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January 17, 2009
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

  The column of lasting insignificance
     


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 



January 17, 2009

[the columns that follow were posted here in January 2007]

THE WILCOCK WEB: In an innovative experiment ostensibly to examine the role of genes, researchers at the University of Buffalo used a laser to install a fluorescent advertising logo on the wings of a butterfly…..After a spate of “fratricidal incidents”, the Indian army has enlisted yoga instructors in an attempt to bring down stress levels in its ranks…..“Wrongly translated or bizarre” English is so common on Shenzhen street signs that the local newspaper has launched a “spot the errors” contest….. Thailand’s zoo has found an eager market for the bookmarks, paper fans, key chains and notebooks crafted from the poo of its two pandas…. Russia is planning to erect a statue of Sherlock Holmes… Rotterdam’s new sustainable Dance Club will feature rainwater toilets, “biological beer” and a dance floor whose surface contains crystals that generate electricity when trodden or danced upon…. A study in which CFO  magazine asked air travelers for their biggest complaints found 75% listed cramped seating….After yet another gibe from the British press about the expected influx of immigrants when Romania joins the EU next month, the country’s biggest paper, Libertea, fired back by accusing the Brits of exporting “pedophilia, drunkenness and hooliganism… Undeterred by the weak dollar, affluent American tourists are still flooding into London prompting the flagship of the Inter-Continental chain to charge $9,000 a night for the best suites in its newly refurbished hotel….. “No one traveling on a business trip would be missed if he failed to arrive”-- Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929)

Finally bowing to international pressure, China has agreed to ban transplant tourism—the practice of selling rich Westerners organs harvested from executed prisoners….Calling it “a disgusting cruel and unregulated business:, animal rights organizations claim that as many as two million cats and dogs are slaughtered in China each year to provide furs for coats, boot linings and toys…. The British condom company Durex has created a new condom to contain Zanifil, a Viagra-like chemical that is rubbed directly onto the penis….“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” runs the adage known as Hanlon’s Razor….Saudi Arabia claims it spends $800million a year treating smoking-related diseases (with 22,000 deaths) and has threatened to sue the tobacco companies unless they pay the bill in future ….Using plastic resin instead of wood pulp for the pages, London publisher Charles Melcher will produce a series of waterproof books for reading in the bath or at the beach….Some Brazilians have launched an internet campaign to boycott the movie Turistas in which a group of young travelers to that country are pursued “by a gang seeking to harvest their organs” …. Overwhelmed by road-clogging traffic congestion, Taiwan is investigating a plan to integrate cell phone users into a system that would charge tolls whenever a driver crosses into a region away from his home area….If hydrogen can so easily be extracted from water (H20) why can’t supplies of hydrogen and oxygen be delivered to barren regions to make water?….The only existing first copy of the Los Angeles Times (Dec 4, 1881) will be on show at the Huntington Library’s exhibition from Feb 4 to June celebrating the paper’s 125th anniversary…. The Hackett Group, a business advisory firm, says that if Fortune 500 companies sent many of their back office activities offshore they could save a combined $58 billion a year—with the attendant loss of 1.47 million U.S. jobs….“Behind every great fortune is a great crime” -- Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850).

all about the Popes

By and large, the late John Paul II got pretty good reviews and it may be still too early to assess Benedict XVI. But what of their 263 predecessors? How do they measure up? After thoroughly researching them via 50 reference works my conclusion is that they’re comparable with pretty much any random collection of powerful men selected from 2,000 years of our Christian era. Which is to say that they included both saints and sinners, with some at the extreme of both categories.

     Last year I paid Xlibris to publish my book, Popes & Anti-Popes and next week the entire book will be posted on my website (www.ojaiorange.com) for anybody to access without charge. The complete book can be ordered by clicking on the bookstore section at Xlibris.com. The ISBN number is 1-4134-8122-1.

     For centuries the Pope was numero uno in the Western world, the arbiter of whether or not the life you were leading deserved to end up above or below—a matter of grave concern to religious folk (which is to say almost everybody) at the time.

     Domination of the papacy and the election of popes by autocratic Roman families was a feature of the 10th and 11th centuries, a period of suspicious and mysterious papal deaths. Between 890 and 931,  a dozen popes died suddenly, half of them of suspected poisonings.

     First, the “good” guys, beginning with St Gregory II, a blacksmith’s son who became a Benedictine monk and was described by the Oxford Dictionary of Popes as “one of the most impressive figures of the medieval world”. After King Henry IV tried to depose him, Gregory declared that ”the devil has invented the monarchy” and excommunicated him. The king came humbly to apologize. This battle between the spiritual and the secular lasted for centuries, power see-sawing between pope and king.

     According to Edward Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Innocent II (1198-1216) “exercised a despotic command over emperors and kings whom he raised and deposed”. Crowning Germany’s Otto IV as emperor he boasted that ”the priesthood is as much superior to royalty as the soul is to the body”.

    This was echoed by Boniface VIII (1294-1303) who declared “it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff” (France’s King Phillip responded by calling him “an arrant blockhead”, maxima tua fatuitas).

    An earlier Gregory (“the Great”) who had left his aristocratic family to join a monastery financed by the sale of his ancestral home, battled with Emperor Leo III for whom he had scant regard. “We can only address you in rough and uneducated style” he sneered, “because you yourself are rough and uneducated”.

     But, of course, as history instructs us, for every Gregory XVI (1831-46) who renounced slavery as “unworthy of Christians”, and Benedict XIV (1740-58), a skilled diplomat who was much admired by Voltaire, there were some real rogues.

     John XII (955-64) lived surrounded by slaves and eunuchs, made a 10-year-old boy a bishop, died in the home of his married lover and was tagged “a Christian Caligula”.

     Benedict IX was 12 years old when elected in 1032 by a prominent aristocrat.  The Oxford Dictionary of Popes calls his life “scandalously violent and dissolute”. Forced out of office at 25, he was back in two months and alleged to have turned the Lateran Palace into a brothel. After two intervening popes, he returned for a third time following Clement II who died of poisoning. This time, Benedict lasted one year, evicted by the emperor and retiring to a monastery where he died aged 35.

     The young Cardinal Roderigo Borgia, then 29, was rebuked by Pius II (1458-64) for an orgy in Siena. “Shame forbids mention of all that took place…a cardinal should be above reproach", boomed Pius. Twenty-eight years later, after buying votes, Borgia became Pope Alexander VI, who declared: “The pope is as far superior to a king as a man is to an animal”. He produced five children with his mistress Vanozza Catanei, one of whom was Lucretia Borgia. The Dominican monk Savronola outraged, tried to persuade France’s King Charles II to invade Rome, where he said the clergy was “steeped in shameful vices”. The pope excommunicated Savronola who was subsequently tortured and hanged.

     Formosus (891-906) was so hated by his enemies that nine months after his death, Pope Stephen VI, had him exhumed, dressed in papal clothes, tried and flung into the River Tiber. Overthrown the following year, Stephen was imprisoned and strangled in jail.

     So, in my Popes and Anti-Popes, a useful reference work, there are a few surprises. By the way, that rumor about a legendary Pope Joan dates from an anonymous Dominican chronicle (1250) and which historian Eamon Duffy says was to “prove a godsend to enemies of the papacy” was just that, a rumor.

           [John Wilcock is currently cruising through the Panama Canal]

1/3/09

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