Antipope Leo VIII?

Originally posted 12/6/2009.

Leo VIII was true pope

1. Update 6/10/2010: Either Leo VIII or Benedict V was antipope after the death of John XII; they cannot have both been legitimate sovereign pontiffs. Since the Annuario Pontificio has not firmly decided either way, I sincerely believe I am permitted to hold the good-faith opinion that Leo VIII was never true pope.

2. It would seem that Leo VIII, whom O.J. Blum calls “a man of blameless character”,{1} has no right to remain in the list of popes. Rev. Reuben Parsons, D.D. of pious memory points out that the Ven. Cardinal Caesar Baronius

proves the nullity of the deposition, of Pope John XII, 1st, from the fact that there was not a sufficient number of witnesses brought against him; 2d, the decree was issued after only two citations of the accused, while the Canons require three, nor were there granted any delays; 3d, the Synodals demanded of the emperor what a layman could not effect, that is, the deposition of a Pontiff and the election of another; 4th, sentence, properly speaking, was not pronounced; a short speech of the emperor pretended to settle so important a matter; 5th, an assembly of bishops convoked by an emperor, without the consent of the Roman Pontiff, is not a Synod, but a mere convention possessed of no authority.{2}

So, in the first place, Leo VIII was installed while the true pope was yet alive.

3. Second, even if John XII was deposed, Leo VIII would not have been true pope because his manner of elevation was uncanonical. “Leo [was] yet a layman” who “received all the orders uncanonically without the proper intervals (interstitia), and was crowned pope as Leo VIII. This proceeding was against the canons of the Church, and the enthroning of Leo was almost universally regarded as invalid.”{3}
4. Third, the true Pope, John XII, canonically excommunicated Leo VIII and deposed him as an intruder: “On 26 February, 964, John held a synod in St. Peter’s in which the decrees of the synod of 6 November were repealed; Leo VIII and all who had elected him were excommunicated; his ordination was pronounced invalid…”{4} If Leo VIII was to become legitimate pope after the death of John, he would have to be brought back into communion and be validly ordained, then keep the canonical interstices as he went through the higher orders. I’ve read nothing to the effect that this took place.

5. Benedict V was the true successor to Pope John XII: right after the latter’s death, the Roman clergy and populace “elected the Cardinal-Deacon Benedict.”{5} His so-called deposition masterminded by the tyrannical Otto I “the Great” on June 23, 964 was invalid: “it is more probable that Benedict was degraded by force than that he voluntarily declared himself an intruder.”{6} Unless Benedict resigned, he remained pope from May 964 to his happy repose{7} on July 4, 965{8}, because “there is no power on earth which may depose a Pope. Any duly elected Pope remains therefore in office until he dies or resigns.”{9} Dr. Ludwig Pastor, the Historian of the Popes,{10} quotes the great Cardinal Joseph Hergenröther, who, in his review of the literature on the question of papal deposition, says, “No right existed by which the Pope (if really legitimate…) could be deposed…”{11} It is no wonder, then, that “even [when exiled in Hamburg, Benedict V was] acknowledged as pope by some of the German clergy.”{12} Leo VIII died in March 965,{13} about four months before the repose of Benedict V. Thus Leo VIII was never pope.
Notes & References
{1} Blum, O. J. “Leo VIII, Pope.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 484. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 2 Dec. 2009.
{2} Parsons, Rev. Reuben, D.D. Studies in Church History: Volume II: Centuries IX-XIV, 2nd ed. New York and Cincinnati: Fr. Pustet & Co., 1896. pp. 118-119. <>.
{3} Kirsch, Johann Peter. “Pope John XII.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 6 Dec. 2009 <>.
{4} Ibid.
{5} Mann, Horace. “Pope Benedict V.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 6 Dec. 2009 <>.
{6} Ibid.
{7} Brusher, Joseph, S.J. “Benedict V.” Popes Through the Ages. 6 Dec. 2009 <>.
{8} Mann, loc. cit
{9} Carroll, Dr. Warren H. “Anti-Popes.” Eternal World Television Network. 6 Dec. 2009 <>.
{10} Covert, J. T. “Pastor, Ludwig von.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 937. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 4 Dec. 2009.
{11} Pastor, Dr. Ludwig. The History of the Popes From the Close of the Middle Ages vol. I, 2nd ed. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., Ltd., 1899. p. 190. <>.
{12} Mann, loc. cit.
{13} Blum, loc. cit.


5 Responses to Antipope Leo VIII?

  1. […] Disputed Papal *Antipope Leo VIII? *Gregory VI Was True […]

  2. […] Will R. “Antipope Leo VIII?” The Banana Republican. 6 Dec. 2009. 17 Jan. 2010 <;. {5} Mann, op. cit, 75. {6} Ibid. {7} Ibid., 74. {8} Ibid. {9} Ennis, loc. cit. {10} Ibid. {11} […]

  3. […] Anglican scholar J.N.D. Kelly: “The validity of John’s deposition, which violated the ancient principle that the holy see can be judged by no earthly power, has been called in question.”{6} […]

  4. […] St. Silverius the Martyr (536-537), Stephen VI (896-897), John X (914-928), John XII (955-964), Benedict V (964-965), Benedict IX (1032-1045, 1047-1048), and Gregory VI […]

  5. […] Will R. “Antipope Leo VIII?” The Banana Republican. 9 Dec. 2009. 11 Jun. 2010 <;. {2} Ibid. {3} Ibid. {4} Carroll, Dr. Warren H. “Anti-Popes.” Eternal World […]

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