A summary of the History of the Church from Jesus Christ to the present day Culminating in Vatican II



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This is the first council for which historians have attendance records, showing the names of bishops present from Italy (the largest number), France, Germany, England, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, the Balkans, and Palestine.
1182 St. Francis of Assisi was born. He later founded a religious community which would work for interior and spiritual reforms of Christians.

1194 The Cathedral at Chartres in France is built.


1204 The fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople.
1209 Francis of Assisi establishes his religious order by issuing the first rules for common life among the brothers, now known as the Franciscans.
1215 The Fourth Lateran Council was held. This council was called by the most influential medieval pope, Innocent III. The Fourth Lateran Council ran from November 11 to November 30 of 1215. More than 400 bishops attended, along with 800 abbots and priors and numerous ambassadors from all the kingdoms of Europe.
Following Innocent's genius for canon law, the council dealt with the details of the spiritual life of Church members, declaring that all Catholics must receive confession and communion at least annually. It also dealt with the teaching of bishops in their dioceses, passed laws regarding marriage, reformed abuses about relics, and required Jews to wear distinctive markings and stay off the streets during Holy Week. This council also defined the doctrine of transubstantiation.
The Fourth Lateran Council instituted the Inquisition, and Innocent was the first pope to apply force and even torture to end religious opinions not deemed orthodox.
1215 Dominican Friars founded by St. Dominic.
1229 The Inquisition in Toulouse, France, prohibits bible reading by all lay people.
1233 The Dominicans undertake the work of the Inquisition with the blessing of the pope. By 1252 torture was introduced as a means of obtaining confessions and punishing those found outside the norms of the Church.
1245 The First Council of Lyons was held. Called in France because holding such a meeting in Italy was not possible due to threats from the German emperor, Frederick II, this council met in three sessions and was a blatantly political event. The bishops present voted to depose the emperor as King of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor. Their action had an immediate effect, empowering dissident nobles to elect Frederick's own young son in his place. Unfortunately, other reforms ostensibly on the council’s agenda had very little effect, including the reform of the clergy.
1271 Marco Polo undertakes his first journey to China.

1273 St. Thomas Aquinas published the last volume of his Summa Theologica. This remains one of the greatest summaries of Catholic theology. He died the following year while enroute to the council of Lyons.


