Doug Smith: The Medici Foundation

2 Sep

doug smith

Doug Smith: Author, historian and lead contributor to Free State Patriot


house of medici

For the non-history geeks, a book I am reading on the rise and fall of the House of Medici will likely be boring. I find it fascinating and instructive. The Medici was a Florentine family of growing wealth and influence in Renaissance Italy. At their apex, they wielded great power in the formation of the 14th century world. This is not to say it was all a good influence, but they changed the world around them.

One of their most notorious and flawed sons, Giovanni, certainly had his little foibles. He launched a war to install his nephew in power in one Italian city. He borrowed exorbitant amounts for his war, and his hobbies, which included hiring famous artists of the day for such projects as the St Peter’s Basilica. He spent far more than he had on his pet projects, and set out to thoroughly enjoy the position of power he held, regardless the cost, or who had to pay, or what he had to do. He was notorious for his debauchery as well as his extravagance, and if he had any shame in selling his office to support his desires, it was well hidden and not recorded.

He is remembered to the world as Pope Leo X.

One of his more ingenious ways of selling his office was indulgences. On the theory that the Pope had the power of earth to forgive sins on God’s behalf, Leo came up with a divine get out of hell free card: the Indulgence. For a price, wealthy donors could wipe out what they had done, or even invest in what they intended to do in the future, that was forbidden by their faith, and have the sin wiped out, or indulged, by good old Leo. Adultery? Theft? Murder? Extortion? Let me consult the menu, and see how many ducats we need to keep the artists painting, the soldiers fighting, the consorts cavorting naked, and the various deals alive. (I suppose his vows of poverty and chastity were indulged as well). Does a bishop need money to send to the Pope to purchase his office? Indulgences. There was even a bureaucrat in the church in charge of indulgences. It was argued that, after all, the church did some good with its money, and paid for some great works of art, so its little foibles ought to be overlooked, after all, everyone did it; that was just the way of the world.

Then along came a young priest with a conscience deeply troubled by the debauchery and corruption he witnessed at Rome. So troubled was this young man that he took exception. In point of fact, he took 95 exceptions, which he wished to debate. So troubled was the Pope by his daring to challenge his authority, and income, that he excommunicated the young man and invited him to come to Rome and be imprisoned. He declined the offer, and took his list of 95 problems, and his conscience, and his understanding of truth and right, and began to teach others. Many who were also disturbed with the corruption and avarice of those who sought to lead them self-righteously, while living in such debauchery, followed the young man and began a movement that rejected the old, corrupt ways.

That man was Martin Luther. His influence is still evident today, 5 centuries after the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church no longer sells indulgences.

Now, if you see many parallels between current or aspiring leaders of today and Giovanni De Medici, you are not alone.

For whatever good the Medici Foundation may do with a few of its ducats, it does not make the corruption with which it obtains them any less objectionable.

So where is our Luther?



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