Pope Benedict XIV

My ancestor Pope Benedict XIV

Am I proud to have a pope as an ancestor?  I am told that Pope Benedict (Benedetto) XIV was a relative of the Mansi family to which my maternal great grandmother,  Raffaela Marisi Mansi,  belonged.  He was born in Bologna in March 1675 to Marcello Lambertini and Lucretia Bulgarini,  who  named him Prospero Lorenzo.  The present pope, Benedict XVI is of course German and so were the Mansi side of my grandmother’s family.  They moved to Italy in the 17th Century during prosperous years in the silk trade.  Anyway, I don’t know who dug up this information, but it was eventually passed on to me because I was writing up the family tree.

I am not fond of popes really, but at least this particular pope, on the surface, seems to have been  a reasonably good one as popes go, solving problems up and down the Italian peninsula and successfully coercing Jews to convert.  So many popes and priests sired illegitimate children that the authorities had  to open foundling homes.  Raffaela herself was raped by a Catholic priest in Rome when she was thirteen years old.  (See my book   ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’ ) Like today, the priest in question didn’t have to answer to anyone, least of all his God who  would forgive him anything as long as he confessed and did penance.  When it was discovered that my poor great grandmother to be was pregnant, she was shipped off to London to have  the baby girl who was put in a Catholic foundling home to be saved from ‘original sin’ and an after-life spent in limbo, where-ever that is. Life on earth didn’t come into it.  Raffaela’s  life, and that of her daughter, were ruined as no ‘decent’ man would want to marry a fallen woman or a fatherless one.  Even so, generation after generation of my Italian forebears were devout Catholics.

When my brothers and I were living in a Catholic orphanage in Dunedin, boys were separated at age five from girls, it didn’t matter if the girls were their sisters.  The nuns told me years later they had to segregate the boys from girls otherwise they would not have  received funding from the Government.  But then weren’t all western  governments Christian?  How much easier it was then for Catholic  Priests to molest little boys unhindered.  They had done so for generations.

Quoted from a biography of Pope Benedict XIV: His pontificate coincided with a period when Europeans were turning against the Church, and the prestige of the Holy See was in decline. [Sound familiar?] He ruled that the baptism of the children of Jews or pagans without the consent of their parents was valid but illicit, as it would be dangerous to baptize children who might lose their faith when they reached the age of reason; when a Jewish or pagan child was baptised without parental consent, the children should be taken away from their parents to be raised in a devout religious manner [in an orphanage?]   My emphasis.

In my case, it didn’t work! Why doesn’t the Vatican concede defeat and allow priests to marry and couples to use contraception?  Perhaps then all children born will be wanted and paedophiles will stop gravitating toward a life of debauchery in the priesthood.

More about the origins of the Italian surname Mansi and a snapshot history of Venice


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