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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone interested in the Papacy
This book by De Rosa is much more than a history of the Papacy, although a large part of the book covers that. There are also major sections on many topics, including the development of the doctrine of papal infallibility, celibacy, abortion, divorce and birth control.

This book is clearly the result of years of research and reflection. It is crammed full of...
Published on 31 Aug. 2010 by TRA

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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad
De Rosa makes a humble dedication of his book but one thing that comes across is his total lack of humility
Published 10 months ago by ernest


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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone interested in the Papacy, 31 Aug. 2010
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
This book by De Rosa is much more than a history of the Papacy, although a large part of the book covers that. There are also major sections on many topics, including the development of the doctrine of papal infallibility, celibacy, abortion, divorce and birth control.

This book is clearly the result of years of research and reflection. It is crammed full of historical facts, and in the sections on subjects such as abortion and divorce it thoroughly presents arguments from both sides with clarity and sympathy, as well as explaining the teaching and actions of the Roman Catholic church on these subjects throughout its history.

The section in chapter 17 on the development of Christian doctrine by St Augustine of Hippo is extremely enlightening. The last pope dealt with is John Paul II, though Cardinal Ratzinger (as he then was) does merit several mentions. There is an excellent résumé of the work of the Inquisition.

De Rosa's book is fascinating, at times unputdownable and occasionally lightened by mild humour. It includes an index and a bibliography, but I would have also welcomed precise references to sources when the author makes use of quotations. (The author explains on p. 458 why he has not done this.)

I disagree with the author's interpretation of Scripture in some places and of who Jesus Christ was (e.g., on p. 265), but one should not only read that which one expects to agree with. This is far outweighed by the value of the overwhelming mass of factual information that is presented in this book and that is hard to find in one place elsewhere.

At points I felt that the book could have been improved by a small amount of editing, to eliminate repetition and thus shorten the book slightly. Those seeking a shorter history of the papacy are recommended to consider "The Conclave", by Michael Walsh, who, as the title indicates, concentrates on papal elections. This aspect of the papacy is not covered in detail by De Rosa's book, so the two books complement each other to some extent.

I would encourage every Catholic to view this book as essential reading, to acquire a rounded picture of the history of the church in general and the papacy in particular.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing read (even for believers), 6 April 2008
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
The facts are well known but rarely presented in such a readable form. It is an extraodinary tale of mischief and mayhem supposedly in the name of God. It devastates some unusual claims of the church but does it without getting out the hammer.
What gives the book its edge is that Peter de Rosa was once in the church and writes with considerable sympathy. It would be easy to write a book of mockery but he doesn't. His point about the development of the hatred of Jews has remained with me since I first read the book many years ago. His predictions/hopes for the incumbent pope at the time of writing are since proven wrong - but that is the benefit of time.
It is fascinating but not a threat for anyone who has a Christian faith and probably uncomfortable for Roman Catholics who think deeply about the claims of their church to infallibility and holy tradition.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, potentially infuriating, highly entertaining, 10 Feb. 2008
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
De Rosa catalogues the ups and downs of papal leadership through the centuries - focusing particularly on the downs. He contrasts each pope with others, so that changes in policy over time appear glaring. For those who believe no human is infallible the lesson seems obvious, but still De Rosa's history lessons are fascinating. Why did the Roman pontifs turn to requiring celibacy for priests in the 11th century? Was it to prevent the rise of dynastic families and family property within the church? If so, why was this measure not needed to protect property in Islam, Judaism, or Eastern Christianity?

De Rosa points out that in 580, Pope Pelagius II tried to achieve control of church property without challenging clerical families. He just ruled that no wives or children of priests could inherit any church wealth. To enforce this, Pelagius directed that each clergyman must give an inventory of all property in his care on taking office, with a full accounting for the same on his departure. (p. 566.) Likewise in the Eastern Church, Justinian's Code of the 500s forbade any member of the clergy from giving, selling, or bequeathing anything belonging to the church. So it might be possible to block inheritance to clerical families without destroying the families themselves. On the other hand, the rules against privatizing church wealth might be violated even with all clerical families destroyed -- especially if the church was a hierarchy in which the higher ranks were not accountable to the lower orders. So, even after the great Gregorian reform had finally banned clerical families around 1074, Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) channeled approximately one fourth of all church income to his extended relatives. (p. 570.) Most of his subordinates felt they could not protest, due to the supposedly Christian obligation of unquestioning obedience to superiors.

All told, the book is gripping and potentially infuriating -- but that's the way we like our history books, no?

