101 Questions and Answers on Popes and the Papacy


This fascinating, readable book answers almost every possible question that comes up whenever there is a papal transition-questions that haven't been posed for some time because of the long reign of John Paul II. And with new popes often advanced in years, these questions remain of perpetual interest and importance.

Our guide to addressing these questions is church historian Dr. Christopher Bellitto, a frequent media resource and public lecturer who enlightens audiences about ...

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This fascinating, readable book answers almost every possible question that comes up whenever there is a papal transition-questions that haven't been posed for some time because of the long reign of John Paul II. And with new popes often advanced in years, these questions remain of perpetual interest and importance.

Our guide to addressing these questions is church historian Dr. Christopher Bellitto, a frequent media resource and public lecturer who enlightens audiences about church history and Catholicism today. With the insights of a scholar and the voice of an entertaining professor, he tackles even the thorniest questions: How did the popes justify their authority? I know that Martin Luther comes along at some point and says that the papacy is the Antichrist. Why did he say this? Was Pius XII really "Hitler's pope"? Is the pope the closest person to God on earth? Was there really a Pope Joan? Do I have to believe every word the pope says?

From such details as Why do cardinals wear red? to such sweeping matters as What is papal infallibility?-Dr. Bellitto walks the reader through 2,000 years of the papacy, and the men named to be the "Vicar of Christ."

About the Author:
Christopher M. Bellitto, PhD, is assistant professor of history at Kean University in New Jersey

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

The recent papal visit to the United States and the changes Pope Benedict XVI has instituted in the Roman Catholic Church have renewed interest in the office of the papacy. Volumes on the church's history and its various other aspects abound; Bellitto's (Kean Univ.; Ten Ways the Church Has Changed) slim book, however, stands out among them. Instead of bogging down in details, it ably answers 101 common questions about the history, power, symbols, and even trivia of the Vatican (e.g., Was Peter the first pope? Are all cardinals bishops?). Also unlike many other such works, the volume does not advocate for or against any controversies in the last 2000 years of church history. Instead, Bellitto outlines the entire history of the papacy, including some of its highest and lowest points. An extremely selective bibliography provides a beginning path for future reading and research. This latest addition to Paulist Press's "101 Questions & Answers" series makes an excellent purchase for both public and academic libraries.
—Ray Arnett

