List of sexually active popes

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This is a list of sexually active popes, Catholic priests who were not celibate before they became pope, and those who were legally married before becoming pope. Some candidates were sexually active before their election as pope, and others were accused of being sexually active during their papacies. A number of them had offspring.

The Second Lateran Council (1139) made the promise to remain celibate a prerequisite to ordination, abolishing the married priesthood in the Latin Church. Subsequently sexual relationships were generally undertaken outside the bond of matrimony and each sexual act thus committed considered a mortal sin.

There are various classifications for those who were sexually active 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 whom?] by many that most of the Twelve Apostles were married and had families. The New Testament (Mark 1:29–31;[1] Matthew 8:14–15;[2] Luke 4:38–39;[3] 1 Timothy 3:2, 12;[4] Titus 1:6)[5] depicts at least Peter as being married, and bishops, priests and deacons of the Early Church were often married as well. In epigraphy, the testimony of the Church Fathers, synodal legislation, and papal decretals in the following centuries, a married clergy, in greater or lesser numbers, was a feature of the life of the Church. Celibacy was not required for those ordained and was accepted 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,[6] at the Second Lateran Council (1139), the whole of the Latin Church of the Catholic Church decided to accept men for ordination only after they had taken a promise of celibacy. This applies to the leadership of the Church.[7]

Popes who were legally married[edit]

Name Reign(s) Relationship Offspring Notes
Saint Peter 30/33–64/68 Mother-in-law (Greek πενθερά, penthera) is mentioned in the Gospel verses Matthew 8:14–15, Luke 4:38, Mark 1:29–31, and who was healed by Jesus at her home in Capernaum. 1 Cor. 9:5 asks whether others have the right to be accompanied by Christian wives as does "Cephas" (Peter). Clement of Alexandria wrote: "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."[8] Yes[9] Later legends, dating from the 6th century onwards, suggested that Peter had a daughter – identified as Saint Petronilla. This is likely to be a result of the similarity of their names.[10][11]
Felix III 483–492 Widowed before his election as pope Yes Himself the son of a priest, he fathered two children, one of which was the mother of Pope Gregory the Great.[12]
Hormisdas 514–523 Widowed before he took holy orders Yes Father of Pope Silverius.[13]
Adrian II 867–872 Married to Stephania before he took holy orders,[14] she was still living when he was elected pope and resided with him in the Lateran Palace Yes (a daughter) His wife and daughter both resided with him until they were murdered by Eleutherius, brother of Anastasius Bibliothecarius, the Church's chief librarian.[15]
John XVII 1003 Married before his election as pope Yes (three sons) All of his children became priests.[16]
Clement IV 1265–1268 Married before taking holy orders Yes (two daughters) Both children entered a convent[17]
Honorius IV 1285–1287 Widowed before entering the clergy Yes (at least two sons)[18]

Fathered illegitimate children before holy orders[edit]

Name Reign Relationship Offspring Notes
Pius II 1458–1464 Not married Yes (at least two) Two children, both born before he formally entered the clergy. The first child, fathered while in Scotland, died in infancy. A second child fathered while in Strasbourg with a Breton woman named Elizabeth died 14 months later. He delayed becoming a cleric because of the requirement of chastity.[19]
Innocent VIII 1484–1492 Not married Yes (two) Both born before he entered the clergy.[20] Married elder son Franceschetto Cybo to the daughter of Lorenzo de' Medici, who in return obtained the cardinal's hat for his 13-year-old son Giovanni, who became Pope Leo X.[21] His daughter Teodorina Cybo married Gerardo Usodimare.
Clement VII 1523–1534 Not married. Relationship with a slave girl – possibly Simonetta da Collevecchio Yes (one) Identified as Alessandro de' Medici, Duke of Florence.[22]

Known to or suspected of having fathered illegitimate children after receiving holy orders[edit]

Relationships with women[edit]

Name Reign Relationship Offspring Notes
Julius II 1503–1513 Not married Yes (three daughters) Three illegitimate daughters, one of whom was Felice della Rovere (born in 1483, twenty years before his election as pope, and twelve years after his enthronement as bishop of Lausanne).[23] The schismatic Conciliabulum of Pisa, which sought to depose him in 1511, also accused him of being a sodomite.[24]
Paul III 1534–1549 Not married. Silvia Ruffini as mistress Yes (three sons and one daughter) Held off ordination in order to continue his lifestyle, fathering four illegitimate children (three sons and one daughter) by Silvia Ruffini after his appointment as cardinal-deacon of Santi Cosimo and Damiano. He broke his relations with her ca. 1513. He made his illegitimate son Pier Luigi Farnese the first duke of Parma.[25][26]
Pius IV 1559–1565 Not married Allegedly three One was a son born in 1541 or 1542. He also had two daughters.[27]
Gregory XIII 1572–1585 Not married. Affair with Maddalena Fulchini Yes Received the ecclesiastical tonsure in Bologna in June 1539, and subsequently had an affair that resulted in the birth of Giacomo Boncompagni in 1548. Giacomo remained illegitimate, with Gregory later appointing him Gonfalonier of the Church, governor of the Castel Sant'Angelo and Fermo.[28][29]
Leo XII 1823–1829 Not married Allegedly three As a young prelate, he came under suspicion of having a liaison with the wife of a Swiss Guard soldier and as nuncio in Germany allegedly fathered three illegitimate children.[30]

