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COURSE NAME: "The Popes of Rome: History of the Catholic Church"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Fabrizio Conti
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30-5:45 PM
OFFICE HOURS: By appointment

The history of the Catholic church is essentially intertwined with the history of Western Civilization over the past 2,000 years. The aspirations and struggles of Christendom constitute the fabric of the Christian tradition as it unfolds throughout time. This course represents an historical survey of the Church from its primitive beginnings in Jerusalem (c. 33 A.D.) to the Pontificate of John Paul II (1920-2005). The development of the course will trace the major events, ideas and people that went into the shaping of the Western Church, without ignoring the fundamental importance and influence of the doctrine of Jesus Christ regarding the institution he founded.

This is a course on the history of Christianity, centered on the development of the Catholic Church, and aiming at discussing how the Church of Rome managed to become a major religious, political, social, and cultural force within western societies and beyond. The course does not aim just at introducing the major historical and institutional steps marking the expansion (or the retreats) of Christianity and, within that, the trajectory of the Catholic Church: it also aims at discussing intellectual developments and pressing issues, such as the “lost Christianities” or parallel Christian traditions took over by the advent of the Roman orthodoxy, the monastic experience and way of life, the role of Francis of Assisi in shaping a different view of religious power, the political conspiracies at the court of Renaissance Popes; and again, the political/religious currents of thought informing papal action in modern times, such as the “liberation theology” movement and the “social doctrine of the Church” manifesto, aiming at orientating the Church towards - often contrasting - social and political directions. The reading of specific figures of Catholic dissenters, theologians and former priests, such as Leonardo Boff and Matthew Fox, will help understand crucial issues in Catholic debates and in the relationships with the Papacy. Besides this, students will discuss rich - and in undergraduate courses often neglected - figures of Catholic thinkers and social activists, such as Thomas Merton and Charles de Foucauld, who functioned as a source of inspiration for modern Catholic circles, such as, for instance, those fostering interfaith understanding.

This course includes a mandatory visit of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus and its “Crypt of the Popes”, otherwise called “the Little Vatican”, where 9 Popes of the Church of Rome were buried during the 3rd century. This will also be an excellent opportunity for discovering and discussing Christian symbology, which was largely employed in the early Christian times precisely in the catacombs. The possibility of a further (non.mandatory) visit of St. Peter's Basilica, the Rooms of Raffaello, and the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican will be discussed and organized with those interested. Please check the syllabus for further details.

The aim of this course is not only to guide students through the discovery of the main events, characters, and lines of thought in the history of the Catholic Church between the birth of Christianity and the contemporary Papacy, but also and especially to give students the opportunity to build their own ideas and understanding of the multifaceted ways in which the Catholic Church developed through time becoming the most long-lasting institution in the West with a huge presence at the global level. Learning Outcomes: 1. students will acquire basic skills in methodologies involved in religious/historical research, writing, and communication, also by working with primary sources (in English); 2. students will acquire a progressively more deepened grasp of Christian and Catholic developments by advancing from identifying and recognizing historical issues to classifying, interpreting, analyzing, comparing, and explaining them, to finally generating their own reflections; 3. the nature of the issues addressed and discussed encourages students to apply and develop analytical and critical thinking skills 
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Saints and Sinners: A History of the PopesEamon DuffyYale University Press, 20149780300206128  Fourth Edition

Paper This is an essay/analysis based on primary sources and/or scholarly articles. You will be given a list of topics, among which you will pick the one you prefer and develop it in about 2000 words. You can also propose a different topic of your choice worthy of investigation. The relevant sources and the questions which serve as guidelines for the analysis will be posted on Moodle. The written assignment should be submitted to me electronically by 3pm of the due date at the latest. No late papers will be accepted.20%
Project PresentationIt will be a 10-15 minutes presentation on a topic of your choice. A list of available primary sources and scholarly articles will be provided. The topic to be presented must be agreed upon with the professor during the 3rd week of the course.20%
Midterm ExaminationThis will be an in-class written exam composed of short answer and essay questions. Your grade on this exam will depend upon the analytical strength and persuasiveness of your arguments as well as the factual accuracy of your answers. More information about these exams will be provided as their dates near.25%
Final ExamThis will be an in-class written exam composed of short answer and essay questions. Your grade on this exam will depend upon the analytical strength and persuasiveness of your arguments as well as the factual accuracy of your answers. More information about these exams will be provided as their dates near.25%
Attendance and ParticipationIt is important that you: a) are in class; b) have done the readings and thought about them; c) express your views and questions orally in class and are able to make connections with the topics that have been already covered. Persistent absence or having failed to do the reading will affect your participation grade.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period runs until ____________

The visit of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus is mandatory. Please check the syllabus for further details. 
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


All readings other than Duffy's Saints and Sinners are available on Moodle


Week 1

3 T Course Intro and Goals. Why Study the Catholic Church?
       The Historical Method, Religion, The Church, and Its Popes 

- Syllabus

5 TH The Christian Beginnings: The Original Community and Ideals

 - Paula Fredriksen, When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation (selected pp.)

