The Borgias

The Borgias

Lest we forget, it is not a foregone conclusion that only the best possible candidate will be elected pope by the conclave. Back in the 15th century, two conclaves elected the most infamous Borgia popes, Callixtus III and Alexander VI. These guys make even our worst cardinals, and even the worst pedophile priests, pale in comparison. They assassinated rivals, fathered children and elevated them to ecclesiastical offices, lived opulently, stole others blind, and engaged in global politics with a vengeance.

After a strong beginning as pope, reforming the Curia and forbidding simony—- which is, of course, the means by which he had purchased the papacy—- Alexander concentrated his efforts on his primary interests. These were, like Innocent VIII, the acquisition of gold, the pursuit of women, and the interests of his family. However, Alexander made his predecessor look like a rank amateur. He named his son Cesare, then only eighteen, a cardinal, along with the younger brother of his current papal mistress, the even younger Alessandro Farnese. He arranged three marriages for his daughter Lucrezia, skillfully annulling the first, and, through the efforts of Cesare, conveniently making her a widow with the second. Lucrezia often was left in charge of the papacy—- in effect, a regent—- when Alexander was travelling from Rome.

At least there appear to be no Borgias waiting in the wings, but we would do well not to be complacent, thinking that only a holy man will be elected. It doesn’t have to be, but we must pray to the Holy Spirit that it is.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
34 comments
  • If you think about it, the Church has actually been very blessed over the last century and a half with decent men, if not always the best leaders.  There really hasn’t been anyone personally foul, and history tends to ferret that sort of thing out.  Two blesseds, a saint and more of each coming (or at least worthy of the honor).  Bl. Pius IX was a genuinely holy, if far too inflexible, man (the Mortara Affair appalls me as a father).  Even the inflexibility speaks to the tragedies he experienced more than a personal defect.

    So, really, we ought to be praying that the string continue.

  • Hmm, I wonder what happened to the cardinals who whined to Alexander VI about “collegiality.” 

  • I had no idea you so bugged Sister Nirmala, head of the Missionaries of Charity.  I didn’t know she even had time to read blogs let alone run one.

  • Dom:

    Well, I read this “rant,” and looked at my first guess and… yep, I thought so.

    You’re not the only guy she’s picked on in the blogosphere, Dom. Or did you think you were so special? Hah!!! If only she knew what I was really like. That’s because “I’m so vain, I probably think her blog is about me…”

  • Dom, my sympathy for being of the receiving end of such behaviour.  Unfortunately this seems ot be a rampant kind of thing to do in the blogosphere and is perhaps fueled also by the style used by its contributors.

    We don’t see each other in the face and are therefore more liable to make assumptions.  I don’t know (and I don’t wnat to know) who this lady is, but from what you say it looks like she does it on a regular basis.

    But perhaps we should all watch what we say.  For instance, and please don’t feel offended again at what I am about to say,  someone you know well implied in another thread that people who use the unity candle in their wedding are Protestants and not Catholic.  Can you be sure that this is accurate and not an unjustified assumption also fueled by an “it’s about me” attitude?

  • The difference is that it’s not just an opinion that the Unity Candle is not supposed to be part of Catholic weddings. It is outlined in the various rubrics and directions from the Church. And it is fact, not supposition, that unity candles were first used in Protestant churches.

    So yes, I can be sure it is accurate. And the biggest difference is that the unity candle remark is a generalization, while this woman’s rant was a personal attack on me by name.

  • So, are you starting from the point of view that what makes someone a Catholic is whether they carefully read all the rubrics and try to avoid everything that was first started in Protestant Churches?

    My point was about the approach of calling someone something if that person does not follow your standards.  And, as I said, I do not condone her behavior and I am sympathetic to you for what happened.  But I would suggest refraining from calling someone a Protestant (or even implying it) simply because they used a non-recommended ritual, possibly under incorrect advise from a pastor.

    Making a mistake does not make one a Protestant, only a mistake-maker.

  • Don’t read into what I have written anymore than what is there.

    The use of the unity candle during the wedding ceremony is a Protestant practice. I am a Catholic. Therefore I will not use the unity candle at my wedding.

    Also, be careful of trying to pile to much weight on offhand remarks made in comment boxes. I’m not very amenable to people who like to dissect every comment I make. It’s a practice that won’t make you very popular at parties.

    I wasn’t making a comment about Catholics who have used unity candles.

