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COURSE NAME: "The Popes of Rome: History of the Catholic Church"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Fabrizio Conti
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 3:00 PM 4:15 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 society and beyond. The course does not aim only 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: the course also aims at discussing intellectual developments and pressing issues, such as the creation of Roman orthodoxy, the monastic experience, the political conspiracies at the court of Renaissance Popes; and again, the political/religious currents of thought informing papal action in modern times. The reading of primary sources (in English) will help students to understand crucial issues in the complex development of the Papacy. Besides this, students will discuss 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 and current debates, such as, for instance, those fostering interfaith understanding.

This course includes a mandatory visit of St. Peter's Basilica, the Rooms of Raffaello, and the Sistine Chapel (See Syllabus for preliminary information).

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 NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
Saints and Sinners: A History of the PopesEamon DuffyYale University Press, 20149780300206128  Ebook  

Paper This is an essay based on 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 the due date. No late papers will be accepted.25%
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%
1 Source Analysis OR PresentationThis is an analysis of a primary source in English. You will be given a list of topics with the relevant sources among which you will pick the one you prefer and develop it in about 1000 words. The readings and the questions which serve as guidelines for the analysis will be posted on Moodle. All written assignments should be submitted to the instructor electronically by the due date. No late assignments will be accepted. Students can replace the Source Analysis with an oral presentation - power point needed - on a topic to be agreed upon with the instructor.15%

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 ____________

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.


Eamon Duffy's Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes is available in the Frohring Library and as ebook at the following link: https://jculibrary.on.worldcat.org/courseReserves/course/id/15677868

All other readings are available on Moodle


Week 1

T  Course Intro: History and the History of the Church

- Joseph H. Lynch and Phillip C. Adamo, The Medieval Church: A Brief History, pp. 12-18 ("Ancient Christianity")

TH  The Early Christian Community, Peter, and Paul

- Paula Fredriksen, When Christians Were Jews: The First Generation, Ch. 1: "Up to Jerusalem", pp. 14-23

- Bart Ehrman, Peter, Paul and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend, pp. 179-192

Week 2

T  The Life and Rituals of the Early Christians I

 - Thomas O'Loughlin, The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians, pp. xiii-xvii (Intro); pp.28-45 ("Choosing a Way")

TH  The Life and Rituals of the Early Christians II 

- Thomas O'Loughlin, The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians, pp. 46-56; 63-65 ("Joining the Group"); 
  pp. 85; 99-104 ("Meeting and Eating"); 105-117; 125-126 ("A Network of Service")


F 15 September Make Up Day for Nov. 23

The Roman Empire and The Anti-Christian Persecutions

- Bart D. Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, pp. 178-206 (“Christians Under Assault: 
  Persecution, Martyrdom, and Self-Defense”)

- The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas: https://www.ssfp.org/pdf/The_Martyrdom_of_Saints_Perpetua_and_Felicitas.pdf


Week 3

T   Emperor Constantine's Conversion to Christianity

- Bart D. Ehrman, The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World, pp. 13-31 (“The Beginning of the End: The 
  Conversion of Constantine”)

- The Life of Constantine, Chapters 27 through 31, pp. 739-742: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/03d/1819-1893,_Schaff._Philip,_3_Vol_01_Eusebius_Pamphilius,_EN.pdf

TH  Shaping Roman “Orthodoxy”

Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 13-23 (“The Bishops of Rome”); pp. 37-47 (“The Birth of Papal Rome”)

- Bart Ehrman, Lost Christianities: the Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, pp. 135-143; 151-157 (“On the Road to Nicaea: The Broad Swath of Proto-orthodox Christianity”)

Week 4

The Christian Roman Empire and the Church

- Charles Odhal, Constantine and the Christian Empire, pp. 269-280

- Codex Theodosianus: Internet History Sourcebooks: Medieval Sourcebook (fordham.edu)

- Apostolic succession: Internet History Sourcebooks: Medieval Sourcebook (fordham.edu)

- Valentinian's Decree on Papal Power: Internet History Sourcebooks: Medieval Sourcebook (fordham.edu)


TH Christianizing Rome: From Pagan Temples to Christian Basilicas 

- Maya Maskarinec, City of Saints: Rebuilding Rome in the Early Middle Ages, selections

