On New Year’s Day 1965, hundreds of gay San Franciscans arrived at 625 Polk Street in the city’s Tenderloin district for a much-anticipated “Mardi Gras Ball.”
The event organized by gay rights — or, to use the then-common term, homophile — activists was not unlike the thousands of public parties being held this June during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month: There were drinks and music, hand-holding, flirtatious glances and kisses between friends old and new. But it was also a private affair — $5 tickets had to be bought ahead of time — in a city where gay people regularly faced threats and arrests for gathering together and showing affection.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the San Francisco ball, however, was its purpose beyond merriment: It was held as a fundraiser for pro-gay clergy.
Today, although Americans for and against gay rights cite their religious beliefs, those who oppose same-sex marriage and other civil rights for LGBT individuals have been especially vocal in declaring that God is on their side. That’s not always been the expectation about the faithful. In the mid-1960s, LGBT activists often looked to men of the cloth as allies in their fight for justice and human rights, according to historians.
Just months before the ball, about two dozen Bay Area Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and United Church of Christ clergy and gay activists had formed the Council on Religion and the Homosexual to promote the “need for a better understanding of human sexuality” and its “broad variations and manifestations.”
Clergy and lawyers for the group had negotiated with police — who had a habit of shutting down LGBT events — to let the dance go forward. But according to contemporary newspaper articles, police still showed up that night, taking pictures of those entering as an intimidation tactic. When the cops demanded to get inside, the lawyers reportedly blocked them. Six people ended up in jail for interfering with the police and disorderly conduct.
The clergy fought back with a press conference the next day. “Angry Ministers Rip Police,” said a front-page headline in the San Francisco Chronicle below a picture of men in clerical collars. The clash mobilized both the city’s gay community and the pastors. The American Civil Liberties Union brought a lawsuit over the arrests — the first time the ACLU had joined a legal battle over gay rights, according to the LGBT Religious Archives Network.
“That was years before the 1969 Stonewall riots, which is popularly considered the beginning of the gay rights movement,” said Heather White, a visiting assistant professor of religion at the New College of Florida who has spent years combing through LGBT archives for an upcoming book, tentatively titled Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights. “And that’s just one of the best-known stories. There were Councils on Religion and Homosexuality and similar groups in D.C., Pennsylvania, Ottawa, Hawaii.”
White is among a growing group of scholars who have been working to uncover the broad — and for many, surprising — history of religious gay rights activism. The LGBT Religious Archives Network has documented hundreds of stories like that of the San Francisco clergy since it was founded 13 years ago at the United Church of Christ-affiliated Chicago Theological Seminary. The organization is now based in Berkeley, California, at the Pacific School of Religion’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.
The network’s website offers a series of profiles of and oral history interviews with Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Pagan LGBT clergy and religious activists, living and dead. Online exhibits cover topics ranging from the Council on Religion and the Homosexual to the 1973 UpStairs Lounge fire in New Orleans, an anti-gay arson incident that killed 32 people, including many members of the city’s gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church, to New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which launched in 1973 and calls itself the world’s largest gay synagogue. The network also holds archives on the lives of people like William R. Johnson, who in 1972, as a member of the Golden Gate Association of the United Church of Christ, became the first gay American Protestant to be ordained.
White, who sits on the network’s advisory committee, said expectations about how religion would view gay rights began to change after the 1960s.
“What we know of the face of religion and gay rights has been shaped by a shift that occurred in the 1970s with the rise of conservative Christianity. It’s a consolidated political force that wasn’t in place before then. There were certainly conservative people and religious people who were involved in politics, but in the 1950s and 1960s, homophile organizations saw religious leaders as likely allies,” said White. “That is less of the case today, though things are changing.”
A Pew Research Center survey, released Thursday, found that 62 percent of Americans now say homosexuality should be accepted, rather than discouraged, by society. But clear lines still divide religious Americans when it comes to gay rights, especially same-sex marriage. Polls show that white evangelicals tend to strongly oppose gay marriage. The nation’s largest churches — including the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — officially do not support same-sex marriage.
On the other hand, Catholic Americans as individuals tend to be supportive of gay marriage. And several denominations — including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, and both Reform and Conservative Jews — allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages or blessings.
Some of the biggest gay rights activists and organizations started their work in churches,” said Bernard Schlager, executive director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry and an associate professor of cultural and historical studies as the Pacific School of Religion.
He pointed to the Metropolitan Community Church, which gay rights activist Troy Perry launched in Los Angeles in 1968 to cater to gay people. The relatively small church has 222 congregations worldwide today, but Schlager said its influence was “monumental” in pro-LGBT Protestant movements. Another noted gay rights group, PFLAG — formerly known as Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays — had its first meeting in 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in New York City’s Greenwich Village (now called the Church of the Village).
Schlager suggested that the widespread, if inaccurate, perception of religion firmly opposing gay rights is also shifting. “It’s come to the point that sometimes people today say it’s more difficult to come out as a person of faith than it is to come out as LGBT in religious circles,” he said.
Melissa Wilcox, an associate professor of religion and gender studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, shared a similar view.
“With the increasing visibility of the marriage rights movement, we have started to see LGBT-supportive groups [within religious communities] being able to get their message out more clearly. That’s a battle for them, but many have been there all along,” said Wilcox, who also sits on the LGBT Religious Archives Network’s advisory committee.
After decades of church activism, for example, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly last week voted to allow its pastors to officiate gay marriages in states where they are legal. The church’s presbyteries, or regional bodies, are also scheduled to vote on whether to change the definition of marriage to cover “two people,” rather than only a man and a woman.
“A lot of people are still wary of anything you’d call religion. A lot of people have been burned,” said Wilcox. “But there’s a rich history out there of gay religious activism for us to appreciate and uphold.”
If you enjoyed the BBC series Taboo – you’re probably wondering what London was really like at that time.
That violent drama is set in 1814, the late Georgian period, and as luck would have it, I own several guides to London from the first two decades of the nineteenth century. One from 1804 is especially descriptive and I’ll quote liberally below.
These books were intended to guide a visitor around the city taking in places of interest, like a prison for example or a mental asylum. Yep, you really could pay to go and gawp at criminals and the insane. So – here’s a selection of oddities from the period of Taboo.
Visiting a prison:You’ve arrived in London and wondering what to go and see. How about a prison? You could pop along to Newgate prison – where the Old Bailey now stands – and pay the “turnkey” two or three shillings to go in and stare at the unfortunates behind bars. One guide I have to London laments the overcrowded part of the prison for debtors, who were treated worse than thieves and other felons. Those who were condemned to death were normally held in irons, which must have been a thrilling sight for the Georgian tourist!
something to see in London!
3. Then watch a public execution: My 1804 guide bemoans the attitude of Londoners to the growing number of executions. They’d become quite indifferent to them! “Among the many nuisances which disgrace the metropolis, there is not perhaps one which excites more horror than the frequency of public executions. The numbers of unhappy culprits that annually forfeit their existence by violation of the laws, afford sufficient proofs that an ignominious death is no longer our safeguard. Six, eight and ten criminals executed in the public streets, even in the heart of the metropolis, in the broad light of day, before the eyes of the multitude, scarcely excite emotion.”
4. You’re a victim of crime during your visit to London:There’s no police force at the time of Taboo so having been robbed, beaten up or defrauded by a fortune teller – you could take your case to one of the places where magistrates were in session every day of the week like the Mansion House, Bow Street, Hatton Garden or Guildhall. In a “summary way” they would deal with everything from murder to “disorderly houses”, “persons of ill fame found in avenues to public places with an intent to rob” and “vagabonds”.
5. Pop into a workhouse:In the early 1800s, Dr Hooper was the resident doctor at the St Mary-le-bone Workhouse and was happy to show any gentleman round if they were interested. There was also the St Martin’s Workshouse in Castle Street, near Leicester Square (roughly corresponding to the National Portrait Gallery). In my 1804 guide to London, it’s pointed out that one of the inmates was 104 years old! If you made a proper application to the master of the house or the churchwardens they were prepared to “readily gratify the curious”.. Strange entertainments:Like today, Londoners loved the theatre. Some of it was very bawdy while other houses put on fine operas and plays. Then there was just the plain bizarre. For example, Mr Cartwright could be found at the Lyceum putting on a display of “philosophical fireworks” while Miss Cartwright played the musical glasses. In the absence of movies, you could also go and watch The Phantasmagoria – also at the Lyceum. Basically, images projected on to a screen from a “magic lantern”. No CGI I’m afraid.
6. Strange entertainments:Like today, Londoners loved the theatre. Some of it was very bawdy while other houses put on fine operas and plays. Then there was just the plain bizarre. For example, Mr Cartwright could be found at the Lyceum putting on a display of “philosophical fireworks” while Miss Cartwright played the musical glasses. In the absence of movies, you could also go and watch The Phantasmagoria – also at the Lyceum. Basically, images projected on to a screen from a “magic lantern”. No CGI I’m afraid.
7. Watch a medical operation: If your day in London had proved to be rather dull, it could be enlivened by going to watch a medical operation. The operating table at Guy’s Hospital was circled by viewing galleries where students and the curious could breathe their germs down on the poor afflicted patient. Amputations normally resulted in death due to infection but the removal of kidney stones through the urethra (I’m crossing my legs just thinking of it) had an excellent survival rate
8. Moral societies for bettering Londoners:If you were aghast at the depraved ways of Georgian London, you could join a society to improve things. In one guide to London I own the author recommends The Society for giving effect to His Majesty’s Proclamation against Vice and Immorality founded in 1787. There was also The Society for Promoting Religious Knowledge by distributing books among the Poor and The Society for Preventing Crimes by prosecuting Swindlers, Sharpers and Cheats, based in the Strand.
9. Observe the diseases killing Londoners: In 1802, Londoners died of an interesting variety of ailments. Nearly six thousand had perished before reaching two years of age; 266 died of apoplexy; 3,503 died of “convulsions”; 559 were spirited away by measles; 1,579 succumbed to small-pox and 107 died of the condition that hit heavy drinkers of port wine – gout.
10. Cheer the chimney sweeps!: Children were still being sent up chimneys at this time. And there were plenty of chimneys to clean with most houses using filthy fossil fuels. There was a growing awareness that this was a terrible thing to do to young kids but nobody seemed to have come up with an alternative. Still, once a year, the chimney sweeps of London – on MayDay – dressed up in their finery (whatever that amounted to) and paraded through the streets to the cheers of London’s citizens. Only to be sent back up the chimneys the following day.
ONE Inc.’s Articles of Incorporation were signed on Nov. 15, 1952 and were signed by “Tony Sanchez” (a pseudonym), Martin Block, andDale Jennings. Other founders were Merton Bird,W. Dorr Legg, Don Slater, and Chuck Rowland. Jennings and Rowland were also Mattachine Society founders.
In January1953ONE, Inc. began publishingONE Magazine, the first U.S. pro-gay publication, and sold it openly on the streets of Los Angeles. In October1954the U.S. Postal Service declared the magazine ‘obscene’. ONE sued, and finally won in1958, as part of the landmarkFirst Amendmentcase,Roth v. United States.The magazine continued until1967.
ONE also publishedONE Institute Quarterly(now theJournal of Homosexuality). It began to run symposia, and contributed greatly to scholarship on the subject of same-sex love (then called ‘homophilestudies’).
ONE readily admitted women, and Joan Corbin (as Eve Elloree), Irma Wolf (as Ann Carrl Reid), Stella Rush (as Sten Russell), Helen Sandoz (as Helen Sanders), and Betty Perdue (as Geraldine Jackson) were vital to its early success. ONE and Mattachine in turn provided vital help to theDaughters of Bilitisin the launching of their newsletterThe Ladder (Magazine)in1956. The Daughters of Bilitis was the counterpart lesbian organisation to the Mattachine Society, and the organisations worked together on some campaigns and ran lecture-series. Bilitis came under attack in the early 1970s for ‘siding’ with Mattachine and ONE, rather than with the new separatist feminists.
In 1965, ONE separated over irreconcilable differences between ONE’s business manager Dorr Legg andONE Magazineeditor Don Slater. After a two-year court battle, Dorr Legg’s faction retained the name “ONE, Inc.” and Don Slater’s faction retained most of the corporate library and archives. In 1968, Slater’s faction became theHomosexual Information Centeror HIC, a non-profit corporation that survives today.
In 1996, ONE, Inc. merged with ISHR, theInstitute for the Study of Human Resources, a non-profit organization created by transgendered philanthropist Reed Erickson, with ISHR being the surviving organization and ONE being the merging corporation. In 2005, the HIC donated many of its historic materials, including most of ONE Incorporated’s Blanche M. Baker Memorial Library, to theVern and Bonnie Bullough Collection on Sex and Gender, a special collection within Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge.
