Benedict IX (pontificate 1032–44, 1045, 1047– 48) was another Pope suspected of magical pursuits, although his Papacy was more notorious for his sexual indulgences than anything else. Elected a Pope at the young age of eleven or twelve (some say around eighteen or twenty; either way, the youngest Pope on record), he was considered to be “a demon from hell in the guise of a priest” by St. Peter Damian in his text Liber Gomorrhianus due to his homosexuality and, it is said, bestiality. Benedict IX is the only Pope to have held the office for three separate terms of office, all due to political machinations and corruption. It is no wonder that he was also accused of sorcery and demonolatry.

Pope Gregory VII (pontificate 1073–85), while considered by many a saintly man who forcibly established priestly celibacy as a rule in the Church, fought against corruption, and strove for unity between the Eastern and Western churches, was nevertheless deposed on the grounds of sorcery and magic. It was, of course, a political maneuver, and the evidence provided against him is suspect.

The Dominican Bishop St. Albertus Magnus was reputed to have a talking head, like Silvester II. This one, however, was smashed by his pupil St. Thomas Aquinas.

Roger Bacon (1214–94), a Franciscan monk famous for his scientific research in the field of optics, among other disciplines, was imprisoned on suspicion of magic and sorcery by his own Order. In actuality, he did study alchemy and the occult, particularly Arab treatises on these subjects, and was supported in his efforts by Pope Clement IV (pontificate 1265–68).

Pope Boniface VIII was accused of sorcery in 1303 A.D. by King Philip IV (“Philippe le Bel”) of France, only a few years before he organized the wholesale arrests of the Knights Templar on charges of blasphemy and devil-worship, which led to the subsequent execution of their Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.

During another trial lasting from 1308 to 1313, Bishop Guichard of Troyes was accused of sorcery and magic in the murder of the Queen.

In 1317 the Bishop of Cahors was burned at the stake for his attempt on the life of Pope John XXII through magic and incantations. He was joined by Matteo Visconti and Galeazzo Visconti for the same crime against the Pope.

That same year, another man—a layperson— was convicted of the murder of several persons through the use of wax images that had been baptized by priests.

In 1319, Brother Bernard Delicieux was convicted of possessing occult and magical books in Carcassonne, France.

And on and on throughout the four-

teenth century, an incredible number of Catholic clergymen—including most importantly bishops and the occasional Pope—were accused, tried, and convicted of using occult means to rid themselves of political enemies. This was the same period that saw the suppression of the Order of the Knights Templar, the organization believed to have been the origin of the Masonic Orders that would appear in Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Thus, as we can see, there is a certain pedigree of occultism among the Catholic hierarchy, by reputation if not in fact. This pedigree certainly extended downward in the hierarchy to include all manner of priests, and in these cases the evidence is more clearly available and irrefutable.

One of the earliest such cases involves St. Theophilus of Adana (died c. 538 A.D.). Adana is a city in what is now south-central Turkey, and at the time was an important Eastern Orthodox center. Theophilus was an Orthodox priest who was thwarted in his plans to become a bishop. Angered, he is then said to have summoned the devil and made a pact with him, so he would become bishop. The essence of the pact was that Theophilus would renounce Jesus and Mary, and that the pact be signed in his own blood. According to the most popular form of the legend, Theophilus awoke one morning to find the pact signed—by both the devil and himself—on his chest. Coming to his senses, he appealed to the Virgin Mary to intercede for him. This was done, and the devil was robbed of a choice soul. Theophilus went on to become a saint, and his story used as an example of how the Virgin Mother might intercede with God on the behalf of sinners.

Lest the reader assume that all this sorcery and alchemy among prelates only took place in the distant past, however, let us look at a more recent case, that of Cardinal Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro (1843–1913), a man who could have been Pope.

The story of Cardinal Rampolla has been reported by both conservative and liberal Catholics, and the facts are generally agreed upon by both sides.


We begin with a turbulent era for Europe and the Catholic Church: the time of Bismarck and the consolidation of an alliance between Germany, Austria, and Italy against France over the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine. Pressure against France led to her forming her own alliance, this time with Russia: strategically and politically, a setback for Bismarck’s Triple Alliance. The year is 1890. The man who was blamed, at least in part, for this debacle was the Secretary of State under Pope Leo XIII: Cardinal Rampolla.

