List of sexually active popes  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

This is a list of sexually active popes, list of priests who were sexually active before becoming pope and popes who were legally married, who belonged to the Catholic Church. Some candidates were sexually active before their election as pope, and it has sometimes been claimed that other Popes were sexually active during their papacies. Since such relationships were sometimes undertaken outside of the bonds of matrimony, and because sometimes the Pope was under a vow of celibacy, the Catholic Church considers these to be grave abuses and causes of scandal. However, it believes it does not undermine the Catholic doctrines considering the authority and succession of the Papacy from Saint Peter the Apostle.

According to standard lists, there have been 265 popes. There are various classifications for those who were sexually active at some time during their life. Periods in parentheses refer to the years of their papacies. There have been thirty-nine popes since 1585. None of them is known to have been sexually active during his papacy.



Since the Middle Ages, the Latin (Western) rite of the Catholic Church has required priests and bishops to be celibate.<ref>Priestly celibacy retrieved June 9, 2008</ref> Previously, celibacy was not absolutely required for those ordained, but still was a discipline practiced in the early Church. In this context, celibate is not synonymous with sexually abstinent; it means not married and only entails sexual abstinence because a different Catholic doctrine requires sexual abstinence outside marriage.

The discipline of priestly celibacy is not considered one of the infallible immutable dogmas, but Catholic doctrine does say that virginity and celibacy, lived out as abstinence, are higher than marriage, following the Letters of Paul of Tarsus and confirmed by a dogma in the Council of Trent.

In some cases a married Protestant minister who converts to Catholicism may be ordained to the priesthood. Present-day canon law allows the College of Cardinals to elect a married man to the papacy. In the Eastern Catholic Churches, married men are routinely ordained to the priesthood, but not to the episcopate. According to the Gospels, Saint Peter, whom the Catholic Church maintains as the founder, bishop and first Pope of the Christian community in Rome, was married. Several other Popes have also been married.

Allegedly and factually sexually active popes

Married before receiving Holy Orders

It was within canon law, and still is, for priests to have once been married before receiving Holy Orders. In the Eastern Rite branches of the Catholic Church, it is within canon law to be a priest and married (but one may not marry after ordination).

  • Saint Peter (Simon Peter), whose mother-in-law is mentioned in the Bible as having been miraculously healed (Template:Bibleverse, Template:Bibleverse, Template:Bibleverse). According to Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, III, vi, ed. Dindorf, II, 276), Peter was married and had children and his wife suffered martyrdom. In some legends dating from at least the 6th century, Peter's daughter is called Petronilla. <ref> De Rossi, 'Roma sotterranea', I, 180</ref><ref></ref> Pope Clement I wrote: "For Peter and Philip begat children; [..] When the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, 'Remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them."<ref> Clements, Stromata (book VII) / Eusebius, Church History (Book III)</ref>
  • Pope Siricius (384–399), where tradition suggests that he left his wife and children in order to become pope. The number of Siricius' children is unknown. Wrote a decree in 385, stating that priests should stop cohabiting with their wives.
  • Pope Felix III (483–492) was a widower with two children when he was elected to succeed Pope Simplicius in 483. It is said that he was the great-great-grandfather of Gregory the Great.
  • Pope St. Hormisdas (514–523) was married and widowed before ordination. He was the father of Pope St. Silverius.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) Pope St. Hormisdas</ref>
  • Pope Silverius (536–537) may have been married to a woman called Antonia. However this remains debated by historians.
  • Pope Agatho or Pope Saint Agatho (678–681) was married for 20 years as a layman with one daughter, before in maturity he followed a call to God and with his wife’s blessing became a monk at Saint Hermes’ monastery in Palermo. It is thought his wife entered a convent.
  • Pope Adrian II (867–872) was married to a woman called Stephania, before taking orders, and had a daughter.<ref>K. Dopierała, Księga Papieży, Pallotinum, Poznań, 1996, p. 106</ref> His wife and daughter were still living when he was selected to be pope and resided with him in the Lateran Palace. His daughter was carried off, raped, and murdered by former antipope Anastasius's brother, Eleutherius. Her mother was also killed by Eleutherius.
  • Pope John XVII (1003) was married before his election to the papacy and had three sons, who all became priests.<ref>* Template:Ws</ref>
  • Pope Clement IV (1265–1268) was married, before taking holy orders, and had two daughters.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia article on Clement IV</ref>
  • Pope Honorius IV (1285–1287) was married before he took the Holy Orders and had at least two sons. He entered the clergy after his wife died, the last pope to have been married.<ref>The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Cardinal Giacomo Savelli</ref>

Sexually active before receiving Holy Orders

Sexually active after receiving Holy Orders

Sexually active during their pontificate

Along with other complaints, the activities of the popes between 1458 to 1565, helped encourage the Protestant Revolt.

