Sunday, December 30, 2018

"Peter, this is the Lord himself! Abandon the position!" When a Future Pope Pretended to be God to Get a Current Pope to Resign

Benedict attending the remains of Pope Celestine V

Before Benedict XVI, in the almost 2,000 year history of the papacy, as many as ten popes may have abdicated or resigned. I say "may have" because most of the "resignations" are historically uncertain. What is known is that, assuming the truth of each resignation account, all but one occurred due to circumstances of violence or political necessity or pressure.

The only "peaceful" resignation was that which has the least attestation - John XVIII (1004-1009), who according to one (and only one) source voluntarily chose to end his life as a monk.

Pontian (230-235) and Marcellinus (296-304) were arrested, tortured and executed by Roman authorities, possibly abdicating before the end. If Liberius (352-355 or 352-366) resigned (which the Church itself and most historians now dispute) it was due to being exiled by the Arian emperor Constantius II. The unfortunate Benedict V (964, 1 month) was deposed by Emperor OttoSylvester III (1045, 1 month), Gregory VI (1045-1046) and Benedict IX (three non-consecutive reigns from 1032-1048 involving at least two abdications) all resigned due to the complex and violent political and family rivalries of the time. Gregory XII (1406-1415) resigned to end the Western Schism.

Arrest, torture, banishment, Italians fighting, schism.

Benedict XVI claimed that he resigned partly because he didn't feel up to attending World Youth Day. This is one reason why some people are a bit put off by the whole thing.

But I digress.

Perhaps the most interesting confirmed papal resignation story is that of Celestine V (1294, 161 days), the reluctant hermit pope.

"Peter of Murrone" was a celebrated monk who had founded a new Benedictine order that would later take his papal name.

In 1294 he was 79 years old and living in a hut on top of a mountain in Abruzzo.

In the meantime, the cardinals in Rome had been deadlocked for two years on electing a new pope after the death of Nicholas IV in 1292. It is recorded that Peter himself had warned them that Christ would take vengeance if they didn't quickly come to a decision.

This may have been a mistake.

The cardinals chose Peter.

In one of his popular histories of the Church, Malachi Martin colorfully describes the cardinals and others scrambling up to reach Peter and inform him of their decision. May I be forgiven for observing that it reads like something out of Monty Python:
One fine day in the year 1294, Peter had some visitors. Climbing laboriously up his mountain came three bishops, a Roman senator, a cardinal with his retinue, a group of noblemen and knights, and several thousand people. They suddenly invaded the mountainside clamoring for his approval, begging him in the name of Jesus to utter the magic words: "I accept the grade of Pope."
...A young monk rushed in whispering that the "Saracens were invading the monastery." Up the mountainside outside Peter's tiny hut about 7,000 people were led by mounted knights, the three bishops, and the cardinal, all at the end of their tether, each one intent on being the first to reach the pope-elect. Peter's hut was obvious to them. The oldest of the bishops advanced, peered in through the little opening and found himself looking at the haggard face and timid gaze of a very old man. "Peter, our beloved brother, it has seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to choose your Excellency as successor of Peter the Apostle, Rector of the Universal Church, and Father of all mankind. Do you accept?" A shout went up from the 7,000: "Long live Pope Peter, our Father. Long live the Bishop of Rome! Long live Peter!"

It took Peter only a few minutes. His monks, now free of their initial fright, ran from their hiding places, shouting: "The Call! The Call! The Prophetic Kingdom is here! The Call! The Call!"
The waiting cardinal and bishops saw Peter's eyes gazing meditatively on the crowds, then up over their heads to the surrounding mountains and the skies. Certainly there was peace in his hermitage, the face of the sweet-smelling earth and shining skies, the nights alone with the stars and the whispering winds, his colloquies with streams and flowers. Could it be that the Lord wanted him to leave? The cardinal and bishops who were nearly beside themselves with worry that he would not talk, much less leave his hut, finally heard the long-desired words: "I accept the grade of Pope."
...The monks all ran about in a veritable ecstasy, chanting: "Paradiso! Paradiso! Come all ye Turks and Jews! Believe in Jesus Christ. Rise, Christian soldiers! Kill all infidels!"
The crowds knelt down, extending their hands and shouting: "Blessing! Blessing! Holy Father! Blessing!"
At length, Peter appeared around the corner of his hut. He raised his hand and blessed them in an immense silence.
Then they placed him on a donkey and the procession set out.
Peter was duly crowned. It soon became clear however that while he was a good and holy man (he would later be proclaimed a saint), Celestine, as he had named himself, was completely unprepared to be a pope, unable to deal with the worldly machinations of his court, to say nothing of actually reforming (as he had originally very much desired) the papal bureaucracy.

