A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present

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Overview

A History of the Popes tells the story of the oldest living institution in the Western world—the papacy. From its origins in Saint Peter, Jesus' chief disciple, through Pope Benedict XVI today, the popes have been key players in virtually all of the great dramas of the western world in the last two thousand years. Acclaimed church historian John W. O'Malley's engaging narrative examines the 265 individuals who have claimed to be Peter's successors. Rather than describe each pope one by one, the book focuses on the popes that shaped pivotal moments in both church and world history. The author does not shy away from controversies in the church, and includes legends like Pope Joan and a comprehensive list of popes and antipopes to help readers get a full picture of the papacy. This simultaneously reverent yet critical book will appeal to readers interested in both religion and history as it chronicles the saints and sinners who have led the Roman Catholic Church over the past 2000 years. The author draws from his popular audio CD lecture series on the topic, 2,000 Years of Papal History, available through Now You Know Media (www.nowyouknowmedia.com).
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Editorial Reviews

National Catholic Reporter
For a fair-minded, lively, easy-to-read account of the oldest surviving institution in the Western world, O’Malley’s offering is hard to beat.
Catholic Sun
Fr. O'Malley is a gifted writer, and though he must by necessity move fairly quickly through the centuries, he is capable at lingering on these characters enough to give a sense of their personality and place in the historical drama around them. He is also good at showing the movement and growth of the papacy throughout the past two millennia.
Crossings
The debate will continue about why the institution, one which Protestantism has tried to live without, persists anyway. . . . That question about the institution called papacy persists most of all and its current issues are well presented by John O'Malley's A History of the Popes. It's an excellent addition to any serious theological library but it's also an approachable story for the general reader which most everyone will find as a good and compelling introduction to these important men of Christian history.
America
In serving up this kind of hard-nosed history of so many saints and sinners, O’Malley surely does not disappoint. . . . O’Malley’s treatment of the medieval popes is consistently clear and engaging, but he really hits his stride when he reaches the popes of the early modern period, his own area of specialization. . . A fine example of a successful synthesis of a vast and complicated topic. And its publication is just one more reason O’Malley rightly deserves the title of dean of American Catholic church historians.
Catholic Historical Review
John W. O'Malley provides a short, clear, direct, and readable but still informative history of popes and the papacy.
St. Anthony Messenger
O'Malley gives a thorough and engaging overview of 'the oldest living institution in the Western world.' He seeks to 'provide a recognizable path through complicated terrain' and help readers to keep their bearings while including 'details that enliven it and at the same time illuminate bigger issues.' . . . Father O'Malley has once again written an excellent book.
Verbum Svd
O'Malley provides an interesting and informative overview of the papacy and its ambivalent journey within the history of the church.
U.S. Catholic
With a twinkle in his eye, eminent church historian John W. O’Malley, S.J., walks the reader through this dizzying roster. . . . In this whirlwind tour of the corridors of church power, O’Malley also takes care to highlight the saintly figures of various eras who had far more influence on the faith than many popes had.
Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses
.A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present is a well-written synthesis succeeding in its unpretending aim to be an accessible guide through the immensely complicated terrain of 2000 years of papal history.
The Book Corner
This is a paperback edition of the highly readable and engaging 2010 book by O'Malley, a Jesuit who teaches theology at Georgetown University. It's far from a simple listing or a series of encyclopedia-like entries. Rather, it's an explanation of the context in which the various popes served, including some of the history that, frankly, the church would much rather forget or at least ignore. O'Malley, though clearly a committed Catholic, is willing to look at the obvious questions surrounding the idea that the Apostle Peter can be considered the first pope -- at a time when there was barely even a Christian church.
Faith Matters
This is a paperback edition of the highly readable and engaging 2010 book by O'Malley, a Jesuit who teaches theology at Georgetown University. It's far from a simple listing or a series of encyclopedia-like entries. Rather, it's an explanation of the context in which the various popes served, including some of the history that, frankly, the church would much rather forget or at least ignore. O'Malley, though clearly a committed Catholic, is willing to look at the obvious questions surrounding the idea that the Apostle Peter can be considered the first pope -- at a time when there was barely even a Christian church. Despite all the ups and downs, the great men and the knaves who have occupied the Vatican throne, 'the papacy has proved to be a remarkably resilient institution,' the author concludes. In fact, it has undergone many changes over the centuries and today it may be at (or just past) the peak of its power and reach. Whether it can survive in its current form and state is an unanswerable question, though the history O'Malley gives us suggests some kind of change eventually is inevitable.