A Timeline History of ONE, Incorporated 1947–1967
This timeline links to several primary documents, such as court records, corporate minutes, letters of resignation, and correspondence between several of the pioneers of the early movement for homosexual rights in the United States. It ends in 1967 after the division of ONE, Inc. was finalized after a grueling two-year court battle.
White’s book Pre-Gay L.A.: A Social History for the Movement for Homosexual Rights, published by the University of Illinois Press in May of 2009, discusses many of the documents linked to this page.
June:Edythe EydepublishesVice Versa: America’s Gayest Magazine, the first regularly published newsletter in the United States dedicated to homosexual issues. The newsletter was typewritten at her employer’s, RKO Studios in Los Angeles. Eyde distributed 16 copies to friends such as Jim Kepner between June 1947 and February 1948. Eyde later became know to readers ofThe Ladderthrough her pen-name, “Lisa Ben,” an anagram for Lesbian.
Note: The HIC secured official right to use Eyde’s true name in print, in the summer of 2015.
Alfred Kinsey et al.’sSexual Behavior in the Human Maleis published, asserting that one in three American males had experienced some form of homosexual encounter in their lifetime and that between four and eight percent were exclusively homosexual.
February: final (ninth) issue ofVice Versadistributed.
August: Harry Hay attends a beer bust near the University of Southern California campus, where the idea is sprung to start a political organization called “Bachelors for Wallace.” Upon returning home that night, Hay began his first draft of a prospectus to form an organization dedicated to the welfare of homosexuals.
Publication of Nial Kent’sThe Divided Path.
Physique Pictorialmagazine is first published, by Bob Mizer.
(Future activist) Betty Berzon moves to Los Angeles.
President Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10450, citing “sexual perversions” as reasons for preventing homosexuals from being employed by the federal government.
Nov 11:Harry Hay, Rudy Gernreich, Chuck Rowland,Dale Jennings, andBob Hullmeet at Hay’s home in Silver Lake to discuss his Preliminary Concepts for unifying homosexuals into social action. The group meet again two days later, on Nov. 13th.
Dec: A Senate subcommittee issues a report stating that homosexuals working within the Federal government could be considered a threat to national security.
Dec. 11: First organized discussion group of Hay’s secret society, which would later become known as Mattachine.
Jim Kepnermoves to 2141 Baxter Street in Echo Park, where he is to reside for the next 21 years.
Donald Webster Cory’sThe Homosexual in America—A Subjective Approachis published by Greenberg.
Fritz Peters’s novelFinistèreis published by Farrar, Straus & Company.
April: Lovers Konrad Stevens and James Gruber (christened collectively as “Stim” byDale Jennings) join Harry Hay’s “Society of Fools.” The organization decides to call itself “Mattachine.” First Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are written.
June: Dorr Legg (known as Bill Lambert), Merton Bird, and others found Knights of the Clocks, an organization of interracial homosexuals.
July 20: Missions and Purposes of the Mattachine Society are ratified.
UCLA psychologistEvelyn Hookercontacts Mattachine in search of subjects for her study of differences between male homosexuals and heterosexuals.
January: Premier Issue ofONE Magazine, edited byMartin Block,Dale Jennings, andDon Slater, withWilliam Lambertas Business Manager andDonald Webster Coryas Contributing Editor.
Jim Kepnerattends his first Mattachine meeting by invitation of his friendBetty Perdue.
February 7 [Sa]:ONE, Incorporated’s Articles of Incorporationfiled with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, CA, signed byMartin Block,Dale Jennings, andTony Reyes, the First Directors of ONE, Inc. Also on this day: aBusiness Meeting
March 21 [Sa]:Business Meeting
April 11–12 [Sa–Su]: Mattachine Conference to create a new constitution.
Spring: Irma “Corky” Wolf, known in print as “Ann Carl Reid,” begins working for ONE, Inc.
May 27 [We]: ONE, Incorporated’s Charter Granted by the State of California.
June:Martin Blockresigns as editor ofONEmagazine;Dale Jenningstakes over.
June 7 [Su]:Business Meeting
August: An issue ofONEmagazine dealing with homosexual marriage is confiscated by the Los Angeles Postmaster.
AttorneyEric Julberlater secures the magazine’s release.
Sept:ONE is first distributed in New York City.
October 16 [Fr]:By-Laws for ONE, Incorporated are filed with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, California.
Nov. 1 [Su]:First Official Board Meeting for ONE, Incorporated.Martin Blockis elected Chair,Tony Reyes Vice Chair, andDale Jennings becomes the Secretary-Treasurer.
The cover of the November issue ofONEreads “The Homosexual Magazine” for the first time.
By year’s end, Mattachine-like discussion groups are being held throughout Los Angeles and in Long Beach, Laguna Beach, Fresno, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Chicago.
January 22 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting.
The Board of Directors of ONE, Incorporated electWilliam Lambertas Chairman,Irma Wolfas vice-Chairman, andDale Jenningsas Secretary-Treasurer, each to serve a three-year term.
Feb.:Dale Jenningsresigns as editor ofONE.Irma Wolfis recruited to the editorial board.
March 31 [We]:Don Slaterbecomes interim director of ONE, Inc. Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” publishes his first article inONE,“The Importance of Being Different.”
May:Jim Kepner, as “Lyn Pedersen,” becomes a member of the Editorial Staff forONE,replacing Ben Tabor.
ONE Inc. begins its ONE Institute of Homophile Studies program, lead byJim Kepner,Merritt Thompson, andW. Dorr Legg. This is the first educational institution in the United States dedicated to the study of homosexuality.
ONE Confidentiallaunched and distributed to the Friends of ONE in response to the onslaught of mail and increased public attention.
ONE, Incorporated’s Publications Division publishesHomosexuals Today: A Handbook of Organizations & Publications,withWilliam Lambert[Marvin Cutler], as Editor.
Jim Kepnercontributes over 400 books to ONE Incorporated’s library, more than doubling the size of the collection.Don Slaterbecomes ONE’s first librarian.
Jan. 27–29: Second annual Midwinter Institute.Harry Hayis a featured speaker.
March 1 [Th]:Chuck Rowlandresigns from ONE’s Social Services Division.
Irma “Corky” Wolf, as “Ann Carll Reid,” is promoted to Editor ofONE Magazine.
U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke rules that the October 1954 issue ofONE Magazinehad contained “filthy and obscene material obviously calculated to stimulate the lust of the homosexual reader” and was thus unmailable. ONE’s attorneyEric Julberappeals.
The Wolfenden Reportis published, recommending that homosexuality be decriminalized in England.
Harry Benjamincoins the word “transsexual.”
A Navy committee investigating homosexuals in the military publishesThe Crittenden Report,stating that there was no legitimate basis for excluding homosexuals from the armed forces.
Federal government astronomerFrank Kamenyis fired for being a homosexual.
UCLA PsychologistEvelyn Hookerpublishes a study proclaiming that homosexual men are just as well adjusted as heterosexual men.
Jan. 25–27: Third annual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual Answers His Critics.” Harry Haypresents a paper titled “The Homophile in Search of an Historical Context and Cultural Continuity.”
Dale Jennings, as Jeff Winters, again appears inONEmagazine,as author of the short story “The Little Guy.”
March: California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Barnes, Hamley, and Ross uphold Judge Clarke’s ruling from a year prior that the October 1954 issue ofONEwas obscene and thus not mailable. Julber decides to appeal.
June 24 [Mon]: Supreme Court rules in Roth vs. United States that “obscenity” is not protected by the First Amendment and that “The standard for judging obscenity…is whether, to the average person…the dominant theme of the material, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests.”
Summer: “The Homosexual Viewpoint” first printed on the cover ofONEmagazine.
Oct. 17 [Th]:Irma “Corky” Wolfresigns as Editor ofONEdue to health issues and continued conflicts with W. Dorr Legg[William Lambert].
Barbara Gittingsfounds a Daughters of Bilitis chapter in New York.
Jan. 13 [Mo]: The United States Supreme Court rules that the October 1954 issue ofONE Magazinewas not obscene and should be protected as an exercise of free speech. The court battle between ONE Inc. and Los Angeles PostmasterOtto Olesonis over.
Jan. 31 [Fr]: Annual Business Meeting.Don Slaterelected a Director to fill the unexpired two-year term ofAnn Carll Reid.
Jan. 31–Feb. 2: 4th annual Midwinter Institute. Theme: Homosexuality: A Way of Life.
June 6 [Fr]:ONE Institute Quarterly for Homophile Studiesfirst published, byW. Dorr Legg,Merritt M. Thompson, andJim Kepner.
Jan. 29–31: 5thannual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: Mental Health and Homosexuality.
Sept. 4–7: 6thannual Mattachine Convention in Denver. Theme: New Frontiers in Acceptance of the Homophile.Jim Kepneris a featured speaker.Billy Gloverattends and decides to work for the movement.
Late December:Jim SchneidercontactsDon Slaterat ONE’s offices in downtown Los Angeles and becomes an active volunteer for the organization.
Jan. 29–31: ONE’s 6thannual Midwinter Institute.
Theme: “The Homosexual in the Community.”
Feb. 2: [Mon]: Board of Directors Meeting. Jim Kepneris elected Chairman,Don SlaterVice Chairman, andWilliam LambertSecretary-Treasurer.
Nov. 1 [Tue]:Jim Kepner’s letter explaining his resignation to the Members of ONE, Inc.
Nov. 15 [Sat]: Date ofJim Kepner’ssecond letter of resignationfrom ONE, Incorporated, and from the editorial board ofONEmagazine.Ross Ingersoll takes his place.
Wayne Placek introducesJoseph HansentoDon Slater, to see if Slater would publish one of Hansen’s poems or short stories.
San Francisco drag artistJosé Sarriabecomes the first openly gay person to run for political office in the nation.
Jan. 28–29: 7thAnnual Midwinter Institute and “Bill of Rights” fiasco.
Jan. 27 [Fr]:Fred Frisbie(known as “George Mortenson”) becomes a director of ONE, Incorporated, replacingJim Kepner, who had resigned the prior November.
Jan. 28 [Sa]:Frank Kamenywrites to ONE, Inc. advising them of the Writ of Certiorari he had filed with the Supreme Court the day before.
July 12 [We]:Stella Rush, known as “Sten Russell,” resigns fromONEmagazine’s editorial board in a phone conversation withDon Slater.
Dec. 11: Psychologist and long-time friend of ONEBlanche M. Bakerdies.
Joseph Hansenjoins ONE’s Editorial Board.
Jan. 26 [Fr]: 10thAnnual Business Meeting for ONE, Incorporated.Fred Frisbie(known as “George Mortenson”) becomes ONE’s Chairman.Don Slateris elected Vice-chair andW. Dorr Leggbecomes Secretary/Treasurer. ActorMorgan Farleyis elected to membership.
Jan. 26–28: 8thAnnual Midwinter Institute.Harry Hayis an honored speaker.
March:Joseph Hansenmakes his debut inONE.
May 1: ONE, Inc., moves to Venice Blvd. after being evicted from its Hill Street office due to earthquake retrofitting. Actor Morgan Farleyhelps to secure the new office for ONE Inc.
John Rechy’s novelCity of Nightpublished by Grove Press.
The Society for Individual Rights [SIR] founded in San Francisco to help organize the gay community.
In Britain, a group of Quakers publish a pamphlet titledToward a Quaker View of Sexthat argued that society “should no more deplore homosexuality than lefthandedness.”
Jan. 25–27 [Fr–Su]: 9thAnnual Midwinter Institute
Jan. 25 [Fr]: ONE Inc.’s Annual Meeting.Monwell Boyfrankbecomes a director.
Feb. 1 [Fr]: ONE’s election of officers.Joseph Aaronis elected Chairman.W. Dorr Leggis elected Vice-chairman, andMonwell Boyfrankbecomes Secretary/Treasurer.
Feb. 11 [Mo]: Spring semester begins at ONE Institute for Homophile Studies.
May:Harry Haymoves in withJim Kepnerin Echo Park. (They had started dating earlier in the year.
May 31 [Fri]: Joseph Arron resigns as Chair of ONE Incorporated’s Promotions Committee.Jim Schneideris installed in his place.
July 28 [Sun]:Joan Corbin, known as “Eve Elloree,” is dropped from corporate membership due to poor attendance.
Sept:Harry HaymeetsJohn Burnsideand the two begin living together two months later. Hay and Burnside remain lovers until Hay’s death on Oct. 24, 2002.
Nov. 12 [Tue]: Corporate meeting. ONE, Inc. becomes divided over who should be elected into membership at the next annual meeting in January. Slater, Reyes, and Steinert favor electingBilly Gloverto corporate membership; Lambert, Aaron, and Boyfrank reject Glover in favor of others. It is decided to submit the names ofHarry Hay,John Burnside, andBilly Gloveras candidates.
