St. Michael’s Scriptorium & Library
Bro. Ignatius Mary Collection, Founder OLSM
The Truth About Pope Joan
by Bro. Ignatius Mary
(a Hermit of St. Michael)
The first thing we need to remember in doing apologetics is that when aberrant histories are presented to us, the burden of proof IS NOT for us to “disprove” the errant histories. The burden of proof is on them to prove their theory.
Thus in this case, the burden of proof is on the people who wish to assert the existence of a “Pope Joan”.
With that said, the MYTH of Pope Joan was that she “reigned” from 855-858 A.D. The problem with this is that Pope Benedict III happened to be on the Chair of Peter at the time.
There were some anti-popes during this time period:
- John ended an alleged reign in January 844
- Anatasius was a pretender to the papacy from August-September 855 (he died in 880)
- Christopher was a pretender to the papacy from July or Sept 903 to Jan 904
The REAL Popes during this time were:
- Gregory IV: 827 - January 844
- Sergius II: January 844 - January 27, 847
- St. Leo IV: January (April 10) 847 - July 17, 855
- BENEDICT III: July (September 29) 855 - April 17, 858
- St. Nicholas I (the Great): April 24, 858 - November 13, 867
- Adrian II: December 14, 867 - December 14, 872
No Joan in the crowd as Pope or Anti-Pope!
In addition there is no evidence of the myth of Pope Joan in existence before the 13th Century.
The Newsletter of the Catholic Society of Evangelists for December 1997 includes this information:
Anti-Catholic polemicists make much of the alleged female Pope, who disguised as a man was ordained, became a Cardinal and eventually Pope. Going by various names, Joan, Agnes, Gilberta, or Jutta, or sometimes unnamed, this personage is described in legends contained in the “Universal Chronicle of Metz”, attributed to the Dominican John of Metz between 1240 and 1250 and repeated by the Dominican Martin of Trooppau who died in 1297.
At the time of the Protestant reformation it added much fuel to the anti-papal fires burning in Europe. However, it was a French Protestant Historian, David Blondel (1590-1655) who proved its mythical nature, in studies published in Holland in 1647 and 1657. Ignatius von Dollinger (1799-1890) gave the “coup de grace” to whatever remained in the legend in 1863 when he showed it to have been an adaptation of a Roman folk tale. The non-Catholic author of “The Oxford Dictionary of Popes” comments (p. 329) “It scarcely needs painstaking refutation today.”
On another interesting twist of historical revisionism, many feminists assert that the Church did ordain women at one time. They use the myth of Pope Joan as proof. The problem is the legend of Pope Joan says that the so-called “Pope Joan” accomplished this feat by lying and trickery. This smashes the feminist garbage that the Church somehow accepted female priests. Obviously if the Church accepted female priests, this “Joan” would not have had to disguise herself as a man.
An additional note, to counter charges of bias Catholic historians is that the primary person who proved that Pope Joan was a fictional myth was a Protestant, not a Catholic.
For these people who claim a Pope Joan? Nice theory, prove it.
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