1274 The Second Council of Lyons was held. Called by Pope Gregory X, this council's achievements are not major. Gregory hoped to reunite the Churches and invited the emperor of Constantinople, the king of Armenia, and the Great Khan of the Mongols to the council. Greek representatives did attend, and a reunion of the two Churches was agreed to but politics sabotaged the meeting and nothing much came of it. What did happen, however, was that a reform of papal elections was again enacted, and the pope convinced the 200 bishops in attendance to provide him with more money to pay for the Crusades.
1276 The year of four popes: Gregory X, Innocent V, Hadrian V, and John XXI.
1278 Roger Bacon, an early and great scientist, was imprisoned for heresy for revolutionary ideas (later accepted) regarding the study of science. He remained in prison for ten years.
1289 Block printing is now in use in Ravenna, beginning the first communications revolution.
1290 Eye glasses are invented.
1302 The papal bull, Unam Sanctam was published. This decree made the strongest claims in history to papal supremacy.
1305 The yard and the acre become standard measures of land under Edward I.
1306 The Jews are expelled from France by Philip IV. Official persecution and execution of the Jews had been going on for many years, especially under the Inquisition, but this began a period of physical expulsion which continued to the present century.
1307 Dante, the great champion of the Italian language, begins the writing of the Divine Comedy in honor of his deceased love, Beatrice.
1309 The famous Avignon Papacy begins under Pope Clement V. During this period, Rome is no longer considered the papal seat. It lasted until 1377 when Pope Gregory XI returned the papal seat to Rome.
1311 The Council of Vienne was held. Under pressure from Philip IV the Fair, king of France, Pope Clement V called this council while the papacy resided in Avignon, France. To legitimatize his raids on the fortunes of the Knights Templars, the king wanted the pope to condemn the organization. (Philip wanted to use the money to pay for his wars.) The Knights Templars were a religious order founded originally to protect pilgrims during the Crusades. The Knights had, indeed, grown wealthy and powerful, and the pope did not want to condemn them without "consultation.” Clement V called the council, ostensibly for that consultation, but he invited only select bishops, and the king dominated the sessions through his own agents, using ruthless and terrible torture to secure confessions from the Templars. This scandalous council did little else, tabling once again a move to reform the clergy.
1324 Marsilius of Padua died. He spent his life arguing that the Church is a spiritual and sacramental community united by a common faith, not a secular government. He urged a wider appreciation of baptism, believed in the use of ecumenical councils, and argued that the faithful should be consulted on matters of faith and morals.
1347 The Black Death devastates much of Europe. By 1349 a third of the population of England has died from it. In all about 75 million people die from the plague.
1347 William of Ockham died. He was born in 1290 and argued that papal authority is only acceptable if it is exercised with “collegiality,” meaning in concert with the bishops of the world. He also argued for religious liberty, that no one should be coerced to join the Church. William was a spiritual leader but not a political one and had little widespread influence as a result.
1414 The Council of Constance was held. At the time of the Council of Constance, the Church was in the midst of what is known as the Great Western Schism (1378–1417), a mainly internal division between two competing papal households, one in Rome (Urban VI, a tyrant followed by Boniface IX, a clever financier, and then Gregory XII, a pious churchman) and the other in Avignon, France (Clement VII, a warrior, followed by Benedict XIII, a tenacious politician).
The rulers of Europe divided their allegiance between these two households, raising armies and marching through Europe to attack or defend one another on the basis of their allegiance.
One attempt to heal the schism, a nonecumenical council held in Pisa in 1409, succeeded only in electing a third pope (Alexander V, who died within weeks, followed by John XXIII, a moral and spiritual disaster). The Pisa election was aimed at ending the scandalous schism but only made it worse, with three players now rather than two.
None of the three popes would resign, and few of their loyal followers would move in great numbers to join others, so Church scholars and legal theologians decided to try an ecumenical council, held in Constance, a Swiss city, under the patronage of Sigismund of Luxembourg, the Holy Roman Emperor, who was committed to the reunion of the Church.
Since the popes were unable to settle the matter of the schism, Church scholars argued that the three did not, therefore, have a legal standing. Furthermore, they held that ecumenical councils, not the papacy, hold supreme power in the Church. The scholars put this view into force by electing a pope (Martin V) acceptable to all Catholics and by passing two key pieces of legislation: Haec Sancta, which formally declared that ecumenical councils were indeed the supreme authority in the Church, and Frequens, which mandated the regular meeting of such councils and established a parliamentary sort of Church governance.
This council holds a muddy place in Church history. In the first place, it was called initially by the pope elected in Pisa, John XXIII, who really did not have the legal standing to do such a thing. (His name, John XXIII was, of course, taken later by the pope who called Vatican II.)
John arrived in Constance with fanfare, riding a white horse and clad in the vestments of the liturgy. A large number of people attended the council at Constance with the hope that it would, finally, bring an end to the schism. Among these were 5 patriarchs, 29 cardinals, 23 archbishops, and more than 500 bishops, along with 300 theologians and canon lawyers and a large number of priests, monks, and lay people. Bishops voted along with theologians and canon lawyers and even certain lay people.
The council decided that all three popes would have to resign, which John XXIII agreed to do if the others did as well. He deceived the council, however, and, disguised as a stable worker, escaped the city of Constance and reasserted his authority. When news of this broke, the city of Constance erupted into violence, and a mob pillaged the papal palace in anger. John was eventually hauled back into the council, tried, and deposed.
In Avignon, meanwhile, Pope Benedict XIII also refused to recognize the council's authority, and he, too, was deposed. (A pope in the eighteenth century later took the name Benedict XIII.) So, it would seem, this council was called by Gregory XII (the one from Rome) by default—a fact which makes it possible for modern popes to accept it. Gregory in fact convened the council formally near its actual ending, and then resigned himself, leaving room for the election of Martin.
Furthermore, no pope in history, including Martin V, has seriously accepted the idea that an ecumenical council has more authority than a pope, and the pronouncements of Vatican II explicitly say that is not so. This leaves the documents of the Council of Constance in an unclear position in the annals of Church history.
Who actually elected Martin V? A method of papal election was devised at this radically "democratic" council which provided each of five nations with six delegates who voted along with the cardinals.
Before this council completed its work, it fueled yet another controversy by summoning Jan Hus of Prague, a popular Bohemian theologian with a wide following, to testify on his teachings. The council issued the invitation because Emperor Sigismund wanted Hus’s popular movement stopped. Hus expressed great concern for his personal safety, fearing that if he attended this council, his enemies would harm him. But he was assured safe passage. When he arrived at the council, however, he was arrested and forced to undergo a prolonged trial and, finally, the council fathers carried out a sentence of capitol punishment right there before the end of the council: death by burning.
While the Council of Constance did restore unity, it failed to enact badly needed reforms: (1) the papacy was not regenerated by the election of Martin V; (2) the exorbitant demands of rival papal tax collectors continued; (3) the breakdown of Church courts remained profound; (4) the absenteeism of bishops remained pronounced; (5) the ignorance and downright immorality of the clergy remained widespread; and (6) the selling of Church positions continued everywhere, especially in the Roman curia whose excesses were the scandal of Europe.
1431 Joan of Arc burned at the stake at Rouen. She was condemned for believing in her own visions over the authority of the Church, and for wearing men’s clothing in military uniform. She was ultimately retried, found innocent, and canonized in 1920 under Pope Benedict XV.*
1431 The Council of Basel (also known as Basel-Ferrara-Rome) was held. Martin V, apparently accepting the decrees of Constance relative to the place of ecumenical councils in Church authority, called a council in 1423, only five years after the end of the Council of Constance, in Pavia. The plague forced its move to Sienna, but low attendance forced its closure in the following year, and Church historians do not count this as an official council.
Martin called another council at Basel, in Switzerland, but died three weeks after it opened and left a mess for his successor, Pope Eugene IV, to deal with. First, Eugene closed the council because of poor attendance, but the council attendees would not quit their work. They insisted that they, not the pope, had supreme authority in the Church. And many temporal rulers, along with 15 of the 21 cardinals in the Church at that time, supported the attendees.
In the end, Pope Eugene withdrew his decree of closure, and the council took charge of the day-to-day operations of the Church. It made appointments, gave judgments, and took a central management role. The council also stripped the papacy of its ability to raise money by ending its right to tax clergy and to sell indulgences.
When an opportunity presented itself to him, Eugene acted to restore his power. He proposed moving the council to Ferrara in Italy to facilitate a meeting with the Byzantine Church. At Basel, this caused disruption and resulted in fistfights on the council floor as those who agreed with the move fought those who disagreed.
Most of the attendees at Basel might have refused to go to Ferrara had it not been for an ugly scene at Mass that day as both sides read their decrees out loud, simultaneously. Many wept at the terrible confusion. In the end, some participants stayed in Basel and continued operating, but many joined the pope. Eventually those who stayed deposed Eugene and elected their own pope, Felix V.
The Church now had two popes and two councils: a new schism.
Meanwhile, Eugene moved his council once again, from Ferrara to Florence and later on to Rome where it ended in 1445. The council members who stayed at Basel continued to meet but gradually lost their wind, Felix resigned, and the confusion ended.
1450 Gutenberg prints the first book with a printing press employing movable type.
1453 The Hundred Years War between England and France ends.
1475 Michelangelo Buonarotti is born in Caprese Italy, near Arezzo. With Leonardo da Vinci, he is considered the most potent force in the Italian High Renaissance.

1478 Thomas More is born. He was an English humanist and statesman. He died in 1535.


1480 Leonardo da Vinci invents the parachute.
1483 Martin Luther is born in Eisleben. He was a German theologian and religious reformer, who initiated the Protestant Reformation, and whose vast influence, extending beyond religion to politics, economics, education, and language, has made him one of the crucial figures in modern European history.*

1492 Alexander VI is crowned pope. He was a member of the Medici banking family of Italy and this family’s influence only deepened the corruption of this office. Popular piety had been divorced from its roots and the practice of the Faith had become widely a superstitious system of indulgences and other devices, aimed at fund raising and increasing the wealth of the holders of Church office. This pope, for example, eventually appointed his son to be a cardinal (in 1493). There were numerous attempts at reform, but none had serious effect.