Nov. 22 [Fri]: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas.Billy GlovermeetsMelvin Cainlater that afternoon, and they become lovers and friends.
Joseph Hansen, as “James Colton,” publishes his first novel,Lost on Twilight Road.
Jan. 15:Monwell Boyfranksubmits a formal letter of resignation, due to health reasons, at a board meeting chaired byBill Lambert.Jim Schneiderelected to Board of Directors of ONE, Inc.
Jan. 25 and 26: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting, chaired byJoe Weaver(a.k.a. Joseph Aaron).Manuel Boyfrankwas Secretary. Other members present:Antonio Reyes, Rudolf Steinert (“Stuart”),Bill Lambert, andDon Slater.Harry HayandJohn Burnsideare elected to serve as Directors then resign shortly after due to a conflict over whether or not to elect Billy Glover as a director.
Don Slater’s account of the 1964, 1965 Elections at ONE, Incorporated.
June 26: ONE, Inc., is featured in aLifemagazine article titled “Homosexuality in America.”
June 28: Erickson Educational Foundation founded by Reed Erickson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
July 4: Louisiana millionaire Reed Erickson contacts ONE Inc. to offer financial assistance to the organization.
August 15th:Monwell Boyfrank’s letter toDon Slaterstating that no compromise was possible and that ONE Inc. was in deadlock.
The Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR) founded byDon Slater,Antonio Sanchez, andW. Dorr Legg.
Rudi Steinert’s letter to Chairman Joe Aaron requesting a Corporate Meeting, dated Sept. 9, 1964 (signed “R. H. Stuart”).
Sept. 21: ISHR granted exemption from franchise tax by the State of California Franchise Tax Board, as a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to scientific research and education.
Jan. 29th and 30th: ONE Inc.’s Annual Business Meeting. Meeting adjourned on the 29thwith no business conducted and resumed on Sat., without quorum Second meeting adjourned with no time or place set for a follow up meeting.
Feb. 5:Dorr Leggconvenes a meeting as a continuation of the adjourned Corporate Meeting despite Slater’s protest that it was instead a “special meeting,” citingRoberts Rules of Orderand the California Civil Code. Slater again protested the 1964 “election” of Winn and Bonham. Legg announced that Rudi Steinert, who was away conducting ONE’s business in Europe, would not be allowed to vote by proxy even though substantial changes in the bylaws were being prepared. Legg further announced that they were going to elect additional members and that Slater would be dismissed as a member of the corporation. Slater withdraws in protest.
March 2 [Tu]: Corporate meeting.Tony Reyes attends to address new members, but the chair,W. Dorr Legg, does not allow him the floor.
March 7 [Su]: Attorney Stuart Simke presents a lecture on “The California Sex Laws: Prospects for Reform” as part of the 1964–1965 ONE Institute Series.
April 12 [Mo]:W. Dorr Leggstorms into an editors’ meeting and forces the resignation of the editors ofONE Magazine,telling them they had no right to discuss or attempt to influence corporate policy.
April 14 [We]: Ross Ingersoll, known as “Marcel Martin,” resigns as Associate Editor ofONEmagazine. Ingersoll had served as an editor since the resignation ofJim Kepnerin November of 1960.
April 15 [Th]: Don Slater signs a lease for office space on Cahuenga Blvd. in Universal City.
April 18 [Su]: Don Slater, Tony Reyes, andBilly Glovermove ONE’s library and office from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd. “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” They soon begin calling themselves The Tangent Group, after a regular news column inONEmagazine usually written byJim Kepner, and maintain that they are indeed “the majority of legally elected board members of ONE.” Kepner and others dub the event “The Heist,” but Slater describes the event as more of a mutiny.
April 20 [Tu]: Jim Schneider’s letter to Don Slater expressing concern over the recent split of ONE, Incorporated.
April 21 [Wed]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to ONE Inc. members calling for an informal meeting in his home and demanding the resignation or reconciliation of W. Dorr Legg and Don Slater.
April 23 [Fr]: Joe Aaron resigns from ONE, Inc. due to “the present corporate dilemma.”
April 23 (or 25): Legg’s faction votes in a special meeting to removeDon Slaterfrom membership in ONE, Inc.
May 11 [Tu]: Don Slater sends a Letter to “Former Friends and Subscribers” ofONE Magazine, announcing ONE Inc.’s move from Venice to Cahuenga Blvd., in Hollywood and asking for help and “moral support.”
May 12 [We]: Jim Schneider sends a letter to Don Slater.
May 16 [Su]: Rudi Steinert and Tony Reyes are removed from membership in ONE, Inc. by W. Dorr Legg’s faction.
May 18 [Tu]: Monwell Boyfrank’s letter to Jim Schneider advising him that ONE’s board of directors had removed him from membership in the corporation.
June 5 [Sa]: The Institute for the Study of Human Resources [ISHR] is incorporated and granted tax exempt status under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
Don Slatervoted off the board of ISHR based on allegations made by W. Dorr Legg.
July 27 [Tu]: First public meeting of Mattachine Midwest
Sept. 16th [Th]: Don Slater’s deposition taken in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
Jan. 26 [We]: W. Dorr Legg answers Don Slater’s interrogatories in the law offices of Hillel Chodos, in Beverly Hills.
Feb. 19–20: Don Slater attends theNational Planning Conference of Homophile Organizationsheld in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was decided to launch a national campaign to protest the exclusion of homosexuals by the U.S. Military. Forty leaders attend from fourteen different homophile organizations.
The organizations unite to form NACHO, the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations.
Jan. 1 [Su]: Los Angeles Police raid the Black Cat Bar within minutes after midnight New Year’s eve.
Six male patrons are charged with kissing, and sixteen people are arrested. Several bar-goers are injured, leading to future protests and a legal case.
Feb. 11 [Sa]: Rally outside of the Black Cat Bar in Los Angeles. (Jim Kepnerhelped to organize.)
April 25 [Tu]: Agreement of Settlement between the parties to the action of ONE, Incorporated vs. Slater, et al.
April 27 [Th]: Dismissal entered for case number 864 824 without prejudice, as to all defendants and cross-defendants, and as to all causes of action in the complaint and in the cross-complaint. The court battle between ONE, Incorporated andDon Slater, et al., is officially over, the organization permanently divided.
ROTH V. UNITED STATES
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Roth v. United States and Alberts v. California, 354 U.S. 476, 77 S. Ct. 1304, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1498 (1957), issued a landmark ruling on obscenity and its relation to the first amendment. The Court held that obscenity was not a protected form of expression and could be restricted by the states. In addition, the Court announced a test for courts to use in evaluating whether material was obscene.
The Court consolidated the appeals of Samuel Roth and David Alberts. Roth had been convicted of violating a federal statute (18 U.S.C.A. § 1461) that made it a crime to mail obscene advertising and reading materials
Justice william j. brennan jr., in his majority opinion, reviewed the history of freedom of expression and concluded that not every type of utterance was protected in the thirteen original colonies. libel, blasphemy, and profanity were among the statutory crimes. In addition, that every state and the federal government had obscenity statutes showed that the First Amendment “was not intended to protect every utterance.” Obscenity is denied protection because it is “utterly without redeeming social importance.”
Having ruled that obscenity is not within the area of constitutionally protected speech or press, Brennan noted that sex in art and literature was not, by itself, obscene
Indeed, “sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life” had interested “mankind through the ages; it is one of the vital problems of human interest and public concern.” In the past, however, mere sexual content was enough to have a novel banned under the test courts used in assessing whether something was obscene.
For a legal definition of obscenity, U.S. courts looked to the English case of Regina v. Hicklin, L.R. 3 Q.B. 360 (1868). The Hicklin test was “whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.” This test permitted prosecutors and judges to select objectionable words or passages without regard for the work as a whole and without respect to any artistic, literary, or scientific value the work might have.
Brennan rejected the Hicklin test as being “unconstitutionally restrictive of the freedoms of speech and press.” It was essential that the work as a whole be evaluated before being declared obscene
Brennan endorsed the test used in both Roth’s and Alberts’s trials: “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to a prurient [lewd or lustful] interest.” The new test was applicable to both state and federal government obscenity prosecutions.
The Roth test did not settle the question of what is obscenity, however. In fact, the Court was drawn into a long-term inquiry over virtually every element of the new obscenity test. The Court has never reached full agreement on what constitutes an appeal to “prurient interest.” The phrase “redeeming social importance” has also failed to generate a consensus. Nor, in the years immediately following Roth, could the Court agree on whether “community” referred to the nation as a whole or to individual states or localities
Article originally posted by ABC News North Coast on 29 June 2017, by Samantha Turnbull.
Australia’s first gay commune, homophobic newspaper editorials, and one city’s role in the anti-discrimination debate are all part of the hidden history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community of northern New South Wales.
Historian Ian Gray has been researching the region’s LGBTIQ community for more than 10 years, and now part of his work has been curated into an exhibition called Lismore Has A Diverse Past: Celebrating 40 Years of Hidden Her/History.
Mr Gray said while Lismore and northern New South Wales had become regional Australia’s self-proclaimed “gay capital”, it had been difficult to uncover stories more than 40 years old because of past taboos relating to sexuality.
“We were much more hidden, much more in the closet, and it was much more dangerous to come out in the 1970s and particularly before law reform,” he said.
“We were only beginning to really find ourselves in the 1970s and 1980s and beginning to talk to each other, let alone putting our stories out to the wider world.”
Mr Gray said the region’s journey into LGBTIQ acceptance began with the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, which was co-organised by gay man Johnny Allen.
Queer in the country
In an article by Mr Gray called Queer in the Country, included in the exhibition, he wrote that many LGBTIQ people decided to move to rural areas as part of the counter cultural movement.
For those LGBTIQ folk already living in the Northern Rivers in the 70s, being out in towns and especially in the bush was a very risky business.
There were no organised groups or venues, so spending time with other ‘gays and lesbians’ and being yourself could only occur at occasional house parties and picnics organised within friendship groups.
The exhibition also includes research about the establishment of LGBTIQ-friendly farms throughout the region, including Australia’s first gay commune Mandala at Uki near Murwillumbah.
Mr Gray said Mandala was set up by Melbourne film director David Johnstone in 1973.
“He envisaged it as a harmonious, vegetarian, ecologically sound rural resource centre for gay men and their friends,” Mr Gray said.
“At its peak it had over 540 names on its mailing list and quite a profile in the national, Brisbane and Sydney gay press, which encouraged capital city ‘gays’ to visit.”
Mr Gray also researched and wrote about a community at Tuntable, near Nimbin, which was a popular home for transgender women in the 1970s and 80s:
They were escaping from working in Kings Cross and the legendary Les Girls all male revue.
They were a cohesive tribe and set up their own hamlet Trazadia.
Clashes with local newspaper editor
Mr Gray said the former editor of the local daily newspaper, The Northern Star, wrote a series of homophobic editorials in the 1980s that were documented in the exhibition.
“We had a battle with The Northern Star newspaper and editor Jim Brigginshaw, who had a bee in his bonnet about homosexuality,” he said.
“He ran editorial after editorial really slamming the community in the mid-80s, and then AIDS came along and really got him going.”
The LGBTIQ community responded with letters, but most were not published. One letter that did make it to print was met with the following editor’s note:
If ever homosexuality was accepted as being normal and right, the future of the human race is in jeopardy … perhaps the conservationist should be more concerned whether the human species is to become extinct than they are about the future of trees or other aspects of the environment.
However, Mr Gray said The Northern Star had since evolved into a broad-minded publication and employed several LGBTIQ journalists.
“There was a change that happened and the newspaper really embraced our community,” Mr Gray said.
“In 2005 one of the editors put a pink triangle, which is the universal LGBTIQ symbol, on the front page of the newspaper, which was a big moment.”
Lismore’s role in anti-discrimination
Mr Gray said much of the local media furore in the 1980s generated increased public interest in the broader issue of discrimination, and in 1984 the Anti-Discrimination Board visited Lismore for three days where it hosted several community meetings.
At a post meeting press-conference spokesman Greg Tillet was quoted as saying:
“Lismore is the most cosmopolitan country town in NSW, and an attempt to whip up hostility towards gays generally has clearly been unsuccessful. In general, the people of Lismore appear tolerant and easygoing.”
The board then released a report into discrimination against homosexuals, and homosexuality was decriminalised in NSW the same year.
Looking to the future
Mr Gray said Lismore now hosted the largest LGBTIQ event in the Southern Hemisphere outside of Sydney’s Mardi Gras — the Tropical Fruits New Year’s Eve Festival — and was marketed to tourists as the Rainbow Region.
However, he said the region was not completely free from discrimination.
