Hello Father. What are your thoughts on Pope Alexander VI? Also, was he really the "monster" that many people make out of him? Thanks.
It depends on the criterion we use.
If I look at Alexander Borgia as a devout Catholic, I would say that his sale of sacraments, his trafficking in the offices of the Church, his use of lies and assassination to hold onto power, his many mistresses, and his placing of his own children in positions of power, were good enough reason to say he was a spiritual failure, a scandal, and a true scourge upon the name of Christ and the Catholic Church.
On the other hand, if I am a student of secular politics and secular political history, and judge Alexander VI from the standpoint of his ability to govern a state, his ability to administer money, his attempts to please the businessmen and citizens of the Papal States, his ability to make alliances and forge compromises between powerful rulers, then I would probably give him a B+ and judge that he was not much of a priest but that he was an effective and competent sovereign.
To give one example of his cronyism, which disgusts Catholics, he insisted with Queen Isabella of Spain that he be allowed to place his friends into the office of bishop, in the dioceses of Spain.
The Queen considered Alexander’s friends in the clergy to be total losers, idiots, and corrupt clergy to boot. She had to threaten the Pope with withholding the Church taxes to Rome which came from Spain.
Alexander relented, and allowed Isabella to choose wise, holy, and reformist bishops for the dioceses of Spain. However, Queen Isabella had to fork over lots of money in order to placate the pope and keep him from interfering in her work of reforming the Catholic Church in Spain.
To use another example, from a completely different point of view, we see a very human and compassionate side of Alexander in his treatment of the Jews. Catholic Europe, at the end of the 1400′s, held some very anti-Semitic views regarding the Jews.
At a time when the Jews were suffering horribly because of being expelled from Spain, he allowed them into Italy and ordered Church authorities to leave the Jews in peace. It simply was not important for Alexander to round up or persecute Jews, and the Jews who came to settle in Italy, and Rome, respected him deeply as an enlightened pope.
So, like everything you read in history, there are many sides to a story. In the case of Alexander Borgia, he was capable of great evil, such as his drunken and hedonistic parties of revelry and entertainment, and then killing off his enemies who threatened his power. But he was also capable of great good, such as when he drew the Line of Demarcation, which prevented Spain and Portugal from going to war over Brazil and other territories in South America.
But definitely from the Catholic view of how holy and charitable a pope should be, Alexander VI is seen as an epic fail.
Like many churches, the Chapel of the Cross in Madison, Mississippi, is located near a cemetery. The picturesque stone structure once belonged to the wealthy and influential Johnstone family. In fact, the church’s current location lies on the former grounds of the family’s estate.
There, in the 1850s, Helen Johnstone was set to be married to a respectable young man from a local family. Tragically, Helen’s husband-to-be died in a duel in New Orleans before the wedding. His body was returned to Mississippi and buried in the churchyard. A grief-stricken Helen visited his grave every day until her own death in 1916.
Since then, eyewitnesses have claimed that Helen’s ghost can be seen near the old cemetery on certain nights. Other visitors to the moody church have reported hearing bells and noises inside the church during early morning hours. On one occasion, two students from Belhaven College were exploring the grounds during a moonlit night and thought they saw faces in the church’s windows and heard organ music.
Other commonly reported sightings involve ghostly children passing through the church’s iron gates before disappearing, as well as the disembodied laughter of a madman.