The Vatican’s new Pope Francis told journalists that moments after his election to the chair of St. Peter last week he was inspired to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi because of that saint’s work for peace and the poor. However, St. Francis, originally Giovanni Bernadone (1181-1226), wasn’t as saintly as the Vatican make out, and his true nature was suppressed by the Bollandists who wrote the Vatican’s fictitious ‘Acta Sanctorum’, a massive collection of books containing the lives and acts of every saint in the Holy Roman Calendar that later become the foundation of all investigation in hagiography and legend.
The true story
The Bollandists supposed that St. Francis’s mother was so religious she bore him in a stable so that his birth would resemble the Gospel story of Jesus Christ, but they made no mention that he was ‘a madman through and through, a danger to the public safety’¹. St. Francis grew up ‘a debauched youth’² and having robbed his father, was disinherited, but seemed not troubled by it. Around 1205, he joined the Catholic army in the Crusade established to annihilate the gentle Cathars, but was later dismissed because of his mental condition. A spendthrift, his dress was that of a beggar, his looks were haggard and his eyes were ‘glazed in a frightening stare’.³ Pope Innocent III (d. 1216) described him as ‘the most strange visitor, and was very much calmed when he left my office’.4 Professor P. J. Lennox of the Catholic University of America related that St. Francis, ’while his eyes burnt with a strange fire, he wandered about his native town of Assisi, followed by a crowd of children who hooted and jeered at the madmen which they knew him to be’.5
St. Francis was never ordained a priest, and while fasting, starved himself to death around the age of 45.
Extolling the saints
For centuries, the Vatican used a weird form of deceit to fool people into believing that its saints were special people, and this example from the ‘Acta Sanctorum’ shows the literary method used to extol St. Francis of Assisi;
‘When he preached a sermon in the wilderness, birds assembled from the four cardinal points of the world. They warbled and applauded every sentence; they sang a holy mass in chorus; finally they dispersed to carry the glad tidings all over the universe. A grasshopper that generally kept company with the saint remained perched on the head of the ‘blessed one’ for a whole week’.
(‘Acta Sanctorum’, St. Francis of Assisi)
Such is the nonsense of the Christian religion, and there are more grotesque ‘miracles’ attributed to this saint. Attacked by a ferocious wolf in Gubbio, St. Francis, who had no other weapon but the sign of the cross he made upon himself, began arguing with his rabid assailant. ‘Having imparted to the beast the benefit to be derived from the holy religion, St. Francis never ceased talking until the wolf became as meek as a lamb, and shed tears of repentance over his past sins. Finally, he stretched his paws in the hands of the saint, followed him like a dog through all the towns in which he preached, and became half a Christian’ (‘Life of St. Francis’, Demonologia).
Untrue saint-legends and the death of common sense
The Bollandists spent around 300 years creating thousand of invented ‘saint’ stories that Major Joseph Wheless, Associate Editor of the American Bar Association Journal (1930) called ‘a collection of sinister lies of priest-craft and unimpeachable evidence of the fraudulent pretensions of the Church of Christ’. The Vatican agreed, saying:
‘Needless to say that they [the legends of the ‘saints’ in ‘Acta Sanctorum’] do not embody any real historical information and their chief utility is to afford an example of the pious popular credulity of the times’.
(‘Catholic Encyclopedia’, Farley Ed., Vol., i, p. 131)
In other words, the ‘Acta Sanctorum’ is another Vatican forgery that was presented to the world as fact, and the Bollandists were still industriously creating more forgeries in the 1930s. Today, access to the ‘Acta Sanctorum’ is not easily obtained, and one suspects that the Vatican is withholding the volumes because of the embarrassment their invented nature would cause if released into the hands of the media or judicious modern-day authors. The new pope wanted to honor St. Francis of Assisi by adopting his name, saying that the saint was an admirer of nature and a servant to the poor and destitute. However, like everything else in Christianity, the story of St. Francis of Assisi’s piousness is another Vatican fabrication that even the new Pope was deceived into believing.
¹ ‘De Antiqua Ecclesiae Disciplina’, Bishop Lewis Du Pin, Catholic historian
³ ‘Life of St. Francis’, Demonologia
4 ‘The True Story of the Popes’, Robert H. Benson, London, 1922
5 ‘History of St. Francis’, Prof. P. J. Lennox, Catholic University of America, 1911