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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Borgias - Fact - Fiction - Fantasy?

Everyone loves a good story.  Add a little sex, adultery, bribery together with glamorous wealth and power and you have a compelling drama.  But what if the story is true?  Or what if it is based on actual events?  Then you have theater!

Now add another fascinating tidbit - the Catholic Church and its Pope!  Now that is truly a compelling drama - no doubt shrouded in mystery, lies, fabrications, half-truths and out right cover-ups. 

So now Showtime brings to you the Borgias, also known as the Borjas.  The Borjas were an Italian noble family of Spanish origin.  They were patrons of the arts and thanks to their support, artists of the Renaissance could 'spread their wings' and realize their artistic potential. The most brilliant personalities of this era regularly visited their court.

But today they are remembered for their corrupt rule when one of them was Pope. They have been accused of many different crimes, including adultery, simony, theft, rape, bribery, incest, and murder (especially murder by arsenic poisoning).  Sounds like an Italian Opera - but even more melodramatic. 

Now like all good dramas we have to have an grand and evil patriarch.  Thus, enter Rodrigo Borgia.  Rodrigo was born in Xàtiva, in the Kingdom of Valencia. Being a good and devote Catholic he was anointed a Cardinal!  While a cardinal, he lived in an illicit relationship with Vanozza dei Cattanei, and they had four children: Cesare, Giovanni, Lucrezia and Gioffre. He also had children by women other than Vannozza; Giulia Farnese was among his other mistresses. 

I guess the vow of Chastity meant something different back then.  Besides who could resist such a fat and homly handsome man?

But our great Rodrigo didn't simply enjoy being a cardinal - no he wanted more.  Rodrigo was raised to the papal chair in 1492 and he chose the name of Alexander VI. It is said that he bought his pontificate with bribes, and that 17 out of 22 cardinals voted for him out of greed (Has anything changed????).

But bribing your way to pontification was only half the story - he is often said to be the worst of all Popes (which is in and of itself an astounding accomplishment!). 

There are many controversies connected with Rodrigo. He was not only accused of simony or nepotism, but also attending public orgies, along with his daughter Lucrezia. The "Banquet of Chestnuts" (also called the "Ballet of the Chestnuts") is considered to be one of the most disreputable balls of this kind. It was held on October 30, 1501. Not only Pope Alexander VI was present, but also both of his children: Lucrezia and Cesare.  I wonder if he wore his Papal attire while watching his children have an orgy?  Is there a special Papal blessing for an orgy?

Rodrigo is also remembered for other crimes, many of them included torture and execution. This is how in 1498 the famous Florentine preacher Savonarola ended his life. He accused Alexander VI of corruption and called for his removal as Pope. Savonarola was tortured and then hanged and burned publicly.  Torture, hanging and burning in public is always a great way to win votes, just like Abu Ghraib and Gunitanamo.

Alexander VI is also remembered for bringing his mistresses to the papal court. One of them, Vanozza Cattanei gave him four children, and another two were born by Giulia Farnese. Giulia was taken as his mistress when she was a fifteen-year-old girl and he was over 60.

Not to give too much of the story away, but poor Rodrigo died in 1503 in Rome, supposedly from malarial fever.  Sounds like exhaustion to me.

But Showtime in the Borgias raises more than simply a story of a lustful Pope - it raises the very nature of the Papacy and of the Holy Roman See.

The Pope (from Latin: papa; from Greek: πάππας (pappas),[1] a child's word for father)[2] is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (which is composed of the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the see of Rome).

The office of the pope is known as the Papacy. His ecclesiastical jurisdiction is often called the "Holy See" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See" based upon the Church tradition that the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul were martyred in Rome.

Catholics recognize the Pope as a successor to Saint Peter, whom, according to Roman Catholic teaching, Jesus named as the "shepherd" and "rock" of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic dogma is the one true Church founded by Christ.   The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus personally appointed Peter as leader of the Church and is thus its "King."  Papal supremacy refers to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church that the pope, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Christian Church, has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered: that, in brief, "the Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls."

Most Christians hold that Simon Peter was the most prominent of the Apostles, called the Prince of the Apostles and favored by Jesus of Nazareth. As such, it is argued that Peter held the first place of honor and authority. In addition, in Roman Catholicism, it is also argued this primacy should extend in perpetuity to the Pope over other bishops throughout the Church through the doctrine of Apostolic succession. This doctrine is also known as the Primacy of Simon Peter or the Petrine Primacy (from the Latin Petrus for "Peter") but it is more formally known as the Primacy of the Roman Pontiff. A number of traditions, most notably Roman Catholic, hold that Simon Peter (also called Saint Peter or Cephas) was the first Bishop of Antioch, as well as the first Bishop of Rome.

With the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity and the Council of Nicea, the Christian religion received imperial sanction.  At the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451, Leo I (through his emissaries) stated that he was "speaking with the voice of Peter", and thus as speaking as God.

