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The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History [Paperback]

John Vidmar
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press International,U.S.; annotated edition edition (1 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809142341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809142347
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.9 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,266,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Two things are very important to remember about the early Christian Church: a) it did not suddenly appear out of nowhere and b) it was not given to the world whole and entire. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but often brief or superficial 10 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is pretty good with a huge amount of content but sometimes it seems a bit brief on some topics or slightly too superficial to the extent that it doesn't always get to grips with all of the negative details and can feel a bit biased. However, contrary to that other comment, his covering of the Inquisition and Galileo is good and reflects a lot of what other modern scholars are starting to discover through revisionist study.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars very one-sided 12 Feb 2008
I bought this book due to the good reviews it received on I am sorry to disagree, it presents as far as I can judge a very one-sided view of history. It is one thing to put the inquisition into perspective, but another to distort the facts. "The medieval inquisition was actually a considerable advance in the treatment of criminals" (page 149). Well, I do not even see him as a Dominican mentioning the infamous "Malleus Maleficarum" written by members of his order, revealing the horrofic view behind the inquisition.

To Galilei he writes "what got him into trouble was not his scientific study of the solar system but rather his claim that the bible might be wrong" (page 258). This is absolutely distorting the facts: It was exactly Galilei's study of the solar system, seeing that the earth moves around the sun, which was seen to contradict the bible!

It is sad when Catholics feel the need to white-wash history in order to handle the negative aspects of history. This makes us Catholics loose all credibility.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
84 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST Book I Have Ever Read on This Subject 7 April 2006
By RIBOOKWORM - Published on
If you are looking for a well-written and comprehensive book on the history of the Catholic Church, this is it. Vidmar takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the twists and turns of the development of the Catholic Church--a journey that is first and foremost grounded in solid historical scholarship. What I like best, however, is Vidmar's easy, accessible writing style. That is to say, this book is actually READABLE, unlike most history books, which tend to be dull, dull, dull! The combination of sound scholarship (the book is loaded with maps, dates, interesting facts, and sidebars) and readability makes this an ideal book for classroom use as well as a book for someone who is simply interested in the history of the Catholic Church. A rare gem!
84 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Substance with Readability 3 Nov 2006
By Rich Leonardi - Published on
In the introduction to his book, Fr. Vidmar states, "After years of teaching adults, I have seen the need for a one-volume history of the Catholic Church that combines substance with readability."

He more than satisfies the need. Vidmar is a master historian, combining an understanding of the sweep of history with an appreciation for the potency of a minor detail. One such detail is his mention that one-half to two-thirds of all battlefield nurses during the American Civil War were Catholic nuns!

Since Fr. Vidmar follows Christopher Dawson's classic "six ages" formula, the book breaks down 2,000 years of history down into a half-dozen easily-digestible chunks.

Fr. Vidmar is the past author of "English Catholic Historians and the English Reformation" and his expertise shines through here. In addition to a thorough treatment of the tragic dissolution of the monasteries, he includes brief portraits of all the major characters of the English Reformation: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell, Cardinal Wolsey, Edward VI, Thomas Cranmer, Mary Tudor, and several others.

He includes at the end of each chapter both a useful list of "Recommended Readings" and a section called "audio-visuals" suggesting movies and documentaries. For instance, the reading recommendations at the end of the chapter "Protestant and Catholic Reformations" include nonfiction books like Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars" and Christopher Dawson's "The Dividing of Christendom," but also fictional works by Robert Hugh Benson. "Audio-visuals" includes the movies "The Mission" and "Black Robe," as well as episodes 5-9 of Kenneth Clark's masterful BBC documentary series "Civilisation," recently re-released on DVD.

In a glowing review of "The Catholic Church through the Ages," a writer in Homiletic & Pastoral Review called it "a scholarly examination of the Church's pilgrimage (including episodes of gross negligence or misconduct on the part of the institutional Church when that occurred)" from the perspective of "a loyal son of the Church." Just so.