Popes alleged to be sexually active during pontificate[edit]

Relationships with women[edit]

Name Reign Relationship Offspring Notes
Sergius III 904–911 Not married Yes (at least one) Accused by opponents of being the illegitimate father of Pope John XI by Marozia.[31] Such accusations lay in Liutprand of Cremona's Antapodosis[32] and the Liber Pontificalis.[33][34][35] The accusations have discrepancies with another early source, the annalist Flodoard (c. 894–966): John XI was the 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. Fauvarque emphasizes that contemporary sources are dubious, Liutprand being "prone to exaggeration" while other mentions of this fatherhood appear in satires written by supporters of Pope Formosus.[36]
John X 914–928 Not married. Affairs with Theodora and Marozia. No Had romantic affairs with both Theodora and her daughter Marozia, according to Liutprand of Cremona in his Antapodosis.[37][self-published source][better source needed][38] (See also Saeculum obscurum)
John XII 955–964 Not married No Accused by adversaries of adultery and incest.[39][40] Benedict of Soracte noted that he had "a collection of women". According to Liutprand of Cremona,[32] "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 Chamberlin, John was "a Christian Caligula whose crimes were rendered particularly horrific by the office he held".[41] Some sources report that he died eight days after being stricken by paralysis while in the act of adultery,[39] others that he was killed by the jealous husband while in the act of committing adultery.[42][43][44][45]
Alexander VI 1492–1503 Not married. Relationships with Vanozza dei Catanei and Giulia Farnese. Yes Had a long affair with Vannozza dei Cattanei while still a priest, and 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, giving birth to a daughter Laura while Alexander was in his 60s and reigning as pope.[46] Alexander fathered at least seven and possibly as many as ten illegitimate children, doing much to promote his family's interests – using his offspring to build alliances with a number of important dynasties.[47] 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.

Relationships with men[edit]

Name Reign Relationship Notes
Paul II 1464–1471 Not married. Alleged affair with a page Thought to have died of indigestion arising from eating melon,[48][49] though some suggest he died while being sodomized by a page.[50][51][52]
Sixtus IV 1471–1484 Not married According to Stefano Infessura, 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.[53][54][55] Infessura had partisan allegiances to the Colonna family and so is not considered to be always reliable or impartial.[56]
Leo X 1513–1521 Not married Accused, after his death, of homosexuality (by Francesco Guicciardini and Paolo Giovio). Some suggest he may have had ulterior motives in offering preferment to Marcantonio Flaminio.[57]
Julius III 1550–1555 Not married. Alleged affair with Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte Alleged to have had a long love affair with Innocenzo Ciocchi del Monte which was a cause of public scandal. The Venetian ambassador at that time reported that Innocenzo shared the pope's bed.[58]

Relationships with women and men[edit]

