666 Christian Crimes

1000 - 1099


This year again saw three popes reign: Sylvester II, John XVII, and John XVIII.


Pope Silvester II was murdered.[Martin, 131]


Pope John XVII died by poisoning. [Martin, 131]


The bishop of Albano, a member of the powerful Crescentii family, became Pope Sergius IV by force of arms. He broke the ancient prohibition against bishops transferring from one diocese to another. He provoked the patriarch of Constantinople by sending him a creed containing the filioque for his approval. The patriarch refused to inscribe Sergius' name in the official list of patriarchs, implying that he was an imposter. [Martin, 130-131; McBrien, 168]


During revolt in Rome, Pope Sergius IV, a Crescentii, and the head of the Crescentii family both disappeared. The rival Tusculan family placed Theophylact, one of their own, on the papal throne as Benedict VIII. Benedict was the great-grandson of the notorious Marozia and a nephew of Pope John XIX. He was the first Tusculan pope. [McBrien, 168; Martin, 131; Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope Benedict VIII"]


Heretics were persecuted in Germany for the first time. [Grun, 126; Cline, medieval2]


Pope Benedict VIII crowned the German, Henry II, emperor, using the filioque in the ceremonies. The Greek envoys walked out. [Martin, 130]

After this, various European interests took over Greek properties in Italy, and the pope forced the captured Greeks to use Latin rites. Patriarch Celularius retaliated by forcing Latins in Constantinople to use Greek rites. [Martin, 130-131]


The Synod of Pavia decreed that the children of ecclesiastics should be "slaves, the property of the church, and never to be enfranchised." ... and "incapable of succeeding to their fathers' benefices." [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Celibacy of the Clergy"]


King Robert I of France ("the Pious") burned 13 Cathari heretics at Orléans. [Haught, 1990, 54; Catholic Encyclopedia, "Cathari"]

One nun and eleven clergymen—some respected scholars and teachers, and one the former confessor of the queen of France—were tried for heresy. After the trial the queen put out the eye of her former confessor. Ten of the convicted were burned, "the first burning for heresy in medieval Europe." [Engh, 133]


"When Benedict died, his brother Romanus, another of Marozia's great-grandsons, seized the papal throne. He had himself ordained priest, consecrated bishop, and crowned as pope, all in one day, June 24-25, 1024, calling himself Pope John XIX." Influenced by Cluniac monks, John rejected a sincere peace offer by Patriarch Eusthathios of Constantinople. [Martin, 131]

1033—1049 The Tusculan and Crescentii families, and Emperor Henry III


After Pope John XIX died under suspicious circumstances. One of his relatives of the Tusculan family made his own son, Theophylact—Marozia's great-great-grandson—pope who was called Benedict IX. Benedict was only twelve (or eleven, or fourteen, depending on the historian) years old when he ascended the throne of St. Peter and previously had not held any church office. His election was said to be due to bribery. Benedict IX held the papacy on three separate occasions: Oct. 1032-Sept. 1044; March-May 1045; Nov. 1047-July 1048.

This Benedict "was bisexual, sodomized animals, and ordered murders. He also dabbled in witchcraft and Satanism." Moreover, he handed out favors to his family members, took several mistresses, and put several abbeys under papal protection, allowing him to loot their treasures under the pretense of protecting them from robbers. The Romans ran Benedict out of the city because of his blatant immorality and his neglect of the papal duties.


The Crescentii family, who were enemies of the Tusculans, took advantage of Benedict's absence and installed their own pope, John of Sabina, called Silvester III.

After the usurper Silvester had taken the papal throne, Benedict, who was now married, led an army back to Rome and retook the throne. The people went along with it because they believed that he was the true pope. Back in Rome, Benedict divorced his wife and took a mistress. After two months he became bored with the papacy, sold it to his godfather (or grandfather), Giovanni Gratiano, for 1500 pounds of gold, and remarried the woman he'd divorced. Gratiano became Pope Gregory VI without election. Theophylact, the former Benedict IX, continued to live in the Lateran palace, turning it into a brothel. Not long after that, Benedict again changed his mind and decided to buy back the papacy, but Gratian (Gregory VI) refused.