Fr. Vidmar's book merits a wide, enthusiastic readership. And tradition-minded Catholics should not be wary in this instance of publisher Paulist Press, a company with a reputation for releasing "progressive" titles. They have published a marvelous work of history.
60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding history of the church 17 Nov 2006
By K. Schmiesing - Published on
I know neither RichLeonardi nor DesertWanderer nor the source of their evidently personal dispute, but it would be a shame if this book should suffer in any way for it. In case it matters, I do have a doctorate in history, and this book stands up as excellent history. It is, as the author concedes, intended for a broad audience and so it is more breezily written than what academic audiences expect. But this does not compromise its value. Vidmar does not ignore embarrassing or deplorable events in the Catholic Church's past, but he does peform the crucial task of placing all such problems in the proper historical context. A survey of this kind must emphasize certain themes to the neglect of others, and Vidmar focuses on controversial episodes such as the crusades and Nazism, a decision which makes sense in a book directed at a popular audience. I don't agree with every line of the text, but I have not seen a better, brief treatment of the history of Catholicism. Highly recommended.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Concise History Based on Christopher Dawson's Work 4 May 2011
By James E. Egolf - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
John Vidmar, OP wrote a good summary of the History of the Catholic Church which helps readers who are interested to have a clear view of c. 2,000 years of Catholic History. Father Vidmar used Christopher Dawson's format of dividing Catholic History into six ages. Father Vidmar's book titled CATHOLIC HISTORY THROUGH the AGES is clearly written and is an honest attempt to give readers an honest history of Catholic Church History.

Father Vidmar began this book with a good explation of the early Church Fathers. He compared Tertullian (c.160-220) with St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 140-215) who held different views re Ancient Greek thought in that Tertullian opposed Greek thought while St. Clement argued that Ancient Greek thought was a blessing from God. Father Vidmar clearly explained the thinking of St. Augustine (354-430 AD), who wrote the CITY OF GOD, and St. Jerome (346-420) who translated the VULGATE BIBLE. Father Vidmar's explanation of St. Athanasius (296-373) and the Nicene Creed was well done. Later Church councils amplified the Creed. A good assessment of Catholic creeds was that the Catholic Church "did not make it up while it went along." The point was the creeds already in place were explained and defended once they were challenged.

Father Vidmar's explanation of early monasticism undermined the popular notions of early Medieval monks and nuns. He credited St. Pachomius (287-356)for pioneering monasticism which quickly spread in Ireland and the rest of Europe. St. Anothony (251-356)was also an early pioneer who venerated St. Athanasius. Father Vidmar included the disputes between the Byzantine Church and the Roman Latin Catholic Church. To "outiders,"these disputes appear trivial and confusing. However, Father Vidmar clearly explained the "fine points" of these disputes such as the veneration of the saints and icons.

Anyone familiar with Catholic Church History is aware of the political forces that threatened the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church barely survived the "barbarians," and when Clovis (480-52O) who ruled Gaul or modern France converted to the Catholic Faith in 496 AD, the Catholic Church was well rooted in Europe. Later, Charles Martel's (688-741)victory over the Moslems at the Battle of Tours (732)gave the Catholic Church a respite from Moslems.

Another problem the Catholic Church repeatedly faced was that of scandal such as simony, nepotism, and greed. The Cluniac Reform which began in 910 helped resolve these issues. Pope Leo IX (1049-1054)and Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085)both enhanced reform. As readers may know, Pope Gregory VII was chased out of Rome in 1083 and died a bitter disappointed man who did not realize that he started the Papal Revolution which helped the Catholic Church wrest independence from German rulers.

The Catholic Church also went on the offensive against Islam via the Crusades. Father Vidmar did a credible job explaining that the Crusades were of defensive military operations espeically when viewed by Islamic massacres of European pilgrams. While the European crusades ended in 1291 in defeat, the Europeans faced Turkish invasions when the Catholic authorties and some of the Europeans stopped them at the Battle of Lepanto in 1572 and again in 1683. There was also a tough battle at Malta in 1565.

The intellectual prowess of Catholics was enhanced beginning in the 11th. century (1000s). St. Anselm (1035-1109)revived reason as a means to explain the Faith. He was preceded by Erigena (815-877)who used reason as an explanation of the Catholic Faith. Some of the Catholic authorities were concerned that the revival would undermine the Faith rather than enhance it. For example, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1053)had a bitter dispute with Peter Abelard (1043-1142)who wrote SIC ET NON which was a text which taught students to resolve apparent contradictions of the Bible, Church Fathers, etc. Father Vidmar's study of Peter Lombard (1100-1160) whose FOUR BOOKS OF SENTENCES was well done and was the standard text of Medieval theology students. The treatment of the Friars was well done, and Father Vidmar explained the difference between cloistered monks and nuns and travelling Friars such as the Franciscans and Dominicans. These friars were major influences in the Medieval universities such as St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) and St. Bonaventure (1217-1274).

