The Papacy


Mary Ann Collins

(A Former Catholic Nun)



October 2002

The Roman Catholic Church paints a picture of an orderly chain of succession of popes who followed in the footsteps of the Apostle Peter. If even one of these men was not a valid Pope, then the chain is broken.

What does it take to be a valid Pope? What does the Bible say are the minimum requirements for Church leaders? A Pope is not only the head of the Catholic Church, he is also the Bishop of Rome. Therefore, he must at least meet the Biblical requirements for being a bishop.

The Apostle Paul gave Timothy and Titus instructions regarding the necessary qualifications for bishops. He said,

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker [not violent], not greedy of filthy lucre [money]; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil." (1 Timothy 3:1-7, emphasis added)

"For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker [not violent], not given to filthy lucre [money]; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (Titus 1:7-9, emphasis added)

We are going to look at some popes and compare their lives with the Biblical qualifications for being a bishop. Information about some of these popes is available on-line, so you can see it for yourself. Some of the Notes give addresses of Internet articles.

Pope Honorius reigned from 625 to 638 A.D. He was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681). He was also condemned as a heretic by Pope Leo II, as well as by every other pope until the eleventh century. [Note 1]

In 769, Pope Stephen IV came to power with the help of an army which conquered the previous Pope. Stephen gave orders for his papal rival to be flogged, have his eyes cut out, have his kneecaps broken, and be imprisoned until he died. Then Pope Stephen sentenced a second man to die a slow, agonizing death. He had pieces of his body cut off every day until he finally died. [Note 2]

Pope Leo V only reigned for one month (July 903). Cardinal Christopher put Leo in prison and became Pope. Then Christopher was put in prison by Cardinal Sergius. Sergius killed Leo and Christopher while they were in prison. He also killed every cardinal who had opposed him. [Note 3]

Pope John XII reigned from 955 to 964. He was a violent man. He was so lustful that people of his day said that he turned the Lateran Palace into a brothel. He drank toasts to the devil. When gambling he invoked pagan gods and goddesses. He was killed by a jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery with the man's wife. [Note 4]

In the tenth century, a wealthy Italian noblewoman named Marozia put nine popes into office in eight years. In order to do that, she also had to get rid of reigning popes. Two of them were strangled, one was suffocated, and four disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One of the popes was Marozia's son; he was fathered by a Pope. [Note 5]

In 1003, Pope Silvester II was murdered by his successor, Pope John XVII. Seven months later, John was poisoned. [Note 6]

Pope Benedict VIII reigned from 1012 to 1024. He kept a private force of "pope's men" who were known for torture, maimings, and murder. The Pope personally ordered many assassinations. He enjoyed cutting the tongues out of living men and he had a reputation for blood lust. [Note 7]

When Benedict VIII died, his brother seized power and became Pope John XIX. He had himself ordained a priest, consecrated as a bishop, and crowned as pope, all in the same day. John died under suspicious circumstances. [Note 8]

Pope Benedict IX reigned from 1032 to 1044, in 1045, and from 1047 to 1048. He became Pope through bribery. He had sex with men, women and animals. He gave orders for people to be murdered. He also practiced witchcraft and Satanism. The citizens of Rome hated Benedict so much that on two occasions he had to flee from Rome. Benedict sold the papacy to Pope Gregory VI. As part of the deal, he continued to live in the Lateran Palace, with a generous income. Benedict filled the Lateran Palace with prostitutes. [Note 9]

In 1298, Pope Boniface ordered that every man, woman, child and animal in the Italian town of Palestrina be slaughtered. He was known for torture, massacre, and ferocity. [Note 10]

Pope Clement VI reigned from 1342 to 1352. He ordered the slaughter of an entire Italian town. He lived a life of luxury and extravagance. He openly admitted that he sold church offices and he used threats and bribery to gain power. Clement purchased a French palace which became known as a papal brothel. [Note 11]

Pope Alexander VI reigned from 1492 to 1503. He was known for murder, bribery and selling positions of authority in the Church. He was grossly licentious. On one occasion he required 50 prostitutes to dance naked before him and to engage in sexual acts for his entertainment. He had cardinals killed so that he could confiscate their property and sell their positions to ambitious men. He died of poison after having dinner with a cardinal. It was rumored that the cardinal suspected that the Pope would try to poison him and he therefore switched wine goblets with the Pope. [Note 12]

Pope Julius II reigned from 1503 to 1513. He became Pope through bribery. He was extremely ruthless and violent. He had a reputation for lust, drunknness, rages, deception, and nepotism. [Note 13]

Pope Leo X reigned from 1513 to 1521. He put a statue of himself in Rome's Capitol to be saluted by the public. He had statues of Greek gods and goddesses put in Rome. [Note 14]

Pope Gregory VII reigned from 1073 to 1085. He required kings and emperors to kiss his foot. Gregory and his successors used forged documents in order to expand the power of the papacy. Some Roman Catholics tried to expose these forgeries but they were excommunicated for it. However, the Orthodox Church kept records and wrote detailed information about the forgeries. [Note 15] (For more information about this, see my article "Forged Documents and Papal Power".)