1492 The Jews of Spain, which had become the worldwide Jewish center, were forced to accept Christ and be baptized, leave the country, or face death. This was all part of the continuing Inquisition. Three years later the Jews were expelled from Portugal where many had gone to escape Spanish hatred.
1492 Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain finance the travels of Christopher Columbus to the “New World.” He leaves Palos, Spain on August 3rd and arrives at Watling Island in the Bahamas on October 12.
1495 Leonardo da Vinci paints The Last Supper. He was a Florentine artist, one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scientist. His profound love of knowledge and research was the keynote of both his artistic and scientific endeavors. His innovations in the field of painting influenced the course of Italian art for more than a century after his death, and his scientific studies—particularly in the fields of anatomy, optics, and hydraulics—anticipated many of the developments of modern science.*
1499 The Moors of Spain were now forced to convert to Christ, leave the country, or face death in the Inquisition. The Moors were a mixture of people, mostly derived from Arabs and Berbers inhabiting northern Africa. Following the Arab conquest of the Berbers in the 7th century AD, mixture and intermarriage was prevalent between the two groups. As a people the Moors traveled northward and conquered Spain. They also inhabited Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania.*

1501 An order was issued by papal bull that all books arguing against papal authority were to be burned. The stage was now being set for a major turn of events in the history of the Church. The violent Inquisition was going on, on one hand, continuing corruption at the highest levels of the Church, on another,


1501 Michelangelo completes work on David, his famous presentation of a vigorous nude youth prepared for battle with Goliath.
1504 Early development of inter-city postal services is refined between Brussels, Vienna and Madrid.
1507 Martin Luther was quietly ordained an Augustinian Monk in Erfurt, Germany.
1508 Michelangelo begins work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome.
1509 Slave trade begins in the New World when Bartolome de Las Casas, a Roman Catholic bishop, proposed that each Spanish settler should bring a certain number of Negro slaves to the New World.
1512 The Fifth Lateran Council was held. After the rise and defeat of conciliarism (the idea that councils, not popes, have supreme ruling authority in the Church) popes were reluctant to call any further councils. They feared another conciliar uprising. This meant, however, that no reform of the many abuses present throughout the Church would take place.
There was another reason for the failure to reform the Church, however. It was the absolute corruption of the papacy. Under such popes as Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, and others, the papacy was guilty of blatant corruption, especially the advancement of the popes’ own personal interests and financial gains. These popes freely filled the ranks of the cardinals with their own relatives and unworthy accomplices. Politically powerful, the popes were spiritually bankrupt. No reform would come from these men.
But precisely because the Renaissance popes failed to enact these reforms (which were commonly understood to be necessary), Louis XI of France called a council in Pisa in 1511 (it moved to Milan in 1512) intending to impose reform on the Church. Just as the popes feared, Louis resorted to Constance's claim of conciliar supremacy over papal rule. In response, Pope Julius II called the Fifth Lateran Council which was concluded by his successor, Leo X.
The council's agenda was filled with reform activity. Its leaders wanted to address five things: (1) the ignorance of the clergy, (2) the abuses of the bishops, (3) the temporal activity of the popes, (4) a revision of canon law, and (5) the establishment of more regular councils to continue the reform movement.
But Pope Leo X cared little for the welfare of people's souls and seemed unaware of the breakup of Christianity which was about to unfold before his eyes. The council accomplished nothing.
1517 Fr. Martin Luther, OSA, published 95 theses challenging theologians and church leaders to a debate about the efficacy and morality of preaching indulgence campaigns as fund raising efforts. In particular, Luther was responding to a new indulgence being preached at that time for the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Church in Rome. This indulgence emerged from a “deal” made among three parties: the Fugger banking firm, the Roman Curia, and the 23 year old archbishop of Mainz, Albert, who needed 10,000 ducats to pay the Curia for a dispensation he wanted which would allow him to preside over three dioceses simultaneously. Albert was a sort of 16th Century ecclesial entrepreneur. This indulgence was also actively preached by Johann Tetzel, who urged the faithful to participate with the slogan, “Drop a few coins in the box. You can rescue the souls of your friends or relatives from the flames of Purgatory!”
No one showed up for the debate to which Luther challenged his colleagues, but copies of his theses were circulated widely, sides began to form, and the first stirrings of the Reformation were underway. Albert, of course, sent copies of Luther’s theses to the Curia in Rome. They summoned Luther, tried him for heresy, and demanded that he recant his statements. Luther considered his options and refused. He then began to publish his views more widely, all thanks to the printing press which had, conveniently, been invented in the latter decades of the previous century. Luther’s call for reform met with wide public support. He wanted vernacular languages in the Liturgy, simpler rites, common use of the Bible, a reformed clergy, an end to indulgences, hymns that stirred the assembly, sermons to form the people, and the right of the people to touch the bread and cup with their own hands.
All of this was refused by the Roman Curia. Pope Leo X wasn’t keeping a very close watch on his ship and had little care for actual church business such as this. Various attempts to bring the sides together failed and in 1520, Luther was excommunicated.
1517 First use of coffee in Europe occurs this year. Tobacco had also been introduced for the first time in years just prior to this and was imported into Spain beginning later (in 1555). In 1520 the first chocolate was brought from Mexico to Spain, introducing it for the first time in Europe. All of these were ways that the New World was having a subtle but powerful influence on the Old.
1520 Luther’s excommunication.
1522 Spanish armed forces conquer Guatemala beginning a centuries long domination of native Guatemalans by outsiders.
1525 Luther marries an ex-nun, Katherine von Bora.
1526 The “Lutheran” Mass is celebrated in German for the first time. Also in this year, the Anabaptists take hold of the church in Switzerland under Zwingli’s leadership.
1528 John Knox leads the church in Scotland into Reformation. Knox was a Scottish religious reformer, who was the founder of Presbyterianism in Scotland. Born in Haddington, Knox was educated at the University of Glasgow. Originally a Roman Catholic priest, about 1543 he became attracted to the preaching of the Scottish Protestant reformer George Wishart. Knox was called to the Protestant ministry and became active after Wishart was executed for heresy in St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1546.*

1532 John Calvin leads the church in France into Reformation. Her was a French theologian, church reformer, humanist, and pastor, whom Protestant denominations in the Reformed tradition regard as a major formulator of their beliefs.



