#217 - Pope Leo X (bad pope alert...)
Pope from March 9, 1513 - December 1, 1521
Lived: December 11, 1475 - December 1, 1521
Birth name: Giovanni de Medici
Who was this guy before he was pope?
Giovanni de Medici was born into one of Italy’s most influential families in history, and had particular prestige from being the son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, arguably the most renowned of the bunch. Giovanni, you’ll recall, was made a cardinal as a boy by Pope Innocent VIII. Despite his family losing power after his father’s death, Giovanni kept his nose clean under both Alexander VI and Julius II, neither of whom liked him much, and was able to keep his standing in the Church and the secular world.
Give me the scoop on Leo X.
Against seemingly all odds, Pope Leo X was elected to succeed Julius II at the young (papal) age of 38. Only a cardinal-deacon at his election, Leo X was in fact the last pope to have not already been a priest before being chosen. Leo, on the whole, was woefully ill-equipped to be pope. Still, he borrowed and spent money like nobody’s business, being a patron of the arts in all their forms, so much so that one author quipped about Leo having “consumed three pontificates; the treasure of Julius II, the revenues of his own reign, and those of his successor.” Interestingly, Leo was well known -- even by his critics -- to have kept closely to the expected spiritual regimen of a pope, and was generally very kind, cultured, and intelligent. Leo X fell unexpectedly ill while hunting on November 30, 1521. He died a day later at the age of 45, sadly without receiving the last sacraments.
What was he known for?
Pope Leo X is the poor chap who witnessed the Protestant Reformation unfold before his very eyes. For one, Leo X, always a fan of the extravagant, had a pet elephant named Hanno, a gift from King Manuel I of Portugal, which may have been the last straw that
helped spark the Reformation
. Surely, German Catholicism was in a bad state already and political struggles had already created deep rifts among churchmen for decades, but Leo did little to help matters.
He granted indulgences for alms in support of the new St. Peter’s Basilica without
ensuring the indulgences were properly preached (to minimize abuses and confusion); and
dealing more diplomatically with Martin Luther after his 95 Theses were published. With Luther in particular, instead of engaging charitably with the friar, Leo X instead denounced him as a heretic without much more discussion. Leo’s actions, coupled with Luther’s escalation and personal tendency toward scrupulosity produced devastating results. Talk about an elephant in the room.
Some critics of the Church and Christianity in general have pointed to Leo X openly acknowledging that Christ was a mere myth, as proof of the faith’s falsehood. In reality, however, the line supposedly uttered by Leo -- “All ages can testify enough how profitable that fable of Christ hath been to us...” -- originated in a satirical play by Protestant controversialist John Bale, who lived and wrote during the 16th Century.
Coming Monday...Pope Adrian VI
SOURCES (and further reading)
John, E. (1964). The Popes: A concise biographical history. New York: Hawthorn Books.
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on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 2:00AM