Rampolla was born in 1843 in Sicily, in Polizzi Generosa (a town that also gave us film director Martin Scorcese), and in the diocese of Cefalu. This latter is interesting, because Cefalu was the town where English magician Aleister Crowley set up his Abbey of Thelema during the time of Mussolini . . . the dictator and fascist leader who eventually had him deported after news of Black Masses and other atrocities allegedly perpetrated by the “wickedest man in the world” were reported in the European press.

Rampolla’s ambitions were great. By the time he was thirty-two, he was already in Madrid, acting as councilor to the Papal nuncio there. At thirty-four he was back in Rome as Secretary of Propaganda Fide, essentially a political position. He was consecrated archbishop in 1885, then proclaimed a cardinal in 1887, becoming the second most powerful clergyman in the Vatican when he was appointed Leo XIII’s Secretary of State. Often seen as a stepping-stone to the Papal tiara, the Secretary of State wields enormous influence over the Vatican’s relationships with the rest of the world. (Cardinal Montini, who would later become Pope Paul VI, was also a Secretary of State, for instance.)

In 1890, however, the deal between France and Russia against Germany’s Triple Alliance was seen as a setback for the Vatican, and this was blamed on Cardinal Rampolla’s efforts towards appeasing the French as well as the Slavic countries of Bohemia and Croatia.

Prior to this, in 1884, Pope Leo XIII had issued a famous encyclical—Humanum Genus— which attacked Freemasonry in no uncertain terms. In this he was following the precedent of previous Popes Clement XII, Gregory XVI, and Pius IX, among others. Clement XII had condemned the Order almost from the date of Freemasonry’s creation, and Pius IX had supported the publication of Carbonari documents seized from the Alta Vendita Lodge, which allegedly proved the desire of the Carbonari (and, by extension, Freemasons) to destroy the Catholic Church. Leo XIII would republish these documents, paying for it out of his own pocket. Thus was the official antagonism between Freemasonry and the Catholic Church demonstrated in public view.

Indeed, the situation was especially touchy in Italy, which had seen the rise of the Carbonari—an occult and revolutionary sect with strong ties to the Masonic lodges (Masons were immediately accepted into the Carbonari at the highest, “master,” degree)—almost destroy the Kingdom of Naples, for instance. It was widely believed that the Freemasons were behind the

French Revolution, and it is no secret that Free masons performed many services for the American Revolution, the lodges acting as safe houses and the Masonic network providing important intelligence during the war with Britain. General George Washington and the indispensable General Lafayette of France were both Freemasons. The Carbonari themselves had been active in Spanish and French political intrigue, as well as Italian affairs of state.

Thus, the Church had reason to fear a Masonic conspiracy that would topple its worldly power as it had toppled kingdoms throughout Europe. Was there now a Masonic influence behind the Franco-Russian pact against Germany’s Triple Alliance? As Austria was considered solidly in the Catholic camp, and neither France nor Russia were seen as pro-Catholic, there were rumors that the Freemasons were behind this new geopolitical shift.

In fact, according to the documents seized from the Alta Vendita Lodge, the Carbonari and the Masons had intended to infiltrate the Church and put their own Pope on St. Peter’s Throne.

This they almost succeeded in doing in 1903.

Pope Leo XIII, Cardinal Rampolla’s champion, died on July 20 of that year. The Conclave of Cardinals was begun, in order to identify the next Pope. At the first ballot, and then the sec ond, Rampolla was the clear front-runner, and the way seemed clear to his nomination as the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, Cardinal Puzyna of Cracow rose from his seat to make a stunning declaration, one that has not been heard since. He invoked an ancient privilege, the right of veto by the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, against Cardinal Rampolla.

The effect was electrifying. Firstly, this veto power—known in ecclesiastical circles as the Jus Exclusivae, or “Right of Exclusion”—was designed to protect the Church from an unworthy candidate. It is not clear how a secular authority like a King or an Emperor was considered capable of overriding the votes of the College of Cardinals. In fact, this right had been invoked for centuries. It opens up some intriguing possibilities, however, and one wonders what the People’s Republic of China would make of it since they have been accused—rightly—of interfering in the religious affairs of Tibetan Buddhists and Chinese Catholics, much to the dismay of world opinion. If the Church considered it feasible that a secular authority would have the ability to cast a decisive veto in the election of their own Pope, then it opens the door to other countries using the Jus Exclusivae as a moral or even legal prec edent for their own behavior. This was, in fact, hotly debated among Church historians and lawyers for centuries, and the last time it was put into effect was the exclusion of Cardinal Rampolla.