1534 The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is founded by Ignatius Loyola to help solidify the Church and stabilize it during this turbulent time.
1536 The authority of the pope is voided in England. Also in this year, the nations of Scandinavia move all together at the same time to the Protestant side.
1539 The first Christmas Tree was erected in Strasbourg Cathedral in France. The use of a Christmas tree spread from there through Germany and then into northern Europe. In 1841 Albert, prince consort of Queen Victoria introduced the Christmas tree custom to Great Britain; from there it accompanied immigrants to the United States. *
1543 The first burnings at the stake of the Spanish Inquisition were of Protestants.
1544 The Council of Trent was called. (It ended in 1565.) Pope Paul III was a vigorous, reform-minded pope who acted decisively to end abuses. He appointed reformers, re-instituted the Inquisition, and supported the founding of the Jesuits in 1540.
Eleven years into his papacy, Paul called the Council of Trent and held it in northern Italy, within German imperial territory, to prevent it looking too Italian. Less than 40 bishops, mainly Italians, attended the first session. (In later sessions, when Calvin got to France and Zwingli to Switzerland, more bishops showed up at Trent.) Despite the poor early turnout, the papal representatives who were present led the council in passing clear doctrinal statements and in basing all reforms on them. In particular, the council was careful to define doctrine on the matter of faith and grace, against the teachings of the reformers.
The Council of Trent, of course, was not a reform council at all. It was the opposite: a reaction to reform. The main task of Trent was to counter the reformers of the day: mainly Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. The council entrenched the Church in practices which these reformers opposed and sought to lock many of the rubrics of the Church into place permanently.
Toward this end, the council established manuals for the training of priests. (The Church used these manuals until Vatican II.) It also (1) warned Catholics against association with Protestants, (2) outlawed Catholic marriages with Protestants, (3) created an index of forbidden books, (4) articulated official Catholic teaching on faith and grace, and (5) differentiated this teaching from Protestant thought.
The Council of Trent promoted the veneration of the saints, Marian devotions, and devotions to the Eucharist rather than participation in the Liturgy. It rejected the use of vernacular translations of the Bible. For the first time, it set down the number and meaning of the sacraments—confirming traditions that had been in practice since the twelfth century, although not since the apostolic period. The reformers vehemently opposed all these practices.
Most importantly, in its first phase of meetings, the Council of Trent affirmed that the revelation of Jesus Christ is transmitted both through "written Scriptures and unwritten traditions," a position which the reformers utterly rejected.
The council regenerated the papacy, although it rooted its new strength in inflexible tyranny against opponents through the index of forbidden books and the Inquisition. By empowering the Jesuits, under the leadership of Ignatius of Loyola, the Church of Europe developed itself as an institution, building in rapid succession many modern universities and other institutes. Unlike the politicians before him, Ignatius had a genius for communicating the love of God and for developing an interior life based on discernment, not monastic disciplines.
A cornerstone of the entire Tridentine reform movement was the reform of the office of bishop. Successive popes enforced this reform. Under it, bishops were ordered to remain in their own dioceses. Moreover, they were told to spend their time preaching; conducting annual synods; building seminaries; choosing only serious candidates for ordination (those who would agree to faithfully live under the discipline of celibacy); imposing strict discipline on convents and monasteries, which had fallen into decay: and giving good example to all in dress, charity, and modesty. This reform alone reached into every corner of the Catholic world.
The Council of Trent generally affirmed that what was contained in the Catholic Church was "perfect." The council made no attempt to reform doctrine. Instead, it concentrated on the moral life of the members of the Church, arguing that the Church itself was not in need of change and that the Eucharistic prayer (known then as the canon of the Mass) was "pure of all error." Further, the council maintained that all the sacraments come directly from the command of Christ and the apostles.
In short, this council was not interested in any Church reform as such, but only with a reaffirmation that the Roman Catholic Church teaches faithfully what has always been taught and always would be taught: the purest truth.
In the wake of serious structural reform, a Catholic spirituality began to emerge, including attention to works of mercy and justice; a real zeal for the spread of the gospel; practices of self-control, such as fasting and abstinence; and private, devotional prayer. More frequent communion was urged, regular confession, and an emphasis on the sacraments as a source of grace. Daily Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and Forty Hours Devotions were all part of this.
Following this reform, new leaders emerged in the late 1500's and early 1600's: Philip Neri, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantel. These, among others, led the movement toward greater Catholic piety and personal devotion.
1546 Martin Luther dies.
1579 John of the Cross publishes Dark Night of the Soul. One among many mystics who emerged during this period, these “new” influences on spirituality helped form a renewal in the Church with a focus more on the supernatural dimensions of the Faith than on the temporal.
1588 The Vatican Library is opened in Rome. The Vatican Library has a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts and more than 1 million bound volumes.

1594 Giordano Bruno was arrested by the Vatican’s Inquisition for supporting the Copernican theory of the universe. He was burned at the stake for his beliefs in 1600.


1598 William Shakespeare writes “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Henry V.” Within the next several years, he will have written most of his well-known plays.
1610 St. Francis de Sales and Mme de Chantal found the Order of the Visitation Nuns.
1625 The Sisters of Mercy are founded by St. Vincent de Paul in Paris.
1626 The entire island of Manhattan is purchased from native Indian chiefs for merchandise valued at about $24, 60 Dutch guilders. The purchase is made by Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company.
1633 Galileo is forced by the Inquisition to publicly denounce the theories of Copernicus. Because burnings at the stake had generally ended by then, he was placed under “house arrest” and ordered to be silent about his views of the universe. He was an Italian physicist and astronomer, who, with the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, initiated the scientific revolution that flowered in the work of the English physicist Sir Isaac Newton. Born Galileo Galilei, his main contributions were, in astronomy, the use of the telescope in observation and the discovery of sunspots, lunar mountains and valleys, the four largest satellites of Jupiter, and the phases of Venus. In physics, he discovered the laws of falling bodies and the motions of projectiles. In the history of culture, Galileo stands as a symbol of the battle against authority for freedom of inquiry.*