- Peter Brown, Through The Eye of A Needle: Wealth, The Fall of Rome, and The Making of Christianity in The West, pp. 31-52 ("The Social Profile of the Latin Church, 312-ca. 370")



Week 5

T  The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Papal Power

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 48-59 (“Under Gothic Kings”)

- Pope Gelasius I: Letter to Emperor Anastasius “On the Two Powers”: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/gelasius1.asp

TH  Pope Gregory The Great and the Expansion of the Church

 - Joseph H. Lynch and Phillip C. Adamo, The Medieval Church: A Brief History, pp. 37-50 (“Beginnings of the Medieval Church”);
    pp. 66-67 (“The Roman Missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons”)

- Gregory’s Letter to Abbot Mellitus: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/greg1-mellitus.txt

Week 6

T  Pope Gregory the Great, Benedict of Norcia, and Monasticism

- Gregory The Great, Dialogues, Book II, Chapters: 2, 4, 7, 14, 34, 36: https://www.osb.org/gen/greg/

- Benedict of Norcia, Rule for the Monks, Chapters: 1, 2, 6, 8, 22, 30, https://www.solesmes.com/sites/default/files/upload/pdf/rule_of_st_benedict.pdf

TH  How The Papal State Was Born: The Popes, the Franks, and the Byzantines

 - Noble, The Republic of St. Peter, ch. 1 (Moodle)

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

Week 7

T  The Church in the Carolingian World

- Margaret Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, Ch. 4

- Foundation Charter of the Abbey of Cluny: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/chart-cluny.asp

TH 19 October Midterm Exam

Week 8

T  Church Reform and the Investiture Controversy

- Blumenthal, The Investiture Controversy, pp. 87-128 (Moodle)

- Gregory VII, Lay Investitures Forbidden: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/g7-reform2.asp

- Gregory VII, The Dictates of the Pope: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/g7-dictpap.asp

T  The First Crusade and the Peace Movements 

- Peace of God: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/pc-of-god.asp

- Truce of God: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/t-of-god.asp

- Pope Urban II Call for the Crusade: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/source/urban2-fulcher.asp

Week 9

T  The Knights Templar

- Helen Nicholson, The Knights Templar, Chapters 1 and 2 (Moodle)

- Bernard of Clairvaux on the Knights Templar: (Prologue, Chapters 1 and 5): https://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/344bern2.html



TH  The Papacy and Medieval Society

- John Moore, Pope Innocent III (Moodle)

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

Week 10

T  From the Avignonese Captivity of the Popes to the Renaissance Papacy

- Deanesly, A History of the Medieval Church, Chapters XIV "The Avignon Popes" and XIX "The Renaissance" (Moodle)

TH Pope Sixtus IV, Conspiracies, and the Making of the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel

- Poliziano, The Pazzi Conspiracy (Moodle)


Week 11

T  Reforms and the Post-Tridentine Church

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 196-208 ("The Crisis of Christendom"), and pp. 208-230 ("The Counter-

The Counter-Reformation: How did the Catholic Church Reinvent Itself? (thecollector.com)

TH The Roman Inquisition, Giordano Bruno, and Galileo Galilei

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

- The “Crime” of Galileo: https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/mod/1630galileo.asp

Week 12

T  From the Age of Absolutism to the First Vatican Council, and Pope Leo XIII

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 286-305 (“Pio Nono”); 305-318 (“Ultramontanism: Leo XIII”)

- The Rerum Novarum Encyclical letter (only parts 1 to 10): http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum.html

Paper Due on Nov. 22


TH  Nov 23 No Class


Week 13

T  From The Age of Intransigence to The Second Vatican Council

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 354-369 (“The Age of Vatican II”)

- Declarations on Religious Freedom by Pope Paul VI: https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/declaration-on-religious-freedom-1537

The Self and Christian Society: The Spread of Catholic Movements, and Contemplative vs Active Practices 

- Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island (Moodle)



Week 14

T  Pope John Paul II and Global Politics

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 369-385 (“Papa Wojtyla”)

- Pope John Paul II, by Paul Vallely: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-john-paul-ii-bad-for-the-church-but-good-for-the-world-529655.html

TH  From Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis: What Future for the Catholic Church?

- Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes, pp. 406-432 (“Crisis and Resignation”, and “A Pope for the Poor”)

- Pope Francis encyclical “Praise be to you: on care for our common home” (selected passages as indicated by the instructor): http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Final Exam