On My Bookshelf: A History of the Popes

I’ve been wanting to hit up this book from my parish’s library for the past few months. Summer, even a moderately busy one, gives me ample time to catch up on such reading. I wasn’t disappointed by A History of the Popes.

Jesuit historian John O’Malley takes the reader through twenty centuries of popes in less than 300 pages.

For an admitted non-historian with some interest in why things happened the way they did, I found the scope and pacing to be about right. After I put down the book last night, there were a few popes I wanted to know more about.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find the Renaissance popes to be as bad as I expected.

I was surprised to read that today’s selection of bishops by Rome, a definite modernism, was swallowed down seemingly without much thought as to the pastoral or theological consequences.

I recommend this book. In light of the newest pope, it was interesting to read. The writing is sharp, moderately critical of the bad popes and bad practices and unsparing in praise and the search for why people might have done the things they did.. Don’t expect great detail–just enough to whet an appetite for history.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to On My Bookshelf: A History of the Popes

  1. Brendan Kelleher svd says:

    Enjoyed it, but it left me wanting more, so I acquired the latest edition of Eamon Duffy’s “Saints and Sinners” (Yale UP, 2006). Be interesting to see how historians 50, 100 years down to road assess the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Will they be willing to do a “warts and all” like O’Malley and Duffy. That would make interesting reading.

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