The Little-Known 9th C. Marriage Crisis & the “Great” Pope Who Stood Firm

Public Domain, Wikipedia / ChurchPOP

As confusing and difficult the current controversy in the Church regarding the indissolubility of marriage is, there’s one important thing to keep in mind: this isn’t the first time in history some Catholics have really wanted to be able to get divorces.

Most people are already aware of the 16th century marriage controversy that led King Henry VIII to lead the church in England in schism from Rome. But how people have even heard of the great marriage controversy of the 9th century?

[See also: The Worst Result of the SCOTUS Marriage Decision Won’t Be Persecution]

[See also: The Great Marriage Martyrs: 8 Hero-Saints Who Can Inspire Us Today]

It was far more dramatic that anything happening in the Church today – and the pontiff at the center of it earned one of the highest honors a pontiff can have. Here’s what happened:

King Lothair II of France wanted to divorce his wife and marry another woman. But, of course, as is the case today (based on the words of Jesus himself!), divorce wasn’t allowed in the Catholic Church. So, he bribed a papal legate and got a council of local bishops to approve an annulment of his marriage.

When Pope Nicholas found out what had happened, he commissioned a retrial in Rome, which was attended by two archbishops that had allowed the questionable annulment. Upon review of the evidence, the pontiff not only found the annulment to be illicit, but he deposed the two archbishops who had overseen the corrupt annulment proceeding.

Enraged, King Lothair II marched his armies to Rome and took control of the city. He cornered the pontiff in the old St. Peter’s Basilica and demanded that the pope recognize the annulment.

Despite having no food and being threatened with severe personal injury for two days, Pope Nicholas refused to budge.

Finally, the Holy Roman empress Engelberga convinced King Lothair II to leave the city. But Pope Nicholas never granted that annulment and spent the rest of his life trying to reconcile King Lothair to his original wife.

Due to his holiness and courage in defending the indissolubility of marriage, he is not only recognized today as a saint, but as Pope St. Nicholas the Great. There are only two other popes with that title: Pope St. Gregory the Great and Pope. St. Leo the Great (some people also add Pope St. John Paul the Great to this list).

Can you even imagine what it would be like today if a foreign army invaded the Vatican and demanded the Pope change Church teaching? Rest assured that the Church survived that calamity – and she’ll survive the current one as well.

[See also: The Lost 1200-Year-Old Wonder: A Tour of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica]

[See also: Gay Marriage and the Total Breakdown of Moral Argument]

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