Kengor, “A Pope and a President”

popeandpresident_frontcoverWe’re a little late getting to this, but last year ISI Books released this interesting-looking book: A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century. The author is Paul Kengor, a political science professor at Grove City College. The book explores the relationship between the Catholic Pope and the American President, and, in particular, their joint efforts against Soviet Communism in the 1980s. At the time, few people, certainly few political scientists, could have thought their efforts, and those of other opponents of the Soviet regime, would be successful. Yet both lived to see the fall of the Soviet Union in their lifetimes. Here is the publisher’s description:

Even as historians credit Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II with hastening the end of the Cold War, they have failed to recognize the depth or significance of the bond that developed between the two leaders.

Acclaimed scholar and bestselling author Paul Kengor changes that. In this fascinating book, he reveals a singular bond—which included a spiritual connection between the Catholic pope and the Protestant president—that drove the two men to confront what they knew to be the great evil of the twentieth century: Soviet communism.

Reagan and John Paul II almost didn’t have the opportunity to forge this relationship: just six weeks apart in the spring of 1981, they took bullets from would-be assassins. But their strikingly similar near-death experiences brought them close together—to Moscow’s dismay.

A Pope and a President is the product of years of research. Based on Kengor’s tireless archival digging and his unique access to Reagan insiders, the book reveals:

  • The inside story on the 1982 meeting where the president and the pope confided their conviction that God had spared their lives for the purpose of defeating communism
  • Captivating new information on the attempt on John Paul II’s life, including apreviously unreported secret CIA investigation—was Moscow behind the plot?
  • The many similarities and the spiritual bond between the pope and the president—and how Reagan privately spoke of the “DP”: the Divine Plan to take down communism
  • New details about how the Protestant Reagan became intensely interested in the “secrets of Fátima,” which date to the reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fátima, Portugal, starting on May 13, 1917—sixty-four years to the day before John Paul II was shot
  • A startling insider account of how the USSR may have been set to invade the pope’s native Poland in March 1981—only to pull back when news broke that Reagan had been shot

Nancy Reagan called John Paul II her husband’s “closest friend”; Reagan himself told Polish visitors that the pope was his “best friend.” When you read this book, you will understand why. As kindred spirits, Ronald Reagan and John Paul II united in pursuit of a supreme objective—and in doing so they changed history.

 

 

Agamben, “The Mystery of Evil”

pid_28174 (1)Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation in 2013 is looking to be a pivotal event in the history of the Roman Catholic Church–not only because it was the first papal resignation in centuries, but because of the very different path his successor, Pope Francis, is laying out. This spring, Stanford University Press published a translation of a work by Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, The Mystery of Evil: Benedict XVI and the End of Days, that addresses the resignation. The title sounds apocalyptic; but the publisher’s description, below, indicates the book is a meditation on the difference between legitimacy and legality:

In 2013, Benedict XVI became only the second pope in the history of the Catholic Church to resign from office. In this brief but illuminating study, Giorgio Agamben argues that Benedict’s gesture, far from being solely a matter of internal ecclesiastical politics, is exemplary in an age when the question of legitimacy has been virtually left aside in favor of a narrow focus on legality. This reflection on the recent history of the Church opens out into an analysis of one of the earliest documents of Christianity: the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, which stages a dramatic confrontation between the “man of lawlessness” and the enigmatic katechon, the power that holds back the end of days. In Agamben’s hands, this infamously obscure passage reveals the theological dynamics of history that continue to inform Western culture to this day.

Pope John Paul II, “In God’s Hands”

In March, Harper Collins Publishers will release In God’s Hands: The Spiritual Diaries of Pope John Paul II written by Pope John Paul II. The publisher’s description follows:

In God's Hands.pngAvailable for the first time in English, the private reflections of the modern pope recently elevated to sainthood—deeply personal writings that reveal a spiritual leader who agonized over his service to God, continually questioning whether he was doing enough.

As the head of the Roman Catholic Church for twenty-five years, from the final decades of the twentieth century to the first years of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II significantly impacted our world. As famous as a rock star, this powerful leader who conferred with numerous heads of state was the ultimate model of wisdom and religious commitment for numerous Catholics around the globe.

Throughout much of his adult life, from 1962 until two years before his death in 2003, John Paul II kept a series of private diaries in which he disclosed his innermost thoughts, impressions, and concerns. Written in his native Polish and never before available in English until now, these journals provide intimate and deeply moving insight into a man, a priest, and a saint’s spirituality and a life devoted completely to God.

In God’s Hands lays bare the soul of this powerful, influential statesman, revealing a devout man untouched by his celebrity status; a selfless servant of God who spent decades questioning whether he was worthy of the role he was called to carry out. Over forty years, from his bishopric in Krakow to his election to the papacy to his final years, one question guided him: “Am I serving God?”

Entrusted to his personal secretary—who defied John Paul II’s instructions to burn them after his death—these notebooks provide us with a privileged glimpse into the life of a humble man who never took for granted his mission or his exalted role in the church and in the world.