Simony was rampant among clerics. It was commonplace for priests to pay money in order to become bishops and abbots. Pope Gregory VII said that he knew of more than 40 men who became Pope by means of bribery. [Note 16]

Pope Innocent III reigned from 1198 to 1216. He said that the Pope is the ruler of the world and the father of princes and kings. He claimed that every priest and bishop must obey the Pope even if the Pope commands something evil. Pope Innocent wanted to get rid of the Albigensian heretics who lived in France. He forced the King of France to kill hundreds of thousands of French citizens. The Albigensians lived mingled among the French Catholics. Pope Innocent commanded that every person in the region, including the Catholics, be killed. This was called the Albigensian Crusade, or the Albigensian Massacre. The Pope gave the Albigensian Crusaders a special indulgence which was supposed to guarantee that if they died in battle then their sins would be remitted and they would go to Heaven. [Note 17]

Would you want any of these men to be your pastor?

Sometimes two or more men would claim to be Pope at the same time. All of these claimants to the papacy had followers. Eventually one contender would be declared to be Pope, and the other would be declared to be an antipope. For centuries, Roman Catholic books differed as to which men they considered to be the genuine popes. However, today there is much more agreement about which men were popes and which men were antipopes. According to the "Catholic Encyclopedia," there were thirty antipopes. [Note 18]

There are so many breaks in the chain of apostolic succession that it is not a chain at all.

There is one Biblical qualification for being a bishop which most popes have not met since the first few centuries of the church. The Apostle Paul said,

"A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife..." (1 Timothy 3:1, emphasis added)

"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)" (1 Timothy 3:4-5, emphasis added)

Even deacons were required to be married men whose home lives demonstrated their ability to rule the Church.

"Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well." (1 Timothy 3:12)

Pope Gregory VII wanted to increase the power of the papacy. For reasons of politics and power, he abolished clerical marriage. In 1074 he passed laws requiring that priests be celibate, and he got rid of married priests. [Note 19]

As a result, since 1074 no Pope has been able to meet the Apostle Paul's requirement for bishops.

Now I realize that some individuals (such as the Apostle Paul) are called to be celibate. I could understand a few exceptions to the rule. But for nearly a thousand years, not one Pope or cardinal or bishop has ever been able to meet Paul's qualifications for being a bishop.


I encourage you to link to this article and to put it on your own web site. You have my permission to copy this entire article or portions of it, and to quote from it. You have my permission to incorporate this entire article or portions of it into publications of your own, including translating it into other languages. You have my permission to distribute copies of this article, including selling it for profit. I do not want any royalties or financial remuneration of any kind. Please give this information to anybody who might be interested in it.


1. William Webster, "The Church of Rome at the Bar of History" (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995), pages 63-71. The author is a former Catholic.

Peter de Rosa, "Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy" (Dublin, Ireland: Poolbeg Press, 1988, 2000), pages 208-209. The author is a practicing Catholic and a former Catholic priest. While he was a priest, he did research in the Vatican Archives.

Pope Honorius

2. Malachi Martin, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church" (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1981), pages 85-89. Martin recently died. He was a Catholic priest, a Vatican insider, and the personal confessor of Pope John XXIII. He did research in the Vatican Archives. His books are a plea for reform within the Catholic Church.

3. Malachi Martin, page 123.

4. Peter de Rosa, pages 211-215.

Pope John XII

5. Malachi Martin, page 119.

6. Malachi Martin, page 131.

7. Pope Benedict VIII

8. Malachi Martin, pages 131-132.

9. Malachi Martin, page 132. Peter de Rosa, pages 54-56.

Pope Benedict IX

10. Paul Johnson, "A History of Christianity" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976, 1995), pages 191, 218-219. Johnson is a practicing Catholic and a prominent historian. Malachi Martin, page 175.

11. Peter de Rosa, pages 84-88.

Pope Clement VI

12 .Paul Johnson, pages 280, 363. Peter de Rosa, pages 103-110.

Pope Alexander VI

The Borgia Pope (Alexander VI)

13. Paul Johnson, pages 274, 280.

Pope Julius II

14. Malachi Martin, pages 202-203.

15. Paul Johnson, pages 194-198, 161. Peter de Rosa, pages 57-66.

William Webster, "Forgeries and the Papacy: The Historical Influence and Use of Forgeries in Promotion of the Doctrine of the Papacy". The author is a former Catholic.

The Historical Use and Influence of Forgeries

Forged "Proof" (links to 28 articles about forged documents)

Pope Gregory VII

The Development of Papal Power

16. Malachi Martin, pages 141-142.

17. Paul Johnson, pages 199-201, 252. Peter de Rosa, pages 66-74, 152-155.

The Massacre of the Albigensians

Pope Innocent III

18. "Antipopes"

"Antipope" in the "Catholic Encyclopedia," Volume I, 1907 (on-line edition 1999).

19. Malachi Martin, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church, pages 141-142.

John Shuster, "A Concise History of the Married Priesthood in Our Roman Catholic Tradition."