Spirituality for Today – July 2016 – Volume 20, Issue 12

The 119th Pope
Pope Sergius III

An image of Pope Sergius III, the 119th PopePope Sergius III, the 119th Pope

Pope Sergius III (904–911) – Hold on to your seats! When it comes to shocking actions by a pope, Pope Sergius III makes it to the "medal stand." He ordered the murder of the anti-pope Christopher and Pope Leo V while the two of them were imprisoned. He opened up an old can of worms by reaffirming the decisions of the Cadaver Synod (897). Chaos ensued in the local Church by placing into question a number of ordinations and episcopal assignments. He forced local clergy to fall in line with his wishes by threatening them with violence. He has the backing of the noble families in Rome including the one that ruled the local militia. The Eastern Church was not spared the trouble making. In opposition to the patriarch of Constantinople, he approved the fourth marriage of the emperor who was lacking male heir (Henry VIII would have loved this pope). If all of this is not enough to rank him among the papal list of shame, he allegedly fathered an illegitimate child.

Wow! Did he do anything of merit? The Lateran Basilica had been damaged extensively because of an earthquake; he did complete repairs of the church. There were a number of popes who put more emphasis on their secular rule than on their spiritual rule. Upon his death, he was buried there.

Habemus papam