Pope Benedict IX (Latin: Benedictus IX; c. 1012 – c. 1056), born Theophylactus of Tusculum in Rome, was the leader of the Catholic Church on three occasions between October 1032 and July 1048. Aged approximately 20 at his first election, he is one of the youngest popes in history. He is the only man to have been Pope on more than one occasion and the only man ever to have sold the papacy.
Benedict was the son of Alberic III, Count of Tusculum, and was a nephew of Pope Benedict VIII and Pope John XIX. His father obtained the Papal chair for him, granting it to his son in October 1032.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia and other sources, Benedict IX was when made pontiff, around 11 or 12. He reportedly led an extremely dissolute life and allegedly had few qualifications for the papacy other than connections with a socially powerful family. In terms of theology and the ordinary activities of the Church he was entirely orthodox. St. Peter Damian is alleged to have described him as “feasting on immorality”; the anti-papal historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote that in Benedict, “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest… occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses.” The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.” The first pope said to have been primarily homosexual, he was said to have held orgies in the Lateran palace.
He was also accused by Bishop Benno of Piacenza of “many vile adulteries and murders”. Pope Victor III, in his third book of Dialogues, referred to “his rapes, murders and other unspeakable acts. His life as a pope was so vile, so foul, so execrable, that I shudder to think of it.”
He was briefly forced out of Rome in 1036, but returned with the help of Emperor Conrad II.
In September 1044 the opposition forced him out of the city again and elected John, Bishop of Sabina, as Pope Sylvester III. Benedict IX’s forces returned in April 1045 and expelled his rival, who returned to his previous bishopric.
Later in 1045, in order to rid the Church of the scandalous Benedict, his godfather, the pious priest John Gratian, persuaded Benedict to resign the papacy for a sum of money, thus allowing Gratian to become Pope Gregory VI. Some also say that Benedict wanted to marry.
Benedict IX soon regretted his resignation and returned to Rome, taking the city and remaining on the throne until July 1046, although Gregory VI continued to be recognized as the true pope. At the time, Sylvester III also reasserted his claim.
German King Henry III intervened, and at the Council of Sutri in December 1046, Benedict IX and Sylvester III were declared deposed while Gregory VI was encouraged to resign because the arrangement he had entered into with Benedict was considered simoniacal; that is, to have been paid for. The German Bishop Suidger was crowned as Gregory’s successor, Pope Clement II.
Benedict IX had not attended the council and did not accept his deposition. When Clement II died in October 1047, Benedict seized the Lateran Palace in November, but was driven away by German troops in July 1048. To fill the power vacuum, Bishop Poppo of Brixen was elected as Pope Damasus II and universally recognized as such. Benedict IX refused to appear on charges of simony in 1049 and was excommunicated.
Benedict IX’s eventual fate is obscure, but he seems to have given up his claims to the papal throne. Pope Leo IX may have lifted the ban on him. Benedict IX was buried in the Abbey of Grottaferrata c. 1056. According to the abbot, he was penitent and turned away from his sins as pontiff.
Benedict is usually recognized as having had three terms as pope: the first lasting from his election to his expulsion in favour of Sylvester III (October 1032 – September 1044) the second from his return to his selling the papacy to Gregory VI (April – May 1045)
the third from his return after the death of Clement II to the advent of Damasus II (November 1047 – July 1048)