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Essential reading for anyone interested in the Papacy,
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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.