List of sexually active popes

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This is a list of sexually active popes, Catholic priests who were sexually active before becoming pope, and popes who were legally married. Some candidates were sexually active before their election as pope, and it has sometimes been claimed that other popes were sexually active during their papacies. Such relationships were undertaken outside the bond of matrimony and broke the vow of chastity.

There have been 266 popes. Since 1585, no pope is known to have been sexually active before, during or after election to the Papacy.

There are various classifications for those who were sexually active at some time during their lives. Periods in parentheses refer to the years of their papacies.


For many years of the Church's history, celibacy was considered optional. Based on the customs of the times, it is assumed by many that most of the Apostles, such as Peter, were married and had families. It is clear from the New Testament (Mk 1:29–31; Mt 8:14–15; Lk 4:38–39; 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6) that at least Peter had been married, and that bishops, presbyters and deacons of the Early Church were often married as well. It is also clear from epigraphy, the testimony of the Church Fathers, synodal legislation, papal decretals and other sources that in the following centuries a married clergy, in greater or lesser numbers, was a normal feature of the life of the Church. Celibacy was not required for those ordained, but still was a discipline practised in the early Church, particularly by those in the monastic life.

Although various local Church councils had demanded celibacy of the clergy in a particular area,[1] it was not until the Second Lateran Council (1139) that whole of the Latin (Western) Rite of the Catholic Church decided to accept people for ordination only after they had taken a promise of celibacy.[2] The reasons for the imposition of celibacy in the Latin branch of the Church are not straightforward; there was certainly a strain of thought which regarded celibacy as being a more exalted state than marriage, but there was also the matter of married clergy who may have bequeathed Church property to a spouse or child. Regardless, although it is a long-established tradition, clerical celibacy is a matter of Church discipline, not of doctrine. If it were the latter, then Roman Catholic deacons would not be permitted to be married, nor would those clergy in the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches.

In this context, a celibate is a person who is not married. The discipline of priestly celibacy is not considered one of the infallible and immutable dogmas. Celibacy is not synonymous with sexual abstinence, although it entails sexual abstinence because of the requirement of sexual abstinence outside of marriage.

The Council of Trent held that virginity and celibacy were higher states than marriage, but more recently, popes have affirmed the gift and graces of both married and celibate states. In his Theology of the Body reflections July 7, 1983, Pope John Paul II said, "The gift received by persons who live in marriage is different from the one received by persons who live in virginity and choose continence for the sake of the kingdom of God. All the same, it is a true gift from God, one's own gift, intended for concrete persons. It is specific, that is, suited to their vocation in life. We can therefore say that the Apostle stresses also the action of grace in every person—in one who lives in marriage no less than in one that willingly chooses continence."

Popes who were married[edit]

  • Saint Peter (Simon Peter), whose mother-in-law is mentioned in the Gospel verses Matthew 8:14–15, Luke 4:38, Mark 1:29–31. Clement of Alexandria notes that "Peter and Philip begat children"[3] and writes: "When the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, 'Remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them."[4] In some legends dating from at least the 6th century, Peter's daughter is Saint Petronilla.[5][6]
  • Pope St. Hormisdas (514–523) was married and widowed before he took Holy Orders. He was the father of Pope St. Silverius.[7]
  • Pope Adrian II (867–872) was married before he took Holy Orders,[8] to a woman called Stephania, and had a daughter. His wife and daughter were still living when he was elected Pope and resided with him in the Lateran Palace. They were murdered by Eleutherius, brother of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, the Church's chief librarian.[9]
  • Pope John XVII (1003) was married before his election as Pope and had three sons, who all became priests.[10]
  • Pope Clement IV (1265–1268) was married, before taking Holy Orders, and had two daughters, who both entered a convent.[11]

Popes sexually active before receiving Holy Orders[edit]

Popes who were, or may have been, sexually active after receiving Holy Orders[edit]

  • Pope Julius II (1503–1513) had three illegitimate daughters, one of whom was Felice della Rovere (born in 1483, twenty years before his election).[19] The schismatic Conciliabulum of Pisa, which sought to depose him in 1511, accused him of being a "sodomite covered with shameful ulcers." [20]
  • Pope Paul III (1534–1549) who, according to some sources, held off ordination in order to continue his promiscuous lifestyle, fathering four illegitimate children (three sons and one daughter) by his mistress Silvia Ruffini. He broke his relations with her ca. 1513. There is no evidence of sexual activity during his papacy. He made his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese the first Duke of Parma.[21][22]

Popes sexually active, or accused of being sexually active, during pontificate[edit]

