Spirituality for Today – Summer 2018 – Volume 22, Issue 4

The 130th Pope
John XII

Pope John XII (955-964) – Named Octavian at birth, he changed his pagan name when elected pope. He entered the papacy at the tender age of eighteen. His papacy is a Jeckle and Hyde story. Perhaps, the Mr. Hyde pope was partially a product of youth married to power. He lived the life of a libertine. Dead of a stroke at the age of twenty-eight allegedly lying next to a married woman (our current media would have had a Field Day with that story).

In spite of the immoral quality of his private life, he managed to perform in a regular manner in ecclesiastical affairs. There must have been some room for the Holy Spirit in him. The Holy Roman Empire was established by his hand. Unfortunately, the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto I, was granted influence on papal elections in gratitude for defense of the Papal States (which covered over half of Italy). The Spanish Church sought his council in coping with Muslim provocations. He consecrated archbishops for the benefit of the Church in England. Pope John pursued monastic reform.

Relations between the pope and Otto I turned sour because of Pope John's resentment over imperial influence. Pope John engaged in an intrigue with the current King of Italy, Berengar II, to oppose the emperor. Otto arrived with his army at the gates of Rome. Pope John fled. Otto calls a synod at Saint Peter's which deposes the pope for his immorality. A new pope, Leo VIII is elected, but there is a canonical controversy over the validity of their actions. Pope Leo VIII did not garner the favor of the people of Rome and, on Otto's departure, deposed Pope Leo and re–instated Pope John. Otto learns of this and returns to Rome to support Pope Leo VIII. Again, Pope John flees and subsequently dies.

Considering the political plots, papal bad behavior, the dubious effects of having Papal States, imperial influences on Church affairs, one, reasonably, could conclude that things could become very messy in the world of the papacy. The pope was buried in the Lateran Basilica.

Habemus papam