“There’s still the same issues where it’s still not safe for instance to be out at night and be an overtly open gay or lesbian couple without abuse and that sort of thing,” he said.
“And most LGBTIQ-identifying young people say their biggest issue is bullying at school.”
Mr Gray said recording the community’s history was an important part of the process to fostering acceptance.
“It’s part of building up our own pride in who we are and what we do,” he said.
“It’s a little bit like Indigenous history — it’s often hidden or changed, and our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex history has been even more hidden I think because we’re not obvious in the community.
“When we’re hearing our stories we realise we’re not alone, and when younger people hear the struggles we went through it helps them make sense of the world.”
The exhibition is on at Southern Cross University, Lismore, until Friday.
Just looking at the venues in this guide is pretty well a dead giveaway for its year of publication. By the mid-80s, the Roman Baths, 253 Baths, Club 80, the Apollo Bar and Flo’s Palace had closed. Flo’s was to become the Hellfire Club, then the Den Club – both incarnations as men’s sex-on-premises venues. Patchs became DCM. The Link also closed around the same time. KKK Baths closed on 20 May 2012, having opened in 1972. The Exchange Hotel closed in 2015. The Midnight Shift (previously Tropicana) became Universal in 2018. DCM closed around 2009. The Unicorn, The Oxford, The Flinders and The Beresford have undergone a number of incarnation over the decades. The Albury closed in 2000, and has been reincarnated as retail stores. The “Golden Mile” of gay Oxford St, Darlinghurst is a sad excuse now for what used to be a thriving ghetto. It is now a long string of empty premises featuring For Sale, or For Lease, signs.
The internet informs me that this week is Bisexual Awareness Week (consider: is your cat aware of the bisexual movement? Oh, and on a serious note, visibility matters). Allow me, then, to raise some questions about the way medieval studies has handled and assimilated the fascinating case of John Rykener, a male-cross dressing prostitute. If you took a gender-oriented medieval studies course in the last decade or so, or if you’ve read Karras’ Sexuality in Medieval Europe textbook, you’ve probably met John Rykener’s story in one form or another.
Allow me to tell you about Eleanor Rykener: assigned male at birth, she fell in with a woman named Elizabeth Broderer, who gave her women’s clothing and called her Eleanor. We do not know if Eleanor sought out Elizabeth, or if Elizabeth identified something in the young man she knew as John Ryknener that she could exploit: but as far as we know, it was with Elizabeth that Eleanor first lived as a woman.
Elizabeth was conducting a complicated and exploitative business, in which her daughter substituted for Eleanor in bed with men who believed they were sleeping with Eleanor. It is not recorded whether money was involved, but that seems likely. The court record says that Elizabeth’s daughter Alice did this ‘for lust’, but I would not be willing to take that as a given: it seems plausible to me that Eleanor and Alice worked together, willing or unwilling, in a scenario which allowed Elizabeth to maintain her daughter’s public respectability while Eleanor accrued the ill repute of a prostitute.
Somehow, from there, Eleanor met a woman named Anna, who is referred to by the court transcript as “meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount” (the whore of a former servant of Thomas Blount). It is possible that Anna was a prostitute regularly frequented by this former servant of Thomas Blount, but the various evidence assembled by Karras, in Unmarriages, on the varied roles and statuses of unmarried couples, leads me to think Anna might just as easily have been the mistress or even domestic partner (eg, if the said servant were already married and separated) of this unnamed gentleman. For reasons not given in the record, she taught Eleanor how she might have sex with men ‘in the manner of a woman’: for which we can read, in a receptive position.
We do not know why Eleanor sought out this information, or why she acted on it. Perhaps she desired a sexual relationship with a man. Perhaps she wished to extract more substantial benefits, material or otherwise, from her work as a prostitute – since she was socially stuck as a prostitute anyway. It seems she was still living with Elizabeth Broderer, and – for one reason or another, bear in mind we do not know her motivations – an individual named Phillip, the rector of Theydon Garnon, would seem to have been her first client. (Or perhaps her non-commercial lover? Bear in mind this is entirely possible: People do sleep with trans women because they like them!) Eleanor seems to have been of limited resources at this time, because she took (was given? stole?) some garments from Phillip. When Phillip demanded their return, she convinced him to back off by asserting that she had a husband who would defend her in court.
Next, Eleanor seems to have made a break for it: she moved to Oxford, and tried – for five weeks – to establish herself as an independent women in a women’s trade, that of embroidery. She continued to sleep with men (in a marsh, the court record says). Once again, we cannot say whether she sought their company for pleasure or for money. Something may have gone wrong, though, because Eleanor next moved to Burford to work as a tapster. In Burford she continued to sleep with men, but here the court records that only four of her eight lovers paid her. Did she expect payment from the others and not receive it? Perhaps. But it’s equally plausible that she enjoyed and desired sex with men. This possibility I have seen raised in discussion of John (Eleanor) Rykener as a male homosexual.
Next, in Beaconsfield, Eleanor had sex with two men “as a woman” and one woman, Joan, “as a man”. Now, here I want to stress some things we DO know and some things we DON’T. We DO know that when the medieval record speaks of “ut vir concubuit cum” and ” concubuerunt ut cum femina” (‘[he] as a man lay with [Joan]’ and ‘[they] lay with [him] as a woman’) it does not speak of what clothes Eleanor was wearing at the time, or what name she went by. The issue at hand is who did what to whom, as is nicely demonstrated by the verb forms: he-as-a-man had sex with Joan, they (two franciscans) had sex with him-as-a-woman.
What we do not know here includes:
• Whether Joan of Beaconsfield considered herself to be having sex with Eleanor, or with John, Rykener.
• What Joan and Eleanor did together. Concubere could in fact mean lie down together, and Eleanor did not give her testimony in Latin: we don’t know what she said that she and Joan did which the court records as ‘concubuit‘. Eleanor may have spoken in compatible passive/active terms, or she may not.
• Assuming that Eleanor and Joan had penis-in-vagina intercourse, that does not tell us why they did so. Even if Joan met and bedded John Rykener, did she know about Eleanor? Was there an experiential difference, for either of them, between Eleanor(?John)’s conduct in bed and that of other men?
• Conversely, we do not know which identity Eleanor was presenting when she slept with the two Franciscans – but that possibility has already been raised by queer historians, who are generally quite keen to point out that John Rykener’s male lovers could have known exactly who and what they were doing.
Returning to London, Eleanor committed ‘the aforementioned vice’ with several more churchmen, but the record does not state if they paid her – nor, in this instance, does it specify cum femina. However, it seems her efforts to find more respectable work had not succeeded, because finally, we know that she propositioned one John Britby to commit a ‘libidinous act’ with her in a stall by Soper’s lane, for an agreed-upon-sum. John Britby swore to the court that he thought she was a woman at that time.
The court record also says that Eleanor had sex cum vir with assorted nuns and married women. This addition lacks the detail of her encounters with men and with Joan, and I would be inclined to suspect it of being an embroidery upon Eleanor’s testimony, designed to both mark out John Rykener as a particularly depraved individual and enforce public perception of him as male by ensuring that everyone knows he could and did have lots of sex cum vir. However, even allowing for the fact that this assertion has less to hold it up than the previous account, I find it curious1 that it tends to appear as a footnote only to the history of John Rykener, when the following comment about numerous priestly clients who pay better than other man gets a fair bit of circulation.
Eleanor Rykener is rarely cited, despite what her testimony can tell us about women’s lives in marginal professions in the 15th century. (I note that Kim Racon at Notches has also blogged about this lack.2) John Rykener is spoken of, and John/Eleanor, but never Eleanor or Eleanor-John. Whenever I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this topic, I’ve made a point of speaking of Eleanor Rykener and her trial, because… well, it seemed the decent thing to do.3 At the very least, Eleanor Rykener was a cultivated public persona (comparable to a drag act, perhaps?) – and given she seems to have run away and tried to take up a woman’s profession other than prostitution twice, the common summary of her story as ‘male crossdressing prostitute’ is incredibly reductive. Karras herself notes on p. 184 of Medieval Sexualities that the Rykener and a 14th century Venetian prostitute, probably a hermaphrodite, named Ronaldo/Ronaldina, are far from the standard sodomite, who did not normally wear women’s clothing. It is very unlikely that John Rykener was, in modern terms, a sad gay man who found crossdressing the only way to get laid – there’s enough other evidence to suggest that medieval blokes found ways to bang that didn’t involve ladies’ clothes!!
“II: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Transcription
Corporation of London Records Office, Plea and Memoranda Roll A34, m.2 (1395)
Undecimo die Decembris anno regni regis Ricardi secundi decimo octavo, ducti fuerunt hic coram Johanne Fressh maiore et aldermannis civitatis Londoniensis Johannes Britby de comitate Eboracum et Johannes Rykener, se Elianoram nominans veste muliebri detectus. Qui die dominica ultimo preterita per quosdam dicte civitatis ministros noctanter inter horas octavam et nonam super quoddam stallum in venella vocata Sopereslane inventi fuerunt iacentes, illud vitium detestabile, nephandum, et ignominiosum committentes, pro seperali examinatione coram dictis maiore et aldermannis super premissa fienda et audienda etcetera. Qui quidem Johannes Britby inde allocutus fatebatur quod ipse per vicum regium de Chepe die dominica inter horas supradictas transiens, dictum Johannem Rykener vestitu muliebri ornatum, ipsumque mulierem fore suspicantem fuerat assecutus, petens ab eo, tanquam a muliere, si cum ea libidinose agere possit. Qui ab eo argentum pro labore suo petens sibi consentiebat, invicem transeuntes ad illud complendum usque stallum predictum. Ipsi tamen tunc ibidem per ministros predictos in eorum maleficiis detestabilibus capti fuerunt, carcere vero mancipati hucusque, etcetera. Et predictus Johannes Rykener in veste muliebri hic adductus de materia predicta allocutus cognovit se fecisse in omnibus prout idem Johannes Britby superius fatebatur etcetera. Quesitum fuit ulterius a prefato Johanne Rykener quis ei docuit dictum vitium exercere et quanto tempore, in quibus locis, et cum quibus personis masculis sive feminis illud actum libidinosum et nephandum commisit. Qui in animam suam sponte iuravit et cognovit quod quaedam Anna, meretrix quondam cuiusdam famuli domini Thome Blount, primo docuit ipsum vitium detestabile modo muliebri exercere. Item dixit quod quaedam Elizabeth Brouderer prius vestivit ipsum veste muliebri; quae etiam conduxit quandam Aliciam filiam suam diversis hominibus luxuriae causa, ipsam cum eisdem hominibus in lectis eorum noctanter absque lumine reponens et eandem summo mane ab eisdem recedere fecit, monstrando eis dictum Johannem Rykener veste muliebri ornatum ipsum Alianoram nominantem, asserens ipsos cum ipsa sinistre egisse. Item dixit quod quidam Philippus, Rector de Theydon Gernon, concubuit cum eodem Johanne Rykener ut cum muliere in domo cuiusdam Elizabeth Brouderer extra Bisshoppesgate, quo tempore dictus Johannes Rykener asportavit duas togas ipsius Philippi. Et quando idem Philippus illas petiit a prefato Johanne Rykener, ipse dixit quod fuit uxor cuiusdam hominis, et si ipse illas repetere vellet faceret maritum suum versus ipsum prosequi. Item dictus Johannes Rykener fatebatur quod per quinque septimanas ante festum santi Michaelis ultimo elapsum morabatur apud Oxonium et operatus est ibidem in veste muliebri in arte de brouderer nominans ipsum Alianoram. Et ibidem in marisco tres scolares ignotos, quorum unus nominatur dominus Willielmus Foxlee, alius dominus Johannes, et tertius dominus Walterus, usi fuerunt sepius cum ipso abominabile vitium supradictum. Item fatebatur prefatus Johannes Rykener quod ipse die veneris proximo ante festum sancti Michaelis supradictum venit apud Burford in comitate Oxonium. Et ibidem fuit commorans cum quodam Johanne clerc atte Swan in officio de tapster per sex septimanas proximas sequentes, infra quod tempus duo fratres minores, quorum unus nominatur frater Michael et alius frater Johannes Barry, qui sibi dedit unum anulum aureum, et unus frater carmelitus et sex diversi homines extranei commiserunt cum illo vitium antedictum. Quorum quidem fratrum et hominum supradictorum quidam dabat dicto Johanni Rykener .xii. d, quidam .xx. d, quidam .ii. s. Item fatebatur idem Johannes Rykener quod fuit apud Bekenesfeld et ibidem idem ut vir concubuit cum quadam Johanna filia Johannis Mathew, et etiam ibidem cum ipso concubuerunt ut cum femina duo fratres minores alienigenae. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod post eius ultimum adventum Londoniae quidam dominus Johannes quondam capellanus ecclesiae sanctae Margaretae Patyns et alii duo capellani in venellis retro ecclesiam sanctae Katerinae iuxta turrim Londoniensem commiserunt cum illo illud vitium antedictum. Item dixit dictus Johannes Rykener quod ipse sepius concubuit cum quampluribus monialibus ut vir, et etiam concubuit modo virili cum quampluribus mulieribus, tam maritatis quam aliis, quarum numerum ignorat. Item fatebatur dictus Johannes Rykener quod quamplures presbiteri fecerunt illud vitium cum illo ut cum muliere, quorum numerum ignorat, et dixit quod citius cepit presbiteros quam alios quia plus vellent sibi dare quam alii.