Father Vidmar then did a careful study of the Inquisition. St. John Chrysostom (349-407)argued that the execution of a heretic was a crime, and "the name of the game" was to convert or reintegrate heretics to the Faith. The Albigensians raised the ante in the early 13th. century (1200s)when the Albigensians murdered Catholics who tried to reconcile with them. Catholic authorities were senstive to the fact that secular rulers could pervert the Inquisition, and there were abuses. However, over zealous inquisitors were severely penalized for abuses, and these penalities included life prison sentences. Readers may be interested that in 1994, the BBC did a presentation that clearly explained the exaggerations and false assumptions of the Inquisition. Sadly a college history "teacher" who taught for the State University of New York tried to explain that no matter how much evidence there was to the contrary, he still wanted to believe the false exaggerations and lies because it confirmed his bias and the refusal to examine sources and documents.

Father Vidmar then clarified the History of the Catholic Church during the period of the Avignon Papacy (1314-1377) and Schism (1377-1417). Father Vidmar sorted "the players" and the issues to help readers to more clearly understand. These events overlapped the Renaissance History of the Catholic Church. Father Vidmar did not hide the character flaws and the flaws of some of the Renaissance Popes and authorities. Father Vidmar presented charts and tables of Popes during the Schims and the Renaissance to help readers know who were actually involved.

The problems of the Catholic Church and the Renaissance scholarship served as a good background. Father Vidmar informed readers of the political factors and religious disputes that led to the Reformation. He gave a good precise of the origins of the Reformation in Germany. He exlained the concepts of Luther (1483-1546) and Calvin (1509-1564). Father Vidmar treated the events in England re Henry VIII (1509-1547), Edward (1547-1553), Mary (1553-1558),and Elizabeth (1558-1603).

Father Vidmar further explained the success of the Catholic Counter Reformation beginning with the Council(s) of Trent (1545-1563). The reaffirmation of the Faith and the reforms were long overdue, and Father Vidmar dissects these reforms. He also gave readers the rise of the new religious orders such as the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) started by St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556). The Counter Reformation expanded into new missionary zeal which extended to the Americas, Asia, and parts of Africa. The success of the Catholic Counter Reformation showed that careful planning and zeal paid dividends.

The last section of this book dealt with the "Sixth Age" of Catholic Church History beginning with the French Revolution. Father Vidmar explained why Catholic clergy were massacred in 1792 because of their refusal to adhere to the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790). Napolean (1769-1821)used the conflict between the Catholic Church and civil authorities to his own political advantage which was clear. These events were followed by the Revolutions of 1830 and the big European revolutions of 1848. These revolutions were often violent and destructive which alarmed Catholic authorities. Some historians have critisized the Syllabus of Errors (1864), Father Vidmar explained that the Syllabus was meant for specific situtations, but the apparent universal character of the document made Pope Pius IX (1846-1878)and other Catholics looked reactionary and, at times, rediculous.

The advent of Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903)made changes in spite of his concept of Papal Infallibility which was misunderstood. The concept only applied to "Matters of Faith and Morals." Pope Leo XIII also revived Thomism or the revival of Scholastic Philosophy and reason as the buttress for the Faith. Pope Pius X (1903-1914)and Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922)both tried to prevent W.W. I. The effects of W.W. I was viewed by Catholic authorities as a disaster which led to the rise of Fascism and Big Communism.

Father Vidmar had a good section of Catholcism in the U.S. He cited St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955)who did outstanding work in helping the poor attend school and learn. Father Vidmar also hadhigh praise of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) who was the first American to be canonized as a saint and who also did outstanding work re teaching/learning among the poor. Dorothy Day (1897-1980)started the publication of THE CATHOLIC WORKER on behalf of the working poor.

Father Vidmar concluded this book with a brief but effective history of the heroic efforts of Catholics before, during, and after W.W. II. He explained the changes via Vatican II (1962-1965). Those who are confused by recent changes re the Catholic Church will benefit from the latter parts of this book.

Father Vidmar wrote a readable account and a solid concise history. The book has a solid bibliography which can help readers "fill the gaps" in this book. Father Vidmar wrote a good book which gives careful balance of the History and ideas of the Catholic Church. The book is useful to those not familiar with Catholic Histroy and is a useful guide for those more knowledgeable about Catholic History.

James E. Egolf

May 2, 2011
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overall information of Christian history from the time of the ascension of Christ 26 Sep 2007
By Mary Snyder - Published on
This is an excellent book for study in a classroom. I appreciated the time lines that are in the beginning of each chapter. It gives you an overall view of what you are studying for that chapter.

Also, at the end of each chapter, it gives you recommended reading if you want to pursue a certain subject. The recommended reading is graded as A for easier reading, B for medium reading and C for harder reading.

This is especially good if there is one part of Christian history you are particularly interested in. I am a Catholic convert and used it in a five week course. It was exceptional.
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