“Pope Gregory IX (1227–41)” (Egger & Smith, eds.)

In January, Routledge will release Pope Gregory IX (1227–41)edited by Christopher Egger (University of Vienna) and Damian J. Smith (Saint Louis University). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logoAs Cardinal Hugolino and as pope, Gregory was one of the dominant figures in the history of the papacy of the High Middle Ages. His pontificate was a key stage in the development of papal relations with many of the realms of Christendom, as well as in legal and administrative history, the battle against heresy (especially with the foundation of inquisitions), the crusades, and the flowering of the Mendicants. Hugolino came to prominence during the pontificate of his relative, Pope Innocent III, and played an important political role, particularly as legate on various occasions, as well as being a major promoter of the new religious orders. As pope, his battle with Emperor Frederick II is one of medieval history’s most absorbing conflicts (though one which rarely receives a balanced treatment). But he also acted as peacemaker in England, as promoter of the crusades in the East and in Iberia, where he met with considerable success, as instigator of mission for the sake of conversion, as a reformer of the Curia, and as a passionate advocate of Church reform generally. His decretal collection, compiled by Ramon de Penyafort, served as the canon law of the Catholic Church from 1234 until 1917. Yet Gregory has not received much attention since an Italian biography by Salvatore Sibilia was published half a century ago and a full examination of his pontificate is now very long overdue. The current volume brings together a team of international scholars, each of them expert in dealing with a particular aspect of the pontificate, and provides what will be a volume of lasting scholarly value on a central figure of the medieval papacy.

“Pope Innocent II (1130-43)” (Doran & Smith, eds.)

In June, Routledge released “Pope Innocent II (1130-43): The World vs. The City,” edited by John Doran (University of Chester) and Damian J. Smith (St. Louis University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The pontificate of Innocent II (1130-1143) has long been recognized as a watershed in the history of the papacy, marking the transition from the age of reform to the so-9781472421098called papal monarchy, when an earlier generation of idealistic reformers gave way to hard-headed pragmatists intent on securing worldly power for the Church. Whilst such a conception may be a cliché its effect has been to concentrate scholarship more on the schism of 1130 and its effects than on Innocent II himself. This volume puts Innocent at the centre, bringing together the authorities in the field to give an overarching view of his pontificate, which was very important in terms of the internationalization of the papacy, the internal development of the Roman Curia, the integrity of the papal state and the governance of the local church, as well as vital to the development of the Kingdom of Sicily and the Empire.

Demacopoulos, “Gregory the Great”

Earlier this year, the University of Notre Dame Press released Gregory the P03214Great: Ascetic, Pastor and First Man of Rome, by George E. Demacopoulos (Fordham). The publisher’s description follows:

Gregory the Great (bishop of Rome from 590 to 604) is one of the most significant figures in the history of Christianity. His theological works framed medieval Christian attitudes toward mysticism, exegesis, and the role of the saints in the life of the church. The scale of Gregory’s administrative activity in both the ecclesial and civic affairs of Rome also helped to make possible the formation of the medieval papacy. Gregory disciplined malcontent clerics, negotiated with barbarian rulers, and oversaw the administration of massive estates that employed thousands of workers. Scholars have often been perplexed by the two sides of Gregory—the monkish theologian and the calculating administrator.

George E. Demacopoulos’s study is the first to advance the argument that there is a clear connection between the pontiff’s thought and his actions. By exploring unique aspects of Gregory’s ascetic theology, wherein the summit of Christian perfection is viewed in terms of service to others, Demacopoulos argues that the very aspects of Gregory’s theology that made him distinctive were precisely the factors that structured his responses to the practical crises of his day. With a comprehensive understanding of Christian history that resists the customary bifurcation between Christian East and Christian West, Demacopoulos situates Gregory within the broader movements of Christianity and the Roman world that characterize the shift from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages. This fresh reading of Gregory’s extensive theological and practical works underscores the novelty and nuance of Gregory as thinker and bishop.

This original and eminently readable interpretation will be required reading for students and scholars of Gregory and sixth-century Christianity, historians of late antiquity, medievalists, ecclesiastical historians, and theologians.

Mayer, “The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo”

In April, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo” by Thomas F. Mayer (Augustana College). The publisher’s description follows:

Few legal events loom as large in early modern history as the trial of Galileo. Frequently cast as a heroic scientist martyred to religion or as a scapegoat of papal politics, Galileo undoubtedly stood at a watershed moment in the political maneuvering of a powerful church. But to fully understand how and why Galileo came to be condemned by the papal courts—and what role he played in his own downfall—it is necessary to examine the trial within the context of inquisitional law.