I: The Questioning of John Rykener 1395: Translation
On 11 December, 18 Richard 11. were brought in the presence of John Fressh, Mayor. and the Aldermen ofthe City of London John Britby of the county of York and John Rykener., calling [himself] Eleanor, having been detected in women’s clothing, who were found last Sunday night between the hours of 8 and 9 by certain officials of the, city lying by a certain stall in Soper’s Lane” committing that detestable unmentionable and ignominious vice. In a separate examination held before the Mayor and Aldermen about the occurrence, John Britby confessed that he was passing through the high road of Cheap on Sunday between the abovementioned hours and accosted John Rykener, dressed up as a woman, thinking he was a woman, asking him as he would a woman if he could commit a libidinous act with her. Requesting money for [his] labor, Rykener consented, and they went together to the aforesaid stall to complete the act, and were captured there during these detestable wrongdoings by the officials and taken to prison. And John Rykener, brought here in woman’s clothing and questioned about this matter, acknowledged [himself] to have done everything just as John Britby had confessed. Rykener was also asked who had taught him to exercise this vice, and for how long and in what places and with what persons, masculine or feminine, [he] had committed that libidinous and unspeakable act. [He] swore willingly on [his] soul that a certain Anna, the whore of a former servant of Sir Thomas Blount, first taught him to practice this detestable vice in the manner of a woman. [He] further said that a certain Elizabeth Bronderer first dressed him in women’s clothing; she also brought her daughter Alice to diverse men for the sake of lust, placing her with those men in their beds at night without light, making her leave early in the morning and showing them the said John Rykener dressed up in women’s clothing, calling him Eleanor and saying that they had misbehaved with her. [He] further said that certain Phillip, rector of Theydon Garnon, had sex with him as with a woman in Elizabeth Bronderer’s honse outside Bishopsgate, at which time Rykener took away two gowns of Phillip’, and when Phillip requested them from Rykener he said that [he] was the wife ofa certain man and that if Phillip wished to ask for them back [he] would make [his] husband bring suit against him. Rykener further confessed that for five weeks before the feast of St. Michael’s last [he] was staying at Oxford, and there, in women’s clothing and calling himself Eleanor, worked as an embroideress; and there in the marsh three unsuspecting scholars – of whom one was named Sir William Foxlee, another Sir John, and the third Sir Walter – practiced the abominable vice with him often. John Rykener further confessed that on Friday before the feast of St. Michael [he] came to Burford in Oxfordshire and there dwelt with a certain John Clerk at the Swan in the capacity of tapster for the next six weeks, during which time two Franciscans, one named Brother Michael and the other Brother John, who gave [him] a gold ring, and one Carmelite friar and six foreign men committed the above-said vice with him, of whom one gave Rykener twelve pence, one twenty pence, and one two shillings. Rykener further confessed that [he] went to Beaconsfield and there, as a man, had sex with a certain Joan, daughter of John Matthew, and also there two foreign Franciscans hall sex with him as a woman. John Rykener also confessed that after [his] last return to London a certain Sir John, once chaplain at the Church of St. Margaret Pattens, and two other chaplains committed with him the aforementioned vice in the lanes behind St. Katherine’s Church by the Tower of London. Rykener further said that he often had sex as a man with many nuns and also had sex as a iman with many women both married and otherwise, how many [he] did not know. Rykener further confessed that many priests had committed that vice with him as with a woman, how many [he] did not know, and said that [he] accommodated priestsmore readily than other people because they wished to give [him] more than others.”
Again, the Captain Pickles mentioned in this interview is my Great Grand Uncle, Captain George Rickinsom Swan Pickhills. The misspelling of his surname was common – and evidently infuriated him.
A question asked of me at the Mudgee workshop conducted by Helen McKay, was “Where do you get your folklore?”
Sometimes I take known stories from the universal folklore and adapt them to a local setting. “Swagman’s Stone Soup” is an example. Further to this is the development of stories around a particular Australian theme – bush-rangers. Stories that adapt the history of Outback N.S.W. during the 1870’s-80’s.
The first introduces Silly Billy Brown. He demolishes the family toilet trying to shoot a crow stealing eggs from the chookyard. Billy runs away on a one-eyed horse (at a similar age and time to Sidney Kidman) to become a bushranger but is bushranged by Captain Twilight. They meet up with Captain Daylight and become the Daylight Gang, living at their secret Rocky Billabong Hideout. This is a traditional use of three characters.
Extended stories bring in The Three Troopers: Sergeant Flashman, Trooper O’Kane and Trooper Crump. Mrs Kate Brown, Molly Brown and Miss Elizabeth Goodheart, of Dunlop Station, feature as strong characters. Captain Daylight and Sergeant Flashman compete for the heart of Miss Elizabeth Goodheart.
These characters have their place on a Time Line — from the New Calendar 1752 to the 21st century. It starts in England before the First Fleet: shows the Crimean War, for Sergeant Flashman; the death of Daylight, then follows Silly Billy Brown, who, as William Browne MP, fails in his attempts to get the railway through the Outback. Captain Twilight just fades away, but, there is a link with the present.
At Terrible Tiny Tilpa, Lizard McGinnis, Old George and a smelly swagman provided volumes of information, mystery and unbelievable history, for a similar volume of ale, when I was researching “Around the Pubs” for ABC 2CR.
They took me to a long, low, mud house on the banks of the Darling River to meet first child of Daylight and Elizabeth Goodheart. Miss Day (Captain Daylight’s real surname), never married. The young man she loved and her two brothers died in the horrible mess that was Gallipoli.
She was waiting for the mailman to bring her a telegram from the Queen telling her she was 100 years old.
Don Day is remembered as a dashing bushman, not as a bushranger. He drowned rescuing a woman and her three children. Their horse bolted tipping them into the river. He rescued the people then dived down to cut the horse from the dray. He never came up. The horse did, more dead than alive, but the Great Grey-green Darling River kept Don Day.
After shearing, his friends made a memorial at Daylight Point. It’s a sight that brings tears to the eyes and a lump to the throat. I know, because Miss Dianna took me there.
She sat straight in her side saddle as the horses trotted up a rise overlooking one of the grandest waterholes on the Darling River.
And there it was, a big black billycan on a fire of bronze logs.
It sat on a large flat rook, dragged for miles by bullock team. Engraved into the billy can is:-
“In Memory of Donald Francis Day 1850-1896 — Elizabeth Day, Twilight, Cpt. Rtd. Dianna Day, William Brown, JP Frank Day, Judge Long, Rtd. Gordon Day, Ned O’Kane, Insp.” Little crosses are punched after Frank and Gordon.
“Even Captain Pickles was here. He brought people down from Bourke on the wandering Jane.”
I helped Miss Dianna down. The horses trotted into a small broken-down yard, lush with grass. I made a fire, then filled our billy from the river. We had jolly jumbuck, boiled potatoes, johnnycake and billy tea.
Red cloud bars turned grey. Frogs and night insects started chatting. I dropped another log onto the fire, showering red sparks and stirring the low flames. When I looked up small silver twinkles dotted the sky and Miss Dianna and a curlew were both talking at once.
She told how Aboriginal women saved her life, and her mother’s, when she was born. How, in the 1890 flood, Joey Quartpot rescued them, one by one, in his bark canoe. Of her brothers, young and wild, riding all the way to Sydney to join the Light Horse to fight for King and Country. And her mother, going to live in a flat in Manly where she knitted socks and made Christmas Puddings for the ANZACS, only to die of a broken heart.
The past flickered through the flames, as she went further back to tell about Daylight and Twilight.
She laughed about William Browne MP. “He became rather fat, bald and pompous. But his heart was in the right place. He stuck up for the Outback.”
The tail of the Southern Cross was hanging low over the river. “I come here every year for the morning of the day Dad drowned.” She walked stiffly to the bronze billy can, lifted the lid then pulled the end off one of the logs. It was hollow.
Night melted. The first ray of daylight speared down the long waterhole into the bronze log, striking a large crystal in the bottom of the billy can. A shaft of light shot upwards, through the overhanging coolabah, scaring the hell out of the black and red cockatoos and blinding the last stars.
“Bushranging, booze and battle took the best of our youth, Peter.”
That night gave me the folk lore and a store of stories – fact, fiction and fantasy – to last me a lifetime.
Miss Day received her telegram from the Queen. She rests beside the long, low, mud-brick homestead. No one lives there but, at times, a swagman calls, tidies the garden then disappears towards the Tilpa Pub.
The Captain Pickhills, interviewed by Charles Bean in paragraph four of this extract, is actually my Great Grand Uncle, Captain George Rickinson Swan Pickhills. A Yorkshire man who came to Australia in the 1860s, he captained a steamer along the Darling River from Bourke in NSW to Goolwa in South Australia. He towed barges of wool bales down the river with his steamer. It is rumoured that Charles Bean’s Book “The Dreadnought of the Darling” is largely based on his interviews with, and recollections of, Captain Pickhills.
By 1890, a sheep population of nearly 100 million (it peaked at 106 million in 1892) was spread across a third of the Australian continent, from central Queensland to Tasmania, across into South Australia and down the western side of Western Australia. The shearers who shore them travelled by every conceivable means of transport: horse, train, bicycle, paddle-steamer and on foot.
Many stations and shearing sheds were great distances from railway lines or even roads. In the more settled areas of the more populous states, many shearers could work locally and only travelled for more work when the urge took them. However, in the vast outback regions of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia, even local work involved large distances. Consequently, even good shearers faced long weeks without work as they wandered from shed to shed. When the largely seasonal work came to an end, there was no work at all. The situation was, in short, a shambles for all involved.
Nevertheless, as wool emerged as the premier industry in Australia, the shearer emerged as the embodiment not just of the industry but of a sense of freedom few occupations could equal. Shearers were often more worldly than other rural workers. They were more skilled and physically fitter.
However, opinion was still divided over whether they were heroes or villains. When Charles Bean (journalist and, later, official war historian) interviewed an old-time steamboat captain, Captain Pickhill, about the shearers he had seen in his years plying his trade on the Darling River, Pickhill recalled:
‘Lots of those shepherds and shearers near Bourke, were ‘old hands’ [meaning ex-convicts]. Some of them were decent good fellows; and the rest — well, they were horrible! Unmitigated rascals, fearing neither God nor the devil. The language I have heard in Bourke made a man wonder the heavens did not drop down and crush the fellow. They were great, coarse, horrible brutes of men.’
Others took a different view. A German political sociologist, Dr Robert Schachner, went and lived among shearers, miners and factory hands in an attempt to ascertain which of them had the best life. He concluded that shearers had a better standard of living, were better read and were more intelligent. He wrote: ‘If the spicy air of the bush gives the shearer new life and energy for thought and reading it is far different in the factory… Scarcely fit to leave school, the boy enters the horrid gloom of the machine rooms… What wonder if his brain dries up?’
In his memoirs Julian Stuart gave a nostalgic view of what it was like to be a shearer, describing a night in the quarters on Northampton Downs, where he and his colleagues were ‘disrobing 150 000 jumbucks’. Whistling Dick played on his tin whistle, Bungeye Blake sang, and Piebald Moore and Cabbagetree Capstick told some tales, but it was when Dusty Bob took the floor that Julian paid more attention. He considered Dusty to be ‘the most fluent liar that ever crossed the Darling’:
‘His anecdotes about “Crooked Mick” began and ended nowhere and made C.M. appear a superman… with feet so big he had to go outside to turn round. It took a large-sized bullock’s hide to make him a pair of moccasins [preferred footwear for shearers]. He worked at such a clip that his shears ran hot and sometimes he had half-a-dozen in the water-pot to cool. He had his fads and would not shear in sheds that faced North. When at his top it took three pressers to handle the wool from his blades and they had to work overtime to keep the bins clear. He ate two sheep each meal… that is, if they were small merinos… but only one and a half when the ration sheep were Leicester crossbred wethers. His main tally was generally cut out on the breakfast run. Anyone who tried to follow him usually spent the balance of the day in the hut. Between sheds he did fencing. When cutting brigalow posts he used an axe in each hand to save time, and when digging postholes a crowbar in one hand and a shovel in the other.’