Holy Roman Emperor Henry III came to Rome to be crowned and found only confusion. Henry called a synod and summoned all three popes to attend. By the end of 1046 the Synod of Sutri had deposed all three: the Tusculan pope Benedict IX, the Crescentii pope Silvester III, and Benedict's grandfather Gregory VI. Henry then installed one of his German bishops as Pope Clement II and took Gregory VI back to Germany with him, where he soon died. Eight months later Clement II too died and may have been poisoned.


With Henry's pope Clement out of the way, Benedict returned and gained the papacy a third time.


Henry returned and replaced Benedict a second time with another of his bishops, who became Pope Damasus II. Twenty-three days later, Damasus too died, probably from poisoning.


Once again Henry put one of his bishops on the throne as Pope [St.] Leo IX. That finally ended the confusion. A Lateran synod in 1049 charged Benedict with simony, and excommunicated him when he failed to appear.

[1033–1049: Chamberlin, 24, 71; Curran, 90-93; De Rosa, 53-56; Martin, 132-133; McBrien, 170-172]

The Catholic Church's official list of popes for this period (1024—1054) is as follows:

End of the Tusculan and Crescentii families


In Goslar, Germany, a community of Christians whose beliefs made them unwilling to kill chickens were convicted of heresy and hanged. [Haught, 1990, 54]

The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Cathari"), mentions that these heretics were Cathari and were hanged in 1052.


At a council in Rome called by Pope St. Leo IX to restore priestly discipline with regard to celibacy, the bishops voted to enslave the priests' wives, while showing leniency toward the husbands. [Lea, 1884, pp. 189-190; CE (see next).]

"The earliest decree in which the children were declared to be slaves, the property of the Church, and never to be enfranchised, seems to have been a canon of the Synod of Pavia in 1018. Similar penalties were promulgated later on against the wives and concubines (see the Synod of Melfi, 1189, can. xii)...." [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Celibacy of the Clergy"; SEE ALSO: 1018 and 1189]


Pope Leo IX led an army the Normans, resulting in a decisive defeat, and the pope himself was captured. [McBrien, 175; Cline, medieval2]


Leo IX sent three cardinals to Constantinople with a document of excommunication. The excommunication applied not only to the patriarch, but also to the eastern Emperor, and all the eastern bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and lay people. The papal delegates entered the basilica of Hagia Sofia where the patriarch was celebrating a mass, and without a word, laid the document on the altar and walked out. In response, the patriarch excommunicated the pope. These acts created the final break between the eastern and western churches, which continues to the present day. [Martin, 133-134; Kirsch, 22]


Pope Alexander II gave priests guilty of adultery and incest only a slap on the wrist. "For Pope Alexander, adultery, even incest was preferable to a priest marrying." [De Rosa, 406]


Pope [St.] Gregory VII excommunicated those who took sacraments from non-celibate priests. This violated church tradition and led to large declines of the faithful in some dioceses. [De Rosa, 407]


Pope [St.] Gregory VII issued the Dictatus papae which stated that everyone "must obey his definitions of right and wrong; he had an unlimited power of excommunication and absolution; God alone could be his judge." In addition, "he claimed the right to punish and even depose disobedient rulers...." [Bokenkotter, 116]

Gregory VII claimed that no one could judge the pope, he was "the only truly free man," and had universal jurisdiction. These claims "amounted to a theory of papal world-government." Gregory also claimed that the church "has never erred and never can err." [Johnson, 1976, 196-197]

"[Gregory VII] claimed the right to interfere in any concern, secular or spiritual, of any country of Europe." [McCabe, 1953, Chapter IV]

Gregory VII proclaimed: "Whoever touches the pope must die." [Williams, 2003, 28]

So of course they made him a saint. The Catholic Encyclopedia fails to mention most of the above in its lengthy article on Pope St. Gregory VII.