James Martin S.J.
John W. O'Malley, S.J., is not only the dean of American Catholic historians, he is also one of the church's greatest and most accomplished teachers. In his superb new book, Father O'Malley combines immense learning, sparkling prose, and fascinating insights to introduce readers to the always colorful history of the papacy. There can be no better guide for the educated reader to the story of the popes than Father O'Malley.
The American Spectator - The Tablet
O'Malley's offering is simple and straightforward, a perfect introduction to the subject and an easy read.
Jill Ker Conway
John W. O'Malley's A History of the Popes is a fast-paced narrative crammed with skillful vignettes of a colorful and varied cast of pontiffs from saints to sinners. The underlying theme of the narrative is the emergence of the papacy as a global institution and the development of its modern powers, many surprisingly recent in origin.
Msgr. Thomas J. Shelley
A History of the Popes has all the characteristic virtues of Father John W. O'Malley's scholarship. It is clear and straightforward, balanced and fair, lively and informative. He is quick to reveal the warts of the popes but equally quick to recognize their virtues. He is alert to demolish many myths that have grown up around papal history, but his approach is never polemical or iconoclastic. This will quickly be recognized as the work of a well-respected historian who has taught this material and reflected upon it over a period of many years, and should attract a wide readership well beyond the confines of the Catholic Church.
Leslie Woodcock Tentler
John W. O'Malley has written a fine narrative history of the papacy. Learned but accessible, lively but judicious, this is a story not just of personalities but context, as well-one that speaks to our own time as well as the past. Historical analysis at its best.
Liturgical Press
O’Malley has produced yet another remarkable text and places us all in his debt. To take on such a monumental task as compiling a single-volume historical account of the 266 generally accepted church leaders who have followed in the footsteps of Peter is a truly daunting task. . . .This volume is a gem that will inform, entertain, amuse, and inspire countless readers from widely differing backgrounds. . . .O’M has deliberately written this book for a wider audience, and its prose, as ever, is wonderfully lucid and stylish, peppered with fascinating anecdotes and lesser-known aspects of history that grip the reader’s attention throughout. . . .O’M is not afraid to get embroiled in the most contentious historical questions alone the way, including some of the most significant of all in this field of study. . . .His observations on some of the most critical questions pertaining to the papacy and the church in general are consistently thoughtful and measured. . . .Throughout, with characteristic succinctness, wit, and historiographical elegance, O’M. explores the personal and social origins and backgrounds of his subjects and tries to discern their personalities throughout. . . .This book will make a wonderful textbook at various levels, as well as a discussion text for parish groups and perhaps especially for ecumenical discussion groups. It will also be a cherished companion for readers seeking a less dense but nonetheless stimulating immersion into nearly 2000 years of history, regardless of their level of theological and historical training. Above all else, time and again O’M stirs the reader to think about individual popes, historical periods, and ecclesiological questions in a different way[.]
Review Of Politics
A compact, readable, and reliable work on the papacy by one of our very best church historians.
The Catholic Historical Review
John W. O'Malley provides a short, clear, direct, and readable but still informative history of popes and the papacy.
America
In serving up this kind of hard-nosed history of so many saints and sinners, O’Malley surely does not disappoint. . . . O’Malley’s treatment of the medieval popes is consistently clear and engaging, but he really hits his stride when he reaches the popes of the early modern period, his own area of specialization. . . A fine example of a successful synthesis of a vast and complicated topic. And its publication is just one more reason O’Malley rightly deserves the title of dean of American Catholic church historians.
Crossings
The debate will continue about why the institution, one which Protestantism has tried to live without, persists anyway. . . . That question about the institution called papacy persists most of all and its current issues are well presented by John O'Malley's A History of the Popes. It's an excellent addition to any serious theological library but it's also an approachable story for the general reader which most everyone will find as a good and compelling introduction to these important men of Christian history.
The Living Church
In John O'Malley's history of the popes, the accent is on the mischievous — typically highlighting popes flouting their authority or shouldering the burdens of office without the requisite aplomb.
