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    Papal pleasures
 
It seems priests in the U.S. are being turfed out of the Roman Catholic Church for sexual misconduct faster than drunks at a party these days. But Charlotte Poe says their behaviour is mild compared to the antics of long-ago religious leaders.

Poe, a disgruntled ex-Catholic and founder of the Freethinkers of Ventura County - a group of atheists, agnostics and rationalists that promote the separation of church and state - became interested in the sexual behaviour of religious folk of yesteryear when a friend gave her a book called Sex Lives of the Popes by Nigel Cawthorne.

The book, published in England in 1996 and not readily available in North America, documents the conduct of popes throughout the Middle Ages who were murderers, had mistresses, ran whorehouses and generally got up to no good.

One of the most notorious popes from the Middle Ages was Pope Alexander VI, who was head of the Church during the late 1500s. Born Roderigo Borgia (of the wealthy Italian Renaissance Borgia family), Pope Alexander VI was known for his whoring, his many illegitimate kids, his orgies in the Vatican and his habit of deflowering virgin brides immediately after overseeing their marriages. He even had an ongoing sexual relationship with his daughter Lucrezia.

***

But Alexander wasn't the only naughty pope.

Pope John XII, who ran the show back in AD 955, is described by the Catholic Encyclopedia as "a coarse, immoral man, whose life was such that the Lateran was spoken of as a brothel."

Brothels were big among the popes, it seems. According to Poe, when the papacy was housed in Avignon, France, for a stint through the 14th century, Pope Clement VI decided to bring in some extra coin by opening one. Ever the loyal church servant, he apparently signed the deed naming Lord Jesus Christ as the owner. I suppose the Big Guy's good for credit.

Other notorious popes included Pope Sergius III (904-911) who obtained the papal office by murder and fathered several illegitimate children.

Pope Benedict VIII (1012-1024) bribed his way into the papal office, and Pope Benedict IX (1033-1045) - who was the youngest church leader in history, becoming pope at age 12 - committed adultery and murder flagrantly.

Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was apparently a flaming fag who spent vast sums of church money on Mardi Gras-like parades, spectaculars and banquets. He slept during the day and spent nights adorning himself with priceless jewellery and frolicking with his numerous boyfriends in the sumptuous rooms of the Vatican. Paul also was into voyeurism and bondage, it seems, and liked nothing more than to watch naked men being racked and tortured in the papal dungeons. It was said that during a particularly vigorous session on July 26, 1471, Paul died of a heart attack while being sodomized by one of his favourite boys.

Another poofter, Leo X (1513-1521) was said to have invited guests to lavish banquets with up to 65 courses - banquets, by the way, at which little boys jumped naked out of puddings.

Okay, so they may not have been the poster boys for Catholicism, but you can't say they didn't know how to throw a party.

***

The Reformation of the 16th century forced the Church to clean up its act. But just to be safe, in 1870 the Pope issued a proclamation of "Papal Infallibility," which basically means that no matter what goes on behind closed doors, Catholics still have to listen to what he says.

Ultimately, says Poe, throughout history and even today, as we're seeing lately in the U.S., the Catholic Church is full of hypocrites. Admittedly, Poe's got it in for Catholics and is happy to sully their reputation. Once a chemical engineer, she now sells promotional products for companies to support her labour of love, the Freethinkers of Ventura County.

"As an ex-Catholic, I like to show people the wrongs in the Catholic Church," explains Poe. "I just think their whole way of teaching morality is immoral. The basis behind Catholicism, and Christianity as well, is that you can do anything wrong, as long as you ask God's forgiveness and then everything is hunky-dory. That's why you have mafia who are strict Catholics - they know if they go out and shoot someone Friday night they can just confess and they're all fine for communion on Sunday morning."

And, for Poe, the Church's attempts to deny the sexuality of their leaders and to impose a celibacy requirement on the priesthood is impractical and hypocritical.

"Human beings are sexual creatures and if you tell them they can't have sex it's going to come out some way or other," she says.

Amen.

***

E-Love You

Check out a new series on the W (formerly known as the Women's Television Network) called E-Love. Each week, cameras follow a couple who met online through to their first real-life encounter. It's a gas. I'll tell you more about it in a few weeks, but first I want to hear your e-love stories. Tell me about your online encounters. What works? What doesn't? What's the best thing that ever happened to you in cyberspace? What's the worst? How does online dating compare to more traditional means of hooking up? Send your replies to me at jvogels@mymessybedroom.com. Meanwhile, catch E-Love on W, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 10 p.m.


