I have been thinking lately about all the things in the news that confirm that temptation and evil is all around us. Serial killers, sex trafficking and a host of other issues that it is just almost impossible to believe. No matter when you turn on the television or read the newspapers, the news is full of stories that cause us to shake our heads and wonder what is wrong with mankind. We know that there are theological answers – the Fall in the Garden of Eden and the depravity of man, etc. but no government or ruling body is exempt from the the influences of evil – and that includes the church.
As I was preparing to write this evening, it occurred to me that today marks the anniversary of the resignation of the first Cardinal from the Catholic Church way back on August 17, 1498. His name was Cesare Borgia and he was the son of Pope Alexander VI, one of the most corrupt popes in history. Yes, this is the family that was immortalized by Showtime back in 2011 when they produced a limited run series about the Borgia’s. In fact, Alexander VI had many illegitimate children, including his son, Cesare, who became a Cardinal at the age of 15 when his father became Pope in 1492. However, after the death of Cesare’s brother in 1498, Cesare resigned his position as Cardinal and became engaged in other enterprises.
Ironically, Alexander VI, undoubtedly one of the most depraved popes in history, died on August 18, 1503, having fallen ill for several weeks before his death. The entire Borgia clan was tied up in furthering their state in life through advancement in the religious ranks of the church. Alexander’s uncle had been elected Pope Callixtus III and this was the catalyst for the family to increase their wealth and for Alexander to eventually purchase the papacy by buying votes from some of the senior Cardinals who where in the conclave. Legend has it that one Cardinal was said to have accepted more than 4 donkey loads of silver in exchange for his vote.
Anyway, once Pope Alexander VI was in office, he became the first pope in history to openly accept his illegitimate children, although there had been other popes who had also fathered children during their time as Pope. It’s just that Alexander took this sexually explicit behavior to new levels. There were numerous occasions when the papal residence was filled with more than 50 prostitutes who paraded around the rooms and halls looking for men to engage with. The Pope openly participated in these dalliances and it was not uncommon for senior members of the church to select “partners” for the evening.
In all fairness, the Borgias gave the papacy a bad name. But there have been many other numerous events in the life of the church – Catholic and otherwise, that haven’t been our finest hours. Remember the Bakers and the money that they embezzled? And we could go on and on. Some of the people that we have trusted the most have fallen far short of the standards that they have purported to uphold. Many of these shortcomings fall under the category of evil. This goes to show that none of us is exempt from the influence of Satan from time to time.
The verse for this evening is from 1Pet. 5:8, and is great advice for all of us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Ain’t that the truth? We can’t fall asleep – we must remain alert. My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to be great ambassadors for Him – living lives of example to others that model a Christlike behavior. My prayer is that through prayer and obedience to God, you will be able to resist the temptations of evil.
By the way, the accounts of those who were present at the death of Alexander VI indicated that in the end, Alexander repented and asked forgiveness for all the sins and evil that he had done throughout his papacy and before. And as a footnote, Cesare, his son who resigned his office as a Cardinal back in 1498 – well, in 2009 his remains were moved back into the church for re-burial after more than 50 years of petitions to allow this to happen. Shortly after his death in the early 1500’s, there was great debate about allowing him to be buried in the church, especially after he had resigned his office. The official position of the church now? Well, on the eve of the 500th anniversary of Cesare’s death, the church thought forgiveness was in order. And who are we to argue with that? Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…