Expert Answer Forum
Church History QUESTION from Dave December 28, 2000 I've recently become interested in history, discovering that it isn't the dry subject I thought it was back in high school. Rather than rattle off a zillion questions, which would take more than my fair share of time, I would request a list of references that I can explore - books which aren't anti-Catholic, but do portray an unflinching look at the origins of Church rituals, past questionable practices, and of wrongs done in the name of the Church. (I understand these aren't attributable to the Church itself)- as well as the Church's fostering of science and universities, charitable efforts, and all the rights done in the name of the Church. Towards this fair-minded aim, could you give me several scholarly references?
ANSWER by Mrs. Suzanne Fortin, B.A. on January 8, 2001 Dear Dave,
That's a very tall order. I haven't read books dealing specifically with the subjects you listed, except for the canonical list of past wrongs. However, if you read the list of books I present here, you will surely have a greater appreciation of Church history. There is a lot to learn. If I gave out every title that corresponded to what you asked for you probably wouldn't have time to read all those books anyway.
I am missing one title in the table below, next to Rober Chazan. This is because I had a lot of historical material on my computer once upon a time, but it was lost in a computer hard drive crash. Robert Chazan is a prolific author, so any of his books that deal with Jews and Christians in the Medieval period are suitable reading.
Another point: Henry Kamen's book The Spanish Inquisition has been significantly updated in the 3rd edition (1998). So much so that I think Catholic apologists should stop relying the 1965 and 1985 version-- if only to remain true to Kamen's thought.
You'll notice that the books I name are focused mainly on Medieval and Early Modern Western Europe (1500-1700). This is the subject I know best. Since this is a small sample of Church history in a short period of time, you can just imagine how long a list would be if I named a book for every important event and period.
Topic Author Title Medieval Church & Religion Bernard Hamilton Religion in the Medieval West, 1981 Medieval Inquisition Bernard Hamilton The Medieval Inquisiton, 1986 Relationship between Jews & Church in the Middle Ages Robert Chazan ? (The book I am thinking of dated from the late 70's or early 80's). Greek Orthodox/Catholic Church relationship Fr. Aidan Nichols, O.P. Rome and the Eastern Churches: a study in schism, 1992 The Crusades Steve Runciman History of the Crusades, 1951 Protestant Reformation Euan Cameron The European Reformation, 1991 Post-Tridentine Church R. Po. Chia Hsia The World of Catholic Renewal, 1998 Pope Pius XII & the Jews Anthony Rhodes The Vatican in the Age of Dictators, 1988(?). I chose these books, not because I agreed with every single interpretation the authors give. They do demonstrate some liberal and modernist biases. But, they are not totally prejudiced as you would imagine popular or politically correct history to be. They give the Church a fair hearing, give a fair picture of the Church, even if their personal values lead to conclusions we simply would not agree with. They are extremely profitable reading when engaging in debates with non-Catholics on matters pertaining to Church history. Btw, if you can purchase Warren Carroll's History of Christendom series, I highly recommend that you do so. I was only able to read the first volume, but it is excellent-- well-written and extremely well researched. If you want more information on the Early Church, that's the book you should read. I hope this helps. Thank you for your question. God Bless, Suzanne Fortin Back to Index Page