Acts 2: 36-40;1 Cor 8: 6-10;13; 15: 11-15; Epistle To Diognetus, Ch. 5, 6


Week 2

10 T The Early Roman Church Between Dissemination and Persecution

 - Saints and Sinners: 1.II, III

- Lactantius, On the Death of Persecutors, ch. 48 


12 TH The Roman Empire Goes Christian: From Constantine to Theodosius I

- Saints and Sinners: 1. III

- Eusebius, Church History, X; Eusebius (?), Life of Constantine

Week 3

17 T From Pagan to Christian Rome: Temples, Catacombs, and Churches 

- Audiovisual material + discussion


19 TH "Multiple Christianities" VS "Roman Orthodoxy”? Theological and Literary Developments


Saints and Sinners: 1.IV

- Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities: the Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Moodle):
  pdf 1: "Recouping Our Losses"; pdf 2: "Heresies and Orthodoxies": pp. 109-112, 135-143, 151-157 

20 F (Make-Up for 28 November)

The Late-Antique and Early Medieval Papacy

Saints and Sinners: 2.I, II

- Pope Gelasius I, Letter to Emperor Anastasius on the Two Powers


Week 4

24 T Pope Gregory the Great, Benedict of Norcia, and the Birth of Western Monasticism

- Gregory I, Dialogues, II (selected parts)

- Gregory I, Letter to Abbot Mellitus 

- Benedict of Norcia, Rule for the Monks (selected chapters)


26 TH How the Papal State Was Born: Rome, the Lombards, the Franks, and the Byzantines

 - Saints and Sinners: 2.III, IV

- The Donation of Constantine: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/donatconst.asp



Week 5

1 T The Reform of the Church and the Investiture Controversy

Saints and Sinners: 3.I

- Gregory VII Dictatus Papae


3 TH The Crusades

- Saints and Sinners: 3.II

- Urban II, Speech at Clermont


Week 6

8 T The Papacy Takes Control of Christian Europe

 Saints and Sinners: 3.III

 - IV Lateran Council (canons 21, 67, 68, 69, 70): https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/lateran4.asp 


10 TH  Francis of Assisi and The Popes or How to Avoid Heresy in the Middle Ages

- Franco Zeffirelli’s movie “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” (1972)

- The Conversion of Peter Waldo: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/waldo1.asp

- The Cathars: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/heresy1.asp

- The Testament of Francis of Assisi: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/stfran-test.asp

Week 7

15 T  Renaissance Popes between Carnal Love and Humanistic Culture: Pius II and Alexander VI

-  Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pius II), The Tale of the Two Lovers (selections)

17 TH Pope Sixtus IV, the “Pazzi Conspiracy”, and the Making of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel

- Charles L. Stinger, "The Renaissance Papacy", in The Renaissance in Rome, pp. 83-95

- Short TV documentary and discussion

18 F  Mandatory Visit of the Catacombs of St. Callixtus with the Crypt of the Popes (The so called "Little Vatican")

        We will meet at the main entrance in Via Appia Antica 110 at 9:30am

Week 8

22 T Reforms and the Post-Tridentine Church: Inquisitors, Confessors, and Missionaries

Saints and Sinners: 4.II, III

- Wietse de Boer, The Conquest of the Soul (selected pp.)


24 TH Midterm Exam

Week 9

29 T The Church, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo Galilei

- Introduction to the topic: https://depts.washington.edu/hrome/Authors/pev42/BrunoandGalileoinRome/pub_zbarticle_view_printable.html

- Papal/Inquisitorial Condemnations (Sentences) of Bruno and Galilei and discussion


31 TH Absolutism, Revolutions, and the First Vatican Council

Saints and Sinners: 4.IV; 5.I, II, III



Week 10

5 T Pope Leo XIII and the Encyclical Rerum Novarum

Saints and Sinners: 5.IV

- Encyclical Rerum Novarum, parts 1 through 10: http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html

7 TH  Papacy and Society: the Spread of Catholic Movements

Saints and Sinners: 6.I, II, III


Week 11

12 T Catholic Thought in the Spotlight I: Charles de Foucauld, a Monk Among the Tuaregs

- Charles de Foucauld, Meditations of a Hermit, pp. 155-158; 189-204: http://dbooks.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/books/PDFs/502956893.pdf


14 TH  The Second Vatican Council

Saints and Sinners: 6.IV

- Documents of The Vatican Council II: 

1. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651207_dignitatis-humanae_en.html

2. (preface and introductory statement only): http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

Week 12

19 T Catholic Thought in the Spotlight II: The “Liberation Theology” Movement in Latin America

- The Vatican on Leonardo Boff's "Church: Charism and Power": http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19850311_notif-boff_en.html


21 TH Paper Due (by 3:00pm)

Pope John Paul II as a Global Leader

Saints and Sinners: 6.V

- TV documentary on Pope Wojtyla and discussion


Week 13

26 T Catholic Thought in the Spotlight III: The Revival of the Monastic Experience

- “Into Great Silence”: A European Film Award Winner documentary on monasticism (Philip Gröning, 2006)

-  Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (selected pp.)



Week 14

3 T From The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis: What Future for the Catholic Church?

- Saints and Sinners: 6.VIII

- Pope Francis encyclical "Laudato si’"(“Praise be to you: on care for our common home”), critical reading and discussion
  Chapters: 1 to 6; 10 to 19; 243 to 246: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html


5 TH Final Discussion and Final Exam Preparation


Final Exam