Ten Bad Popes
Bad Apples. Every family has some. Every town, every country, every faith, every bloodline. It happens. But what happens when a Bad Apple is able to ascend to one of the most powerful seats of power in the world? Here's a list of the ten biggest Bad Apples to ever lead the Holy Roman Church.
Stephen VII(Pope from 896 - 897)
Stephen's sworn enemy was his predecessor to the Fisherman's Ring, Formosus. Whatever Formosus had done to so enrage his successor isn't completely clear, but dear Pope Stephen had his dead body dug up and put on trial for "coveting the papal throne." Being found guilty (of course), the deceased was stripped, had its 3 fingers, used for bestowing blessings, cut off, and the body dumped in the Tiber River. Stephen got his, though. He was later imprisoned and strangled to death.
Urban II(Pope from 1088 - 1099)
At the time of his papacy, many Catholic priests were married (even though they weren't supposed to be). Urban was so outraged that he made a decree that all priests who were married or found to not be celibate be imprisoned forever (for the good of their eternal souls). That wasn't enough to satisfy Urban though. After imprisoning the defrocked clergymen he had their wives and children sold in to slavery! I guess he needed to find a way to finance all of those prisons holding the lustful priests to save their poor, sinful, souls. Fortunately he wasn't too busy with horny priests to ignore politics, though. Pope Urban II also took the time to start the First Crusade in 1095.
Gregory IX(Pope from 1227 - 1241)
This guy apparently loved bonfires. He started the inquisition of heretics (anyone not a strict and observant Catholic who could prove it) in 1231.
Sixtus IV(Pope from 1471 - 1484)
Sixtus didn't waste any time taking advantage of his new position. I'll bet the word "nepotism" was invented just for him. Before the white smoke even had time to clear he made two of his nephews Cardinals and spent the rest of his reign throwing money and titles at pretty much everyone else he happened to be related to. To finance his whale status he brilliantly sold licenses for brothels in Rome, instituted a tax on priests who kept mistresses, and came up with the best scam ever in history - selling indulgences for the dead to their grieving loved ones.
Innocent VIII(Pope from 1484 - 1492)
Kind of cool, in a way. Innocent VIII was the first pope ever to openly acknowledge his mistress and illegitimate children. He spent his days building a dynasty by marrying his kiddos off to wealthy families and using the throne of St. Peter to bestow upon them money, titles, and land. Family man that he was, he even made his 13-year-old grandson a cardinal. His papal bull Summis desiderantes of 1484 allowed him to indulge his pyromaniac and torture fantasies by starting the Inquisition against witches.
Alexander VI(Pope from 1492 - 1503)
The infamous Mr. Borgia was possibly the most wicked and corrupt pope in history. Or maybe he was just misunderstood. He was trained in the ways of the family business from a young age. His uncle Alfonso (Pope Calixtus III) bestowed powerful church positions upon him while he was still in his teens and then a cardinal at 25. Building upon his cardinalship he worked his way up to the office of vice chancellor of the Roman Church and amassing a great personal fortune in the process. He bribed his way to St. Peter's - appointing anyone he could get in his pocket to cardinal to vote for him. Continuing on the family tradition, he also appointed his son and the teenage brother of his mistress as cardinals (strength in numbers you know). While enjoying the office of pope he also enjoyed an active sex life, was suspected of arranging murders of his rivals and indulging in orgies (hey, when in Rome...) and managed to father seven children. Being a model father of the times, his poor daughter, Lucrezia, got married off three times to help build alliances and when one of those marriage alliances went sour (to a guy she really liked), the pope/daddy/evil father-in-law had him stabbed to death.
Leo X (Pope from 1513 - 1521)
Louis XIV had nothing on this man. Extravagant to the max, his lavish spending managed to bankrupt the papacy in just two short years. Once he realized that he was broke, he spent the rest of his time at St. Peter's pawning off palace furnishings and licensing more brothel's to keep the party going. Fat, sweaty, and effeminate, on the plus side he was known to be very kind, jolly, and a big supporter of charities and the arts. Even so, it was Leo's lifestyle that encouraged an obscure man named Marin Luther to write 95 Thesis and nail them up on a church door in Wittenburg. Oops, glad you had fun, Leo. Sorry about the whole "starting of the reformation" thing.
Paul III (Pope from 1534 - 1549)
Remember our pal Alexander VI? He had a lovely mistress named Guilia who repaid her favors by making her brother, Paul, a cardinal. One thing led to another and before long, Paul himself got to be pope too. The first order of business for the new pope was to make his 14 and 16 year old grandsons cardinals too - why mess with tradition? Basically a good guy who enjoyed the occasional romp with a saucy lass, he became famous for just one thing - excommunicating Henry VIII of England after he divorced Catherine of Aragon in order to shack up with his own saucy lass, Anne Boleyn.
Julius III (Pope from 1550 - 1555)
A perfectly well-behaved pope as compared to the company he's in on this list, Julius was a pretty cool guy. He kept up the grand old tradition of nepotism, loved a good (and big) meal, enjoyed gambling a bit too much, and generally just liked having a good time. Unfortunately for this frat rat, he's gone down in history for cruising the gay scene in Parma where he fell in love with a stunningly attractive 17-year-old boy. And made him a cardinal. Of course.
Pious XII (Pope from 1939 - 1958)
Favorite drinking buddy of fascist leaders everywhere, Eugenio Pacelli was nicknamed "Hitler's Pope." In his quest to insure papal absolutism in Italy he buddied up to Hitler and Mussolini. Pious was a noted anti-Semite and racist, which is sad because he was one of the few people with enough political power at the time to have possibly changed the course of history.