Pope Benedict XII

One of the Popes was a 100% accident

One of the Popes was a 100% accident. In the Middle Ages, cardinals would often vote for a random candidate on the first papal ballot in order to see how the other cardinals were leaning, but in 1334 this backfired when they all voted for the same person: the very surprised Pope Benedict XII.

Fournier succeeded Pope John XXII as Pope in 1334, being elected on the first ballot of the papal conclave. A common practice at the time was for Cardinals to vote for a Cardinal who was not considered a real possibility for the papacy on the first ballot, in order to see how the other Cardinals were leaning. However, this time, an unusual thing happened: every Cardinal except Cardinal Fournier independently voted for Fournier. The Cardinals had not planned this, so the accession of the obscure Fournier on the first ballot was an entirely accidental affair.

Benedict XII was a reforming pope who did not carry out the policies of his predecessor. He chose to make peace with Holy Roman EmperorLouis IV, and as far as possible came to terms with the Franciscans, who were then at odds with the Roman See. He tried to curb the luxuries of the monastic orders, though without much success. He also ordered the construction of the Palais des Papes in Avignon.

Benedict spent most of his time working on questions of theology. He rejected many of the ideas developed by John XXII. In this regard, he promulgated an apostolic constitution, Benedictus Deus, in 1336. This dogma defined the Church’s belief that the souls of the departed go to their eternal reward immediately after death, as opposed to remaining in a state of unconscious existence until the Last Judgment. Though some claim that he campaigned against the Immaculate Conception, this is far from clear. He engaged in long theological debates with other noted figures of the age, such as William of Ockham and Meister Eckhart.

Though born a Frenchman, Benedict felt no patriotism towards France nor her king, Philip VI. From the start of his papacy, relations between he and Philip were frigid. After being informed of Philip’s plan to invade Scotland, Benedict hinted that Edward III, King of England would most likely win, regardless.