The posthumous trial of Pope Formosus (816-896 BCE) reads like bad fan fiction. According to Wikipedia,
Jean-Paul Laurens, Le Pape Formose et Étienne VII (“Pope Formosus and Stephen VII”), 1870 (note the latter is now called Pope Stephen VI) Pope Stephen VI, the successor of Boniface, influenced by Lambert and Agiltrude, sat in judgment of Formosus in 897, in what was called the Cadaver Synod. The corpse was disinterred, clad in papal vestments, and seated on a throne to face all the charges from John VIII. The verdict was that the deceased had been unworthy of the pontificate. The damnatio memoriae, an old judicial practice from Ancient Rome, was applied to Formosus, all his measures and acts were annulled and the orders conferred by him were declared invalid. The papal vestments were torn from his body, the three fingers from his right hand that he had used in consecrations were cut off and the corpse was thrown into the Tiber (later to be retrieved by a monk).
Following the death of Stephen VI, Formosus’ body was reinterred in St Peter’s Basilica. Further trials of this nature against deceased persons were banned, but Pope Sergius III (904–911) reapproved the decisions against Formosus. Sergius demanded the re-ordination of the bishops consecrated by Formosus, who in turn had conferred orders on many other clerics, causing great confusion. Later the validity of Formosus’ work was re-reinstated. The decision of Sergius with respect to Formosus has subsequently been universally disregarded by the Church, since Formosus’ condemnation had little to do with piety and more to do with politics.
Bartolomeo Platina writes that Sergius had the much-abused corpse of Formosus exhumed once more, tried, found guilty again, and beheaded, thus in effect conducting a second Cadaver Synod, while Joseph Brusher says that “Sergius [III] indulged in no resurrection-man tactics himself” and Schaff, Milman, Gregorovius, von Mosheim, Miley, Mann, Darras, John the Deacon of Naples, Flodoard, and others make no mention of this story.
The Catholic Church is apparently a bit unhappy over this sculpture currently being displayed in an Italian museum that depicts a green frog being crucified while it holds a beer mug in one hand and an egg in the other.
The sculpture, Zuerst die Fuess is by the late German sculptor Martin Kippenberger. The Vatican wrote a letter in Pope Benedict’s name supporting efforts by Italian politician Franz Pahl to have the sculpture removed from the state-supported museum where it is being displayed. In portions of the letter released by Pahl, the Vatican complains that the sculpture “wounds the religious sentiments of so many people who see in the cross the symbol of God’s love.”
According to the Associated Press, Kippenberger apparently considered the sculpture “a self-portrait illustrating human angst.” Um, yeah, why else would the frog be holding an egg in one hand?
On the one hand, it is always a bit strange to see people who allegedly have the Supreme Creator of all things brought low by something as ridiculous as a frog on a stick (or whatever the allegedly blasephemous item of the day is).
On the other hand, in Western societies generally the Vatican’s letter writing is about the limit of its power to actually remove the offending item. This was not always the case, and, of course, in many parts of the world a similar item — say portraying Mohammed as a green frog — would likely end up with museum officials in prison or worse.
Back in January, Pope Benedict XVI condemned violent/sexualized videogames saying,
Any trend to produce programs and products — including animated films and video games — which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion, all the more repulsive when these programs are directed at children and adolescents.
I take it the Pope won’t be rushing out to see 300.
It would be interesting to compare the damage wreaked by violent video games compared to the damage done by the Church’s public campaign against the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (physician Marcela Aslan does an http://www.catholic.org/international/international_story.php?id=19561“>excellent job of chronicling the very real human suffering caused by the Church’s campaign against condoms in Africa).
Compared to the Church’s anti-condom activism, the sins of the videogame and film industry seems positively venial.