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780809145164
  • Publisher: Paulist Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2008
  • Series: Responses to 101 Questions... Ser.
  • Pages: 177
  • Sales rank: 1,213,911
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xiii
Preface     xv
Timeline     xviii
The 101 Questions and Answers
Prologue     1
Was Peter the first pope?     1
This means that Peter was the leader after Jesus, right?     2
Some of my Protestant friends insist that the papacy isn't found in the Bible. Is it?     4
Is the papacy a human institution or a divine institution?     5
Is there a kind of model pope in church history?     6
The Early Church (ca. 50-800)
Where does that word pope come from?     11
Are you saying that the first one or two dozen popes weren't really "popes"?     11
Does this mean the bishop of Rome was "first among equals"?     12
How did bishops of Rome respond to some of these challenges?     14
I know that the Roman Emperor Constantine became a believing Christian. What was the Donation of Constantine?     16
This arrangement sounds like a two-edged sword. Was it?     17
When the Roman Empire fell, why didn't the power of the bishop of Rome fade away, too?     19
Which bishops of Rome stepped into the power vacuum?     19
How did the popes justify their authority?     20
It sounds like the popes were now saying their power was not only over the other bishops, but over theemperors, too. Is this where the idea of "church and state" comes from?     21
How did the emperors and kings respond?     23
The Medieval and Reformation Church (ca. 800-1600)
I had a teacher once say that the papacy really got started in the Middle Ages. Is this true?     25
I remember hearing about investiture. What was that and is it connected to this papal revolution?     27
When popes started to choose bishops, was that a good thing or a bad thing?     29
So can we say that the popes were claiming some kind of "superpower"?     29
I always hear negative things about the popes in the Middle Ages. Did they do anything good?     32
But were there any downsides to these developments?     34
Did anyone inside or outside the church complain about the popes becoming like monarchs at the time?     35
What about when the popes were in France somewhere?     37
I heard that there was a time when there were several popes simultaneously. Is this what an antipope is?     40
Three popes at once! How did they figure that one out?     42
Did this Council of Constance prove that a council is higher than the pope?     44
How did the popes fight back against the conciliar folks?     45
I know that Martin Luther comes along at some point and says that the papacy is the Antichrist. Why did he say this?      47
Is this where England's Henry VIII as "Head of the Church of England" comes in?     49
What was the Catholics' response?     49
How could this cardinal, Robert Bellarmine, defend the papacy after all that had happened over the last two centuries?     52
I keep hearing that the popes started a "siege mentality" after the Reformation. What does this mean?     53
The Early Modern and Modern Church (ca. 1600-today)
What were some of the achievements of the popes in this period?     54
Did a pope really condemn Galileo for saying the earth revolves around the sun?     57
I know that there were revolutions to overthrow kings in America, France, and England. Did these attacks hurt the papacy, too?     58
How did European countries try to take over the church?     59
Did Napoleon really take the popes prisoners?     61
How did Catholics respond?     62
What's ultramontanism?     63
It seems that some popes were afraid of modernity and others weren't. Is this true?     64
Was Pius XII really "Hitler's pope"?     67
Recent popes seem to have been very different types of men, no?     68
Everybody said Pope John Paul II traveled more than any other pope in history. Is this true and what is the importance of all those trips?     69
Power and Symbols, Cardinals and Conclaves
Papal Authority
I heard that Pope John Paul II called for a discussion about papal primacy. What is papal primacy?     73
Pope Benedict XVI dropped the title "patriarch of the west." What's the significance of this?     75
If the pope is the highest authority in the church, what is the authority of my local bishop or a group of bishops?     76
What are episcopal conferences, and what is their authority with respect to the pope's authority?     81
What about general councils like Vatican II?     82
Were things always so clear-cut?     83
But didn't St. Augustine say something like, "Rome has spoken, so the matter is closed"?     86
What's an encyclical?     87
What is papal infallibility?     88
Where did the concept of papal infallibility come from?     90
Did everyone agree with Vatican I?     92
Popes have made mistakes. Wasn't one even condemned as a heretic?     93
Pope John Paul II apologized for a lot of the church's mistakes, didn't he?     94
Is the pope the closest person to God on earth?     96
Do I have to believe every word the pope says?     97
Where do the cardinals come from?     98
What do cardinal and college of cardinals mean?     100
Why do cardinals wear red?     101
Why do they say someone gets a "red hat" when he's made a cardinal?     101
I heard that the number of cardinals who elect the pope is limited, but there seem to be so many more of them now. Were there always so many?     102
Are all cardinals bishops?     104
Is it true that if the pope wanted to appoint a woman to be a cardinal, he could?     104
Has there ever been a pope elected who wasn't a cardinal?     105
Papal Death and Succession
What happens when a pope dies?     106
Who's in charge between popes?     107
What's a conclave?     107
Was this always the way to elect a pope?     110
Sounds messy. Is that why the procedures were changed?     111
Who created the conclave?     112
Have conclaves changed over the centuries?     113
We keep hearing about oaths of secrecy, closed doors, and white smoke. It sounds very cloak-and-dagger. Were things always so secretive?     116
What were the shortest and longest conclaves?     119
Is it true that when a pope has a long reign and names many cardinals, the next pope is just like him?     119
What happens if a pope becomes incapacitated and can't serve as pope anymore?     121
Have popes resigned or been deposed?     122
We were all shocked when Pope John Paul II was shot. Then, of course, there are all those murder rumors about Pope John Paul I, who died so suddenly after his election. Have any popes been assassinated?     124
When I look at the Vatican, I see a lot of wealth, which doesn't remind me of a poor carpenter named Jesus. Why don't they just stop asking me for money, sell all that artwork, and give it to the poor?     125
It sounds to me like the papacy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance was often corrupt and greedy. Didn't anyone object at the time?     126
What were the papal states?     129
When did the Vatican become the papal headquarters?     130
I'm confused when I hear the Vatican, the Holy See, and Vatican City. Are they all the same thing?     132
How does such a large organization work?     133
I heard that popes were slave owners and helped the slave trade. Is this true?     134
The pope wears a lot of symbolic vestments and jewelry. What do they all mean?     135
Didn't popes wear something called a triple crown?     137
Why does each pope get his own coat of arms?     139
Whatever happened to that chair to carry popes around St. Peter's?     139
Why does the new pope change his name?     140
When did popes start wearing white?     140
Papal Potpourri
Was there really a Pope Joan?     145
Who were the youngest and oldest popes?     146
Which popes had the longest and shortest reigns?     147
Is it true that some popes were married and had children?     147
Were there any papal father-son combinations?     148
People are already calling John Paul II "the Great." Where does that title come from and how many "Greats" have there been already?     148
How many popes are saints?     149
The story of the papacy is inspiring, but there have been lots of flawed popes. Do you think people might have their faith weakened or lose heart by studying the entire picture of the papacy?     150
List of Popes (and Antipopes)     151
Notes     157
For Further Reading     175
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