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Church History Forum: Pope John XII

by Catherine Frakas 25 Nov 2001

Pope John XII QUESTION from Doug November 1, 2001 Would you please give me more information concerning Pope John XII. From what I have read, he was one of the most evil popes in the Church. Is it true that he was in fact a satanist - and toasted the devil on the High-Altar?
I do know that this pope was notorious, and that as a result the papacy had reached its lowest ebb. Would it be true to say that the gross sins of this man may have opened the door to a curse entering the Roman Catholic Church (I specifically refer to the well-known scripture about the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children, and children's children, etc.). And if so, would it be expedient for the Church to openly repent so the curse can be broken?
Yours sincerely and God bless you - DOUG.
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on November 16, 2001 Dear Doug,
you are right that Pope John XII was one of the worst popes of the past 2000 years. He was elected at his deceased father’s wishes, in 955 at the age of about eighteen (maybe sixteen), and lived a dissolute life for the next nine years until he died, apparently from a paralytic stroke of some kind. During this period the papacy was certainly at the lowest ebb in its history. John XII is described by Warren Carroll in his book The Building of Christendom page 416 (quoting Horace Mann’s Lives of the Popes in the Middle Ages) as bold and brash as a pagan.
There is no valid reason to believe John XII was a satanist. The only evidence for his toasting the devil (but with no reference to the High Altar) is from a notorious enemy of the pope, Luitprand of Cremona, who was also a noted gossip. Luitprand was a major source for Msr. Duchesne, who, in his Les premiers temps de l’etat pontifical (3rd. ed., 1911, p.335) reports that men told how, in the feasting at the Lateran, the pope used to drink to the health of the devil. Quoted in Philip Hughes‘ History of the Church Vol. II, p.195. Hughes does note, however, in regard to Duchesne’s research, that

one of the principal witnesses against the pope is Luitprand of Cremona, not only an enemy and a strong partisan of the pope’s political adversaries, but, surely, one of the classic gossips of all time (ibid.) In addition, a council of 963 met to condemn the actions of Pope John XII. From the Catholic Encyclopedia article on John XII we read

On 6 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. There is no mention of satanism in the list of charges, nor of toasting the devil on the High Altar.
Given the fact that the council of 963 had every opportunity to bring the charge of satanism agains the pope if it were true, indicates that there is no truth in the rumour. Similarly, the only evidence we do have is from Luitpold of Cremona, who was a known enemy of the pope and a notorious gossip.
So in conclusion, I would not give any credence to the view that John XII was a satanist.
Whatever about John XII’s personal failings, and they were notorious, he never taught false doctrine. It seems in the past God has allowed the likes of John XII to the throne of Peter in order to show the divine institution of the Papacy! If it could survive unfit rulers such as John XII it must have protection from above!
Your remarks on the sins of the fathers are not actually relevant to this issue. The Scripture verse you cite refers to four generations, and it is over a thousand years since Pope John XII was on the throne of Peter. I don’t know enough about curses to comment beyond this. But I would say that the Church has had to pay for her mistakes over the centuries, this is certain.
Thanks Doug.
God bless, .
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