"Absolute Monarchs.."

Read any good books lately?
nmblum88
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"Absolute Monarchs.."

Post by nmblum88 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:47 am

Just finished reading the second of John Julius Norwich's entertaining (if not as thoroughly researched as they might be ) works on the Papacy AND the Popes., "Absolute Monarchs." (His last, , entitled "The Popes: A History..." was less detailed about the personal failings of Popes famous,infamous, or not at all memorable..)

Highly recommended for summer reading.... the subject suggests many dramas along the way from St.Peter to Pope Benedict with all the grandeur, chicanery, power and property grubbing, murder that did and did not out..
Norwich describes himself as a Protestant agnostic, so it is not really that surprising that so little so-called spirituality emerges from the pages devoted to the lives of each of the 265 Popes that have steered the Church through the shoals of world politics, and to the extent that it is still here, and a political force, they have done their job well: survival after a cataclysmic Reformation was no small feat.
It's all business in the enclave in Rome known as tha Vatican...
And the one thing that Norwich is able to make clear is that the Mother Church is above all a political entity, a power maker and a power breaker, and that consequently the Vatican had its best times when under the direction of the most ruthlessly determined politician rather than one with any pretense to the actually succoring of souls..
Everybody knows about "the Biggies" in the history of the Roman Church, Constantine, Urban, Innocent III, Julius II, the scion of the Medici family, Leo X, the deadly Borgia, Alexander VI... and certainly the weak and malleable more than immoral Pious Xi, and Pius XII who made the success of Hitler in conquering most of Europe, possible,
But t there are so many interesting (in retrospect) Popes who were either too good, too short -lived, or too off the charts for their venality,greed or incompetence, to become wide-spread news..
And in the process of telling their many, many stories as well as those of their supporting casts, family, wives, lovers, children, friends and fellow heads of State during the periods of a Pope's dominion, Norwich adequately provides the understanding for what the usual teaching of history omits altogether.... that religion and politics in the history of the world are virtually one and the same.
That there is no one without the other.
And while of course that applies BEFORE Martin Luther turned his personal grudge against the Church into the 76 Theses, that led to a hundred years of catastrophic violence across the face of Europe, West to East and North to the tip of the Italian toe.
However AFTER the Reformation was firmly established in Northern Europe, the political skullduggery within the Vatican was elevated to an art form,,,,
The Popes of the 16, 18th and 19th Century, all determined to turn the lemon of defeat, the loss of estates and churches, Cathedrals wrought by the now bygone wars of the Reformation , their treasuries, and the money and power that went with it, into lemonade, worked their damnedest to insure that the Vatican would reestablish itself as the most powerful non-national state in Europe with its tentacles, virtually unchallenged (until recently ) in the New World,
And for those who knew none of this but who like a great story, there is some interesting material on the labors of the most recent Popes in the matter of Evangelical successes in the, until relatively recently, exclusively Roman Catholic Latin America, from our own border with Mexico all the way down to Tierra del Fuego..... a change that promises to bring increasingly dramatic changes to the poltics as well as the religious balance to the Western Hemisphere, and thus will impact directly on the US.
Good read... not just for interested laymen, but for serious scholars Western history and/or the impact on culture of religion : a fascinating subject,well and clearly written.
NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."