  • Pope Sergius III (904–911) was accused by his opponents of being the illegitimate father of Pope John XI by Marozia.[23] These accusations are found in Liutprand of Cremona's Antapodosis,[24] as well as the Liber Pontificalis.[25][26][27] The accusations are disputed by another early source, the annalist Flodoard (c. 894–966): John XI was brother of Alberic II, the latter being the offspring of Marozia and her husband Alberic I, so John too may have been the son of Marozia and Alberic I. Bertrand Fauvarque emphasizes that the contemporary sources backing up this parenthood are dubious, Liutprand being "prone to exaggeration" while other mentions of this fatherhood appear in satires written by supporters of late Pope Formosus.[28]
  • Pope John X (914–928) had romantic affairs with both Theodora and her daughter Marozia, according to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis.[29][30](See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope John XII (955–963) was accused by his adversaries of adultery and incest.[31][32] The monk Benedict of Soracte noted in his volume XXXVII that he "liked to have a collection of women". According to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis,[24] "they testified about his adultery, which they did not see with their own eyes, but nonetheless knew with certainty: he had fornicated with the widow of Rainier, with Stephana his father's concubine, with the widow Anna, and with his own niece, and he made the sacred palace into a whorehouse." According to E. R. Chamberlin, John XII was "a Christian Caligula whose crimes were rendered particularly horrific by the office he held".[33] Some sources report that he was rumoured to have died 8 days after being stricken by paralysis while in the act of adultery,[31] others that he was killed by the jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery.[34][35][36][37] (See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032– became pope in 1044, again in 1045 and finally 1047–1048).[38] He was accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of "many vile adulteries."[39][40] Pope Victor III referred in his third book of Dialogues to "his rapes... and other unspeakable acts."[41] His life prompted Saint Peter Damian to write an extended treatise against illicit sex in general, and homosexuality in particular. In his Liber Gomorrhianus, Damian accused Benedict IX of routine sodomy and bestiality and sponsoring orgies.[42] In May 1045, Benedict IX resigned his office to pursue marriage.[43]
  • Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) had a long affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei before his papacy, and by her had his illegitimate children Cesare and Lucrezia. A later mistress, Giulia Farnese, was the sister of Alessandro Farnese, who later became Pope Paul III. Alexander fathered at least seven, and possibly as many as ten illegitimate children.[44]

Popes accused of having male lovers during pontificate[edit]