  • The Unity Candle originated about thirty years ago, for what reason I don’t know. Maybe as a way for church suppliers to sell more candles. But even if it did originate with Protestant confessions, it is essentially of recent origin, and thus takes on the appearance of a fad.

    But this thread is not about this, is it?

    The devil loves nothing more than to infiltrate the ranks of the otherwise-faithful and turn them against one another. That is what is happening here. The party in question is starting to look like a fool, and whatever good work she has done is at risk of being tainted, by lashing out at everybody with whom there is the slightest disagreement.

    Someone needs to take her aside, preferably a woman, and counsel her on the big picture.

    Glad I’m not a woman.

  • Should we have a “Let’s name the worst pope” contest?

    If so, my candidate would be Pope Leo X, who reigned in the early 16th century.  Supposedly he said when he was elected pope (possibly with simony), “We have won the papacy, let us enjoy it.”  He did so, spending much time in hunting and partying.  (Some sources say he did worse, which I will not elaborate.  Search for it yourself on the Internet.) 

    During his pontificate, Luther started the so-called Protestant Reformation by his posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg cathedral—not so much as an act of defiance, because it was a common practice to post notices there of theological and other topics for public debate. 

    Luther called into question many Church teachings including those concerning indulgences and their sale, which Leo X had authorized for the building of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Leo’s death caused an economic depression because of his many debts which the money-lenders could not collect. 

  • My vote for worst pope would be Pope Joan.

    Bishop Amos in his homily this morning said that the Holy Spirit always guides a conclave, but men sometimes refuse to listen to His guidance, and that is the reason for prayer.

  • Dear Dom,

    Your words have finally clarified that you want this blog to be your party.

    Sorry, I thought it was vehicle to exchange ideas.  But I get the message.  Over and out.

  • I have no idea who the blogger who has become the subject of this thread might be, but I’m glad to know that the unity candle is not Catholic because I won’t have to participate in this little ceremony at my daughter’s wedding when and if she gets married, thank goodness. 

    Recent Catholic weddings I’ve attended have used the unity candle ceremony at the reception.  It struck me as rather silly, knowing how little meaning actually would lie behind the sentiment in most families.  Fad strikes me as a good word for it.

    Now, does this mean that Dom’s nemesis will be after me next?

  • This is another of my big frustrations with blogging. People take everything so personally. Where did I say that I didn’t want to have a discussion? What don’t want is for every little remark to be weighted with all kinds of subtext. Sometimes I mean just what I say.

    Also sometimes I’m writing fast and off-the-cuff and not thinking out the implications of what I’m saying. This isn’t like writing a book or a magazine column where I can take hours to write it and then have an editor pore over it. A thought comes in my head and I post it.

    I’m sorry you have decided to take offense, but I find it ironic that when you correct me, I’m supposed to be fine with it, but when I correct you back, you get huffy and leave.

  • Weren’t there a few real stinkers back in the 9th Cent.  when the Roman noble families fought over the papacy like dogs over a dead rat?

  • “This is another of my big frustrations with blogging…”

    Not just blogging. E-mail lists have long suffered from this. I remember once I belonged to this discussion list dedicated to the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger. Well, I had to go and say something a little over-the-top. Next thing you konw, all hell breaks loose. The list wasn’t in existence for a month when the moderator pulled the plug on it. He didn’t hold it against me though, which is a credit to him.

    This is one reason the weblog has taken pre-eminence over the listserv as a forum for the exchange of ideas. The advantage of the weblog is that there is a clear hierarchy in the comments box. Basically the conversation is able to go more the way the weblog author wants it to go, and everybody knows where they stand. After all, it’s his (the author’s) conversation.

    Or, “party,” if you will.

  • Dom,

    sorry for having responded in an annoyed way, but if you realize that sometimes you write fast and don’t think of the implications of what you are saying (very understable: I do the same), why not ackowledge that my comment (or those of other people) may have merit and insist instead that you are right and I am a party spoiler?

    It is that kind of attitude that makes me wonder what’s the point of contributing further.

    As far as I am concerned, there are some very good Catholics who have used the unity candle.  It may not be in the rubrics, but it was important to them and it may have been suggested to them.  And eventually they may grow to understand the error they were led into.  But they are not Protestants.  That was my point: it takes way more than that to be Protestant.

    I accept that you did not mean that, and that I saw too much into it, but is it that difficult to just say “of course that is not what I meant: thanks for clarifying”?  Look at what you said instead.