1635 A speed limit is set for the first time on hackney coaches in London. The speed limit is 3 miles per hour.

1648 George Fox founds the Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers. Fox was an English religious leader born in Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire, to a Puritan family. When Fox was 19, he believed that he was beginning to receive mystical revelations in which the voice of God told him to be directed by Christ alone. He described these revelations, which he took as a sign that everyone should be guided by his or her individual “inner light,” as coming to him while he waited in an absolutely calm frame of mind and as being preceded by violent physical agitation, or “quaking,” hence the name “Quakers.”*
1663 The writings of Descartes are put on “the Index.” The Index was a list of books and other writings which Catholics were forbidden to read. It was part of the generally suspicious way in which the Roman Catholic Church viewed the world and secular society in the aftermath of the Reformation. Many others’ works were also placed on this Index during this period and until the 20th Century. Descartes attempted to apply the rational inductive methods of science, and particularly of mathematics, to philosophy. Before his time, philosophy had been dominated by the method of Scholasticism, which was entirely based on comparing and contrasting the views of recognized authorities. Rejecting this method, Descartes stated, “In our search for the direct road to truth, we should busy ourselves with no object about which we cannot attain a certitude equal to that of the demonstration of arithmetic and geometry.”
1664 The Trappist Order is founded at Trappe, Normandy, by Armand de Rance. In 1662 Armand Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé, a nobleman and commendatory abbot of the Cistercian abbey Notre Dame de la Trappe, France, introduced further reforms and austerities to the already strict life of the Cistercians. De Rancé's rule became so well known that adherents of the Strict Observance came to be called Trappists. In 1892, during the papacy of Leo XIII, all the Cistercian monasteries that had adopted Trappist reforms were united as an independent order; in 1902 the order was named the Reformed Cistercians, or Cistercians of the Strict Observance, as it is known today. After the Second Vatican Council some Trappist monasteries were allowed to relax their discipline.

Those Trappist monasteries that still observe the traditional rule are among the most austere in the church. Daily life is devoted to prayer, reading, and manual work. The monks eat, sleep, and work in absolute silence; they abstain from eating meat, fish, and eggs. De Rancé forbade intellectual work, but the Trappists now encourage scholarship. The largest Trappist monastery is the U.S. abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane in Kentucky. In the early 1980s there were more than 60 Trappist monasteries worldwide, with about 3000 monks. Nuns of the Strict Observance are called Trappistines.*


1668 Rembrandt paints “Return of the Prodigal Son,” one of his last paintings. Rembrandt was a Dutch baroque artist, who ranks as one of the greatest painters in the history of Western art. His full name was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. He possessed a profound understanding of human nature that was matched by a brilliant technique—not only in painting but in drawing and etching—and his work made an enormous impact on his contemporaries and influenced the style of many later artists. Perhaps no painter has ever equaled Rembrandt's chiaroscuro effects or his bold impasto.*
1690 John Locke publishes “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” We are in the midst of the Age of the Enlightenment here, a term used to describe the trends in thought and letters in Europe and the American colonies during the 18th century prior to the French Revolution. The phrase was frequently employed by writers of the period itself, convinced that they were emerging from centuries of darkness and ignorance into a new age enlightened by reason, science, and a respect for humanity.

The precursors of the Enlightenment can be traced to the 17th century and earlier. They include the philosophical rationalists René Descartes and Baruch Spinoza, the political philosophers Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and various skeptical thinkers in France such as Pierre Bayle. Equally important, however, were the self-confidence engendered by new discoveries in science and the spirit of cultural relativism encouraged by the exploration of the non-European world.

Of the basic assumptions and beliefs common to philosophers and intellectuals of this period, perhaps the most important was an abiding faith in the power of human reason. The age was enormously impressed by Isaac Newton's discovery of universal gravitation. If humanity could so unlock the laws of the universe, God's own laws, why could it not also discover the laws underlying all of nature and society? People came to assume that through a judicious use of reason, an unending progress would be possible—progress in knowledge, in technical achievement, and even in moral values. Following the philosophy of Locke, the 18th-century writers believed that knowledge is not innate, but comes only from experience and observation guided by reason. Through proper education, humanity itself could be altered, its nature changed for the better. A great premium was placed on the discovery of truth through the observation of nature, rather than through the study of authoritative sources, such as Aristotle and the Bible. Although they saw the church—especially the Roman Catholic church—as the principal force that had enslaved the human mind in the past, most Enlightenment thinkers did not renounce religion altogether. They opted rather for a form of Deism, accepting the existence of God and of a hereafter, but rejecting the intricacies of Christian theology. *

The Church’s response to this Age of Enlightenment was to resist modern thinkers and enter a state of siege, characterized by condemnations and book bans.

1716 Christian religious teaching is banned altogether in China.

1719 The Jesuit Order is expelled from Russia.


1729 J. S. Bach composes his “St. Matthew Passion.”
1778 Voltaire and Rousseau both die. Among many others, they were part of the Enlightenment, a period during which the Church was under siege. Science, art, literature, and the university were glorified. Kepler, Galileo, and Newton were espousing and popularizing the new cosmology of Copernicus, critical rationalism such as that articulated by Descartes replaced the blind faith called for by the Church. The notion of religious freedom was rising in the populace, personal autonomy was seen as a virtue, and progress was hailed as essential for the human society. Voltaire and Rousseau waged a virtual war on the Church, its dogmas, ethics, traditions, and clergy. The Church, for its part, responded with condemnation and intransigence. It wanted no part of this so-called “enlightenment.”
1789 The French Revolution moved against the aristocracy of both the French monarchy as well as the Church. Church property was nationalized by the new National Assembly and priests and bishops were widely expelled or killed.
1759 Hayden composes his Symphony No. 1 in D major.
1764 Mozart (at age 8) writes his first symphony.
1781 Immanuel Kant publishes his Critique of Pure Reason,” the fundamental work on which modern philosophy would be built. The keystone of Kant's philosophy, sometimes called critical philosophy, is contained in this work. He examined the bases of human knowledge and created an individual epistemology. Like earlier philosophers, Kant differentiated modes of thinking into analytic and synthetic propositions.*
1790 The first Roman Catholic bishop in North America is consecrated. He is John Carroll of Baltimore, born in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, and educated at Saint-Omer's College and at Liège, Belgium. In 1771 he joined the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, and taught at the College of Bruges, maintained by the order. He returned to America in 1774, following the suppression of the Jesuits by Pope Clement XIV. In 1776 he joined Benjamin Franklin, his cousin Charles Carroll, and Samuel Chase in a delegation to Montréal, unsuccessfully attempting to bring Canada into the American Revolution on the side of the colonists. In 1784 he was confirmed as head of the Roman Catholic missions in the United States by Pope Pius VI. He founded Georgetown Academy (now Georgetown University) in 1789 and established several other colleges and seminaries. *
1801 John Henry Newman is born in England. He was an English clergyman, leader of the Oxford movement, and cardinal after his conversion to the Roman Catholic church; outstanding religious thinker and essayist.*
1846 Pius IX is elected pope and begins the longest pontifical reign in history. His reign encompassed the First Vatican Council, the promulgation of several important dogmas, and the loss of the Papal States.