Papal infallibility is the dogma in Roman Catholic theology that, by action of the Holy Spirit, the Pope is preserved from even the possibility of error when he solemnly declares or promulgates to the universal Church a dogmatic teaching on faith as being contained in divine revelation, or at least being intimately connected to divine revelation. It is also taught that the Holy Spirit works in the body of the Church, as sensus fidelium, to ensure that dogmatic teachings proclaimed to be infallible will be received by all Catholics

When Leo III crowned Charlemagne (800), he established the precedent that no man would be emperor without anointment by a pope.  Thus the marriage of Church and State was born.  Pope's made and destroyed Kings, and Kings were beholding to the man called Pope - the ultimate in unholy reliance (ask Henry VIII of that notion).

But what "God" created he may also destroy.  The low point of the Papacy was 867–1049. The Papacy came under the control of vying political factions. Popes were variously imprisoned, starved, killed and deposed by force. The family of a certain papal official made and unmade popes for fifty years. The official's great-grandson, Pope John XII, held orgies of debauchery in the Lateran palace. Emperor Otto I of Germany had John accused in an ecclesiastical court, which deposed him and elected a layman as Pope Leo VIII. John mutilated the Imperial representatives in Rome and had himself reinstated as Pope.  Conflict between the Emperor and the papacy continued, and eventually dukes in league with the emperor were buying bishops and popes almost openly.

But over time the church reestablished its supremacy by deeming the Pope's infallibility as occupying the "chair of Peter".  In Catholic theology, the Latin phrase ex cathedra, literally meaning "from the chair", refers to a teaching by the pope that is considered to be made with the intention of invoking infallibility.  The "chair" referred to is not a literal chair, but refers metaphorically to the pope's position, or office, as the official teacher of Catholic doctrine: the chair was the symbol of the teacher in the ancient world, and bishops to this day have a cathedra, a seat or throne, as a symbol of their teaching and governing authority. The pope is said to occupy the "chair of Peter", as Catholics hold that among the apostles Peter had a special role as the preserver of unity, so the pope as successor of Peter holds the role of spokesman for the whole church among the bishops, the successors as a group of the apostles.

The infallibility of the pope was thus formally defined in 1870, although the tradition behind this view goes back much further. In the conclusion of the fourth chapter of its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Pastor aeternus, the First Vatican Council declared the following, with bishops Aloisio Riccio and Edward Fitzgerald dissenting:

“ We teach and define that it is a dogma Divinely revealed that the Roman pontiff when he speaks ex cathedra, that is when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, by the Divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed that his Church should be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith or morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves and not from the consent of the Church irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema. (see Denziger §1839).”
— Vatican Council, Sess. IV , Const. de Ecclesiâ Christi, Chapter iv
Lord Acton, a leading Roman Catholic 19th century British historian, who succeeded Newman as the editor of the Catholic periodical The Rambler, is famous for his axiom, that "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. . . There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it", which he made in a letter to the Anglican Bishop of London, Mandell Creighton, specifically in reference to his opposition to the definition of papal infallibility.

So Showtime's Borjas is perhaps the best example of Lord Acton's most famous words.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


  1. The only god is money.

  2. Greed and power are the root of all evil. What is shocking is that the institution of the catholic church has held up as long as it has. It has taken the rapes of thousands of little boys to help finally show what a hoax the whole church has been.

  3. What goes on behind the walls of The Vatican in present day is every bit as scandalous and corrupt as it was depicted in this TV series. Popes, from their inception are liars that perpetrate fraud and crime. Their word is not the word of god. They know god is not speaking to them. There is no god. If they are hearing voices then they are insane.

    1. And how do you know there is no god? Have u ever died? Believe what you want but do not tell people that their beliefs are wrong when you have not a single fact to back it up. People forget evolution is just as much a theory then any other idea of where we came from.

    2. And how do you know there is no god? Have u ever died? Believe what you want but do not tell people that their beliefs are wrong when you have not a single fact to back it up. People forget evolution is just as much a theory then any other idea of where we came from.

  4. The show opened with text on the screen saying, " Popes had the power to give and take away crowns from Kings." Scary. But then the whole notion of royalty is just as scary.

    The opulence in which the church officials live is so ironic to their message. God wants them to not have sex but he gives them the OK to wear dresses and sit around getting drunk at larger dinner parties for men, where they eat pigs and animals like gluttonous fat fucks? Damn religion. It should be taken down with the dictators.

    janeane garofalo

  5. Amazing show! I loved it. Sarah

  6. The catholic church is a joke. There are some stupid humans out there.

    This show wonderfully illustrates how absurd and evil the church is.

    A cult would be a nice name for the church.

  7. This show is so well done. Jeremy Irons delivers once again. Is the woman playing his mistress the actress from Mulholland Drive?

  8. what is funny is church goers think things have become less corrupt. I think they have only gotten worse over tome. The child sex scandals would certainly prove that. Why is the Vatican not investigated in a much larger way? Why are they able to get away with all they do? Who do they answer to?