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A Little Papistry

Posted on May 1, 2005 in Pontiff Watch

square219.gifWe are so used to seeing the numbers after the name of a Pope that we forget that many bishops of Rome were ones of a kind. The other day I told the tale of poor Pope Formosus, a decent man whose remains were defiled by his successor, the not-so-worthy Stephen VI (or was he the Seventh — it is arguable). Needless to say that I was disappointed that Pope Rat named himself Benedict VI. Not only was it — in the spirit of John Paul II — a mockery of the legacy of the other Benedicts, but it was also terribly unoriginal. Besides, there are a host of names which have not yet been succeeded. Perhaps the next Vicar of Christ will consult this list and resurrect one of these for his official name:

Anacletus Anicetus Anterus Conon Constantine Cornelius Deusdedit Dionysus Donus Eleutherius Eusebius Eutychian Evaristus Fabian Formosus Gaius Hilarus Hormisdas Hyginus Lando Liberius Linus Marcellinus Mark Miltiades Pontian Romanus Sabinian Simplicius Siricius Sisnnius Symmachus Telesphorus Valentine Vigilius Vitalian Zacharias Zephyrinus Zosimus

And let us not forget that name which, perhaps, should never be used: Peter.

If the next pontiff takes the name “Dionysus II”, things could get very interesting.

A few of these names were taken up by antipopes. Antipopes were not manifestations of the Anti-Christ — usually — but simply rival claimants to the title. (Some of them were in fact better men than the ones who made it to the official list.) When subsequent generations compiled the Annuario Pontificio, decisions had to be made. The easiest cases were those of men who admitted the “falsity” of their claim. Harder to arbitrate were the rival claims of factions of the Great Schism (1378-1417) which began when a clan of French cardinals claimed that Pope Urban was deranged and incapable. Clement (VII) enjoyed the support of the Curia, but ultimately lost his title when Clement (VIII) swore allegiance to Martin V.

Following the lines of succession during this period can be very confusing because, for a time, it became the fashion for any group of cardinals to convene a conclave and put up their own version of the Pontiff.

Here’s a list with dates of antipopes for the curious:

Albert (1101) Anacletus II (1130-8) Anastasius Bibliothecarius (855) Benedict X (1058-9) Benedict (XIII) (1394-1417) Benedict (XIV) (1425-?) Boniface VII (974; 984-5) Callistus (III) (1168-78) Celestine (II) (1124) Christopher (903-4) Clement (III) (1080; 1084-1100) Clement (VII) (1378-94) Clement (VIII) (1423-9) Constantine (767-8) Dioscorus (530) Eulalius (418-19) Felix V (1439-49) Gregory (VI) (1012) Gregory (VIII) (1118-21) Hippolytus (217-35) Honorius (II) (1061-4) Innocent (III) (1179-80) John (844) John XVI (997-8) John (XXIII) (1410-1415) Lawrence (498/9; 501-6) Nicholas (V) (1328-30) Novatian (251-8) Paschal (687) Paschal III (1464-8) Phillip (768) Silvester IV (1105-11) Theodore (687) Theoderic (1100-1) Ursinus (366-7) Victor IV (1138) Victor IV (1159-64)

When the number of a pope appears in parentheses it means that the title and number was taken by a subsequent certified pope.)

Yes, that’s right folks. There were two Victor IVs. And the John XXIII noted above lived in the 15th century. The 20th century pope hasn’t yet been declared an antipope though I don’t doubt the Curia is hard at work manufacturing a reason.

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