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Simon Napier-Bell

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Popes And Vile Tongues

Posted: 18/01/12 00:00

Last week, the odious piety of Pope Benedict was again on display as he canted about the evils of homosexuality. While addressing the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, he said gay marriage could undermine "the future of humanity itself".

No mention of the world's one billion condom-less Catholic willies ejaculating day in day out, doing their bit to over-populate the planet, surely a greater threat to man's survival than a few gay couples affirming their love for one another through marriage.

What really undermines "the future of humanity itself" is to have a dogmatic bigot like Pope Benedict in a position of such influence. Currently, five Muslim men are on trial in Britain for distributing anti-gay leaflets. Their thoughts on homosexuality, though expressed in different words, were in much the same tenor as the Pope's - "a threat to the future of humanity". They'll probably end up in jail. Whereas Pope Benedict will continue his life in the Vatican, visited by world leaders besotted, if not with his faith, at least with his position of power.

But what a pathetic picture of power he presents - a tarted-up relic shuffling around in Prada shoes mumbling homophobic dogma. Whatever happened to the great popes of the past? To magnificent corruption? To masterful intrigue? When popes received respect simply for the scale of their excesses. Like Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope.

Born in Spain in 1431, Rodrigo Llancol adopted his mother's family name of Borja before moving to Italy to study law. Afterwards, he went into the church and by the age of 61 had become Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia. When Pope Innocent VIII died, Borgia bought the votes of the other Cardinals with "four mule-loads of silver" and became Pope Alexander VI.

The new Pope entered into European power games with aplomb. To assure the ascendancy of the Borgia family, he bribed princes, blackmailed kings and appointed his illegitimate children to positions of power in Spain and Italy. He was also a dab hand at murder.

Vatican noblemen who became too wealthy were killed and their money confiscated. The Pope's preferred weapon of assassination was a golden goblet with a concealed cavity for arsenic that was mixed with the wine at the appropriate moment. But when he wasn't killing people or stealing their money, the Pope's big thing was to party.

His fancy-dress balls at the Vatican were the rage of Rome. One of them, The Ballet of the Chestnuts, was recorded by the diarist Johann Burchard....

"Once the dishes had been cleared after the banquet, fifty of the city's most beautiful whores danced with the guests, first clothed, then naked, with the Pope and two of his children watching from the best seats. Guests stripped and ran onto the floor where they mounted, or were mounted by, the whores, the coupling taking place in front of everyone present. The servants kept score of each man's orgasms because the Pope admired virility and measured a man's machismo by his capacity to ejaculate. When everyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed the prizes, the winners being those who'd made love with the whores the greatest number of times."

I've got to say, if Pope Benedict threw birthday bashes like that, I could almost forgive his bigotry. It would be such splendid hypocrisy. But because he prefers to pontificate about the evils of gays getting married, I can't help but wish on him the sort of ending that befell the Borgia Pope.

With his son Cesare, Pope Alexander went to dinner with Cardinal Adriano da Corneto, intending to poison him. But somehow the goblets got muddled and the Pope drank from the wrong one.

According to Burchard's diary, Pope Alexander's stomach became swollen and turned to liquid, his face became wine-colored, his skin began to peel off, and his bowels bled profusely. After a week of convulsions, he died, aged 72.

The Venetian ambassador reported that the Pope's corpse was "the ugliest, most monstrous and horrible dead body that was ever seen, without any form or likeness of humanity".

In his diary, Buchard describes how, when malodorous gases started emanating from its every orifice, he had to jump on the bloated body to force it into its coffin, then threw some old carpet over the top to keep the smell in.

"The tongue," he wrote, "had bent over in the mouth, completely double...so ghastly that people who saw it said they had never seen anything like it before."

So, beware Pope Benedict!

God may love gays more than you think. In fact, at this very minute he could be planning a similar fate for your own vile tongue.