"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

John O'Malley on Vatican I

When it's published at Catholic World Report, I'll post a link to my review of John O'Malley's superlative new study, Vatican I: the Council and the Making of an Ultramontane Church (Harvard University Press, 2018). (Here's a link to my review there of John Quinn's last book on the same council.) In the meantime, let me most warmly recommend it to you.

Like O'Malley's previous books, especially on Trent and Vatican II, this one is superb. It treats a wide-ranging history of the one council in the West to give more trouble to Eastern Christians than any other. The First Vatican Council's treatment of papal pretensions to universal jurisdiction remain a considerable ecumenical problem, though my Orthodoxy and the Roman Papacy proposed one way around that.

In this endless season of sexual depravity and episcopal malfeasance, cowardice, and cover-up, O'Malley's new book will also be of great interest to Catholics looking to reform the Church. Perhaps the most encouraging feature of the long and wide-ranging history O'Malley tells is how much of the modern papacy is a creation (often not directly intended, but without doubt intentionally exploited by the papacy) of diverse populist movements. If populism made the pope into this international celebrity of endless volubility and catastrophic incompetence, then there is hope that what populism has wrought, populism can remove through relentless and ruthless demands for reform. Vive l'Eglise libre!

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