Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History

Article excerpt

The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History. By Frank J. Coppa. (London: Reaktion Books. Distrib. University of Chicago Press. 2014. Pp. 304. $35.00. ISBN 978-1-78023-284-3.)

This is a selective history of the papacy from the pontificate of Pius VI before the beginning of the French Revolution to the resignation of Benedict XVI in 2013. Despite the subtitle, it is not only a political history, for "it explores the development and transformation of the papacy not only in the religious realm, but also in the political and diplomatic world, as well as the social arena" (p. 25). Frank J. Coppa discusses each of the popes, highlighting the major controversies and accomplishments of their pontificates. Naturally, in such a short work, much has to be left out.

The pontificates of the popes are handled in a workmanlike manner. Coppa obviously feels more comfortable dealing with popes that he has written about before. Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti/Pope Pius IX comes off well, with all of the pros and cons of that stormy papacy, although Coppa does not mention the Mortara affair-a serious matter that polarized non-Catholic opinion against the papacy.

Coppa labels the chapter on Achille Ratti/Pius XI "The Crusade of Pius XI Against Anti-Semitism." Coppa's hero in previous writings has always been Pius XI, and he takes great pains to absolve him of any antisemitism. But with this emphasis, we get a slanted view of his papacy. All the other problems faced by Pius-the Spanish Civil War, the Mexican revolution, and attacks on the clergy in the Far East-are not mentioned; yet Pius was deeply concerned about the clerical persecutions involved. …

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