--author of Correcting Jesus: 2000 Years of Changing the Story
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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HILARIOUS, FASCINATING READ!, 15 Sept. 2000
By 
Peter Uys "Toypom" (Sandton) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
I can't remember when I've laughed so much! This book reads like a Stephen King thriller. I used to think that the Borgias represented a low point in the papacy, but they don't come close to the depravity under Sergius III, John XI, John XII and the ambitious Marozia, the time around 904 to 963 AD. Much fun was also had during the great schism and al through the renaissance. It is truly a tale of scandal, intrigue and crime and makes compulsive reading. Contains a useful Chronology, List of Popes with dates, Councils of the church, a very good bibliography (of documents and books) and index. This book contains enough material for more than one TV mini-series.
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31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully entertaining read, 21 Aug. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
This is one of the most interesting historical books I've ever read, a papal history full of murder, "romance", war and treachery. From start to finish it is engaging. The book paints a very unflattering picture of Catholicism and the popes throughout history, and may leave you questioning some of your own beliefs. I would recommend it to anyone interested in history or religion, and anyone looking for an interesting and thought provoking read.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a straightforward history of the popes, 15 Aug. 2007
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
This is a good book, but potential purchasers should be aware of what this book is not. It is not a chronological history of the popes, but rather a thematically organisaed examination of where selected popes from history have erred or contradicted each other. I beleive the author, as someone who left the priesthood and subsequently married, has his own agenda, which comes increasingly to the fore as the book progresses. Indeed, the second half of the book is mainly concerened with issues important in the last fifty years - divorce, abortion, celibacy and contraception. One could view the book as a long argument for a married priesthood in the Catholic church. Written in 1988, there is no mention of more recent child abuse scandals.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is the Pope a catholic?, 10 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
Upon its publication in the 80's this book sounded the death knoll for my belief in organised religion. Written in a casual, yet authoritative style, the book delves into aspects of the papacy rarely, if ever, discussed in public. At times humourous, at other times deeply disturbing, the book reveals how power corrupts not only the man but the doctrine he adheres to. The only fault with De Rosa's exposition of the papacy is his tendency to moralise, thereby diminishing the academic value of his work. Overall, however, the book is an excellent read and I highly recommend it to the general reader.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much better than expected, 9 Nov. 2009
By 
Mrs. K. Swift (Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
I was expecting this book to be a great deal drier than it was. It is fast moving, interesting and even amusing at times. It gives a great insight not just into the individual lives of the popes (Largely awful people) but how their personal whims and desires have shaped the papacy causing problems which we still feel the effects of today.
De Rosa has grouped events by topic which can make it difficult to follow things chronologically, however his style of writing really holds the reader's interest particularly in the more heavy going sections.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understand of the papacy and catholicism, but beware if you are a catholic it may have an effect on your faith!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A most important book, 10 Oct. 2011
By 
Mr. Dc Fowler "fowlerd17" (Portsmouth UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
Whilst there have been more scholarly works no doubt than this book on this subject the intent I think is to broaden the general public awareness of the history of the Catholic church. And that is exactly what it has done for me. I found the book profoundly disturbing, enlightening and truly amazing. I knew there were some mediaeval bad papal apples but never appreciated that the whole bunch of Christ's vicars from very early on were rotten to the core. I speak obviously from a modern point of view which I am sad to say is not that of the popes of the last 100 years or indeed any time before that with perhaps one or at most two notable exceptions. And I suppose given that each pope is hamstrung by the dictats of all the previous mad crew is not surprising. The church it would appear for much of its history only existed to promulgate itself regardless of any (and I do mean ANY) notion of humanity. The relaxation of some of the more heinous church practises has I believe only come about because of the secularisation of large swathes of the world's population. And were it not for this and earlier for a very few courageous individuals I believe that we could still be in the grip of the Inquisition (no charge, no defence lawyer, no open trial, no witnesses - this is what Jesus preached??). In some parts of Europe such practises still continued into the 19th century. Believe me once you have read this book you may understand how the holocaust in the last century was perpetrated. The Nazis had exemplary teachers.

It is a pity that the child abuse scandal of recent times has not been included in this catalogue of man's inhumanity to man (and woman and child, oh yes!) but it has been very well covered elsewhere as an individual subject (see David Yallop's equally disturbing book Beyond Belief: the Papacy and the Child Abuse Scandal.) Including it here however would have put the callous, unfeeling protectionism of the Catholic church at the highest level into some sort of blasphemous context.

I cannot bring myself to describe any passage of this book as 'hilarious' as a previous reviewer said. Although were it not for the murder, rape and pillage visited on generation after generation of those unfortunate enough to fall under the aegis of the church there could be a very deep black humour in the conniving factions within the church itself. If you want funny read the section where Cesar Borgia appears to accidentally poison his father and himself, and what happens after.

There is much more to this book than just a catalogue of iniquity perpetrated on the world by the popes. It raises serious questions for the modern believer about the roles of church and state. It also parallels the Islamic way of thinking (state and church are basically one - and this is a very simplistic view on my part) with the Catholic and how the two clashed and the outcome thereof.

One small criticism and why I have given it four not five stars is the slightly disjointed style in some places. Whilst this does not detract from the force of this book over all it did occasionally make me reread previous passages to determine who or what the current passage I was reading referred to.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of papal history, 17 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy (Paperback)
This is a fascinating account of Papal history and should be read as such, more references by the author would have been appreciated.

As mentioned, should be read as a history and not so much a religious book. Hard cover would have been a better choice.
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Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy
Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy by Peter De Rosa (Paperback - 1 Mar. 2000)
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