Mental Floss

Two Popes, One Cap: The Strange Story of How There Came to be Two Popes

Special Guest Star
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My quiz book is full of questions every mildly-educated American SHOULD be able to answer—but often can't. Prior to publication, we ran all the questions past a test audience to see how many people answered each one correctly. Those stats are included in the book, so you can see exactly how poorly you stack up against your fellow countrymen. Plus each answer comes with a rip-roaring Fun Fact. For

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, I'll be taking the best facts from the book and exploring them here in greater depth.

Today's question: What's the current pope's name? (Note: We'll accept either his given name or his special pope name.)

ANSWER: The pontiff was born Joseph Ratzinger and is now known as Pope Benedict XVI. (These days, Roman numerals are apparently only useful for numbering Super Bowls, Rocky movies and popes.) If you got this wrong, you are dumber than 74% of America

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As years passed, popes on both sides died and were replaced with no reconciliation of the schism. Then in 1409, the two sides convened a reform council because clearly, something had to be done. The obvious solution they came to: Name a third pope! This one was Alexander. His existence really didn't help things.
Finally by 1417, everyone had pretty much had enough of these papal shenanigans. The various popes either resigned or were deposed, and unity was restored by Pope Martin V. Bonus fun fact: Martin V really should have been named Martin III, but the Catholic church had lost track of how many prior popes had taken the name Martin. But, whatever, that's another story entirely"¦.

We'd love to thank Adam Winer for his wonderful week of guest posts (click here if you missed yesterday's on Ernest Hemingway's cross-dressing). Go out and pick up a copy of How Dumb Are You? at your local bookstore or And for more information about his book and appearances, make sure to visit