Stuart also described the different kinds of mateship that existed among shearers. A pen mate, for example, was hardly a mate at all. The shearers drew lots to see which stand they’d get and it was pure luck who they were paired with. However, the two had to cooperate as they went about catching sheep from the same pen.
Then there were grinding mates. As he explained:
‘In the old blade-shearing days, when the “keeping” of shears was a large item for the shearer’s consideration, it was necessary for each man to have a mate to turn the grindstone for him… in fact, each pair turned for one another; they were grinding mates and very often it was Hobson’s choice on both sides, if you could believe them when they started arguing… they nearly always did.’
Last came real mateship, which according to Stuart was a thing that could last a lifetime but was sometimes difficult to understand:
‘Two hard old cases, Peter and Fred, mates of long standing, were knocking down their cheques in the good old-fashioned way, and quarrelled about some trifle. It looked as if it would end in a fight to a finish and the fracture of a lifelong friendship, so a bystander tried to act as peacemaker and started to lead Peter away, but was straightaway woodened out by old Fred. The two old battlers, reconciled, went back to the bar to resume the main business of life, cutting out their cheques.’
This story is an edited extract from The Shearers by journalist Evan McHugh, published by Penguin Books Australia.
In the period October 1980-May 1981, 5 young men, all active homosexuals, were treated for biopsy-confirmed Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at 3 different hospitals in Los Angeles, California. Two of the patients died. All 5 patients had laboratory-confirmed previous or current cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection and candidal mucosal infection. Case reports of these patients follow.
In honor of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I’m republishing my article on the first report documenting the emergence of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. That article, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report on June 5, 1981, describes five cases of an unusual form of pneumonia in atypical patients, all young men. The broader social and public health implications of these five cases were not understood at the time of the article’s publication, but would be in just a few unnerving months. In short time, it would become clear that this pneumonia, caused by a tiny fungal organism, was part of a constellation of diseases associated with a novel and highly unusual viral infection that was spreading rapidly through a subset of the American population.
This MMWR article is the first record of an emerging outbreak that, in just one decade, would be the second leading cause of death in young American men 25 to 44 years and have infected over 8 to 11 million people worldwide. As I note in my article, “the June 5th report is a symbol of a time before HIV/AIDS became ubiquitous, before it became a pandemic, before a small globular virus became mankind’s biggest global public health crisis … June 5th marks the beginning of a radical transformation in how disease surveillance and medicine was conducted.” The HIV/AIDs outbreak, since this report’s publication and the growing awareness of the virus, has profoundly changed medicine, public health, virology, and the lives of millions of people.
It often seems that gay men are disproportionately, and perhaps unfairly, bludgeoned with HIV educational and awareness campaigns. After all, this virus is an equal opportunist infector infecting both genders of all sexual orientations. And, yes, men that report having sex with other men represent a truly tiny proportion of the United States population, a slim 2% of the three-hundred million that live in this country.
However, as the CDC reports, gay men account for 63% of all newly diagnosed HIV infections in the United States and make up 52% of the current population of people living with a HIV diagnosis. Stopping the continued transmission of HIV/AIDS in this country critically relies on affecting change and promoting awareness among these men. In 1981, we just became aware of the HIV/AIDS virus. Today, we continue to bring awareness to prevention, testing, and treatment of a virus that continues to percolate through the same vulnerable population that was brutally affected nearly thirty years ago.
June 5, 1981. Pneumocystis Pneumonia. Los Angeles.
“Pneumocystis Pneumonia — Los Angeles,” in the June 5, 1981 edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was an economical seven paragraph clinical report cataloging five observed cases, accompanied by an explanatory editorial note on the rarity of this fungal disease. It seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary from MMWR, a publication that has been issuing the latest epidemiology news and data from around the world for 60 years. The report was included in that week’s slim 16 page report detailing dengue in American travelers visiting the Caribbean, surveillance results from a childhood lead poisoning program and what measles had been up to for the past five months.
Since 1978, Dr. Joel Weisman, a Los Angeles general practitioner, had been treating dozens of gay men in the city presenting with a motley collection of uncommon illnesses – blood cancers, rare fungal infections, persistent fevers and alarmingly low white blood cell counts – typically seen in the elderly and immunocompromised (1). In 1980, he was struck by two profoundly ill men and by the similarity of their symptoms, their prolonged fevers, dramatic weight loss, unexplained rashes and swollen lymph nodes. He referred them to Martin Gottlieb, an immunologist at UCLA who just so happened to be treating a gay patient with identical symptoms.
All three men were infected with Pneumocystis pneumonia, caused by the typically benign fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii, and soon Gottlieb would hear of a two more patients with the fungal infection from colleagues (2). The MMWR editorial note accompanying the report of these cases would mention that Pneumocystis pneumonia, or PCP, is “almost exclusively limited to severely immunosuppressed patients” and that it was “unusual” to find cases in healthy individuals without any preexisting immune system deficiencies. The disease would later be cataloged on immunological graphs illustrating the awful decline of the infected – first the CD4+ T-cell count falls as the viral load ascends, then a marching band of viral, fungal, protozoan and bacterial infections capitalizing on the loss of CD4+ T-cells. PCP is now known as a classic opportunistic infection of those infected with HIV/AIDS.
In the first sentence, the report would note that the young men were “all active homosexuals.” These five were all “previously healthy” men in their late 20s and 30s. They did not know each other, they did not share common contacts and they did not know of any sexual partners suffering with similar symptoms.
Three of the men were found to have “profoundly depressed” numbers of CD4+ T-cells. All five reported using inhalant drugs, or “poppers,” common in that era among gay men, which would later serve as a lead into this new syndromic disease (3). Cytomegalovirus, found in the five men, was also suspected as a culprit behind this strange outbreak. The editorial note stated definitively that “the fact that these patients were all homosexuals suggests an association between some aspect of a homosexual lifestyle or disease acquired through sexual contact and Pneumocystis pneumonia in this population.”
By the time the very first report on this acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which we now know as AIDS, had been published by Gottlieb and Weisman and three fellow physicians in the MMWR, two of the patients had already died.
New reports showed up after the June 5th report, the list of cancerous malignancies and bizarre diseases killing young gay men blossoming in number, seemingly inexhaustible in scope and variety. The first reported cluster was in Los Angeles but by the summer and fall of 1981, reports would trickle in from San Francisco and New York City, and then Miami, Houston, Boston and Washington, D.C. would represent new epicenters.
The July 4th report on 26 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, a rare cancer that only appeared in elderly men of Mediterranean descent, in California and New York City was another pivotal report on this new syndromic disease. The entire December 1981 issue of The Lancet was dedicated to the disease and hypothesized on the origins of this immunological deficiency but, tellingly, none of the articles proposed an emerging infectious disease as the culprit. The disparate constellation of diseases seemed to be linked only by their aberrational appearance in men in what should have been their prime, their gay lifestyle, and abnormally low CD4 cell counts. It had no apparent origin, and physicians were scrambling to find an appropriate treatment to decelerate the rapid progression to death.
By December 1981, it became clear that this disorder wasn’t limited to gay men but also affected intravenous drug users, recipients of transfused blood products and immigrant Haitians. The escalating numbers of cases reported daily and the disastrous mortality rate – 40% of patients were dying within a year of diagnosis – began to sow panic in the public health and medical world that soon spilled into the public (4).
It would take three years before the virus was detected and AIDS was definitively linked to an infection caused by a novel virus, human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. In just a decade, AIDS would be the second leading cause of death in young men 25 to 44 years in the United States and would have infected over 8 to 11 million people worldwide (5). The most recent estimate for the number of people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS is 34 million in 2011, with 68% residing in sub-Saharan Africa (6). That year, there were 2.5 million new HIV infections and 1.7 million AIDS-related deaths.
Though the June 5th, 1981 report was overlooked at first, for many years it would be “one of the most heavily quoted articles in the medical literature” (2). And since its publication, we have seen a cataclysmic shift in how the interrelated worlds of public health and medicine view infectious diseases, especially how to prevent, control and educate the public about them.
June 5th marks the beginning of a radical transformation in how disease surveillance and medicine was conducted. In the seventies, the scientific consensus on infectious diseases was that they were largely eradicated, that they were finished. Vaccines had diminished their presence in modern society, and antibiotics and antivirals would sort out the rest. HIV/AIDS changed that mentality and reality. It seemed to come from nowhere, the blossoming epidemic completely unforeseen and unprecedented in its scope. The June 5th report is a symbol of a time before HIV/AIDS became ubiquitous, before it became a pandemic, before a small globular virus became mankind’s biggest global public health crisis.
Author’s note: This article was originally published in January 2013 at thePump Handle blog as a part of a series on “public health classics,” exploring some of the classic studies and reports that have shaped the field of public health. Check out the original articlehere.
For a religion that loves to lecture on right and wrong, involving itself in social issues it should keep its nose out of, and just generally being sanctimonious – it has an incredible history of abuse of power, wars, violence, sexual indiscretion, sexual abuse, hypocrisy, manipulation, discrimination, accumulation of wealth – and being just downright evil…and I’m not just talking about the Catholic variant! You’d think the following list was a story of fiction…but it’s not! Truth is always stranger than fiction!
WE now give a rapid summary of the crimes and vices with which many of the popes disgraced the chair of St. Peter; and before we conclude, the reader will see that every villainy the imagination can conceive has been practised by the vicegerents of God. Peculation, theft, cruelty, murder, fornication, adultery, and incest, not to mention still darker crimes, have all been notoriously committed by the supreme rulers of Christendom, who sat in the seat of infallibility, and claimed universal jurisdiction over the thoughts and consciences of mankind.
ST. DAMASUS (366-84). He was the first to assume the title of Pontiff. His election was opposed by Ursicinus, whose partisans accused Damasus of adultery. [122:1] Riddle says:
“After some deadly conflicts between the followers of the two rivals, Ursicinus was banished from the city; and a similar sentence was about to be carried into effect against seven presbyters of his party, when the people interfered, and lodged them for safety in one of the churches. But even here they found no shelter from the fury of their opponents. Armed with fire and sword, Damasus, with some of his adherents, both of the clergy and of the laity, proceeded to the place of refuge, and left no less than a hundred and sixty of their adversaries dead within the sacred precincts.” [122:2]
That this was a massacre and not a faction fight is shown by the fact that on the side of Damasus not a single person was killed. [123:3] Ammianus Marcellinus, the contemporary historian of the event, says of the contention between Damasus and Ursicinus:
“I do not deny, when I consider the ostentation that reigns at Rome, that those who desire such rank and power may be justified in laboring with all possible exertions and vehemence to obtain their wishes; since after they have succeeded, they will be secure for the future, being enriched by offerings from matrons, riding in carriages, dressing splendidly, and feasting luxuriously, so that their entertainment surpassed even royal banquets. [123:4]
Damasus gained the title of Auriscalpius Matronarum, ladies’ ear-scratcher. [123:5] He died of fever, and the Romish Church still invokes the aid of this saintly vicar of God in fever cases. [123:6]
SIXTUS III (432-40). This pope, according to both Baronius and Platina, was accused of debauching a virgin, but was acquitted by a Council under the Emperor Valentina, who is said to have referred the pronouncing of the sentence to the Pope himself, “because the judge of all ought to be judged by none.” It was without doubt to establish this maxim that the “acts” of the Council were forged. [123:7]
ST. LEO THE GREAT (440-61). Jortin calls him “the insolent and persecuting Pope Leo, who applauded the massacre of the Priscillianists, and grossly misrepresented them.” [123:8]
SYMMACHUS (498-514). His election was violently opposed by the antipope Laurentius, and three Councils were held to decide the schism. Accusations of the most heinous crimes were laid against Symmachus. Bower says:
“This gave occasion to the rekindling of the war between the two parties in Rome; and several priests, many clerks, and a great number of citizens, fell daily in the battles that were fought in the different parts of the city. No regard was shown by either party to rank or dignity; and not even the sacred virgins were spared by the enraged multitude in their fury.” [123:9]
Eunodius declared that the Pope was “judge in the place of the most high, pure from all sin, and exempt from all punishment. All who fell fighting in his cause he declared enrolled on the register of heaven.” [124:1]
ST. HORMISDAS (514-23). He was a married man, and had a son, who was raised to the popedom. He was full of ambition, and insolent in his demands to the emperor, whom he exhorted to the persecution of heretics.
BONIFACE II (530-32). His election was disputed by the antipope Dioscorus. Each accused the other of simony, but Dioscorus opportunely died. Boniface “began his pontificate with wreaking his vengeance on the memory of his deceased competitor, whom he solemnly excommunicated, as guilty of simony, when he could not clear himself from the charge, nor retort it on him, as perhaps he otherwise might.” [124:2] This sentence was removed by Pope Agapetus.
