Brantly Millegan, "The Danger of Good Popes" (On the Square, September 27, 2013). Excerpts:
Pope Benedict IX was elected pope in 1032 when he was just a teenager: different sources put his age at somewhere between 11 to 20 years old. His father was the Count of Tusculum and used his influence to obtain the papacy for his son. Benedict IX indulged in extreme sexual immorality, including orgies and unnatural acts. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him “a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.” Papal historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote regarding Benedict IX: “a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest . . . occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses.” In an attempt to end the shame, Benedict’s godfather Fr. John Gratian offered Benedict a large sum of money to resign the papacy, and Benedict took it. He’s the only pope in history who’s known to have sold the papacy.[Hat tip to JM]
... Another story from papal history: A major dispute in the Church in the seventh century was whether Jesus had one will (monothelitism) or two wills (one human, one divine; dyothelitism). Pope Honorius I sided with monothelitism. Fortunately, forty years after his death, the ecumenical Third Council of Constantinople (approved by Pope Leo II) defined dyothelitism as dogma, and monothelitism as heresy. Pope Honorius I was listed as a heretic among those who had taught monothelitism. That’s right: an ecumenical council dogmatically defined a previous papal teaching as heresy and listed the past pope as a heretic.
A number of Catholic authors have endeavored to defend Pope Francis from criticism, particularly stemming from his recent interview. They have tried to defend him not only from misinterpretation, but also from criticisms of what he actually did say, his style, his choice of what to emphasize, etc. Their goal is admirable, and I largely agree with their sentiments, but in an effort to defend Pope Francis, Catholics must be sure to not overstate the role, powers, and privileges of the papacy.
Was the Holy Spirit at the Conclave?
... while God’s providence certainly extends over all of history, there’s no guarantee at all that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals to a good pope or that the Cardinals will listen accurately even if the Holy Spirit is prompting them. I have no reason to doubt that the Cardinals at recent conclaves have taken their duty seriously and prayerfully, but praying before making a decision doesn’t make the resulting decision the direct working of God. Very bad people can be chosen to be pope and in fact have been chosen to be pope. The only guarantee is that whoever they choose, the pope won’t infallibly teach something that is incorrect.