The Contemporary Papacy from Paul Vi to Benedict Xvi: A Bibliographical Essay

By Coppa, Frank J. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2006 | Go to article overview

The Contemporary Papacy from Paul Vi to Benedict Xvi: A Bibliographical Essay


Coppa, Frank J., The Catholic Historical Review


During the long pontificate of John Paul II (1978-2005) there has been a renewed interest in the papacy, head of the universal church and the world's oldest transnational institution. This is reflected in the spate of one-volume dictionaries and encyclopedias published during the past two decades including: J. N. D. Kelley, The Oxford Dictionary of Popes (1986); P. G. Maxwell-Stuart, Chronicle of the Popes (1997); Richard B. McBrien, Lives of the Popes (1997); Eamon Duffy Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes (1997); Allan Hall, A History of the Papacy (1998); William J. La Due, The Chair of Saint Peter (1998); Frank J. Coppa (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Vatican and Papacy (1999); and Bruno Steimer and Michael G. Parker (eds.), Dictionary of Popes and the Papacy (2001), among others. The bibliography on Pius XII is both contentious and voluminous, and only partly catalogued in the volumes by José M. Sánchez, Pius XII and the Holocaust: Understanding the Controversy (2002), and Joseph Bottum and David G. Dalin (eds.), The Pius Wars: Responses to the Critics of Pius XII (2004). The bibliography on John XXIII is equally voluminous if not as contentious, and has expanded beyond that presented in Peter Hebblethwaite's John XXIII: Pope of the Council (1984) and his John XXIII: Shepherd of the Modern World (1985). Hebblethwaite later published a biography Paul VI: The First Modern Pope (1993), whose pontificate ushered in the contemporary papacy from the time of Vatican Council II to the present-the focus of this essay.

Battista Mondin, The Popes of the Modern Ages (sic): From Pius IX to John Paul II [The Pontifical Academy of Sciences.] (Vatican City: Urbaniana University Press, 2005. Pp. 223. euro20,00 paperback) provides an overview of ten pontificates from that of Pius IX through that of John Paul II. This is somewhat of an apologetic volume, as is made clear in the preface, which refers to these ten popes as the "magnificent ten" and pinpoints their substantial contribution to the "civilization of love" (p. 7). Furthermore, English is clearly not the author's first language, accounting for the strange constructions and perhaps some of the misspellings and misprints. For example, I am listed in the bibliography on page 36 as "FJ. Grippa" and the subtitle of my biography of Pius IX converted from Crusader in a Secular Age to Crusader in a Secular World. Hebblethwaite is transformed to Hobblethwaite and the subtitle of his book listed as Shepher (sic) of the Modern World (p. 139) There are other misprints, but on a positive note there is considerable useful information provided on the popes surveyed and their pontificates-more than one would find in most dictionary or encyclopedia articles. For each of the ten articles there are clearly defined categories such as background material on each figure before he became a pope, his program, political activity, religious activity, theological activity, missionary efforts, and a summation or conclusion for each. This organization will prove useful for the interested reader seeking information on a particular aspect of these pontificates. However, there is a caveat for reliance on the material found within these pages. The author has borrowed widely from the secondary literature, but includes few notes and these are general without specific reference, so the reader cannot be certain of the source or accuracy of the material he has included. For example, on the issue of the vote on papal infallibility on July 18, 1870, Mondin claims that fifty-five bishops exempted themselves from the vote, while it is generally acknowledged that 140 did so. He also asserts that in that public session the vote was 451 in favor and 88 against (p. 30) while, in fact, the vote was 535 in favor and only two against! (See Giacomo Martina, Pto IX, 1867-1878, p. 215). On page 41 he has the German Emperor Wilhelm II visiting Pope Leo XIII in 1882, when Wilhelm I still sat on the throne!

Less sweeping in scope and more scholarly in substance are five recently edited works on the person and pontificate of Giovanni Battista Montini, who in 1963 became Pope Paul VI. …

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