Born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, May 13, 1792, in Senigallia, Italy, Pius was ordained in 1819, became archbishop of Spoleto in 1827, and was created cardinal in 1840 by Pope Gregory XVI, whom he succeeded. The first years of his pontificate were marked by liberalism and political reforms in the administration of the Papal States; the constitution granted by Pius in 1848 merely satisfied demands for popular representation, however, and did not quiet the nationalism rising throughout Italy. The revolution of 1848 caused the pope to flee in exile to Gaeta, in the kingdom of Naples. Two years later, after the newly established Roman Republic had been dissolved by the intervention of France, Pius returned to the Vatican and thereafter devoted himself to opposing all liberalism, both ecclesiastical and political.



Pius affirmed church control of science, education, and culture in the Papal States and adamantly resisted demands for constitutional government and the unification of Italy. He supported Ultramontanism, a doctrine asserting papal authority in the international church. The triumph of this doctrine at the First Vatican Council resulted in the proclamation of the infallibility of the pope. In a bull published in 1854 he proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In 1864 he issued a syllabus condemning 80 errors, among them the belief that the pope should reconcile himself to “progress, liberalism, and modern civilization.” The temporal power of the papacy had already been greatly diminished when, in 1860, the new Italian Kingdom absorbed all the territory of the Papal States except for Rome. It was ended altogether in 1870, when the French troops protecting papal rule were withdrawn and Rome itself became the capital of a united Italy. Pius, refusing to accept the parliamentary act of 1871 defining the relations between the papacy and the Italian government, retired voluntarily to the Vatican. He remained there until his death, on February 7, 1878, regarding himself a prisoner within its confines, as did his successors until the conclusion of the Lateran Treaty in 1929.*
1854 Pope Pius IX declares the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be an article of faith.
1858 The Blessed Virgin Mary is reputed to have appeared to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, France.
1864 The Syllabus of Errors is published by Pope Pius IX.
1867 Karl Marx published Das Kapital, in his long writing career. Marx had been born in 1818 into a Jewish family which had become Lutheran only one year earlier in order to avoid anti-Jewish laws enacted in Prussia. Some Jews, forced into this "conversion" became strict adherents of the new religion but Karl Marx would become the opposite, arguing that religion must be abolished. (For more on this, see Marx, Karl. Karl Marx, Early Writings. Edited by TB Bottomore. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. 210f.)
He was no doubt influenced heavily by his humanist father's beliefs that the dying feudal nobility system and the reactionary Catholic Church were the last bastions of oppression against the common person. Both would have to be done away with, according to the senior Marx, if human progress were to continue. Removing them would allow all people to be equal in both their legal status as well as the conduct of their personal lives.
But Karl's father was a son of the Enlightenment and believed that common sense and the force of reason would bring about this newly emancipated world, free of ecclesial and noble oppression. Karl was more fiery, however, believing in the end that only class warfare would bring about such a change.
We humans live, according to Marx, in a large social order, relating to one another and expressing ourselves in work, progress, and activity, especially the production of daily needs. But when alienated from direct contact with the fruits of our labor by forced trading with an entrepreneurial class of traders and merchants, working men and women become likewise alienated from their very selves. This alienation results from workers performing only one small part of larger tasks, such as on an assembly line where a worker repeats the same activity day after day. In these situations, where labor is divided, the owners profit while the workers suffer.
Marx foresaw a society of communism, in contrast, where there is no division of labor and where the capital is owned by all in common. In such a society, as Marx imagined it, each worker would contribute as he or she could and receive exactly and only what he or she needed for living in return. When everyone has what they need, then no one will need to steal. Crime will cease. And, while this sounds very much like the life described by the author of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4: 32-35,) Marx did not imagine it would be in any way religious because religion was an enslaver, demanding submission to authority as it did.
Of course, Marx lived in the 19th century when the Catholic Church, still functioning on 16th century premises, was firm and rigid about most matters. Church-goers were humiliated and guilt-ridden. For Marx, our failure to claim our own selves, to stand up against what he saw as ecclesial and political tyranny (the pope and the king of Prussia) result in an ever deeper dependence on them. Our consciousness is religion-consciousness, not self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is required, however, if we are to revolt against this tyranny. To struggle against religion, Marx would write in his early years, is to struggle against that which imprisons us. It was at this point that he made his familiar and most telling statements:
Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. To remove religion as the people's illusory happiness is to demand real happiness for the people. (Early Writings, p 43f.)
Had Karl Marx not been taken so seriously by so many national leaders in his time and after it, and had not entire national political and economic systems been based on his work, he would not have been such a direct threat to religion and the churches. But Marxism and Marxist thinking has been present in every hemisphere and even within the Church itself.
For centuries, many people in Christianity have believed that the spiritual world is separated from the material world, that the body and the soul are not united, and that the natural and the supernatural are essentially separate realms. In fact, much of Christian religious practice around the world depends on the distinction between these two categories. Of course, religion considers the supernatural an endlessly more important and higher realm.
1869 The First Vatican Council was held. (It adjourned in 1870.) Pius IX convened Vatican I in 1869 mainly as a conservative effort within the Church of the nineteenth century. His cardinal advisors suggested an agenda for Vatican I that included many matters which would reassert the control of the Church over the thinking of those times. For example, the cardinals wanted a clear statement of Catholic doctrine on points disputed by the public or by other Christians. They also wanted clear condemnations of what they understood to be theological errors of the day.
The planners of Vatican I also wanted to consider whether the changed conditions of the Church did not call for changes in discipline and whether certain relaxation of ecclesiastical laws would not secure a better observance. There was need, too, they observed, for improvements in the education and instruction of the clergy and for a general raising of the level of clerical life among both diocesan clergy and members of religious orders.
On a note sounding at first blush more like a call for reform, several advisors thought that Vatican I might pave the way for the return to Catholic unity of those separated, either in doctrine or in communion and also for renewed vigor in the Church's missionary activity. Only two of the pope’s advising cardinals suggested anything at all about infallibility, a matter that, in the end, dominated the outcome of the council.
Wider consultation around the world about the agenda for Vatican I turned up similar results: the council should deal with and condemn the following principal errors: pantheism, naturalism, rationalism, socialism, Communism, spiritism, and religious indifference. Also the modern Protestant and rationalist teachings in regard to the inspiration of the Scriptures and their authority and interpretation ought to be rejected.
Other suggestions included drawing up a universal catechism and promotion of the Christian life through retreats, spiritual exercises, and sodalities. The reform of canon law was called for. Some prelates wanted to examine the relations of Church and state and some even urged open tolerance for liberty of worship and the press and called for a pronouncement that the needs of the Church were compatible with the political needs of the present time.
Vatican I occurred in the age before telephones, FAX machines, copiers, and electric lights. As with earlier councils, no sound systems, translation equipment, nor rapid air travel existed. Council speeches were delivered from a podium, and the council fathers strained to hear. News about world events around them—which played a crucial role in the council itself—came slowly, first as rumors and then through the press. No news wires came into Vatican City in the nineteenth century.
Credentials were clarified carefully for the council. Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, certain abbots, and others from around the world were invited to Rome. A central commission of cardinals decided the final agenda: five sub-commissions would deal with the following:

• Faith and dogma

• Ecclesiastical discipline and canon law

• Religious orders

• Eastern Churches and foreign missions

• Politico-ecclesiastical affairs and relations of church and state


Select theologians and canonists from around the world were also invited as advisors during the council itself. Fully three-fifths of the bishops who would attend would come from Europe. Even those coming from South America, Africa, and Asia were mainly Europeans assigned to those dioceses. Few native Asians or Africans were present at the council.
One hope for Vatican I was that unity might be restored between the Orthodox Eastern Churches and the Holy See and even that the Protestants might reunite with Catholics.
In September 1868, an apostolic letter was issued "to all Bishops of Churches of the Eastern Rite not in communion with the Apostolic See." The pope's messenger, known as a vicar apostolic, carried the letter to the patriarch of Constantinople. In his letter, Pope Pius first strongly reasserted the primacy of the papacy and then proceeded to invite the patriarch and all others among the Eastern Rite Churches to the council, expressing his strong desire that the schism of West and East would be healed. (By "healing," Pope Pius meant that the patriarchs of the East would all agree once again to give their allegiance to him.)
This effort was thwarted from its inception, however, because the pope’s letter got to the press before it got to the patriarch of Constantinople who returned it unopened via the vicar apostolic who had delivered it. In his reply to the pope, the patriarch said that he had already seen the contents of the letter because he had read it in the press. The patriarch continued by saying that "if his Holiness the Pope of Rome has respect for apostolic equality and brotherhood," he should have sent a letter to each of the patriarchs and synods of the East "as a brother to brethren, equal in honor and degree, to ask them how, where, and in what conditions they would agree to the assembling of a Holy Council." This, the patriarch argued, would have been better than dictating the time and location. He would not, he said, attend. The others in the Eastern Churches followed his cue.
The Anglican bishops were not invited on the grounds that their orders were not valid. The pope's letter of September 1868 to all Protestants and other non-Catholics exhorted Protestants to reconsider their position in the face of the innumerable sects into which Protestantism was broken up and to return to the fullness of the Catholic Faith and to allegiance with Rome.
They responded with a statement showing why they could not comply with the exhortation of the pope. Naturally, they also did not attend.
Thus, the hopes for reunion with Rome, held by some of Vatican I's planners, were lost. (By the time of the Second Vatican Council, 100 years later, a much different approach was taken both to the Eastern Rite Churches as well as to Protestants.)
Despite the foibles in invitations and the naive goals regarding other Christians, Vatican I got underway. During the course of the council's work, which ran from December 1869 to August 1870, leadership emerged, mainly from non-Romans such as Cardinal Manning of England. However, he clearly had a very Roman point of view. The conservatives would dominate Vatican I.
One of the bishops who was present for the opening session on December 8, 1869, wrote of his experience, saying that the council fathers had just returned from the great ceremony of opening the council, which lasted from 8:30 A.M. to 3:30 P.M. It was magnificent, he said, beyond description and well worth a little fatigue. About 660 cardinals, bishops, and abbots were present, and the effect of all those prelates, clad in their official robes, was quite stunning to the observer.
Once assembled and opened, the council got down to work on its prepared agenda as political unrest brewed among the nations of Europe. Political unrest also existed within the council as a movement unfolded to include a strongly worded definition of papal infallibility separated from their statement on the nature of the Church.
At the time of Vatican I, two anti-Roman movements existed within the Church: Gallicanism in France and Josephism in Prussia and central Europe. These movements, which were allied to secular rulers, were mainly reactions to the absolutist and tyrannical behavior of those who worked inside the Vatican and who governed the daily life of the Church.
In opposition to these anti-Roman movements, there emerged equally strong conservative groups, and it was these groups who lobbied at Vatican I for the definition of infallibility. The conservative leaders worked in the background, without an official word being spoken in the council itself. They circulated petitions calling for such a definition. Counter-petitions were likewise circulated, and on March 6, 1870, the pope announced that the matter of infallibility would indeed come before the council for debate.
Led by Cardinal Manning of England, the debate was intense. On May 25, 1870, Manning spoke to the council and appealed to them to act: "The shelving of this question at Trent had disastrous results," he said, "worse would follow should the Vatican Council, after facing it, fail to speak with decisive voice."
A trial vote on infallibility and papal primacy was held on July 13. The majority favored passage and the minority, numbering perhaps 200, was dwindling, as minorities do when standing for evidently losing causes. On July 18, a final vote was taken on the matter and the majority was 533 with only 2 opposed. Ironically, the voting occurred amidst a great and violent rainstorm with lightening flashing into the aula and thunder rolling overhead. As the final votes came in, a glass window nearly directly above the pontifical throne broke, and its shards fell to the floor.
The vote was announced, applause followed, and the council bishops fled Rome as rapidly as they could. Rumors of war were everywhere. The council had not adjourned, but its members were absent.
The council had passed only one other document, Dei Filius (in English, The Son of God). This mainly theological document discussed the nature of God, the need for revelation, the nature of faith, and the relationship of faith to reason.
On the very day immediately following the historic vote on infallibility, war was actually declared between France and Prussia. By early August, the French troops serving as the pope's army left Rome to defend France against the warring armies of the Prussians.
The Papal States then included nearly two-thirds of modern Italy, and with the pope's army out of the way, the Italian nationalist armies wasted no time. By early September, they had invaded the pope's territory and advanced on Rome. On September 20, a siege of Rome began, and after a few hours, local loyalist forces capitulated and Rome was occupied. The pope was a prisoner of the Vatican. One month later the pope issued an apostolic letter suspending Vatican I indefinitely, apparently until more propitious times would allow it to continue.
The council adjourned having taken only one major action: an attempt to strengthen the papacy against the times by its edict on papal infallibility. Many churchmen became triumphalistic in the wake of this new decree; clericalism dominated the Church; and a period of unprecedented legalism descended upon the Church.
