65. Willard and the popes Sixtus

65. Willard

This is the story of the popes Sixtus. I don’t know anything about them, but they do exist and I feel their story should be told. I begin by googling.

While I’m googling I’ll share a little something about Australia. “By car,” is not an appropriate response to “How are you going?” Kangaroos are dumb. That is what a local told me. I have no way to verify this. If something dangerous happens in a coorporation in Australia the CEO is held personally liable. The first reaction I had to that was, I bet everything is wonderful in Australia. It’s not, though I did enjoy myself there during the 5 week work trip I just returned from. In the name of safety at work, huge mounds of paper are constructed everywhere. If an accident happens the lawyers run headlong into the huge piles of paper and have a very difficult time finding the CEO. Unfortunately, according to some government statistics I found, this approach does seem to be decreasing the number of on the job injuries somewhat so I guess it is working. Ok, I found something. Now back to the popes Sixtus.

There were five popes Sixtus. That seems like just the right amount of popes Sixtus. That is five popes of the Catholic church ranging well over a thousand years of human history. Hopefully this is going to have a bit of everything; intrigue, drama, adventure, comedy, thrills and maybe even a happily ever after. So to recap, what I know so far is that there were five popes Sixtus. I must google some more…

Pope Sixtus the I was the seventh pope. He is known for deciding that none but the sacred ministers are allowed to touch the sacred vessels. This is a legit fact from the Liber Pontificalis, a history of the popes. Ooooo! I probably shouldn’t be commenting live on my google research. This is actually not a legit fact. It is followed closely by, “This, like all accounts of early papal decrees, is of course fabrication, an attempt to assign a definite, primitive origin to the order prevailing in the sixth century.” Come to think of it, what is the Liber Pontificalis? If I don’t know, I don’t think I can use it as a reference. Scratch that. Moving on.

Pope Sixtus the II – unfortunately, martyred. Factoid: The total number of martyred popes is unclear to me; seems to be roughly around 30 though.

Pope Sixtus the III is all tied up with the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus. Question of the day, 431 a.d., was whether to call the mother of Jesus, Mary Theotokos or not. They decided to go ahead and do that, aaaand the world church split in two. What’s amazing about this is that more time had passed from the time Jesus was born until this massive schism than has passed today since the creation of the USA but nobody gives a defecation about 431 a.d. anymore. (That didn’t really work did it. This is a rare instance where the euphemism actually comes across as worse than the real thing. I apologise for that.)

So then China built the Grand Canal, Islam begins, the English have learned to swear and they don’t even know it (Saxons), and that is just to the 600’s. A thousand years go by and a IVth pope Sixtus appears. He immediately builds the Sistine Chapel, indulges in a little nepotism and dies. True story.

If anyone ever says to you, “Wow, what about that Pope Sixtus, eh?” without specifying a number, then you should know that they are talking about the legendary Pope Sixtus the V. Before becoming pope, Pope Sixtus the V was appointed Inquisitor of the much less well known Venetian Inquisition. He was so inquisitive that the Venetians requested that he be recalled to Rome and he was. After he became pope he inspired the local phrase, “This cannot last forever, as the guy who turned the spit said.” At the time brigands used to hide out in the colisseum in Rome and had been a big nuisance to the city for some time. One night a hermit asked to join the brigands for the night. He brought a large bottle of wine to share, turned the spit for them and said, “This cannot last forever.” And it didn’t, because he was Pope Sixtus and he had drugged them all with the wine and hanged them the next morning. He was a strong vigorous pope who at the end of his career started to mess with the order of the Jesuits and then he died. The obvious conclusion here is that there is no conclusive evidence that the Jesuits were in any way responsible.

That is not the whole story of the five popes Sixtus but that is about all the googling I want to do about it. There was some intrigue that I didn’t pass along. I have to say the level of adventure over all was a bit disappointing. There weren’t as many comedic or thrilling elements as I had hoped. The five popes Sixtus, however, according to their beliefs, are living happily ever after.