Pope [St.] Gregory VII wrote to a friend, "Wherever I turn my eyes ... I find everywhere bishops who have obtained their office in an irregular way, whose lives and conversation are strangely at variance with their sacred calling; who go through their duties not for the love of Christ but from motives of worldly gain." [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope St. Gregory VII"]

Gregory VII interdicted married priests from saying Mass and all other ecclesiastical functions. The people were forbidden to hear Mass conducted by a married priest. [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Celibacy of the Clergy"]


For various political reasons Emperor Henry IV of Germany was forced to reconcile with Pope [St.] Gregory VII, who had excommunicated him and removed the bishops he had chosen. He was subjected to severe humiliation before the pope would see him. In the middle of a harsh winter, the king fasted barefooted at the door of the pope's residence for three days before the pope received him. Henry also had to agree to submit to the decision of a proposed council. [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Pope St. Gregory VII"]


A synod at Lillebonne, France, outlawed "cullagium," a special payment to the bishops, which allowed priests to keep their concubines. Although the church tried to enforce this canon, the custom continued until the sixteenth century. [Lea, 1884, 257]


Pope [Bl.] Urban II initiated the first crusade at a council in Clermont, France, to liberate Jerusalem from Islam. The call to crusade was at least partially in response to a request from Emperor Alexius in Constantinople. [Ellerbe, 64; Billings, 18]


At a council in Piacenza celibacy was imposed on all clerics. Current priests' wives were sold into slavery. [De Rosa, 407]

"The councils of Piacenza were those of ... 1090 (Urban II against the concubinage of the clergy, and in favour of the crusade) [Catholic Encyclopedia, "Piacenza"; SEE ALSO: 1018 & 1189]


Crusaders of Pope Bl. Urban II's First Crusade, under the command of Count Emich of Leiningen, Germany, pulled Jews from their houses in Speyer and gave them the option of conversion or death. Eleven Jews were murdered. In a short time, the anti-Jewish blood lust spread to Worms, then to Mainz, to Trier, Metz, Cologne, Regensburg, and Prague. In less than two months about 8,000 Jews had been killed, including women and children. Their houses had been looted and their synagogues burned.

Some of Emich's followers later marched behind a goose believed to be enchanted by God or imbued with the Holy Spirit. It led them into Jewish neighborhoods where they hacked and burned residents to death. Many nobles and experienced soldiers from all over Western Europe encouraged the mobs to kill Jews. These were disorganized, ill-equipped, and often destitute people, not soldiers.

The main body of the "Peasant's Crusade" under the leadership of Peter the Hermit sacked Belgrade, "the chief imperial city after Constantinople." So the crusaders' first victories were over other Christians, not Muslims. When Peter's crusaders got to Constantinople, rather than wait for the emperor's promised provisions, they began looting. They were quickly ferried across the Bosporus to get them out of the city and on their way to the Holy Land. [Billings, 15, 22; Ellerbe, 67; Haught, 1990, 12; Stannard, 175-176; Williams, 2002, 44-47]


Crusaders massacred Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem during their capture of the city. Byzantine chronicler, Nicetas Choniates, wrote: "Even the Saracens [Muslims] are merciful and kind compared to these men who bear the cross of Christ on their shoulders." The first crusaders to reach Jerusalem killed 17,000 Muslims and burned alive all Jews inside their synagogues.

Even after the Muslims had surrendered and received promises from the leaders of the crusade that they would not be killed, the rank and file could not be held back. They ruthlessly slaughtered all of them until the stacked bodies covered the entire floor. Raymond of Aguilers wrote: "This is the day the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."

After Jerusalem was conquered, the Catholic crusaders expelled the Orthodox people and tortured their priests. They took Orthodox churches and property. By order of the pope, all Greek priests were replaced by Latins and the services performed with Latin rites. The Greek empire retaliated by massacring all the Latins in Constantinople. [Ellerbe, 65; Johnson, 1976, 246-247; Martin, 111, 134; Williams, 2002, 85-86]




© R. Paul Buchman 2011