SILVERIUS (536-38). He was accused of betraying the city of Rome to the Goths, and was in consequence expelled from his see.
VIGILUS (537-55). He was a deacon elected by bribery. He engaged himself to obey the Empress Theodora, who gave him money to gain the suffrages of the clergy. Anastasius tells us that he killed his own secretary in a transport of passion, and caused his own sister’s son to be whipped to death. He is considered to have been accessory to the banishment and death of Silverius. When banished himself by the emperor, he speedily repented, in order to save his seat.
PELAGIUS (555-60). He was accused of poisoning his predecessor. This is uncertain; but it is certain that, like most of his predecessors and successors, he incited the civil powers to the persecution of heretics.
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT (590-604). According to Gibbon, this pontiff was “a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition.” [124:3] Jortin’s picture is still less flattering:
“Pope Gregory the Great was remarkable for many things — for exalting his own authority; for running down human learning [125:4] and polite literature; for burning classic authors; for patronising ignorance and stupidity; for persecuting heretics; for flattering the most execrable princes; and for relating a multitude of absurd, monstrous and ridiculous lies, called miracles. He was an ambitious, insolent prelate, under the mask of humility.” [125:5]
Draper says that Gregory not only forbade the study of the classics, mutilated statues, and destroyed temples but also “burned the Palatine library, founded by Augustus Caesar.” Gibbon, however, throws doubt on this destruction, while admitting that it was generally believed. [125:6]
Gregory does not appear to have been fond of women and wine, like so many other popes; but he possessed the darker vices of bigotry and ambition. His congratulations on the usurpation of the cruel, drunken and lascivious Phocas, after a wholesale massacre of the emperor’s family, simply because the successful villain favored the pretensions of Rome (p. 109), are a sufficient proof that Gregory would scruple at nothing to advance the glory of his see.
SABINIAN (604-6). Bower says he rendered himself so odious to the Roman people by his avarice and cruelty to the poor, that they could not forbear abusing him whenever he appeared. In a dreadful famine he raised the price of corn to exorbitant rates. He accused St. Gregory of simony; but according to Baronius, that departed saint having vainly reproved him in three different apparitions for his covetousness, gave him in a fourth apparition so dreadful a blow on the head, that he died soon after. [125:7]
BONIFACE III (607). By flattering Phocas as Gregory had done, he induced him to take the title of universal bishop from the bishop of Constantinople, and confer it upon himself and his successors.
THEODORUS (642-49). He commenced the custom of dipping his pen in consecrated wine when signing the condemnation of heretics, [126:8] thus sanctifying murder with the blood of Christ. Of Adeodatus, Donus I, Agatho, and Leo II, we only know that they carried on fierce contests with the archbishop of Ravenna for refusing to acknowledge their supremacy. Leo II anathematised his predecessor, Pope Honorius, for heresy. [126:9] Neither Benedict II, John V, nor Conon, lived a whole year after assuming the tiara.
ST. SERGIUS I (687-701). He had to purchase his seat from the exarch of Ravenna by pawning the ornaments of the tomb of St. Peter. He was accused of adultery, but his innocence was strikingly proved; for, upon the child of whose parentage he was accused being baptised when but eight days old, he cried out, “The pontiff Sergius is not my father.” Bruys, the French historian of the Papacy, says, “What I find most marvellous in this story is, not that so young a child should speak, but that it should affirm with so much confidence that the pope was not its father.” [126:1]
CONSTANTINE (708-15). He is said to have excommunicated the Emperor, Philip Bardanes, for being of the same heresy as Pope Honorius. To oblige Constantine, Justinian II cut out the tongue and blinded the eyes of the Archbishop of Ravenna, who refused to pay the obedience due to the apostolic see. [126:2]
ST. GREGORY II (715-31). He was chiefly noted for his endowing monasteries with the goods of the poor, and for his opposition to the Emperor Leo’s edict against image worship. [126:3] Rather than obey the edict, he raised civil war both in Italy and elsewhere. He prayed that Christ might set the Devil on the emperor, and approved the barbarous murder of the imperial officer. [126:4] Yet the priests place in the list of saints a pontiff who, to establish the Christian idolatry of image worship, filled Italy with carnage.
STEPHEN III (768-72). When elected he found on the pontifical throne a lay pope, one Constantine, who, after a violent struggle, was dislodged and punished with the loss of his eyes, [127:5] many of his friends sharing the same fate. [127:6]
ADRIAN I (772-95). He made a league with Irene, the murderess of her son, to restore image worship, and presented to Charlemagne the pretended donation of Constantine. [127:7] Avarice was the vice of this able pontiff. He left large sums to his successors.
ST. PASCAL I (817-24). At the Diet of Compeigne this pope was charged with being accessory to the mutilation and murder of two Roman priests. The Pope denied the charge, but refused to deliver up the perpetrators of the crimes, alleging that they belonged “to the family of St. Peter.” [127:8]
EUGENIUS II (824-27). He had the honor of inventing the barbarous practice of ordeal by cold water.
NICHOLAS (858-67). He excommunicated Photius, the Greek patriarch, and the emperor Michael as his abettor, and threatened King Lothaire with the ecclesiastical sword if he suffered any bishop to be chosen without his consent. [127:9]
ADRIAN II (867-72). He was a married priest. He congratulated Bazilius, the murderer of the emperor Michael, and entered into alliance with him. [127:1]
JOHN VIII (872-82). The meek and holy nature of this worthy successor of St. Peter may be judged by his ordering the Bishop of Naples to bring him the chief men among the Saracens in that city, and cutting their throats in the presence of his legate. [127:2] A letter of John is extant, in which he justifies Athanasius, Bishop of Naples, for having plucked out the eyes of Sergius, Duke of Naples, who favored the Saracens in despite of the papal anathemas. He even cites the Gospel text as to plucking out offending eyes. Cardinal Baronius declares that this pontiff perjured himself, and that he rather deserved the name of a woman than that of a man. [128:3] The annals of the Abbey of Fulda relate that John VIII was poisoned by the relations of a lady whom he had seduced from her husband. [128:4]
FORMOSUS (891-96). He had been repeatedly excommunicated by John VIII. He invited Arnulf, the German emperor, to invade Italy, which he did, committing great atrocities. Formosus, however, had a great character for piety. He is said to have been well versed in scripture, and to have died a virgin in his eightieth year.
BONIFACE VI (896). Even according to Baronius, he was a man of most infamous character. He had been deposed for his scandalous life, first from the rank of sub-deacon, and afterward from the priesthood. [128:5]
STEPHEN VI. (896-7). He intruded into the see in the room of the intruder Boniface. Being of the opposite faction to Pope Formosus, he caused the body of that pontiff to be taken out of the tomb and to be placed, in the episcopal robes, on the pontifical chair. Stephen then addressed the dead body thus: “Why didst thou, being Bishop of Porto, prompted by thy ambition, usurp the universal see of Rome?” After this mock trial Stephen, with the approbation and consent of a Council of bishops, ordered the body to be stripped, three of the fingers (those used in blessing) to be cut off, and the remains to be cast into the Tiber. At the same Council all the ordinations of Formosus were declared invalid. [128:6]
Then followed what Riddle calls “a rapid succession of infamous popes,” of whom we may mention that Leo V (903) was deposed and cast into prison by his chaplain, Christopher, who was in turn ejected and imprisoned by Sergius III (904-11). This pontiff also had been excommunicated by John VIII. He was, says Baronius, “the slave of every vice and the most wicked of men.” [128:7] Riddle says:
“This Sergius III was a monster of profligacy, cruelty and vice in their most shameless and disgusting forms. But it was this very character which made him useful to his party, the duration of whose influence at Rome, could be insured only by a preponderance of physical power, and this again only by violence which should disdain all restraints of morality and religion. Sergius was the man for this purpose, who, while he lived in concubinage with Marozia, did not hesitate to yield all the treasures of the Roman Church as plunder to his party.” [129:8] To him succeeded other paramours of Marozia and of her mother the prostitute Theodora. John X, for instance (914-28), received his chair because he was the lover of Theodora, while Leo VI and Stephen VIII (929-31) were creatures of Marozia. Adultery and assassination form the staple of the annals of their pontificates.
JOHN XI (931-36). He was the son of Pope Sergius III. by Marozia, and if possible he surpassed his parents in crime. Elected pope at the age of eighteen, Alberic, his half brother, expelled him from Rome and imprisoned their mother Marozia. Stephen VIII (939-942) made himself so obnoxious to the Romans that they mutilated him. [129:9]
JOHN XII (956-64), the son of Alberic, was the first to change his name, which was originally Octavian. He nominated himself pope at the age of seventeen. Wilks says: “His profaneness and debaucheries exceeded all bounds. He was publicly accused of concubinage, incest, and simony.” This pope was so notorious for his licentiousness that female pilgrims dared not present themselves in Rome. [129:1] Bower says that he had changed the Lateran Palace, once the abode of saints, into a brothel, and there cohabited with his father’s concubine; that women were afraid to come from other countries to visit the tombs of the apostles at Rome; that he spared none, and had within a few days forced married women, widows, and virgins to comply with his impure desires. He was at length deposed by Otho, at the solicitation of a council of bishops and laymen, on charges of sacrilege, simony, blasphemy, and cruel mutilation. He had deprived one deacon of his right hand and made him a eunuch. He put out the eyes of Benedict, his ghostly father, cut off the nose of the keeper of the archives, and scourged the Bishop of Spires. [130:2] On the deposition of John, Leo VII was put in his place. John fulminated anathemas against his opponents, and soon after died, from a blow on the head while in bed with a married woman. [130:3] Jortin remarks that “Baronius says, from Luitprandus, that it was the Devil who gave John that blow; but it seems not probable that Satan would have used his good friend in such a manner. It is more likely that it might be the husband of the adulteress.” [130:4]
Mosheim says “that the history of the Roman pontiffs of this century [the tenth] is a history of monsters, a history of the most atrocious villainies and crimes, is acknowledged by all writers of distinction, and even by the advocates of popery.” [130:5]
BONIFACE VII (974). The old authors in derision call him Maliface. Having had his predecessor Benedict murdered, he plundered the Basilica and escaped with his spoils to Constantinople, whence he afterwards returned and murdered John XIV (984), then on the papal throne.
GREGORY V (996-99). He was turned out of his see by Crescentius, who elected the antipope John. Upon Gregory’s restoration he had this unfortunate creature deprived of sight, cut off his nose, and tore out his tongue. He then ordered him to be led through the streets in a tattered sacerdotal suit, and mounted upon an ass with his face to the tail, which he held in his hand. [130:6]
SERGIUS IV (1009-12). This pope was called Os Porci, or Swine’s Mouth. Of his doings little is known, but he is asserted to have gravely declared “that the pope could not be damned, but that, do what he would, he must be saved.” [130:7]
BENEDICT VIII (1012-24). He saved the city of Rome from a great storm, which it seems was caused by some Jews. The Jews being immediately executed the storm ceased. [131:8]
JOHN XIX (1024-33). He was a layman, brother of Benedict, yet he was raised to the see. Wilks says:
“It was by gold, and not by imperial power, that the Romans consented to this uncanonical election. The rapacity of this pope was so great that he offered to sell the title of ‘Universal Bishop’ to the see of Constantinople for a sum of money!” [131:9]
By his exactions, debauchery and tyranny, he became so odious to the Romans that he had to flee for his life.
BENEDICT IX (1033-46). A nephew of the last two pontiffs. Some say he was raised to the papacy at the age of twelve — others, at eighteen. He “stained the sacred office with murder, adultery, and every other heinous crime.” [131:1] Desiderius, afterwards pope under the name of Victor III, styles Benedict the successor of Simon the sorcerer, and not of Simon the apostle, and paints him as one abandoned to all manner of vice. [131:2] Being eager to possess the person and property of a female cousin, he sold the papacy to John Gratianus, “the most religious man of his time,” for a sum of money, and consecrated him as Gregory VI. Benedict afterwards poisoned Pope Damasus II. The Romans, weary of his crimes, expelled him from the city, but he was reinstated by Conrad. “But,” says Jortin, “as he continued his scandalous course of life, and found himself despised and detested both by clergy and laity, he agreed to retire, and to abandon himself more freely to his pleasures.” Stipulating therefore to receive a sum of money, he resigned his place to Gratianus, called Gregory VI, and went to live in his own territories. [131:3]
Mosheim calls Benedict IX “a most flagitious man and capable of every crime.” [131:4]
We have already seen how Benedict, Sylvester, and Gregory, were alike declared unworthy of the pontificate, and Clement placed in the see, and by what means Hildebrand contrived to extend the papal power. This great pontiff, Gregory VII (1073-85), has been accused of poisoning his predecessors in order to obtain the popedom, and also of committing adultery with Matilda, Countess of Tuscany, who bestowed all her possessions on the pope. But these accusations probably arose from the spite of the many enemies aroused by Hildebrand’s high-handed measures.