    This is your blog and, as I said before, we should thank you for the great work you do, but being treated like unwelcome guests does not encourage me to continue being a guest.

  • I have no idea what this is about and I certainly don’t want to get deeply involved, but somebody hit my blog today with this Google search: “Bettnet bettinelli blog idiot”.

    Dom, you’ve been winning friends and influencing idiots again, haven’t you?

  • Just an idle thought that has not a lot to do with the perils of blogdom…

    Don’t take this personally, Dom, because it isn’t meant as such.  Pentecostalism was a Protestant invention, but the Catholics are doing it now, so if it’s acceptable for the Pentecostal-Charismatic Movement, why is it anathema for a unity candle?  (And don’t take that to be an apologetic for a unity candle, because it is not!)

     

     

     

  • O.K., I’m confused.  It wasn’t me was it?  The thing about the unity candle?  LOL.  I never thought I would start a thing about unity candles.  When I was in the seminary, we had a liturgical practicum class for ordination.  One of my classmates asked the Prof about unity candles during our marriage practicum and Father gave him the evil eye.  It was very funny.

    Anyway, I know how you feel Dom.  Don’t let them get to you. 

  • Should we have a mirror”—of someone, and then only on the topic at hand.  Not helpful for forming solid judgments, even if you read them for a few years.

  • Roberto, I don’t think that is what he’s saying. He isn’t making a moral judgement on Catholics who use unity candles. He isn’t saying that using a Protestant practice makes you a Protestant,  he’s saying that, because he is Catholic, he is not going to use an essentially Protestant practice at his wedding.

    I don’t think I see any reason for him to take a conciliating position, when you haven’t properly understood what he said. He has said “Thanks for clarifying” before when it was appropriate, and he has done so very recently. But you want him to say so when you haven’t even properly understood what he said. You did not clarify his position, you misunderstood it. There wasn’t any fault in that, but then you made a judgement about him based on it, a judgement that you aren’t welcome here.

    Dom doesn’t agree with everything that people say here, nor should he, and he shouldn’t have to take a conciliating tone. That’s one of the things that comment boxes allow, is for mature disagreement.

    Dom I’m sorry if I am sticking my foot in it where I really ought not.

  • The problem is not so much that the “unity candle” is Protestant, but that it’s not Catholic.  It’s not the way we do things.  And it’s not an unattractive symbol: it’s too attractive!

    The Catholic liturgy already has various symbols, and the most prominent symbol in the marriage rite is supposed to be the rings.  Candles are shiny objects, and for people easily distracted by shiny objects, a “unity candle” can distract them from the rings, which are a sign of the vows.  Lighting candles doesn’t make the sacrament happen, but taking vows does. 

    Sometimes I suspect that the common practice of appointing a child as a ring-bearer is a mistake: a cute kid gets attention, and what he or she is carrying gets less.

    Maybe a liturgical dancer in a leota—(slap!)

    Oh, sorry: I don’t know what came over me.

  • Is Protestant a derrogatory term now?  Roberto, relax!  You think too much.

    RC – you are right-on with your assessment of the child ring bearers and flower girls.  Moreover, children in weddings is a risky proposition. 

    I attended a wedding where the ring bearer stopped halfway up the aisle, took the little satin pillow off his wrist, and threw it over and behind his head.  I decided right then and there that I would not have any children in my wedding. 

    Dom (and Melanie), this is yet another way to save time, money and headaches in wedding preparation.  No kids, no midget tux rentals, no rose petals, no shenanigans.

  • Dom, To cheer you, here’s a little thought from the maxims of St. Louis de Montfort:
    “Never be discouraged in your plans because you meet with opposition (someone blogs against you….my addition ;>); it is a pledge of future victory. A good work which is not opposed, which is not marked by the sign of the cross, has no great value before Me and will soon be destroyed.”

    Also: “Thank Me for treating you as I myself was treated on earth, a sign of contradiction.”

    And, “Regard as your best friends those who persecute you because they procure for you great merit on earth, and great glory in heaven.”

    When you put yourself “out there” and are laughed at it causes an interior suffering which Christ notes and will reward you for on the Last Day. So in a certain sense I say to you “rejoice.”
    Totus Tuus.

  • Good gravy. How sad is it that I knew EXACTLY who you were referencing, and I haven’t read that person’s blog since….well….since I tried to get a bunch of us Catholic bloggers in New England to all meet up at that August concert thing in Salem in 2003??

