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knowing my faith
Question from Theresa on 6/23/2007:

i recently met with women from my church whom i would consider very faithful. they were discussing different things when one said that we had a female pope once. my priest already let me know that this was incorrect, but being a convert, i would not have known. is there a book or a web site for me to go to that would give me correct history on my faith. i would like to know my faith more. i have the catechism of the catholic church, but i haven't seen this covered. if you know of anything that could help me i would really appreciate it.

Answer by Matthew Bunson on 6/24/2007:

For the record, Pope Joan was a supposedly female pontiff who reigned for two years as Pope John VIII, between the pontificates of Leo IV and Benedict III, roughly between 855 and 858 (one version declares that Pope Joan was elected in the year 1100). I cannot stress enough -- there is absolutely NO historical evidence that such an event ever took place. The tale is pure fiction repeated by anti-Catholics. The story has long been dismissed as a total fabrication by all reputable scholars even though it was quite popular in the Middle Ages. According to the legend, she was a talented scribe who, disguised as a man, advanced through the ranks of the Curia and was elected pope. After a brief rule, however, she gave birth to a child while in procession to the Lateran and was stoned to death. First recounted by the Dominican chroniclers Jean de Mailly and Stephen of Bourbon, the story soon spread through the writings of the thirteenth-century Polish Dominican Martin of Troppau.

The story of Pope Joan can be dismissed, aside from all the other reasons, by the fact that the sede vacante between Leo IV and Benedict III was much shorter than two years. Pope Joan was used in the sixteenth century to promote anti-papal sentiment and anti-Catholicism by Protestant polemicists. Now it is being used by secularists and anti-Catholics in the wake of the Da Vinci Code.



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