History is replete with lessons for us all. We have a past, we are linked with it, whether we like it or not, and if we are unaware of our past, of our nation's past, and most importantly of what has occurred within Christendom throughout the generations, then we are at a loss to explain the current situation. Where has Romanism come from? And what about Protestantism?
A study on the immorality of Romanism's chief leaders is not without its benefits, as I will explain later. But first I will bring some of the facts to your consideration.
The character of the papacy
The mystery of iniquity has been foretold in Scripture, of the man of sin who sits in the very temple of God, looked upon as enjoying divine prerogatives and yet is the embodiment of evil. The character and morals of many of the popes identify them as successors of pagan priests, rather than representatives of Christ or even Peter.
Some of the popes were so depraved and base in their actions that even unbelievers blush and are ashamed of them. Pope Sergius III (904-911) obtained the papal office by murder. His life was one of blatant sin with Marozia who bore him several illegitimate children. Baronius describes him as a "monster" and Gregorovius as a "terrorizing criminal." The reign of this pope began the period known as "the rule of the harlots" (904-963). In 955 the grandson of Marozia at 18 years of age became pope under the name of John XII.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia describes him as "a coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel, and the moral corruption in Rome became the subject of general odium...On the 6th of November a synod composed of fifty Italian and German bishops was convened in St. Peter's. John was accused of sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest, and was summoned in writing to defend himself.
The Liber Pontificalis said: "He spent his entire life in adultery." From 1305 to 1377 the papal palace was at Avignon, France. During this time, Petrarch accused the papal household of "rape, adultery, and all manner of fornication." In many parishes men insisted on priests keeping concubines "as a protection for their own families!"
During the Council of Constance, three popes, and sometimes four, were every morning cursing each other and calling their opponents antichrists, demons, adulterers, sodomists, enemies of God and man. One of these "popes", John XXIII (1410-1415) "was accused by 37 witnesses (mostly bishops and priests) of fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, simony, theft and murder! It was proved by a legion of witnesses that he had seduced and violated 300 nuns. His own secretary, Niem, said that he had at Boulougne, kept a harem, where not less than 200 girls had been the victims of his lubricity." Altogether the Council charged him with 54 crimes of the worst kind.
Was there really a female pope? Prior to the Reformation which exposed so much error in the Romish church, the story was believed by chroniclers, bishops and by popes themselves.
The Catholic Encyclopaedia says, "In the 14th and 15th centuries this popess was already counted as an historical personage, whose existence no one doubted. She had her place among the carved bust which stood in Siena Cathedral. Under Clement VII (1592-1595), and at his request, she was transformed into Pope Zacharias.
Huss, during the Council of Constance, referred to this popess, and no one offered to question the fact of her existence. Such abuses can easily be multiplied. I refer you to such popular works as "Babylon Mystery Religion" by Ralph Woodrow, "Roman Catholicism" by L. Boettner, and "Papal Power" by Henry T. Hudson.
Such facts are shocking, but it does not mean that since they belong to the past, they should be buried and forgotten. The system of Romanism is known by its fruits, and if its top leaders are corrupt then what can be said of the body as such? We do not wish to leave the impression that all the bishops of Rome were as filthy and immoral as these mentioned here.
At least we can say that the bishops of Rome who lived in the first 4 or 5 centuries had much to commend them, but then the papacy was still unknown. The papacy developed rapidly only after the dissolution of the Roman empire, and especially after the removal of the Roman emperor to Constantinople...all in fulfilment of 2 Thessalonians 2.
(1) But if we take the facts of history seriously, as we ought, then this evidence seriously weakens and even destroys the doctrine of "apostolic succession," so much boasted of by the Roman Church. Rome claims to be the one true church because only she can trace a lineage back to the apostles.
But if the popes were guilty of such gross practices and beliefs, then who desires to be in such a succession? It is more a succession of wickedness than anything else.
(2) When the student reads church history and becomes acquainted with the sorry history of the popes, with their abuses and blasphemous claims, it is easy for him to misuse the information gained. He might be tempted to indiscriminately bring up the subject to Roman Catholics as he attempts to evangelize them.
But hardly anything will be gained by such an approach, bluntly bashing them on the heads. We need to be sensitive and only bring this to bear in due course.
(3) Thus we have men, posing as the very epitome of religion, and yet are guilty of such sins as adultery, sodomy, simony, rape, murder, sorcery, heresy, and drunkenness. And they want to be called "Holy Father," and "Vicar of Christ."
No wonder Peter said that because of such the way of truth will be reviled. Let us see to it then, that we may not be accused of any semblance of evil. "You who teach others, will you not teach yourself?"
(4) That the papacy has drunk iniquity to the dregs and yet is regarded by many with awe and wonder is truly something to be marvelled at. Paul the apostle rightly said that those who love unrighteousness will be blinded by strong delusion, to believe a lie. And it is indeed a lie, a lie that has been repeated so many times, arrogantly asserted to be the truth of God, so that now it is assumed to be such.
We need to expose it, and teach men to look unto Christ as their Head, not a mere man. bloated with pride and sinful arrogance. We frequently are admonished not to be "anti-Catholic." But we have no choice! Because of our love to the truth and holiness, we have to protest against anything the militates against the gospel.
Christians have always been Protestants (though they have been called such only since the Reformation). The prophets of old denounced the wicked leaders and priests of their day. They exposed the lie of religion having no power. And we must continue to do so.
(5) History is beneficial in our apologetics. The church of Rome belies its claims by its very actions. "Ye shall know them of their fruits." "A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit." We are warranted to keep all this in mind, especially since the Vatican leaders have never repented and have not denounced their vile predecessors.
This is only one reason to keep away from joining with them in ecumenical efforts (though as more serious reason is the false doctrines espoused by Romanism, denying justification by faith alone).