Name Reign Relationship Offspring Notes
Benedict IX 1032–1044, 1045, 1047–1048 Not married No Accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of "many vile adulteries".[59][60] Pope Victor III referred in his third book of Dialogues to "his rapes… and other unspeakable acts".[61] His life prompted Peter Damian to write an extended treatise against illicit sex, especially homosexuality. In his Liber Gomorrhianus, Damian accused Benedict IX of routine sodomy and bestiality and sponsoring orgies.[62][verification needed] In May 1045, Benedict IX resigned his office to get married.[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mark 1:29–31
  2. ^ Matthew 8:14–15
  3. ^ Luke 4:38–39
  4. ^ 1 Timothy 3:2–12
  5. ^ Titus 1:6
  6. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Celibacy of the Clergy" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  7. ^ Priestly celibacy Archived 2007-09-26 at the Wayback Machine retrieved June 9, 2008
  8. ^ Cited by Eusebius, Church History, III, 30. Full text at Clement of Alexandria, Stromata VII, 11.
  9. ^ Clement of Alexandria wrote: "For Peter and Philip begat children" in "Clements, Stromata (book VII) / Eusebius, Church History (Book III)". Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  10. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Petronilla" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company..
  11. ^ "St. Peter's – Altar of St Petronilla". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  12. ^ R.A. Markus, Gregory the Great and his world (Cambridge: University Press, 1997), p.8
  13. ^ Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope St. Hormisdas" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  14. ^ Loughlin, James Francis (1907). "Pope Adrian II" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  15. ^ Dopierała, K. (1996). Księga Papieży. Poznań: Pallotinum. p. 106.
  16. ^ * Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope John XVII (XVIII)" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  17. ^ Loughlin, James Francis (1908). "Pope Clement IV" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  18. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Cardinal Giacomo Savelli". Retrieved 2011-10-18.[self-published source]
  19. ^ Weber, Nicholas Aloysius (1911). "Pope Pius II" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  20. ^ Weber, Nicholas Aloysius (1910). "Pope Innocent VIII" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  21. ^ Ridolfi, Roberto (1959). The Life of Girolamo Savonarola. New York, Knopf.
  22. ^ 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 slave" into the first duke of Florence", McFarland & Company, 1998, ISBN 0-7864-2071-5
  23. ^ Ott, Michael (1910). "Pope Julius II" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  24. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, page 278 (Harvard University Press, 2006) ISBN 978-0-674-01197-7
  25. ^ Jean de Pins, Letters and Letter Fragments, page 292, footnote 5 (Libraire Droze S.A., 2007) ISBN 978-2-600-01101-3
  26. ^ Katherine McIver, Women, Art, And Architecture in Northern Italy, 1520–1580: Negotiating Power, page 26 (Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2006) ISBN 0-7546-5411-7
  27. ^ Pattenden, Miles (2013). Pius IV and the Fall of The Carafa: Nepotism and Papal Authority in Counter-Reformation Rome (page 34). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  28. ^ Ott, Michael (1910). "Pope Gregory XIII" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  29. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Ugo Boncompagni". 2007-12-03. Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  30. ^ Letters from Rome in: The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, Tom 11, pp. 468–471.
  31. ^ Mann, Horace Kinder (1912). "Pope Sergius III" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  32. ^ a b Brook, Lindsay. Popes and pornocrats: Rome in the Early Middle Ages (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-13.
  33. ^ Liber Pontificalis (first ed., 500s; it has papal biographies up to Pius II, d. 1464)
  34. ^ 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)
  35. ^ 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
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "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.
  38. ^ 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)
  39. ^ a b Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope John XII" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  40. ^ Martin, Malachi (1981). Decline and Fall of the Roman Church. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-22944-3. p. 105
  41. ^ The Bad Popes by E. R. Chamberlin
  42. ^ Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, Poolbeg Press, Dublin 1988/2000, pages 211–215.
  43. ^ Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: A Short History (translated by John Bowden), Modern Library, New York. 2001/2003. page 79
  44. ^ The Popes' Rights & Wrongs, published by Truber & Co., 1860
  45. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912
  46. ^ Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A history of the popes, Yale University Press, 2006
  47. ^ "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church: Rodrigo Borja". Retrieved 2011-10-18.
  48. ^ Paolo II in Enciclopedia dei Papi", Enciclopedia Treccani,
  49. ^ "Vita Pauli Secundi Pontificis Maximi", Michael Canensius, 1734 p. 175
  50. ^ 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
  51. ^ Karlheinz Deschner, Storia criminale del cristianesimo (tomo VIII), Ariele, Milano, 2007, pag. 216. Nigel Cawthorne, Das Sexleben der Päpste. Die Skandalchronik des Vatikans, Benedikt Taschen Verlag, Köln, 1999, pag. 171.
  52. ^ Claudio Rendina, I Papi, Storia e Segreti, Newton Compton, Roma, 1983, p. 589
  53. ^ Ellis, Havelock (2007-07-30). Studies in the psychology of sex — Havelock Ellis — Google Boeken. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  54. ^ Cawthorne, Nigel (1996). Sex Lives of the Popes. Prion. p. 160. ASIN 185375546X.
  55. ^ Stefano Infessura, Diario della città di Roma (1303–1494), Ist. St. italiano, Tip. Forzani, Roma 1890, pp. 155–156
  56. ^ Egmont Lee, Sixtus IV and Men of Letters, Rome, 1978
  57. ^ C. Falconi, Leone X, Milan, 1987
  58. ^ 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
  59. ^ "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: 584. Archived from the original on 2007-07-13. Retrieved 2008-01-03. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  60. ^ The Book of Saints, by Ramsgate Benedictine Monks of St. Augustine's Abbey, A. C. Black, 1989. ISBN 978-0-7136-5300-7
  61. ^ "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: 141. Archived from the original on 2007-07-15. Retrieved 2008-01-03. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  62. ^ Liber Gomorrhianus, ISBN 88-7694-517-2
  63. ^ Dr. Angelo S. Rappaport, The Love Affairs of the Vatican, 1912, pp. 81–82.


  • The Bad Popes, Chamberlin, E.R., Sutton History Classics, 1969 / Dorset; New Ed edition 2003.
  • The Pope Encyclopedia: An A to Z of the Holy See, Matthew Bunson, Crown Trade Paperbacks, New York, 1995.
  • The Papacy, Bernhard Schimmelpfennig, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984.
  • Lives of the Popes, Richard P. McBrien, Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1997.
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