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Definition:   A name given to describe the papacy in the tenth century. It means “prostitute rule” and describes the influence of a mother and her daughter over the papacy. The mother Theodora was part of a powerful family that ruled Rome. A friend of the family, Pope Sergius III (904-911) became pope when he had the previous pope strangled. At the age of fifteen, the daughter of Theodora (Marozia) became the mistress to the pope and had his child. Through Marozia’s manipulation her son was elected pope (John XI, 931-935). Theodora (the mother) was the concubine for Pope John X (914-928). But Marozia arranged for his imprisonment in order to promote her favorite to the chair of Peter (Pope Stephen VII, 929-931). Another offspring of Marozia was Alberic, who ruled Rome and appointed popes during this time. The grandchild of Marozia became Pope John XII (955-964).

Discussion:  The Bible predicted that a false world religion would arise to masquerade as true Christianity. One description of this corrupt power is “mother of harlots” (Rev. 17:5). Today the pope is elected by a group of Cardinals. But the pope has also been appointed by political intrigue, manipulation and murder. Could Pope Sergius III rightly be addressed as the “Holy Father?”

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