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 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[not specific enough to verify] 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]

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 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 as pope, but twelve years after his enthronement as Bishop of Lausanne).[17] The schismatic Conciliabulum of Pisa, which sought to depose him in 1511, accused him of being a "sodomite covered with shameful ulcers." [18]
  • 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 after his appointment as Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Cosimo and Damiano. 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.[19][20]
  • Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585) received the ecclesiastical tonsure in Bologna in June 1539, but subsequently had an affair with Maddalena Fulchini which resulted in the birth of a son, Giacomo Boncompagni, in 1548. Giacomo remained illegitimate but his father later appointed him Gonfalonier of the Church, governor of the Castel Sant'Angelo, as well as governor of Fermo.[21][22]
  • Pope Leo XII (1823–1829), as a young prelate was suspected of having had a liaison with the wife of the soldier of Swiss Guard and as nuncio in Germany allegedly fathered three illegitimate children.[23]

Popes 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.[24] These accusations are found in Liutprand of Cremona's Antapodosis,[25] as well as the Liber Pontificalis.[26][27][28] 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.[29]
  • Pope John X (914–928) had romantic affairs with both Theodora and her daughter Marozia, according to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis.[30][31](See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope John XII (955–963) was accused by his adversaries of adultery and incest.[32][33] 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,[25] "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".[34] Some sources report that he was rumoured to have died 8 days after being stricken by paralysis while in the act of adultery,[32] others that he was killed by the jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery.[35][36][37][38] (See also Saeculum obscurum)
  • Pope Benedict IX (1032– became pope in 1044, again in 1045 and finally 1047–1048).[39] He was accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of "many vile adulteries."[40][41] Pope Victor III referred in his third book of Dialogues to "his rapes... and other unspeakable acts."[42] 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.[43] In May 1045, Benedict IX resigned his office to pursue marriage.[44]
  • 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). According to the published chronicle of the Italian historian Stefano Infessura, "Diary of the City of Rome", Sixtus was a "lover of boys and sodomites" - awarding benefices and bishoprics in return for sexual favours, and nominating a number of young men as cardinals, some of whom were celebrated for their good looks.[48][49][50] However, Infessura had partisan allegiances to the Colonna and so is not considered to be always reliable or impartial.[51]
  • Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503) had a long affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei while still a priest, but before he became pope; and by her had his illegitimate children Cesare Borgia, Giovanni Borgia, Gioffre Borgia, and Lucrezia. A later mistress, Giulia Farnese, was the sister of Alessandro Farnese, and she gave birth to a daughter (Laura) while Alexander was in his 60s and reigning as pope.[52] Alexander fathered at least seven, and possibly as many as ten illegitimate children, and did much to promote his family's interests – using his offspring to build alliances with a number of important dynasties.[53] He appointed Giovanni Borgia as Captain General of the Church, and made Cesare a Cardinal of the Church – also creating independent duchies for each of them out of papal lands.
  • Pope Leo X (1513–1521) was accused, after his death, of homosexuality (Francesco Guicciardini and Paolo Giovio). It has been suggested he may have had ulterior motives in offering preferment to Marcantonio Flaminio.[54]
  • 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.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Celibacy of the Clergy". 
  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 Julius II". 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  18. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, page 278 (Harvard University Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-674-01197-7
  19. ^ Jean de Pins, Letters and Letter Fragments, page 292, footnote 5 (Libraire Droze S.A., 2007) ISBN 978-2-600-01101-3
  20. ^ Katherine McIver, Women, Art, And Architecture in Northern Italy, 1520–1580: Negotiating Power, page 26 (Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2006) ISBN 0-7546-5411-7
  21. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Gregory XIII". 1910-06-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  22. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Ugo Boncompagni". 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  23. ^ Letters from Rome in: The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Tom 11, pp. 468-471.
  24. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope Sergius III". 1912-02-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  25. ^ a b Lindsay Brook, Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages
  26. ^ Liber Pontificalis (first ed., 500s; it has papal biographies up to Pius II, d. 1464)
  27. ^ 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)
  28. ^ 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
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ "Lindsay Brook, "Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages"" (PDF). 2008-04-13. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  31. ^ 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)
  32. ^ a b "Catholic Encyclopedia: Pope John XII". 1910-10-01. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  33. ^ Martin, Malachi (1981). Decline and Fall of the Roman Church. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-22944-3.  p. 105
  34. ^ The Bad Popes by E. R. Chamberlin
  35. ^ Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, Poolbeg Press, Dublin 1988/2000, pages 211–215.
  36. ^ Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History (translated by John Bowden), Modern Library, New York. 2001/2003. page 79
  37. ^ The Popes' Rights & Wrongs, published by Truber & Co., 1860
  38. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912
  39. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia article on Benedict IX". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  40. ^ “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. 
  41. ^ The Book of Saints, by Ramsgate Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, A.C. Black, 1989. ISBN 978-0-7136-5300-7
  42. ^ "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. 
  43. ^ Liber Gomorrhianus, ISBN 88-7694-517-2
  44. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912, pp. 81–82.
  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. ^ Studies in the psychology of sex — Havelock Ellis — Google Boeken. 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  49. ^ Nigel Cawthorne (1996). "Sex Lives of the Popes". Prion. p. 160. 
  50. ^ Stefano Infessura, Diario della città di Roma (1303–1494), Ist. St. italiano, Tip. Forzani, Roma 1890, pp. 155-156
  51. ^ Egmont Lee, Sixtus IV and Men of Letters, Rome, 1978
  52. ^ Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A history of the popes, Yale University Press, 2006
  53. ^ "''The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church'': Rodrigo Borja". Retrieved 2011-10-18. 
  54. ^ C. Falconi, Leone X, Milan, 1987
  55. ^ 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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