  • Pope Paul II (1464–1471) is popularly thought to have died due to indigestion arising from eating melon in excess,[45][46] though a rumour was spread by his detractors that he died while engaging in sodomy.[47]
  • Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484) was alleged to have awarded gifts and benefices to court favourites in return for sexual favours. Giovanni Sclafenato was created a cardinal by Sixtus for "ingenuousness, loyalty,...and his other gifts of soul and body", according to the papal epitaph on his tomb.[48][49]
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521) was allegedly a practising homosexual, according to some modern and contemporary sources (Francesco Guicciardini and Paolo Giovio). He was alleged to have had a particular (albeit one-sided) infatuation for Marcantonio Flaminio.[50]
  • Pope Julius III (1550–1555) was alleged to have had a long affair with Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte. The Venetian ambassador at that time reported that Innocenzo shared the pope's bed.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New Catholic Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Priestly celibacy retrieved June 9, 2008
  3. ^ Cited by Eusebius, Church History, III, 30. Full text (Latin) at Clement of Alexandria, Stromata III, vi.
  4. ^ Cited by Eusebius, Church History, III, 30. Full text at Clement of Alexandria, Stromata VII, 11.
  5. ^ "St Petronilla", Catholic Encyclopedia.
  6. ^ "St. Peter's – Altar of St Petronilla". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  7. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia (1910) Pope St. Hormisdas
  8. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Adrian II". 1907-03-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  9. ^ K. Dopierała, Księga Papieży, Pallotinum, Poznań, 1996, p. 106
  10. ^ * Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope John XVII" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  11. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia article on Clement IV". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  12. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Pius II". 1911-06-01. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  13. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Innocent VIII". 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  14. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911.
  15. ^ <The Life of Girolamo Savonarola (1959) by Roberto Ridolfi
  16. ^ George L. Williams, Papal Genealogy: The Families And Descendants Of The Popes, page 74: "Clement now made Alessandro de Medici (his illegitimate son by a Nubian slave) into the first duke of Florence" (McFarland & Company, 1998) ISBN 0-7864-2071-5
  17. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Gregory XIII". 1910-06-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  18. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Ugo Boncompagni". 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  19. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Julius II". 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  20. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, page 278 (Harvard University Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-674-01197-7
  21. ^ Jean de Pins, Letters and Letter Fragments, page 292, footnote 5 (Libraire Droze S.A., 2007) ISBN 978-2-600-01101-3
  22. ^ Katherine McIver, Women, Art, And Architecture in Northern Italy, 1520-1580: Negotiating Power, page 26 (Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2006) ISBN 0-7546-5411-7
  23. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Sergius III". 1912-02-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  24. ^ a b Lindsay Brook, Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages
  25. ^ Liber Pontificalis (first ed., 500s; it has papal biographies up to Pius II, d. 1464)
  26. ^ Reverend Horace K. Mann, The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages, Volumes 1-13 quote: "Was John XI the son of Pope Sergius by the abandoned Marozia? Liutprand says he was, and so does the author of the anonymous catalogue in the Liber Pontificalis in his one-line notice of John XI." (1928)
  27. ^ Anura Gurugé, The Next Pope: After Pope Benedict XVI, page 37: "John XI (#126) would also appear to have been born out of wedlock. His mother, Marozia, from the then powerful Theophylacet family, was around sixteen years old at the time. Liber Pontificalis, among others, claim that Sergius III (#120), during his tenure as pope, was the father." (WOWNH LLC, 2010). ISBN 978-0-615-35372-2
  28. ^ Fauvarque, Bertrand (2003). "De la tutelle de l'aristocratie italienne à celle des empereurs germaniques". In Y.-M. Hilaire (Ed.), Histoire de la papauté, 2000 ans de missions et de tribulations. Paris:Tallandier. ISBN 2-02-059006-9, p. 163.
  29. ^ "Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"". 2008-04-13. Archived from the original on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  30. ^ Joseph McCabe, Crises in The history of The Papacy: A Study of Twenty Famous Popes whose Careers and whose Influence were important in the Development of The Church and in The History of The World, page 130 (New York; London: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1916)
  31. ^ a b "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope John XII". 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  32. ^ Martin, Malachi (1981). Decline and Fall of the Roman Church. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-22944-3.  p. 105
  33. ^ The Bad Popes by E. R. Chamberlin
  34. ^ Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, Poolbeg Press, Dublin 1988/2000, pages 211–215.
  35. ^ Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History (translated by John Bowden), Modern Library, New York. 2001/2003. page 79
  36. ^ The Popes' Rights & Wrongs, published by Truber & Co., 1860
  37. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912
  38. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia article on Benedict IX". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  39. ^ “Post multa turpia adulteria et homicidia manibus suis perpetrata, postremo, etc.” Dümmler, Ernst Ludwig (1891). Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite I (Bonizonis episcopi Sutriensis: Liber ad amicum ed.). Hannover: Deutsches Institut für Erforschung des Mittelalters. p. 584. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  40. ^ The Book of Saints, by Ramsgate Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, A.C. Black, 1989. ISBN 978-0-7136-5300-7
  41. ^ "Cuius vita quam turpis, quam freda, quamque execranda extiterit, horresco referre." Victor III, Pope (1934). Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Libelli de lite (Dialogi de miraculis Sancti Benedicti Liber Tertius auctore Desiderio abbate Casinensis ed.). Hannover: Deutsches Institut für Erforschung des Mittelalters. p. 141. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  42. ^ Liber Gomorrhianus, ISBN 88-7694-517-2
  43. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912, pp. 81–82.
  44. ^ "''The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church'': Rodrigo Borja". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  45. ^ Paolo II in Enciclopedia dei Papi", Enciclopedia Treccani,
  46. ^ "Vita Pauli Secundi Pontificis Maximi", Michael Canensius, 1734 p.175
  47. ^ Leonie Frieda, The Deadly Sisterhood: A Story of Women, Power, and Intrigue in the Italian Renaissance, 1427-1527, chapter 3 (HarperCollins, 2013) ISBN 978-0-06-156308-9
  48. ^ Stefano Infessura, Diario della città di Roma (1303-1494), Ist. St. italiano, Tip. Forzani, Roma 1890, pp. 155-156
  49. ^ Mario Masini and Giuseppe Portigliotti, 'Attraverso il Rinascimento. Pier Luigi Farnese', "Archivio di antropologia criminale", vol. XXXVIII 1917, p. 473
  50. ^ C. Falconi, Leone X, Milan, 1987
  51. ^ Burkle-Young, Francis A., and Michael Leopoldo Doerrer. The Life of Cardinal Innocenzo del Monte: A Scandal in Scarlet, Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 1997


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  • The Pope Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See, Matthew Bunson, Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1995.
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