    Man. If I ever get that vitriolic and, dare I say, obsessive about another blogger (or another PERSON for that matter) someone PLEASE stage an intervention. Please. I’m begging you in advance.

    On a different note, I had no idea that the unity candle was or was not Catholic. But then, I was raised protestant and didn’t become a Catholic until 2001, so I’m sure y’all will forgive my knowledge gap.

  • Midwest Mom,

    No chidren at weddings- now there’s a prolife sentiment.

    After all it’s all about the pomp and circumstance- what about the Sacrament?

    Why do people have children anyway? Oh, that’s right- to bring souls to God. Just don’t bring them to Church, especially to a wedding.

  • Mary, I can’t speak for midwest mom, but I would note that she said no children IN her wedding—not no children AT her wedding.

    I have no problems whatsoever with small children attending my wedding (should the day EVER come), but I wouldn’t opt to include them as part of the wedding party, either. I’ve been to enough weddings where they were a part of it to see that a) they are more of a distraction (albeit a cute, loveable distraction) than anything else, and b) the kids themselves usually seem too overwhelmed by the events.

    So by all means, the kids should come TO the ceremony, but as for being PART of the ceremony, I don’t see that it’s necessarily appropriate, nor do I see that it’s an anti-life statement not to include little 3-year old Jimmy as ringbearer. Seriously.

  • Well she does say “no kids” as a way to save money on the wedding. My son was the ring bearer in my brother’s wedding and was very appropriate.  One badly behaved child is not a good excuse for banning children from participating in a wedding.  If that were the standard I know plenty of brides who should be banned from their own wedding wink.

  • Kids or no kids, that is the question. Some know how to behave in a wedding party, some don’t. The answer would seem to depend on the children in question.

    Now, doesn’t that make everybody happy?

  • Jen’s right.  I said IN not AT.

    I’m only suggesting ways to simplify Dom and Melanie’s wedding preparations.  Even the greatest kid can freeze up under the pressure and refuse to walk up the aisle. 

    How much time (and yes, money!) is spent on finding the perfect satin pillow, the basket to hold the rose petals, real or silk rose petals, etc.  Sorry, it’s just not my thing.

    And I guess I’ll give my four kids up for adoption and quit organizing the local annual Life Chain.  All because I think kids IN weddings are a mistake.

  • I forgot to tell you all, I just attended a wedding a few weeks ago in which the couple’s two-year-old daughter was the flower girl. 

    She cried all during the ceremony for her mommy and the family finally relented and let her go.  Mommy, in a beautiful satin gown, struggled to hold her toddler, complete with doll and jingling ring of keys, as she professed her vows.  Imagine wearing satin and trying to hold a child wearing satin! 

    After the wedding, I jokingly said to my oldest daughter, “THAT is another good reason to not have chidren BEFORE you’re married!”

  • Thanks for all the continuing advice, everyone.

    While Dom has an abundance of adorable nieces and nephews (lucky me—instant auntie!), and they will all be there making their various joyful noises unto the Lord, we are only going to have a couple of the older ones participate in the wedding as altar servers.

    We are keeping everything very simple. No big wedding party, just maid of honor (my sister) and best man (Dom’s brother-in-law). Thus, no flower girls, no ring bearers, etc. not because they might “ruin” the ceremony, but because it isn’t going to be a big production.

    That said, I don’t think the spontaneity of children could ever be anything but a joy. I recall the flower girl in a friend’s wedding running over to embrace her mother, one of the bridesmaids. It wasn’t in the plan but everyone just aahed and the wedding went on with the bride weeping copious tears of joy and thus looking radiantly smeared in the photos. Later the other flower girl yelled yuck when the bride and groom kissed. I think it made the day. Like I’ve said before, this isn’t a staged performance, I fully expect half a dozen things to go “wrong,” which is usually the most memorable part of the day and the story you will all be telling for years to come. (Hmmm… rather like getting the ring after breaking into my own house? I think we’re already off to a good start in the funny story department.) 

    I hope Kateri sings at the top of her four-year-old lungs and Chiara and Domenic and Catherine jump up and down and Joshua chortles and John and Patty’s new baby screeches if she so desires. I think crying babies and loud toddlers are beautiful music and a great blessing, so bring them on.

    So far planning this gig has been wonderfully easy. Perhaps in part because there is no huge wedding party to coordinate?

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