OUR GLORIOUS POPES, by Catherine Goddard Clarke

OUR GLORIOUS POPES, by Catherine Goddard Clarke

Michael Daniel

by Catherine Goddard Clarke
(MICM, 1955, Reprinted Loreto Publications, 2000, ISBN: 978-1-93027-802, 259pp, $25.90. Available from Freedom Publishing)

As a schoolboy, studying European history at a non-Catholic school, I recall reading about a number of egregious popes, some of whom vied with each other for depravity. Glossed over were those worthy of veneration.

Our Glorious Popes examines the reigns of reputable popes. First published in 1955, the author Sister Catherine Clarke has a particular focus on those who reigned during difficult times in the Church's history. Many of them were courageous, often when confronted by hostile elements that sought to limit the Church's influence.

Thus, there were popes such as Leo the Great, who went out to meet with Attila the Hun, thereby preventing him from sacking Rome, and Pius IX, who in the 19th century opposed various liberal elements and became the "prisoner in the Vatican", as a result of the loss of the Papal States. The most recent pope discussed is Pius X.

Because of the writer's focus, some of the Popes included are controversial, such as Boniface VIII, the promulgator of Unam Sanctam (1302), the bull which stated, inter alia, that "outside the Church, there is no salvation." It is also refreshing to learn about the careers of Popes that are largely unknown, such as Saints Zachary and Leo III.

This work makes for interesting and informative reading. However, it is essentially a work of hagiography, and as such, does not have the critical perspective of an historian such as Eamon Duffy, the author of Saints and Sinners: a History of the Popes. This should be borne in mind when reading this work.

Michael Daniel teaches at a Melbourne secondary school.

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