Popes


The Protestant Reformation marked a time of great religious, social and
political upheaval. For the first time in history the Christian church was
permanently shattered. The Reformation originated from a trend in returning to
the biblical days of Christianity and a renewal of morality. Unfortunately the
Catholic religious leaders didn\'t share in the renewal of morality. The
Renaissance popes were partially responsible for the decline of the
church;however, it was the Church\'s past history and changing social, political
and economic factors that lead to the Reformation\'s sucess.
Commercialization of the Holy See was common for most popes, but ,
according to Barbra Tuchman, three of these men took particular advantage of
the practice. Innocent VII is the earliest acknowledged pope during the
Renaissance to have taken liberties with the church\'s finances. Although he
engaged in the practices of simony and the selling of indulgences, his most
noted mistake was raising donations for a Crusade that never took place. In
1486 Innocent announced a crusade, as well as at the same time declaring a tithe
on all churches, benefices and ecclesiastical persons of all ranks. Military
plans were drawn up but, in the end, no great army ever assembled or departed
from Europe\'s shores. Instead, in a twist of irony, the Vatican wound up hosting
an infidel in the form of Prince Djem, the sultan\'s brother. This arrangement
confused the general public and the papal status fell in the eyes of the public.
Papal status was further weakened by Innocent\'s successor Alexander VI.
Alexander thrived on simony. He acquired the office of pope by buying out his
chief rivals and openly boasted about this feat. Alexander went on to sell a
total of 43 cardinalships, including to his own family. After the murder of his
eldest son, Alexander was inspired in a proposed Bull to try to reform the
church by reducing the incomes of the cardinals as well as mend other wicked
ways; however, provisions caused Alexander to return to normal and he never
issued the Bull. Perhaps if the Church had reformed during Alexander\'s reign,
Leo X would never have taken office. Leo is most noted for writing to his
brother "God has given us the papacy-let us enjoy it". Leo took this credo to
heart and was considered the most extravagant pope and one of the great spenders
of his time. He is most known for commissioning the rebuilding of St. Peter\'s,
as well as several well known works of art, and for his continuous festivities
during his reign. In order to fund his expenditures his chancery created 2000
salable offices, grossing an estimated total of 3 million ducats. Unfortunately
this sum still proved insufficient for Leo\'s largesse. He poured countless
amounts of money into idle wars and lavish displays. At his death he left the
Papacy over 800,000 ducats worth of debts. His enormous expenditures left the
Church in the lowest possible state of repute with the public and gave Martin
Luther the right atmosphere to revolt.
The church\'s reputation continued to decline because of the corruption
of church institutions. Plural holding of offices lead to absenteeism and the
practice of ad commendam. The first Renaissance pope, Sixtus IV, took great
advantage of appointing whomever he wanted in the College of Cardinals in the
interest of political favor. He often chose the younger sons of great families,
giving no thought to whether or not they were qualified to hold the position. He
gave the archiepiscopal see of Lisbon to an eight year old child and the see of
Milan to an eleven year old boy, both sons of princes. During his 13 years of
rule he "so thoroughly secularized the College that his successors followed his
example as if it were the rule"(74). The College of Cardinals became a bastion
for power hungry individuals. Most cardinals were of high class families who
bought the rank. Conditions in the College declined during Innocent VIII\'s rule.
As secularization advanced appointments were given more frequently to laymen,
sons and brothers of princes or designated agents of secular kings and monarchs
of which none had any sort of ecclesiastical training. Perhaps the greatest
example of buying ones way up the ladder is Giovanni de Medici, made abbot at
age eight and later to become the fifth Renaissance pope, Leo X. Absenteeism
occurred as cardinals collected many different bishoprics, abbeys and other
benefices as a way to augment their incomes. In the words of Lorenzo de Medici
the College of Cardinals was a "sink of all iniquity" full of men with high
incomes and low morals.
As corrupt morally as the cardinals were, the