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Addressing Inferno Canto XIX: Simony and Corruption in the Papacy

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  1. Introduction
  2. Dante intentions to showcase specific examples of corruption in the Church
  3. The second pope the Poet singles out for condemnation
  4. The poets painting Clement V as the worst of the corrupt simoniacs to come
  5. Conclusion

Dante writes Canto XIX as an indictment of church practices that remove its members from the spiritual sphere and give them too much political power. When corrupt people gain power in the Church, their corruption compromises the Church's status and negatively affects the entire political atmosphere of Europe. This is why simoniacs are punished in the 8th circle of hell ? Below thieves, prostitutes, and even murderers.. Specifically, Dante singles out three popes who used simony to further their political ends - Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, and Clement V. Their corruption had negative affects on the Church, Tuscany, and even Dante himself ? indirectly leading to his exile from Florence in 1302.

[...] This reflects the way the pope twists his power in the Church to further his own secular ends. Unsurprisingly, Clement, worst of the simoniacs, himself came to power through an act of simony. His election to the papacy came as a result of a desire to please the French monarchs, including Phillip the Fair. which conceded some of his power to the control of these secular, outside rulers. Clement moved the papal seat to Avignon, putting himself under the influence of the ambitious Phillip the Fair. [...]


[...] Dante uses Canto XIX to show that church corruption, represented by simony, is one of the worst sins punished in the Inferno because of its spiritual and political effects. The three popes that were condemned to the circle of the simoniacs all acted in ways that betrayed the spiritual nature of the Church. Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, and Clement V used their spiritual power, originally intended to uphold the eternal glory of the Church, to reduce it to a material commodity. [...]

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