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Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church Paperback – September 23, 2003

4.1 out of 5 stars 185 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Catholics who tire of histories critical of their church will find much to love in Triumph, by the journalist and novelist H.W. Crocker III. With the enthusiasm of a convert, Crocker (formerly an Anglican) tells a story spanning 2,000 years, concentrating on the most heroic and adventurous chapters of church history. Crocker writes clear, crisp sentences ("Origen severed his genitals," begins one chapter; "A little looting goes a long way," opens another), and his version of Catholic history is one amazing scene after another. Triumph reads more like a historical novel than most other church histories, and that quality makes the book one of the most accessible historical surveys for younger readers. Theologically, however, Crocker is so eager to depict the church in a positive light that he's all but blind to its flaws. There's a lot of catechism here, but not much probing into the complexities of the church's involvement in the Inquisition or in World War II, or contemporary controversies such as the ordination of women. --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

If history, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, then writer and novelist Crocker (Robert E. Lee on Leadership) obviously liked what he saw when he looked at the 2,000-year life of the Catholic Church. A convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, Crocker has produced an exhaustive, thoroughly sourced narrative which reflects his love for his chosen faith. Although his accounts of episodes like Christianity's East-West split and the Inquisition will be seen by some as mere defenses of the Roman church, Crocker has made a creditable attempt to place events in a more balanced context, providing details that are typically downplayed by or absent from more critical chronicles. For example, he acknowledges that tortures and executions occurred during the Inquisition and does not excuse them, but he also observes that they were miniscule compared to the bloody conflict that was to follow as a result of the Protestant Reformation. Crocker's treatment of reformer Martin Luther seems unnecessarily harsh at a time when relations between Lutherans and Catholics have been steadily improving, as witnessed by the 2001 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. In discrediting Luther and his purposes, Crocker dredges up a multitude of the reformer's personal flaws, calling him an "ill-tempered, unbalanced, and unhappy monk." He is much kinder to reformer John Calvin, whom he deems "undoubtedly the finest theologian the Protestant churches ever had." Readers interested in a detailed history that minimizes criticism of the Catholic Church will most appreciate this work.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Forum; Reprint edition (September 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0761516042
  • ISBN-13: 978-0761516040
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (185 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I bought the hardback of this book after seeing the author on C-Span Book TV. I disagree completely with the negative reviews of this book for the following reasons. First, the authors of those reviews seem to be well-versed in the history of the last 2000 years and object to how Mr. Crocker presents his version. All I can say is they have been lucky not to have had to sit through what passes as history as I have. I have never heard Mr. Crocker's side, even in so-called Catholic books. "A church that never went right would be quite as miraculous as a church that never went wrong," Chesterton quipped in Orthodoxy. In all the other versions of history I've been exposed to, the church never goes right. Obviously their fairy tales were as flawed as Mr. Crocker's critics feel his presentation to be. Yet even now these inventive revisions top the best seller list. How I pity the innocent readers who, unaware of the marketing ploy foisted on them, may attempt to create a coherent philosophy from the hacked together bits of historical shrapnel that pass for, and are taught as, history. Second, if you wonder why so many people are today reconsidering the Catholic Church, it's because its detractors have overstated their case. It's as if, to quote Chesterton again, "any stick was good enough to beat Christianity with." All that happens is one loses respect for the beaters and gains respect for the beaten. Chesterton wrote his comments 100 years ago, summarily dismantling the idiotic pre-modern world (back now as the idiotic post-modern world). As a convert, Crocker is naturally excited to tell the other side of the story, and as a hungry soul starved by the meaninglessness of the non-philosophies of today I was excited to read it. One caveat: the time of the Reformation and the Thirty Year war is an account of unbelievable violence and carnage. But as Mel Gibson's movie shows, a great many in our day are hungry for the truth to set us free.
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Format: Paperback
If you expect this to be an academic, critical history of the Catholic Church, then you need to read the title again. Crocker is not a professional historian, and he doesn't pretend to be. However, as a man's honest interpretation and commentary of true historical events, the book is excellent. This is history through the eyes of a faithful, orthodox Roman Catholic, in the historico-apologetic tradition of Hilaire Belloc, Christopher Dawson, and G.K. Chesterton. Crocker is clearly indebted to them for his understanding of the Church and its development as it struggles against numerous foes, secular and religious. Of particular interest to Western Christian readers is the second half beginning with the Reformation. Like Belloc, Crocker wants to locate the rampant secularism of today within the principles of the Reformation -- such as in this memorable quote:

"The result [of sola scriptura], over time, was that in Protestant countries, theology was no longer 'the queen of sciences' but only one source of knowledge, subject to individual interpretation, and was separated from secular inquiry. Because secular inquiry was seen as objective it eventually gained overweening predominance and prestige over doctrinally subjective Protestant religious thought -- an intellectual development that has been the major factor in secularizing the Western world" (240).

Whether one agrees or not, such issues are worth pondering, and this book is a worthwhile chance to do so with a dedicated Catholic.
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Format: Hardcover
Critical reviews of this book rightly point out that it's not a dry, exhaustive analysis of all issues related to the Catholic Church over 2000 years. It is not written for a handful of other professional historians tucked away in academia somewhere. The book is not an autopsy.
But frankly, it's high time someone wrote a book like Crocker's.
First, by any neutral criteria, the Catholic Church is the most interesting institution that has ever existed (see below) and as such it deserves a treatment like Crocker's written with the attitude that people might actually find the subject interesting.
Second, it is remarkable how ignorant most of us are about the Catholic Church, even though it is clearly the most important human institution in the history of the world.
Third, the vast majority of stuff one hears about the role of the Church in history is complete myth. (Tiny example I hear constantly, exploded admirably by Crocker: "The Church led those nasty crusades trying to stamp out Islam"--completely wrong. The crusades (a)came along many centuries after Islam arrived on the scene--the Muslims were left in peace for 500 years, (b) were not against Islam, but against the blood-thirsy Ottoman Empire, a bunch that slaughtered babies on bayonets before their mothers' eyes and beheaded infidels for sport (and as such was completely deserving of the crudades) (c) were not all led by the Church (indeed, e.g., the ridiculous Children's Crusade was condemned by the Church).
So Crocker is right to have a somewhat polemical attitude here, as there is much to be corrected. And his lack of sympathy for certain acts and attitudes attributable to Protestantism is appropriate in the context of his historical narrative.
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