Austria’s veto caused shock waves to ripple through the assembly, and led to Rampolla’s defeat in his bid to become Pope. The reason for the exclusion was not given, but speculation has since offered several various explanations. In the first place, Rampolla’s intrigues against the Austrians in favor of the French would have caused some concern in the mind of Franz Josef, who thus would have an enemy on the throne of St. Peter. That argument seems rather weak in retrospect, since the Emperor had to be somewhat cajoled into invoking the Right of Exclusion.

Another point of view, supported by some documentation, tells a different story.

In this version—widely reported in the years after the Papal election of 1903—a Vatican watchdog, one Monsignor Jouin, had uncovered evidence that Cardinal Rampolla was, in fact, a Freemason and had been initiated into Freemasonry during his sojourn in Madrid. Jouin was a tireless foe of Freemasonry, had written several books on the subject, and was praised by Pope

and monarch alike for his efforts in uncovering Masonic plots. He was especially sensitive to the presence of Freemasons among the clergy. A kind of Senator Joe McCarthy of the period, he saw Freemasons everywhere.

But was Cardinal Rampolla—the man who would be Pope—really a Freemason?

Published records from the early twentieth century seem to indicate that not only was Rampolla a Mason, but that he also belonged to one of the most notorious occult societies of the century: the Ordo Templi Orientis, or OTO, of Aleister Crowley!


While it may seem strange to link such obviously opposed institutions as the quasi-Masonic OTO and the Catholic Church, there has been some crossover between the two and it points us towards a greater understanding of the role of secret societies within the Church.

OTO was the creation of some German occultists and Freemasons of the early twentieth century who claimed to have discovered the hidden secret of Freemasonry and, indeed, of all occult science: sex. They believed that the texts of the alchemists, the Rosicrucians (another secret society, allegedly formed in the early seventeenth century, based around the legend of Christian

Rosenkreutz, an occultist who traveled to the Middle East and learned valuable mystical information), and similar groups held encoded data of a sexual and biochemical nature. It was believed that the rituals of the secret societies were elaborate discussions of these secrets, comprehensible only to the initiates. Basically, these secrets involved the control and manipulation of the sexual impulse for other ends: trance states, magical attainments, and the like.

In this they may not have been far off. The Tantric cults of India, mentioned briefly before, had sexual allegories and practices at the heart of their belief system. To the Tantricists, sex was a kind of technology that could be explored and developed by the initiates. The witchcraft scare of Salem, Massachusetts, in America in the late 1600s was another example of how hysteria—a mental state with a possible sexual connotation—contributed to fits, trances, and hallucinations. To the initiates and founders of the OTO, this sexual technology could be elaborated upon, developed more deeply, and discussed in papers designed to be read only by other initiates.

One of these was Aleister Crowley (1875– 1947), the English magician and author of many occult texts, who made no mystery of the sexual element in magic. He joined the OTO and eventually claimed its leadership. In the process, he

expanded upon and modified something called the Gnostic Catholic Mass.

The Gnostic Mass was originally the creation of some French occultists, numbering among them the noted author of occult texts Gerard Encausse (also known as “Papus”). Membership in the Gnostic Catholic Church was not restricted to Christians, but included various Freemasons and members of other Orders, including the OTO. The Mass itself was originally a slightly modified version of the Catholic Mass, but soon turned into something a lot more scandalous under Crowley’s wand.

Crowley took the sexual nature of the OTO mythology quite seriously. He revamped the Gnostic Mass to reflect this new attitude, employing both a priest and a priestess in the rite, who perform a kind of stylized sexual pantomime. To emphasize the sexual nature of the Gnostic Mass, he also incorporated the use of a new type of Host; this was composed of menstrual blood and other ingredients in the form of small cakes to be ingested by the congregation after their consecration during the ritual.

Some performances of the Mass are quite tame and relatively circumspect; in other jurisdictions, the Mass becomes a more blatantly lewd affair. In either case, in the eyes of the Catholic Church, it is equally blasphemous and would probably be considered a “Black Mass,” Crowley’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.