Book review: The Restoration of Rome is both erudite and accessible, not an easy combination to achieve in a thoroughly scholarly book.
THE POPE WHO QUIT: A TRUE MEDIEVAL TALE OF MYSTERY, DEATH, AND SALVATION
By Jon M. Sweeney
Published by Image Books, $14
During the late Pope John Paul II’s long, drawn-out illness, one of the FAQs was, inevitably, can a pope resign? The answer, of course, was yes. A pope has done so, and therefore one might do so again.
A church built on cash
RENDER UNTO ROME: THE SECRET LIFE OF MONEY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
By Jason Berry
Published by Crown Publishers, $25
It may be, as the New Testament says, that the love of money is the root of all evil, but money, nevertheless, is something impossible to manage without. In the Middle Ages the Franciscan Spirituals tried to live without money, and came to a sticky end, finding themselves in schism within a hundred years of St. Francis' death. The church needs cash to operate, and to help bankroll the papacy. King Offa of Mercia (that's the English Midlands) established the Rome scott, or tax, in 787, better known these days as Peter's Pence. Henry VIII abolished it along with so much else, but it was revived around the world in the middle of the 19th century as the beleaguered Papal States ran out of funds.
A HISTORY OF THE POPES: FROM PETER TO THE PRESENT
By John W. O’Malley, SJ
Published by Sheed & Ward, $26.95
This is the subject that most interests John O’Malley: What is a pope’s job? O’Malley, being a good historian -- he is professor of religion at Georgetown University in Washington -- knows that the only way to answer that important question is to look back across the 2,000 or so years of the bishopric of Rome and ask what popes have done.
What they did for much of the time was to look after Rome and its people, provide dignified religious services, build and maintain splendid basilicas to the glory of God, and take care of widows and orphans. In a later generation they also set about making money for themselves and their relatives, and, in some cases at least, for their children.