King Charles of Naples installed him in his own castle and, there, built him a special hermit's cell. Charles attempted to control him but also had a favorite, Cardinal Benedetto Gaetani, waiting in the wings to replace him. Here is Martin again:
But there was no peace for Peter. They extracted him from his cell periodically, set him on a throne, surrounded him with clerics, quick witted, wily, smiling, obsequious, whispering, always whispering. The people who came to see him never got to him. The clerics were always talking monies or politics or plots. Between him and the people there was woven a labyrinthine web—a wall—of intrigue, of lies, of servitude, of deceit. And always Gaetani in the background. Gaetani whispering, eyeing him sideways, never smiling, bowing his head at everything Peter said.
Perhaps he should resign? Martin narrates another Monty Pythonesque scene:
He now saw himself trapped. All he could achieve would be silent heroism of a particular kind: to be plotted against, to be laughed at, to be held a fool, to be deceived, to be treated like an idiot by the great and the mighty. Even to be done to death. Could that be what Jesus wanted?
Late one night in that November of 1294 when he was still pope, Peter was wakened by a sepulchral voice talking in the darkness of his papal hermit's cell. "Peter! Peter! My servant! Peter!"
Automatically, Peter said: "Yes, my Lord." Then he began to realize the pit of insane foolishness into which they intended to shove him. "Peter!" the voice went on, "this is the Lord himself!"
The undertones of that voice began to strike an eerie note of familiarity in Peter's consciousness. "Arise, Peter! Abandon this position! Retire to Murrone! Pray! Peter! Pray! Pray! Pray!"
There was much more of the same. Peter could not mistake those accents after a few moments. Gaetani had never been able to pronounce the "t;" it always came out sounding like a "d." He even called himself "Gaedani."
Peter was not fooled, but Gaetani's trick worked to the extent that by the following morning, Peter had made up his mind. He would abdicate.
Did this actually happen?

Malachi Martin, a learned but colorful figure himself, presumably sourced this from John Gower's Confessio Amantis, though as far as I know Gower, a friend of Chaucer, did not allege that it was Gaetani himself who pretended to be God but rather that it was a confederate.

Regardless, the record is clear that Celestine did resign. And Gaetani succeeded him, becoming Pope Boniface VIII. Ex-pope Celestine would soon be captured and imprisoned by Boniface and would die in custody. Some say he was smothered with a pillow on the pope's orders, though this is disputed.

The papacy enjoys supernatural protection. Or so Catholics believe. But the actual history is, shall we say, rough. To say nothing of the men who occupied the throne.

What will future historians say of our own period?

Will it be banal:

The annoyances of World Youth Day in Rio, to be replaced by writing, prayer and the occasional tall beer.

Or is there something more going on?

Who is the Bishop in white?


  1. Clearly, the legitimacy of Pope Francis papacy is at least uncertain and quite possibly fraudulent.

    1. Clearly? 99.99% of Catholics accept Francis as Pope as do all the Cardinals. Maybe not as clear to others as it might be to you. If it is fraudulent, then have the guts to leave any parish that mentions Francis' name in the canon.

    2. Clearly some astute statistical research has been done here. Case settled!

    3. "Quite possibly fraudulent" is not the same as fraudulent. "99.99% of Catholics accepting Pope Francis as Pope" is more likely 99.99% incorrect.

  2. What an interesting, entertaining article! And the picture -- just why did Benedict visit the tomb of this famous resigned pope?

  3. "...We had the impression that it was the Holy Father..."

  4. Interesting historical trivia: it was the Celestine Benedictines who founded the monastery of the order in Norcia. Later suppressed by Napoleon.

  5. "The annoyances of World Youth Day in Rio, to be replaced by writing, prayer and the occasional tall beer."

    I love Catholics. Fervor and devotion tarnish not a jot the lovely wit and fun.

  6. Some relevant documentation from a comment here:

  7. Celestine V - Benedict XVI

    Malachy Martin? It is a waste of time for confabulation.