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Name: Markos Fragoulopoulos
Subject: Papal pleasures
I guess that's why there was a split between churches and now we have the Greek orthodox church and Catholic church as two seperate entities.

Name: Michael Owen
Subject: Papal pleasures
Here's a sexually repressed orginization that condemns homosexuals yet defends it's own homosexual pedophile priests. Who cares if they limit their activities to each other, just leave the kids alone.

Name: JD Croft
Subject: I love how everyone jumps on the bandwagon
Say you want about catholism, but it is only because of the shear size of the catholic church that everything seems so blatened. But then again we have the all american oxymoron of all time. Innocent untill proven guilty where everyone is desecrated in the media in the name of freedom of speak and right to free press, and when someone is suspected of do wrong it is prime time and shouted to the high heavens. But when proclaimed innocent, there is a 2 sec spot in the bottom of headline news. Now for Poe: Poe, a disgruntled ex-Catholic and founder of the Freethinkers of Ventura County - a group of atheists, agnostics and rationalists that promote the separation of church and state who was probably never fucked by a priest which pissed her off.

Name: Judith Palauriann
Subject: Papal
Alrighty, here's a good Catholic gal talking to you. Yes, I agree - not all of our papal leaders have been perfect saints. The avignon captivity was an especially... raucous.. time. Incidentally, infallibility only applies when the pope is speaking from the Chair of Peter, aka, speaking about religious dogma. It does not apply to anything he says. Also, fyi, regular ole' priests and bishops have something similar, but not quite the same - they never lose their powers of transubstatiation (ability to turn bread and wine into body and blood of christ) even if they're drunk or something at the time, renounce the priesthood, or retire. What's interesting though is that in the words they use to perform the consecration, they pronounce a curse on themselves if they are not in a state of grace or if their motives are not pure (eg, they are going to give up consecrated hosts for desecration). Further, regarding Poe's comment: "The basis behind Catholicism, and Christianity as well, is that you can do anything wrong, as long as you ask God's forgiveness and then everything is hunky-dory. That's why you have mafia who are strict Catholics - they know if they go out and shoot someone Friday night they can just confess and they're all fine for communion on Sunday morning." - - not true - presumption is a mortal sin. One CAN NOT just assume God will forgive anything a person does - one has to be truly sorry for one's crimes to be forgiven by God.

Name: Chris Bauer
Subject: Do Some Research
This Poe chick's comments are laughable. As mentioned above by Judith, most of Poe's statements are just plain wrong. I'm as much of a critic of the Catholic church as the next guy, but the point is Poe doesn't know what she is talking about. You'd think if you're going to attack the Catholic's churh's ways and teachings you might want to read what they really believe!

Name: tobysclub
Subject: female pope?
Rumour has it that by accident, a female was voted pope once..Is that true? Nowaday, a special chair with a hole in the sit for the new pope to sit in. Someone reaches under the chair to make sure theres balls..hmmm

Name: AtheistArchon
Subject: Bwah... Oh-so-holy.
- The Catholic Church has been at the forefront of hypocrisy for so long that not even Pat Robertson thought he would ever catch up. - Chris and Judith: Refute some of the claims references here in Poe's column, don't obfuscate. Nothing in Poe's column mentioned the magical ability to symbolize cannibalism, and we (the thinking public) are absolutely comfortable trusting a priest to place a curse on himself if he's not "in a state of grace", whatever that should mean. We can't trust them with the most basic of moralities. Why should we trust them to police themselves with their own wizardly powers? - Chris: Got a beef? Show it. Laying down blanket statements of "you're just wrong!" shows that YOU, not Poe, have no idea what you're talking about. If you had anything specific, why wouldn't you say so?

Name: John
Subject: Pope Joan
I heard she died giving birth. Now they test the new Popes to make sure they are anatomically correct.

Name: Paula Neville
Subject: sex
My mother told me the Reformation was needed. This church is one of the most corrupt organizations I have ever encountered. I never really believed they were religious in any sense of the word. They have no right to express an opinion on anything. I am NOT suprised that the scandel and corruption have finally come out. It was long overdue.