Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Another one (from '04)
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Faith.

(We have long been uncertain whether or not we should print this article, which we found in an old book. Our respect for St. Peter's see restrained us. But some pious men having convinced us that Pope Alexander VI had nothing in common with St. Peter, we at last decided to bring this little piece into the light, without scruple.)

One day Prince Pico dell Mirandola met Pope Alexander VI at the house of the courtesan Emilia, while Lucretia, the holy father's daughter, was in childbed. No one in Rome knew who the child's father was -the Pope, or his son the Duke of Valentinois, or Lucretia's husband, the Duke of Aragon, who was supposed to be impotent. The conversation was at first very sprightly. Cardinal Bembo records a part of it.
"Little Pic" said the Pope, "who do you think is my grandson's father?"
"Your son in law, I imagine" answered Pic.
"Eh! how can you believe such nonsense?"
"I believe it through faith."
"But don't you know that an impotent man cannot have children?"
"Faith consists," returned Pic, "in believing things because they are impossible. And besides, the honor of your house demands that Lucretia's son shall not be considered the fruit of incest. You make me believe even more incomprehensible mysteries. Do I not have to believe that a serpent spoke -since when all men have been damned- that Balaam's she-ass also spoke very eloquently, and that the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpets?" Pic then ran through a litany of all the admirable things he believed.
Alexander collapsed with laughter on his sofa.
"I believe all that stuff, just as you do," he said, "for I know that only by faith can I be saved, and that I shall not be saved by my works".
"Ah! Holy Father," said Pic, "you have need of neither works nor faith. They are good for poor profane people like us, but you who are God's regent on earth can believe and do whatever you choose. You have the keys of heaven, and there is no chance of St. Peter shutting the door in your face. But for myself, who am only a poor prince, I admit that I should need potent protection if I had slept with my daughter, and if I had used the stiletto and the cantarella as often as your Holiness."
Alexander could take a joke. "Let us talk seriously," he said to Prince della Mirandola. "Tell me what merit one can have in telling God that one is persuaded of things of which in fact one cannot be persuaded? What pleasure can that give God? Between ourselves, saying that one believes what is impossible to believe is lying"
Pico della Mirandola made a great sign of the cross. "Eh! God the father!" he cried. "May your Holiness pardon me, but you are not a Christian"
"No, by my faith," said the Pope.
"I thought as much" said Pico della Mirandola.

-Voltaire.

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