    In the prophecy of Saint Malachi, we find the mistical nickname of Celestine V (Peter da Morrone, subject to the King of Sicily):

    Ex eremo celsus = The Sublime (Exalted) from the Desert

    Hermit, but not a misanthrope. More heavenly than earthly. And yet a practical man, the creator of the new branch of the Benedictines, originally called brothers of the Holy Spirit. On the way to the Second Council of Lyon (convened on May 7, 1274), Abbot Peter of Morrone had the vision of the Holy Virgin in Collemaggio (L'Aquila), who asked him to build a temple in that place in her honor. Peter's Benedictines quickly fulfilled this wish, because already on August 25, 1288 (from 1297 it will be the memory of Saint Louis the IX King), the monumental church in the open field was consecrated.
    At least from the council in Lyon, the hermit Peter was well known in the highest ecclesiastical circles, so when the conclave elected him on July 5, 1294, he was not made a joke for the pope. He took the name Celestine V, means Heavenly V.
    Peter built a church in Collemaggio, where he himself was crowned Pope on August 29, 1294, that is on Passion of John the Baptist. To this circumstance, new pope set up an annual jubilee indulgence on August 28/29, beginning with Saint Augustine of Hippo, the great convert.
    Celestine was nicer, however, spiritual life, heavenly than courtly, earthly: he abdicated on December 13, 1294, on Saint Lucy. In that era it was the winter solstice day. Hope for light! What light? Of which? From the Fire, about which the Lord Jesus spoke [Luke 12: 49]: 'I have come to throw fire on the earth, and how I long for it to burn!' Pope Celestine V, as the brother of the Holy Spirit, removed himself to make room for the Fire from Heaven, for the Paraclete - someone more heavenly than earthly, someone who is full of the Holy Spirit, though He is not the Holy Ghost.
    Peter of Morrone died on May 19, 1296, on the 7th day of the octave of the Pentecost and the memory of Saint Pudentiana (= the Shy), the foundress of the oldest church in Rome. [... to be continued]

  8. The spiritual desire of Peter Celestie, or the Heavenly Rock, came true only in the pontificate of the last successor of Saint Peter the Apostle. As a result of the earthquake, on 5/6 April 2009 (Palm Sunday / Monday of the Holy Week) the basilica at Collemaggio collapsed, including the Celestine V mausoleum, but his glass coffin did not suffer any damage. When Pope Benedict XVI arrived on April 28, 2009 to L'Aquila and visited the basilica, he placed on Celestin's sarcophagus his pallium, which he received on the inauguration of his own pontificate on April 24, 2005. It was a Greek-type pallium with 5 crosses. From June 29, 2008, Benedict XVI began using the Roman pallium with six crosses. Pallium is the attribute of a metropolitan archbishop that express his patriarchal right to administer the episcopal consecration. With this symbolic act (pallium's dedication) Benedict XVI has made a spiritual abdication to the unknown Patriarch, whom describes the names of both Pontiffs participating in this scene: one from heaven, Saint Celestine V, the other from the earth, Benedict XVI, or Celestine '5' Benedict '16', or Blessed Heavenly '1'5'6'. After the abdication, Celestine V was Peter again (he was the Rock by birth!) and remembered in the calendar as Saint Peter Celestine. Therefore, we can consistently say about that unknown Patriarch the Blessed Heavenly Stone CLVI. What does the number '1'5'6' mean? If anyone has come to this place, let him ask me!
    The Blessed Heavenly Stone is the Patriarch, the visible head of the Church on earth, vicar of Jesus Christ, coming from a ruined Roman Catholic church (like the Collemaggio basilica due to the earthquake). This is the Stone rejected by the builders, that is, by church freemasonry. They build a different community, not God's but Satan's, humanistic, temporal. Why do they need a Heavenly Stone? He is a hindrance to them. And yet, the Church of Christ continues and will be reborn on earth thanks to this Heavenly Stone, identical with the Paraclete.
    The confusion we see today in the Roman Catholic church is not a crisis but a breakthrough. The breakthrough of this rank, as the departure of Noah's Ark, the exit of Israel from Egypt under Moses, the exit of the Christ Church from Judaism. What is this contemporary breakthrough about? Of the many called, the elect ones will be introduced by the Paraclete and the Apocalyptic Woman to the Kingdom of God here on earth! We experience the great tribulation right now [Matt. 24, 21]. The pressure will increase further to separate the wheat from the chaff.
    The Lord Jesus is the foundation [1Corinthians 3, 11] of the building which is the Church, in particular the militant, and the Paraclete the crowning of this Divine enterprise - is the head of the corner [Matt. 21, 42]. The Paraclete, as a monarch and priest like Melchizedek, will be the visible Head of the Church on earth and will remain with us until the end of the world [John 14, 16]. Therefore, the last word of the paragraph about Peter the Roman, identical with the Paraclete, in the Saint Malachi's prophecy reads: FINIS.