The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Reformation, and the Renaissance popes conjure in the imagination a corrupt Roman Catholic clergy hungry for wealth and power. In this insightful, well researched work, the Vatican’s chief historian, Fr. Walter Brandmuller, takes a thoughtful and understanding look at these and other important chapters in Church history.
Without denying, or flinching at, the human capacity for folly, failure, and evil, Brandmuller moves beyond the caricatures and legends that often substitute for real history to reveal a Church, both human and divine, fulfilling its mission in every time and place. His goal is not to whitewash any of these past events or issues, but rather to illuminate them, and bring to them a more in-depth, comprehensive historical understanding on the basis of their causes, circumstances and effects.
“Now let us take into consideration Church history from the theological viewpoint, highlighting another important aspect. Its essential duty, in fact, turns out to be the complex mission to investigate and clarify that process of reception and transmission, of paralépsis and of paràdosis, through which was substantiated, in the course of the ages, the Church's raison d'être. Indeed, it is beyond a doubt that the Church can draw inspiration for her choices by drawing on her centuries-old treasury of experience and memory.”
—Pope Benedict VXI, Address to the members of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, March 7, 2008.
Father Walter Brandmuller is president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences. From 1970 to 1997, he was a professor of Church history at the University of Augsburg, Germany. He is the co-author of the German book The Fall of Galileo and Other Errors: Power, Faith and Science.