Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Renaissance, The Popes of the.

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Against the Catholic claim that the Church promoted the recovery of Europe, history records, not only that the causes of it were purely secular and that the new civilization flagrantly defied the Christian code of conduct, but that the Papacy was an idle spectator of the recovery; and when at a late hour it began to co-operate by patronizing art and letters, the Papal Court, most of the Popes, and the majority of the Italian bishops, adopted the characteristic vices of the age. In the earlier part of the period the Popes lived in the luxurious indolence of the "Babylonian Captivity" at Avignon (1309-77) , in a palace and city which Petrarch, who lived near, describes as a sink of iniquity. From this they passed into the futile days of the Great Schism (1378-1414), when their greed excited the disgust of Christendom. When the Emperor put an end to this, and bade them reform, the new Popes disregarded the injunction; but about 1450 they began on a modest scale the secular rehabilitation of Rome - so modest, indeed, that, in 1450, cattle still browsed in the streets, and as late as 1484 the Vatican Library, which the Catholic writer who was permitted to deal with this phase in the Cambridge Modern History (Vol.1) calls "the most important library in the West in the fifteenth century," had only 2,000 manuscripts. The Alexandrian and Cordovan libraries had had half a million. Then every source of tainted wealth (sale of offices and indulgences, dispensations, etc.) was exploited, and the more powerful of the Roman families, who fought like brigands, dominated (as Cardinals or Popes) and corrupted the Papal Court. In the pagan imperial history of Rome, which brings a blush to the cheek of the preacher, twenty - one out of twenty-nine Emperors were good men, and these ruled for 245 years, while the eight disreputable Emperors held the throne for only seventy-five years. But, in the 250 years of Papal history, ten out of twenty-four Popes (omitting Pontiffs who lasted only a few months) were or had been notoriously men of immoral life, and these ruled for 100 years: three only, who ruled for fifteen years, attempted to reform the Church; all except these three permitted an extraordinary corruption in the Papal Court; and even the three reformers did not suppress the flagrant simony, graft, and judicial corruption. Nicholas V (1447-55), whom Pastor, admitting that "the reforming zeal of his early days cooled down," praises as the restorer of culture, included in his patronage the most obscene writers of the age. Calixtus III (1455-8) introduced the Borgia family and, blind to their vices, raised them to the highest offices. Pius II (1458-64), a defiant apologist for his vices in his youth, made no effort to check the growing licence. Paul II (1464-71) was "wholly given over to sensual pleasure" (Bishop Creighton). Sixtus IV (1471-84), a friar, promoted his grossly immoral friar - nephews of the Rovere family, permitted his Court to be thoroughly debauched, and connived at the murder of a Medici prince in church during solemn mass. The Papacy was now so rich that the Colonna, Borgia, Orsini, and Rovere families fought for it by colossal bribery and murder, and in the impasse they had to let the tiara go to Innocent VIII (1484-92), whose bastard children moved in the highest society in the city and the Vatican. Incredible pictures of clerical corruption are to be found even in Pastor's History of the Popes, while some of the scenes in the Vatican itself, described in the private diary of the head of the Court, Burchard , were so vicious that the publisher struck even a discreet version of them out of the present writer's historical novel The Pope's Favourite (1917). The next thirty years were covered by the pontificates of Alexander VI, Julius II, Leo X - two sodomists and one satyr and murderer - and form a unique chapter in the history of religion. [See notice of each.] Clement VII (1523-34), a bastard of the Medici House, and Paul III (1534-49), father of four well-known children (Pastor), next sustained the gaiety of the Court. This is the period of the Reformation, which we are now asked to believe had little or nothing to do with the corruption of the Church. Rome had been terribly ravaged and impoverished by a sack of the city (1527) and massacre of the Romans, by the Catholic Emperor, which threw into the shade the work of Goths and Vandals; but the gaiety of the prelates ran on, with fifteen years of partial reform [see Counter-Reformation], for another century and a quarter. Julius III (1550-5) was grosser than Leo X, and Pastor can plead only that it is not proved that a sordid youth whom he favoured was either his son or his mignon. Under Pius IV (1559-65) "the evil elements immediately awakened once more into activity" (Pastor) after one of the three short spells of reform (by a Pope, Paul IV, who loved strong wine and good cheer and was a scandalous nepotist), and after another short spell of reform, Gregory XIII (1572-85), notorious for his earlier looseness, let the Court and city return to such licence that one courtesan, chiefly ministering to prelates, made a fortune of £150,000 (Rodocanachi, Courtisanes et buffons 1894). A few colourless Popes followed the third and last short spasm of reform, and this extraordinary series of Holy Fathers closed with the scandalous Pontificates of Urban VIII and Innocent X. [For literature see under Papacy.]
     

 

Back to Joseph McCabe extracts

Home Page

Scanning, HTML Rae West. First upload 98-02-08 .