With this final installment in his magisterial trilogy on the seventeenth-century Roman Inquisition, Thomas F. Mayer has provided the first comprehensive study of the legal proceedings against Galileo. By the time of the trial, the Roman Inquisition had become an extensive corporatized body with direct authority over local courts and decades of documented jurisprudence. Drawing deeply from those legal archives as well as correspondence and other printed material, Mayer has traced the legal procedure from Galileo’s first precept in 1616 to his second trial in 1633. With an astonishing mastery of the legal underpinnings and bureaucratic workings of inquisitorial law, Mayer’s work compares the course of legal events to other possible outcomes within due process, showing where the trial departed from standard procedure as well as what available recourse Galileo had to shift the direction of the trial. The Roman Inquisition: Trying Galileo presents a detailed and corrective reconstruction of the actions both in the courtroom and behind the scenes that led to one of history’s most notorious verdicts.

Coppa, “The Papacy in the Modern World”

This September, Reaktion Books published “The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History” by Frank J. Coppa (St. John’s).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Papacy in the Modern WorldFor some two millennia the papacy has presided over the governance of the Roman Catholic Church and played a fundamentally important role in European and world affairs. Its impact has long transcended the religious realm and has influenced ideological, philosophic, national, social and political developments as well as international relations. This book considers the broad role of the papacy from the end of the eighteenth century to the present and the reaction and response it has evoked over the years, and explores its confrontation with and accommodation to the modern world.

Frank J. Coppa describes the triumphs, controversies and failures of a series of popes from Pius VI to Benedict XVI, including Pius IX, who was criticized for his ‘syllabus of Errors’ of 1864, his campaign against Italian unification and his proclamation of papal infallibility. Pius XII, on the other hand, was denounced for what he did not say – mainly his silence during the Holocaust and his impartiality during the Second World War. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, has been praised for his aggiornamento, or call for the updating of the Church, and for convoking the Second Vatican Council. This original history sheds new light on the papacy by examining sources only recently made available by the Vatican archives, offering valuable insights into events previously shrouded in mystery.

Mayer, “The Roman Inquisition”

In January, the University of Pennsylvania Press published The Roman Inquisition: A Papal Bureaucracy and Its Laws in the Age of Galileo, by Augustana College history professor Thomas F. Mayer. The publisher’s description follows:

While the Spanish Inquisition has laid the greatest claim to both scholarly attention and the popular imagination, the Roman Inquisition, established in 1542 and a key instrument of papal authority, was more powerful, important, and long-lived. Founded by Paul III and originally aimed to eradicate Protestant heresy, it followed medieval antecedents but went beyond them by becoming a highly articulated centralized organ directly dependent on the pope. By the late sixteenth century the Roman Inquisition had developed its own distinctive procedures, legal process, and personnel, the congregation of cardinals and a professional staff. Its legal process grew out of the technique of inquisitio formulated by Innocent III in the early thirteenth century, it became the most precocious papal bureaucracy on the road to the first “absolutist” state.

As Thomas F. Mayer demonstrates, the Inquisition underwent constant modification as it expanded. The new institution modeled its case management and other procedures on those of another medieval ancestor, the Roman supreme court, the Rota. With unparalleled attention to archival sources and detail, Mayer portrays a highly articulated corporate bureaucracy with the pope at its head. He profiles the Cardinal Inquisitors, including those who would play a major role in Galileo’s trials, and details their social and geographical origins, their education, economic status, earlier careers in the Church, and networks of patronage. At the point this study ends, circa 1640, Pope Urban VIII had made the Roman Inquisition his personal instrument and dominated it to a degree none of his predecessors had approached.

The Voice of Two-Thirds is the Voice of God

This week, the papal conclave begins in Rome. Many expect it will end this week as well, with the election of Pope Benedict’s successor. But CLR Forum reader John McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern and a leading expert on supermajority rules, alerts us to a recent change that may cause the meeting to last longer than expected.

The rules for the conclave are contained in a 1996 decree by Pope John Paul II. As originally written, the decree retained the traditional requirement that a new pope be elected by a vote of two thirds of the conclave–but with a slight alteration. The two-thirds requirement would hold only for the first 33 ballots, or roughly eight days. After that, the vote would be by simple majority. The purpose, obviously, was to break deadlocks and prevent conclaves from dragging on too long.

In 2007, however, Pope Benedict amended the 1996 decree to reinstate the original rule: a two-thirds requirement on all ballots. As a result, the conclave that begins this week will continue until a candidate receives a supermajority. This could result in a longer conclave, but will ensure that a consensus candidate acceptable to all “sides”–traditionalist and non-traditionalist, European and non-European, curial and non-curial–prevails. And, anyway, recent conclaves have avoided deadlocks, notwithstanding the two-thirds requirement.

In Catholic understanding, of course, the Holy Spirit ultimately guides the conclave and achieves the result the church needs. So one might think this tinkering with voting requirements is rather unnecessary. The Coptic Orthodox Church, following biblical practice, names its pope by lot. But the supermajority requirement has its value, even if it might occasionally result in a longer conclave, and the Holy Spirit can work through a supermajority as well as a bare majority. As Pope Pius II (above) declared on his election in 1458, “We would judge ourselves entirely unworthy, did we not know that the voice of two-thirds of the Sacred College is the voice of God, which we may not disobey.”

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