PASCAL II (1099-1118). He was a disciple of Hildebrand, and inherited his ambition without his talents. He compelled Henry IV to abdicate, but on his son Henry V marching against him, after a sanguinary struggle, he gave up to the emperor the right of investiture. Afterwards he excommunicated all who should declare his own grant to be valid. [132:5]
ADRIAN IV (1154-59). The only Englishman who ever became pope. He caused Arnold of Brescia to be burnt at the stake (1154) for preaching against papal corruption. The Irish should remember that it was this pope who, in virtue of the pretended Donation of Constantine, made over to Henry II of England the right to take and govern Ireland on condition of the pope receiving an annual tribute of one penny for each house. [132:6]
ALEXANDER III (1159-81). The Lateran Council (1179) declared war against all heretics, and a crusade against them was sanctioned by this pontiff. [132:7]
CLEMENT III (1188-1191). He published the third crusade (1189).
INNOCENT III (1198-1216) also preached a crusade. He claimed for his see universal empire and established the Inquisition to support the claim. He excommunicated Philip II of France and put the whole nation under interdict. Afterwards he placed England under interdict, excommunicated John, bestowed the crown on Philip of France, and published a crusade against England. He also instituted a crusade against the Albigenses, butchering them by tens of thousands with every circumstance of atrocity. [132:8]
GREGORY IX (1227-41). He formally established the Inquisition; and, to support his ambition and the unbridled luxury of his court, raised taxes in France, England and Germany, excommunicated kings, and incited nations to revolt; finally causing himself to be driven from Rome. [133:9]
INNOCENT IV (1243-54). He conspired against the life of the Emperor Frederic, through the agency of the Franciscan monks. To avoid confronting his accuser, he retired to France, summoned a council at Lyons (1244), and excommunicated and deposed the emperor, whom he coolly denominated his vassal. He also excommunicated the kings of Arragon and Portugal, giving the crown of the latter to the Count of Bologna. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and pretending to have the right of disposing of the crown of the two Sicilies, offered it to Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother to Henry III of England. Innocent made exorbitant claims to the bishoprics and benefices in England. [133:1]
BONIFACE VIII (1294-1303). He had his predecessor, Celestine, put in prison, where he died. [133:2] He openly styled himself “King of Kings,” trafficked in indulgences, and declared all excluded from heaven who disputed his claim to universal dominion. He persecuted the Ghibellines, and ordered the city of Bragneste to be entirely destroyed. He was publicly accused of simony, assassination, usury, of living in concubinage with his two nieces and having children by them, and of using the money received for indulgences to pay the Saracens for invading Italy. [133:3]
CLEMENT V (1305-1314). He is noted for his cruel suppression of the order of Knights Templar, so as to appropriate their property. He summoned the grand master of the Templars under false pretexts to his court, and issued a bull against the order in which he brought against it the most unfounded and absurd charges, and finally pronounced its abolition, having the Grand Master and many leading members burnt alive. [134:4] After sharing the spoils of the Templars with the king of France, Clement V fixed his court at Avignon, and gave himself publicly to the most criminal debaucheries. He preached a new crusade against the Turks and gave each new crusader the right to release four souls from purgatory. Dante places him in hell.
JOHN XXII (1316-34). Like his predecessors, he persecuted and burnt heretics. He anathematised the emperor of Germany and the king of France, and preached a new crusade. Money was raised in abundance by the sale of indulgences, and was misappropriated by the pope. He left enormous treasures. Villani, whose brother was one of the papal commission, states that this successor of the fisherman amassed altogether twenty-five million florins. [134:5] Gieseler says: “He arbitrarily disposed of the Benefices of all countries, chiefly in favor of his own nephews, and the members of his curia.” [134:6]
URBAN VI (1378-89). In his time occurred what is known as “the great Western schism,” which lasted from 1378 till the Council of Constance (1414). There were during that time two popes, one residing at Rome and the other at Avignon. But which of the popes was the true one and which the antipope has not yet been decided. Urban VI was a ferocious despot. He ordered six cardinals, whom he suspected of opposing him, to be brutally tortured. [134:7] Nor was his competitor, Clement VII, behind him in violence and crime. For fifty years they and their successors excited bloody wars and excommunicated one another. The schism, which cost thousands of lives, was ended by the deposition of John XXIII (1415), who was found guilty of murder and incest. He was accused before the Council of having seduced two hundred nuns. Theodoric de Niem informs us that he kept two hundred mistresses in Bologna, and he is described by his own secretary as a monster of avarice, ambition, lewdness and cruelty. [135:8] The same author says that an act of accusation, prepared against him, presented a complete catalogue of every mortal crime.
MARTIN V (1417-31). His crimes were not of a kind to be censured by a Council of bishops. He had John Huss and Jerome of Prague burnt alive, and to put down their heresies excited civil war in Bohemia. He wrote to the Duke of Lithuania: “Be assured thou sinnest mortally in keeping faith with heretics.”
EUGENIUS IV (1431-47). His first act was to put to torture the treasurer of his predecessor, Martin V. He seized that pontiff’s treasures and sent to the scaffold two hundred Roman citizens, friends of the late pope. [135:9] The Council of Basle was called and deposed the pope, setting up an antipope, Felix V. Civil war and much cruelty of course followed.
PAUL II (1464-71). He broke all the engagements he had made to the conclave prior to his election. He persecuted with the greatest cruelty and perfidy the Count of Anguillara. He strove to kindle a general war throughout Italy, and excommunicated the king of Bohemia for protecting the Hussites against his persecutions. He also persecuted the Fratricelli. “His love of money,” says Symonds, “was such that, when bishoprics fell vacant, he often refused to fill them up, drawing their revenues for his own use, and draining Christendom as a Verres or a Memmius sucked a Roman province dry. His court was luxurious, and in private he was addicted to all the sensual lusts.” [135:1] The same writer says that “He seized the chief members of the Roman Academy, imprisoned them, put them to the torture, and killed some of them upon the rack.” [135:2] He died suddenly, leaving behind him an immense treasure in money and jewels, amassed by his avarice and extortion. [135:3]
SIXTUS IV (1471-84). He strove to excel his predecessors in crime. According to Symonds, “He began his career with a lie; for though he succeeded, to that demon of avarice, Paul, who had spent his time in amassing money which he did not use, he declared that he had only found five thousand florins in the papal treasury.” The historian continues:
“This assertion was proved false by the prodigality with which he lavished wealth immediately upon his nephews. It is difficult even to hint at the horrible suspicions which were cast upon the birth of two of the Pope’s nephews and upon the nature of his weakness for them: yet the private life of Sixtus rendered the most monstrous stories plausible, while his public treatment of these men recalled to mind the partiality of Nero for Doryphorus … The Holy Father himself was wont to say, A Pope needs only pen and ink to get what sum he wants.’ … Fictitious dearths were created; the value of wheat was raised to famine prices; good grain was sold out of the kingdom, and bad imported in exchange; while Sixtus forced his subjects to purchase from his stores, and made a profit by the hunger and disease of his emaciated provinces.” [136:4]
“He was restrained by no scruple from rendering his spiritual power subservient to his worldly views, or from debasing it by a mixture with those temporary intrigues in which his ambition had involved him. The Medici being peculiarly in his way, he took part in the Florentine troubles; and, as is notorious, brought upon himself the suspicion of being privy to the conspiracy of the Pazzi, and to the assassination which they perpetrated on the steps of the altar of the cathedral: the suspicion that he, the father of the faithful, was an accomplice of such acts! When the Venetians ceased to favor the scheme of his nephew, as they had done for a considerable time, the pope was not satisfied with deserting them in a war into which he himself had driven them; he went so far as to excommunicate them for persisting in it. He acted with no less violence in Rome: he persecuted the Colonnas with great ferocity: he seized Marino from them; he caused the prothonotary Colonna to be attacked, arrested and executed in his own house. The mother of Colonna came to San Celso in Branchi, where the body lay — she lifted the severed head by the hair, and cried ‘Behold the head of my son! Such is the faith of the pope. He promised that if we would give up Marino to him he would set my son at liberty; he has Marino: and my son is in our hands — but dead! Behold thus does the pope keep his word.'” [136:5]
Jortin says that “Sixtus IV erected a famous bawdy-house at Rome, and the Roman prostitutes paid his holiness a weekly tax, which amounted sometimes to twenty thousand ducats a year.” [137:6]
INNOCENT VIII (1484-92). Schlegel, in his notes to Mosheim, says he “lived so shamefully before he mounted the Roman throne, that he had sixteen illegitimate children to make provision for. Yet on the papal throne he played the zealot against the Germans, whom he accused of magic, and also against the Hussites, whom he well-nigh exterminated.” [137:7] Wilks says: “He obtained the votes of the cardinals by bribery, and violated all his promises.” [137:8] The practice of selling offices prevailed under him as well as under his predecessors. “In corruption,” says Symonds, ” he advanced a step even beyond Sixtus, by establishing a bank at Rome for the sale of pardons. Each sin had its price, which might be paid at the convenience of the criminal: one hundred and fifty ducats of the tax were poured into the Papal coffers; the surplus fell to Franceschetto, the Pope’s son.” [137:9] The Vice-Chancellor of this rapacious pontiff, on being asked why indulgences were permitted for the worst scandals, made answer that “God wills not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should pay and live.” It must be added that “the traffic which Innocent and Franceschetto carried on in theft and murder filled the Campagna with brigands and assassins.” [137:1] The Pope’s vices cost him so much that he even pledged the papal tiara as a security for money.
ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503). Roderic Borgia was one of the most depraved wretches that ever lived. His passions were so unbridled that, having conceived a liking for a widow and two daughters, he made them all subservient to his brutality. Wilks calls him “a man of most abandoned morals, deep duplicity, and unscrupulous ambition. Like his predecessors, he had but one object at heart, the temporal and hereditary aggrandisement of his family.” [138:2] Mosheim says: “So many and so great villainies, crimes and enormities are recorded of him, that it must be certain he was destitute not only of all religion, but also of decency and shame.” [138:3] This pope, at a certain feast, had fifty courtesans dancing, who, at a given signal, threw off every vestige of clothing and — we draw a veil over the scene! “To describe him,” says Symonds, “as the Genius of Evil, whose sensualities, as unrestrained as Nero’s, were relieved against the background of flame and smoke which Christianity had raised for fleshly sins, is justifiable.” [138:4] His besetting vice was sensuality; in oriental fashion he maintained a harem in the Vatican. He invited the Sultan Bajazet to enter Europe and relieve him of the princes who opposed his intrigues in favor of his children.
In regard to his death we follow Ranke:
“It was but too certain that he once meditated taking off one of the richest of the cardinals by poison. His intended victim, however, contrived, by means of presents, promises and prayers, to gain over his head cook, and the dish which had been prepared for the cardinal was placed before the pope. He died of the poison he had destined for another.” [138:5]
JULIUS II (1503-13). He obtained the pontificate by fraud and bribery, [138:6] and boldly took the sword to extend his dominion. [138:7] Mosheim says:
“That this Julius II possessed, besides other vices, very great ferocity, arrogance, vanity, and a mad passion for war, is proved by abundant testimony. In the first place, he formed an alliance with the Emperor and the King of France, and made war upon the Venetians. He next laid siege to Ferrara. And at last, drawing the Venetians, the Swiss and the Spaniards, to engage in the war with him, he made an attack on Lewis XII, the king of France. Nor, so long as he lived, did he cease from embroiling all Europe.” [138:8]
PAUL III (1531-49). He was as much a man of the world as any of his predecessors. He acknowledged an illegitimate son and daughter. [138:9] The emperor once remonstrated with him on having promoted two of his grandsons to the cardinalate at too early an age. He replied that he would do as his predecessors had done — that there were examples of infants in the cradle being made cardinals. [139:1]
We now close this horrid list of criminals. Since the Reformation the popes have been obliged to live more decently, or at least to conceal their vices instead of flaunting them before the world. Should the Protestants object that they are in no way responsible for the crimes of the Papacy, we shall cheerfully concede the plea; but at the same time we beg to remind them that Catholics are also Christians, and that the historian must deal with the whole system through all the centuries. Besides, as Michelet observed, Protestantism is after all only an estuary, and Catholicism the great sea.
[125:4]So intense was Gregory’s hatred of learning, that he angrily rebuked the Archbishop of Vienna for suffering grammar to be taught in his diocese, and contemplated burning all the writings in existence that were not devoted to the cause of Christianity.