  • Pope Sergius III (904–911) was supposedly the father of Pope John XI by Marozia, according to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis<ref> Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"</ref>, as well as the Liber Pontificalis<ref>Liber Pontificalis (first ed., 500s; it has papal biographies up to Pius II, d. 1464)</ref>. However it must be noted that this is disputed by another early source, the annalist Flodoard (c. 894-966), John XI was brother of Alberic II, the latter being the offspring of Marozia and her husband Alberic I. Hence John too may have been the son of Marozia and Alberic I. Bertrand Fauvarque underlines that the contemporary sources backing up this parenthood are dubious, Liutprand being "prone to exaggeration" while other mentions of this fatherhood appear in satires written by supporters of late Pope Formosus.<ref>Fauvarque, Bertrand (2003). "De la tutelle de l'aristocratie italienne à celle des empereurs germaniques". In Y.-M. Hilaire (Ed.), Histoire de la papauté, 2000 ans de missions et de tribulations. Paris:Tallandier. ISBN 2-02-059006-9, p. 163.</ref>
  • Pope John X (914–928) had romantic affairs with both Theodora and her daughter Marozia, according to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis<ref> Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"</ref>: "The first of the popes to be created by a woman and now destroyed by her daughter". (See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope John XII (955–963) (deposed by Conclave) was said to have turned the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano into a brothel and was accused of adultery, fornication, and incest (Source: Patrologia Latina).<ref>Template:Cite book p. 105</ref> The monk chronicler Benedict of Soracte noted in his volume XXXVII that he "liked to have a collection of women". According to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis<ref> Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"</ref>, "they testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father's concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse." According to The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, John XII was "a Christian Caligula whose crimes were rendered particularly horrific by the office he held".<ref>The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Oxford University Press, 1986</ref>He was killed by a jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery with the man's wife.<ref>Peter de Rosa, "Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy", Poolbeg Press, Dublin 1988/2000, pages 211-215.</ref><ref>Hans Kung, "The Catholic Church: A Short History" (translated by John Bowden), Modern Library, New York. 2001/2003. page 79</ref><ref>"The Popes' Rights & Wrongs", published by Truber & Co., 1860</ref><ref>Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912</ref> (See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032–1044, again in 1045 and finally 1047–1048) was said to have conducted a very dissolute life during his papacy.<ref>Catholic Encyclopedia article on Benedict IX</ref> Accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of "many vile adulteries and murders."<ref>“Post multa turpia adulteria et homicidia manibus suis perpetrata,

postremo, etc.” Template:Citation</ref><ref>The Book of Saints, by Ramsgate Benedictine Monks of St.Augustine's Abbey, A.C. Black, 1989. ISBN 9780713653007</ref> Pope Victor III referred in his third book of Dialogues to "his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a Pope so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it."<ref>"Cuius vita quam turpis, quam freda, quamque execranda extiterit, horresco referre." Template:Citation</ref> It prompted St. Peter Damian to write an extended treatise against sex in general, and homosexuality in particular. In his Liber Gomorrhianus, St. Peter Damian recorded that Benedict "feasted on immorality" and that he was "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest", accusing Benedict IX of routine sodomy and bestiality and was said to have sponsored orgies.<ref>Liber Gomorrhianus, ISBN 8876945172</ref> In May 1045, Benedict IX resigned his office to pursue marriage, selling his office for 1,500 pounds of gold to his godfather, the pious priest John Gratian, who named himself Pope Gregory VI.<ref>Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912, pp. 81-82.</ref>

Suspected to have had male lovers during pontificate

  • Pope Paul II (1464–1471) was alleged to have died of a heart attack while in a sexual act with a page.<ref>Karlheinz Deschner, Storia criminale del cristianesimo (tomo VIII), Ariele, Milano, 2007, pag. 216. Nigel Cawthorne, Das Sexleben der Päpste. Die Skandalchronik des Vatikans, Benedikt Taschen Verlag, Köln, 1999, pag. 171. Hans Kühner, Das Imperium der Päpste, Classen Verlag, Zürich 1977, pag. 254. Ferdinand Seibt, Bohemia Sacra: Das Christentum in Bohmen 973-1973, Padagogischer Verlag Schwann, Düsseldorf 1974, pag. 320</ref>
  • Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) was alleged to have awarded gifts and benefices to court favorites in return for sexual favors. Giovanni Sclafenato was created a cardinal by Sixtus IV for "ingenuousness, loyalty,...and his other gifts of soul and body",<ref name="aldrich">Aldrich, Robert; and Wotherspoon, Garry (2002). Who's who in gay and lesbian history (p 481). Retrieved on 2009-06-18 from</ref> according to the papal epitaph on his tomb.<ref> diary records of Stefano Infessura (1440-1500)</ref> Such claims were recorded by Stefano Infessura, in his Diarium urbis Romae.
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521) was alleged to have had a particular infatuation for Marc-Antonio Flaminio.<ref>C. Falconi, Leone X, Milan, 1987</ref>
  • Pope Julius III (1550–1555) was alleged to have had a long affair with Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte. The Venetian ambassador at that time reported that Innocenzo shared the pope's bedroom and bed.<ref>Burkle-Young, Francis A., and Michael Leopoldo Doerrer. The Life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte: A Scandal in Scarlet, Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1997</ref> According to the The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, he was "naturally indolent, he devoted himself to pleasurable pursuits with occasional bouts of more serious activity".<ref>The Oxford Dictionary of Popes, Oxford University Press, 1986</ref>

See also


  • The Bad Popes, Chamberlin, E.R., Sutton History Classics, 1969 / Dorset; New Ed edition 2003.
  • The Pope Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See , Matthew Bunson, Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1995.
  • The Papacy, Bernhard Schimmelpfennig, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984.
  • Lives of the Popes, Richard P. McBrien, Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1997.
  • Papal Genealogy, George L. Williams, McFarland& Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 1998.
  • Sex Lives of the Popes, Nigel Cawthorne, Prion, London, 1996.
  • Popes and Anti-Popes, John Wilcock, Xlibris Corporation, 2005.
  • La véritable histoire des papes, Jean Mathieu-Rosay, Grancher, Paris, 1991

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