozia, daughter of Theophylact and Theodora. Curran (p.64), however, states that John's mother was Theodora II (Marozia's sister), whom Sergius had raped when she was fifteen years old. The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Pope John XI") confuses the issue still more by asserting that John was the legitimate son of Marozia and her first husband Alberic, and mentions that the claim Sergius was the father is false.


"Alberic [son of Marozia] ruled Rome for twenty-two years, appointing five popes of his own choosing...." [Martin, 125]


Byzantine general Curcuas gave conquered Muslims the choice of converting to Christianity or leaving the country. Christians were brought in to take over Muslim land. [Engh, 117]


Olga (c.879-969), pagan wife of Prince Igor of Novgorod, had dozens (possibly hundreds) of people murdered to avenge the murder of her husband. She later converted to Christianity and was eventually canonized. Her sainthood is recognized by both the Roman and the Orthodox churches. [Craughwell, 82-88; Delaney, 466-467]


Octavian, grandson of Marozia, became pope John XII at the age of eighteen. John became a latter-day Caligulahe seemed to be testing the limits of his papal power. He raped, he gambled, he fornicated, he stole, he invoked pagan gods, and he gave away Church property to his paramours. He continued this way for three years until the citizens of Rome were fed up with him and Berengar, a Lombard duke, threatened to take Rome, as he had northern Italy.

In 960 John appealed for help from King Otto I of Saxony. Otto defeated Berengar, but set him free after the war. In 961 or 962 Pope John crowned Otto the first Holy Roman Emperor. Otto advised him to reform his ways, then left the city.

After Otto was gone John offered the imperial crown to Berengar! Meantime, Berengar's son Adalbert was allied with the Saracens in Provence. John wrote to Adalbert, offering the imperial crown to him also, on the condition that he free Rome from Otto, even though that meant allowing the Saracens back in as well. Adalbert hesitated, so John then tried to negotiate with the Huns in the north and the Byzantines in the east.

When Otto learned of John's treachery, he sent his best diplomat, Liudprand, to Rome. Liudprand found that John had no intention of honoring his promise to reform. Further, John's representatives accused Otto of breaking his oath to return the papal lands to the Pope. This accusation was made even though they knew that Otto was still fighting Berengar for those very lands. When Otto heard that Adalbert had finally decided to accept the crown and was already in Rome, he immediately headed there himself to overthrow John. Hearing that Otto was approaching Rome, John looted the papal treasury and fled to Tivoli with Adalbert in 963.

When Otto entered Rome, he called for a synod of the Roman Church to consider the situation. In November, 963, a synod composed of fifty Italian and German bishops was convened in St. Peter's. Among the many charges against Pope John XII were sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest, celebrating mass without communicating, ordaining a deacon in a stable, "blinded his spiritual father Benedict, caused the death of cardinal subdeacon John by castrating him...." With Otto's consent, the synod deposed John in December, replacing him with a man who became Leo VIII.

In January 964 Otto left Rome to engage the army of Adalbert. As soon as Otto was gone, John returned. In February he called another council to overturn the actions of the previous one, called by Otto. John excommunicated Leo XIII, then took his revenge on those who had voted to depose him. "One had his tongue torn out, his nose and fingers cut off; another was scourged; the hand of a third was hacked off." John died violently [in May, 964], at the age of twenty-four or twenty-eight, the victim of a cuckolded husband who had caught him in the act. [Chamberlin, 42-45, 48-60; Curran, 77-81; De Rosa, 51-52; McBrien, 157-159; Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope John XII"]


German Emperor Otto I took complete control of Rome and assembled all inhabitantsnobles, clergy, peopleand made them swear "never to choose a pope without his or his successor's approval." For the next 280 years, until "the election of Celestine IV in 1241, the election and confirmation of forty-eight popes was usually in the hands of German emperors." [Martin, 116]


Emperor Otto I died. Cardinal Bonifazio Francone had Pope Benedict VI, imprisoned and strangled, then claimed the papacy as Boniface VII. [McBrien, 161-162; McCabe, 1953, Chapter III; Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope Benedict VI"]

The Catholic Encyclopedia refers to the usurper as "Cardinal-Deacon Franco," who became an "antipope," and tells us that he took the name "Boniface VII," not "VIII" as McCabe has it. The CE confirms McCabe's other facts, and adds that Boniface VII returned to Rome after the death of Otto II.


Otto's twenty-three year old first cousin Bruno was consecrated as Pope Gregory V. On May 25, this Pope Gregory crowned his fifteen year old cousin as emperor Otto III. On the same date, pope and emperor held a synod of cardinals, bishops and others, which decided to execute Marozia, who had been imprisoned for fifty-four years. [Martin, 119-120]


Grand Duke Vladimir, grandson of [St.] Olga, began life as a pagan. In his early adulthood he had his brother murdered so he could take the throne of Kiev. He then added his brother's wife to his impressive harem. Later, he sacrificed two Christians to a pagan god. Yet, he was canonized by the Christian Church because he converted to Christianity and caused many Russians to convert also. However, he accepted Christianity so that he could marry Emperor Basil II's sister, Anna. He ordered his nobles and commoners to participate in a mass baptism on pain of death.[Craughwell, 89-94; Delaney, 627; Engh, 117-118]




© R. Paul Buchman 2011