U.S. Catholic
“With a twinkle in his eye, eminent church historian John W. O’Malley, S.J., walks the reader through this dizzying roster….In this whirlwind tour of the corridors of church power, O’Malley also takes care to highlight the saintly figures of various eras who had far more influence on the faith than many popes had.”
Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses
..A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present is a well-written synthesis succeeding in its unpretending aim to be an accessible guide through the immensely complicated terrain of 2000 years of papal history.
Faith Matters
This is a paperback edition of the highly readable and engaging 2010 book by O'Malley, a Jesuit who teaches theology at Georgetown University. It's far from a simple listing or a series of encyclopedia-like entries. Rather, it's an explanation of the context in which the various popes served, including some of the history that, frankly, the church would much rather forget or at least ignore. O'Malley, though clearly a committed Catholic, is willing to look at the obvious questions surrounding the idea that the Apostle Peter can be considered the first pope -- at a time when there was barely even a Christian church. Despite all the ups and downs, the great men and the knaves who have occupied the Vatican throne, "the papacy has proved to be a remarkably resilient institution," the author concludes. In fact, it has undergone many changes over the centuries and today it may be at (or just past) the peak of its power and reach. Whether it can survive in its current form and state is an unanswerable question, though the history O'Malley gives us suggests some kind of change eventually is inevitable.
Library Journal
Jesuit historian O'Malley (religion, Georgetown Univ.; What Happened at Vatican II) offers a sweeping but scholarly account of the history of the papacy, concentrating on those popes who played critical roles in the shaping of the institution, with the aim to show how the papacy came to play the part it does in the Catholic Church. O'Malley takes the time to explain concepts that would not be familiar to non-Catholics. His book is not a hagiography; at one point he questions why the eighth-century Pope Paul is listed among the saints. Libraries with significant Catholic collections will certainly want to purchase O'Malley's work, although those already owning Roger Collins's Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy may consider it an optional, though worthwhile, addition. Catholics seeking a more detailed account of papal history would be well served by Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, in its third edition. VERDICT O'Malley's is a finely crafted one-volume history of an institution that has served in a significant capacity in world affairs.—Augustine J. Curley, Newark Abbey, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580512275
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/16/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 407,817
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. O'Malley, S.J., is a Roman Catholic priest and professor of religion at Georgetown University. He lives in Washington, D.C., and is the author of numerous books, including What Happened at Vatican II and Four Cultures of the West.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Preface Part 2 Introduction Part 3 From the Margins to the Center of the Roman World Chapter 4 Peter: Bishop of Rome? Chapter 5 After Peter and Paul Chapter 6 Constantine: The Thirteenth Apostle Chapter 7 Prosperity to Crisis: Damasus and Leo the Great Chapter 8 Gregory the Great Part 9 Bringing Order out of Chaos Chapter 10 Greeks, Lombards, Franks Chapter 11 Charlemagne: Savior or Master? Chapter 12 Their Darkest Hour Chapter 13 Saving the Papacy from Itself Chapter 14 Gregory VII: Who's in Charge Here? Part 15 Development, Decline, Disarray Chapter 16 Compromises, Crusades, Councils, Concordats Chapter 17 Innocent III: Vicar of Christ Chapter 18 Boniface VIII: Big Claims, Big Humiliation Chapter 19 Avignon: The Babylonian Captivity Chapter 20 Three Popes at a Time: The Great Western Schism Chapter 21 Renaissance and Reformation Chapter 22 The Restored Papacy Chapter 23 The Renaissance Popes Chapter 24 Luther, Leo, and the Aftermath Chapter 25 Paul III: A Turning Point Chapter 26 Five Popes and a Council Chapter 27 The New Rome Part 28 Into the Modern Era Chapter 29 The Storm Breaks Chapter 30 Pius VII: Bowed Down and Raised Up Chapter 31 Beleaguered, Infallible, and Prisoner Again Chapter 32 Leo XIII: Searching for Solutions Chapter 33 Pius X: Confronting Modern Culture Part 34 The Papacy as a Global Institution Chapter 35 War, Peace, Fascism Chapter 36 Pius XII: Saint or Sinner? Chapter 37 John XXIII: Peace and Reconciliation Chapter 38 Paul VI: In a Tight Spot Chapter 39 John Paul II: The World is My Parish Part 40 Epilogue Part 41 List of Popes
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