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Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes Hardcover – July 1, 2003

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 492 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806523700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806523705
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1.6 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,791,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles A. Coulombe is one of North America's most respected and sought-after commentators on culture, religion, history, and politics. A specialist in the history and government of the Catholic Church, Coulombe's influence and expertise extend far beyond matters religious. He has written on topics ranging from the history of rum to haunted houses to a history of the United States.

Mr. Coulombe is a social and political commentator of note. In 2005 he provided narration and commentary for ABC News during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election and installation of Pope Benedict XVI. A former journalist, Mr. Coulombe served as a film reviewer and Contributing Editor of the National Catholic Register, during which time he received the Christian Law Institute's Christ King Journalism Award. Coulombe's work has appeared in over than 20 journals, including regular columns in Fidelity (Australia), PRAG (London), Monarchy Canada, and Creole Magazine (Louisiana). He has also been a frequent contributor to such publications as Success, Catholic Twin Circle, Gnosis, FATE, and the New Oxford Review.

As an informed and passionate speaker on a wide variety of religious, social, political, historical, and literary topics, Mr. Coulombe has appeared on lecture circuits throughout the North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1992 he lectured at Oxford University and the following year embarked on a lecture tour of Ireland and Great Britain, returning to Oxford and Cambridge in 1995. Coulombe has also delivered lectures at the University of Southern California on the history of Rock & Roll and at Cleveland's John Carroll University on the history of medieval monarchy. In February 2011, he was invited to take part in a debate on the abolition of the monarchy before the prestigious Oxford Union.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Stephen MacDonald on February 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Only to get a real understanding should you read this book. If you want to love all popes as if they were perfect, or hate them all as if they were a blight upon their eras, give this book an extra wide berth. Mr. Coulombe explains at the start his approach: "If we are to be fair with them, the only evaluation we can make of each of them is whether they did well by the Church's own lights. If, in pursuit of this, many have done things that outrage our sensibilities, it should be bourne in mind that our society allows many things that would have done the same for them." One fact that strikes this reader is the threat of violence that hung over most of the popes. It is one thing to have a general notion that the first few centuries were dangerous for anyone holding the Keys of St. Peter. But I, at least, was not prepared for the spectacle, as I read each short (2-3 pages, on average) biography of the popes (with the anti-popes thrown in as a bonus). The overwhelming majority were either killed, or forced to flee Rome to avoid that fate. The worst were very bad indeed, and even the best were constantly thwarted in efforts such as reunion with the Eastern Church. Mr. Coulombe conveys much in a few words. St. Puis X (1903-14) struggled with Modernism. Well, how is Mr. Coulombe to sum up the thought of the pope's adversaries? "Doctrinal formulations are, for the Modernist, not true, per se, but symbolic of some greater truth--whatever that means." Each pope gets a summation--here is a Neapolitan, Paul IV (1555-59): "Due to his economical ways and increasingly morose demeanor, he was not excessively mourned by the Romans." This is a wonderful, and rigorouly honest, book.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rich Leonardi on December 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
What Harry Crocker achieved for general Church history with his zesty "Triumph: the Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church," Charles A. Coulombe has done for papal history with his "Vicars of Christ."

In 440 pages, he takes the interested reader through a series of fascinating biographies of the men who have sat on the throne of Peter. From brief sketches to essay-length discussions, Coulombe is equally at ease describing the sack of Constantinople under Urban II to the disintegration of much of the post-conciliar Church under the sadly hapless Paul VI.

Coulombe has a knack for presenting a memorable anecdote to make a point. For instance, have you ever wondered why the churches and cathedrals of France escaped the wreck-o-vations that have laid waste to so much architectural splendor in the U.S. since the 1960s? It isn't due to the preservationist instincts of the French. In 1905, the rabidly secular French government broke its concordat with Rome and nationalized church property. So when French priests succumbed to the prevailing horizontal zeitgeist of the disastrous sixties, the left-leaning, anti-clerical government refused to renovate the buildings -- now government property -- more or less out of spite.

The Modernism so pervasive during the past century suffers a withering critique from Coulombe's pen. In his chapter on Pius X (1903 - 1914) he describes Modernism as "the notion that not only the Church's government and practices (as Liberals and Americanists believed) but her very doctrines had to evolve along with the ever-upward movement of mankind toward the great wonderful future.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By John T. Turner on April 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the one to own if you want to learn about the popes in an objective fashion. If you read between the lines you'll also learn that the Conciliar Church (the "Catholic Church" since Vatican II) is a vastly different institution from it's predecessor, the Roman Catholic Church of history. As St.Athanasius wrote in the 4th century, concerning the Arians, "They may have the buildings but we have the faith." That said, the book is readable by Catholics and non-Catholics alike and is one that can be reads in bytes. One also comes to the conclusion that the history of western civilization is inseparable from that of the Church.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bachelier on April 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent. Indispensable. Complet. Efficient. Concise. Witty. Dry. Wry. Informative. Accurate. One hesitates to cease the superlatives, because Charles Coulombe truly has achieved something here: a work useful for the interested casual reader, or a student completing an assignment, or a reference librarian, or an expert. There is not a single word wasted, and those seeking further details would necessarily need to turn to specialized complete biographies and contemporary histories, but my advice would be to first read here for a well-thought through sketch before adding details from other sources.

Because each Papal biography is contained within itself, Coulombe's Vicars of Christ is easy to put down and take up as time permits. In addition, it serves as a welcome contextual reference when you are reading another history and need a quick perspective on the Pope of the time. Perhaps the best place to read the book would be St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, with the famous mosaic portraits of the Popes, from Peter to John Paul the Great, along the nave. The small pen and ink sketches introducing each biography remind one of these similarly low-resolution depictions. In summation, Coulombe's Vicar's of Christ should be in the reference section of every public and private library as an essential work on the successors of St. Peter. In the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer and author Coulombe correspond on a variety of topics, however, my own admiration and thanks for that happy exchange in no way colors my opinion of this volume. "Vicars of Christ" is excellent on its own merits, and I commend it to both your reading pleasure and instruction.
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