Eamon Duffy's new Book on Ten Popes who Shook the World

In his introduction, Duffy makes clear that this is not simply a best-of list. “An entirely plausible series with the same title could have been compiled with ten quite different popes as its subject matter,” he writes, continuing, “So long a history, stretching over two millennia and touching almost the whole world, defies neat pattern-making.” In lieu of imposing an artificial order on “the world’s most ancient dynasty,” then, Duffy chooses to highlight ten of the many influential figures among history’s 262 Bishops of Rome, and at every turn, we feel the truth of Duffy’s assertion that, “The papacy is an institution that matters, whether or not one is a religious believer.”

The book begins with the apostle Peter, “the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church was built,” and finishes with the recently deceased John Paul II, who harnessed the powers of modern transportation and communication to speak directly to the devout in a reassertion of …Catholic doctrines…

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Books, Europe, History, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

6 comments on “Eamon Duffy's new Book on Ten Popes who Shook the World

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    “The book begins with the apostle Peter….”

    I must have missed something in my frequent reading of the New Testament.

  2. Ad Orientem says:

    What did you miss? Peter has always been recognized by all those in the “catholic tradition”as the first bishop of Rome. We may disagree with everything beyond that, but Romans, Anglicans and Orthodox are at least on the same page with that.

  3. AnglicanFirst says:

    Reply to Ad Orientum (#2).

    I see nothing in the Gospel that elevated Peter to the single leader at the top of a pyrmidal command organizational structure. He was elevated, at that time in his mortal life, but not specifically to be a pope as has been known since the time of Emperor Constantine.

    Jesus emphasized humility in leadership to His disciples, especially the apostles. Only He spoke and acted with the full authority of the Messiah, the Son of God.

    But His disciples were always His students and and I read His words to Peter as the ‘passing of the baton’ to Peter as senior teacher and yet, with all humility, a synodic ‘equal among equals.’

    Paul, whom Jesus selected after His Ascension, was trained/conditioned in the customs and traditions of a Jewish organizational leadership of priests (elected annually), Pharisees, teachers and elders (read laity). And he, Paul, did more to establish church organizational structure in the Eastern Mediterranean than Peter did. As a matter of fact, church authority from Rome was a ‘Johnny come lately’ phenonemon.

    What logically should have followed from the apostles and the church fathers is a synodic organizational structure in which a senior bishop is elected by fellow bishops to be a ‘leader among equals’ and not a pyramidic stucture which has historically been fraught, at times, with abuse and dictatorial fiat containing theological error created by mortals and ‘political insiders’ and imposed by a single mortal who somehow managed to become Pope.

    This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been many good popes or that all the of decisions of the papcy since Constantine have faulty. Its merely a statement regarding monarchial mortal leadership and its many faults and the ‘equal among equals’ synodic form of leadership that is better able to avoid the errors and sins of a single mortal personality having papal authority.

  4. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Sidestepping the issue of whether or not Peter was the first pope, I was definitely intrigued by this plug from the publisher, Yale U. Press. Eamon Duffy is always interesting, even when he’s not totally convincing. He led the way in revising our whole understanding of the English Reformation with his massive study, also published by Yale in 1992, [b]The Stripping of the Altars[/b], which views “traditional religion” or popular piety on the eve of the Reformation much more positively than was previously done (by Protestant historians, of course).

    I’m curious to know which ten popes Duffy chose, as there were certainly more than 10 of the 262 popes who have had a dramatic and profound impact on the course of world history. And if the book originated as a series of broadcasts on the BBC, the style of this book is sure to be lighter and more accessible than some of Duffy’s more scholarly tomes.

    David Handy+

  5. Anthony in TX says:

    Rev. Handy, here’s a [url=http://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300176889]link[/url] with more information about the book.

    “The book begins with St Peter, the Rock upon whom the Catholic Church was built, and follows with Leo the Great (fifth century), Gregory the Great (sixth century), Gregory VII (eleventh century), Innocent III (thirteenth century), Paul III (sixteenth century), and Pius IX (nineteenth century). Among twentieth-century popes, Duffy examines the lives and contributions of Pius XII, who was elected on the eve of the Second World War, the kindly John XXIII, who captured the world’s imagination, and John Paul II, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years. Each of these ten extraordinary individuals, Duffy shows, shaped their own worlds, and in the process, helped to create ours.”

  6. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Thanks, Anthony (#5),

    Now that I know which 10 popes Duffy selected, my appetite is whetted all the more. Leo the Great is my favorite pope of all time, and I’d love to learn more about him, and likewise more about Gregory the Great and Gregory VII (Hildebrand, whom I think also deserves to be called “the Great”). I’m not fond at all of Innocent III, Paul III, or Pius IX, but maybe Duffy could help me see those men in a more positive light. As for the last three, I’d be particularly interested in how Duffy handles the common accusation that Pius XII was way too weak and vacillating in dealing with the Nazi’s.

    David Handy+