No doubt acting in good faith, Church leaders saw this declaration of infallibility as a continuation of the laying down of the law in the Church. Only five years before this, Pius IX had issued his Syllabus of Errors which listed modern errors, taking aim at every field of nineteenth century development: social thought, science, theology, and politics. Defining the doctrine of infallibility as the Italian army stood poised to defeat the papal states in the midst of that thunderstorm in the summer of 1870, with all its epic drama, must have seemed like a final, secure nail in the coffin of progressive thought within the Church.
The council had, however, asked many other questions. What is the power of bishops? How does their authority coordinate with that of the pope? How shall the unity of Christians be approached? What is the nature and Catholic definition of religious liberty? These questions and others asked by the preparatory commissions of Vatican I would remain unresolved by a council for 100 years.
Outside the venue of a council, however, plenty was going on in the Church between Vatican I and Vatican II, mainly due to a movement of theologians and Church leaders which was named Modernism.
1878 Cardinal Count Pecci is elected Pope Leo XIII on the death of Pius IX.
1883 Friedrich Nietzsche publishes his Thus Sapke Zarathustra. He did not consider the supernatural realm our goal; life right here and now is sacred to him. His theology is this: there is a powerful, creative principle within each human being, not transcendent to life. Nietzsche's is pantheism: this powerful forceful principle of life is present in nature as well as in human beings. God is; but god is not transcendent; god is immanent.
So for Nietzsche, atheism is understood not as denial but as radical immanence of the presence of the divine. And this atheism is necessary and helpful for humans on many levels. Being atheist in this sense provides women and men with an entirely new range of possibilities, a new freedom. It isn't the grace of some distant god that empowers humans, then, but that inner force of life, the divine principle radically present in all of existence.
For Nietzsche, then, the values imposed on humans by the Church, any church, are also to be done away with. Such externally developed values, attributed to a transcendent divinity and interpreted by human agents, are folly. The meaning of life is not in heaven but here. Humans must, therefore, create their own values by themselves. There is no place for the Church.
Nietzsche's "death of God" thinking was a direct threat, of course, to the churches and became the popular mantra of collegiates, the cafe crowd, and anti-religionists thereafter.
1890 The rise of Modernism, a theological and spiritual movement among many Catholics in the 19th and 20th centuries. Broadly speaking, Modernists believed that the modern mind is entitled to judge what is true or right in accordance with its own experience, regardless of whether or not its conclusions run counter to tradition and custom. It is the attempt to synthesize the basic truths of religion and the methods and assumptions of modern thought, accepting as valid the scientific and philosophical methods of the times. Hence a Modernist interpretation of Catholicism is one which seeks to reconcile the essentials of doctrine with the scientific outlook characteristic of the modern world.
It goes without saying, however, that reconciling theological positions with the modern times was a particular threat to the Roman Catholic Church since it had been held concretely in place by the provisions of the Council of Trent since the 16th century.
Modernism, as it is being treated here, is specifically the movement of thought within Catholicism which began about 1890, during the reign of Leo XIII, a liberal pope and which was suppressed some 20 years later under the reign of Pius X.
It would be an oversimplification to suggest that even this limited understanding of Modernism defines a single coherent doctrine. The eventual papal condemnation of the movement deliberately attempted to frame Modernism as a thoroughly consistent system of thought - a position vigorously denied by its most famous proponents. (Alfred Loisy, a leading Modernist, once argued that there are as many theories of modernism as there are modernists. Loisy refused to accept any description of the movement's adherents as "a homogeneous and united group.")
The Modernists themselves, including many priests and at least one archbishop (Archbishop Mignot of Albi in the south of France, sometimes called "the Erasmus of Modernism") represented many theological fields: biblical critics, historians, social and political theorists, systematicians. If they agreed with one another, according to Alfred Loisy, it was because of their common commitment to reform Catholic teaching. They sought an intellectual renewal of Catholicism which would equip it for the task of confronting the 20th century world, not with suspicion or hostility - as was evident in the 1864 Syllabus of Errors - but with genuine understanding.
Modernists generally held that Catholicism was too firmly committed to the attitudes of the Counter-Reformation. They were troubled because they were unable to reconcile these attitudes with their own times. They could not bring themselves to abandon their religious heritage but they were also unable to ignore the cultural conditions which were present in the late 19th century, with which the Church refused to deal.
The challenge to this official intransigence came as well from Protestant quarters during this time as biblical scholarship advanced there. The old dispute as to the relationship of tradition and scripture was given a new aspect by this scholarship. This, in turn, undermined the Roman Church's position declared by the Council of Trent that these are the twin sources of divine revelation. The 19th century, with its scientific advances, was a less friendly environment in which the Church could simply declare this to be so without allowing further discussion.
The apparently more liberal reign of Leo XIII provided a new spirit of adventurous thinking within the Church, however, and the growth of Modernism would not have been possible without it. Leo XIII was more politically astute than his predecessor had been and sought to improve the reputation of the papacy in an increasingly hostile climate. Hence, while the substance of policy remained the same under Leo, the tactics of its application were adjusted. His encyclicals seemed progressive and he opened the Vatican archives to the world's scholars for the first time. The pope at last, so it seemed, was encouraging a break from the manuals of Trent to allow fresh scholarship to have its place.
And, indeed, Modernism had its flaws and was, like all thinking, linked too closely to its own age. It adopted the pragmatism and 19th century notions of history with too much enthusiasm. And many modernists rejected the supernatural because it could not be tested, observed, and quantified - all important 19th century values.
While the sophisticated and urbane Leo XIII tolerated this movement, despite its flaws, it's easy to see how his more conservative, non-theologically trained successor reacted with firm condemnation. In two papal acts Modernism was denounced as based on "agnostic" and "immanentist" philosophy. The Modernists themselves were repudiated as traitors to the Church, "thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by her enemies."
The papal acts were the decree Lamentabili sane exitu, July 3, 1907 and the encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, September 8, 1907, both under Pius X. The latter in part says this: "...these latter days have witnessed a notable increase in the number of enemies of the Cross of Christ, who, by arts entirely new and full of deceit, are striving to destroy the vital energy of the Church, and, as far as in them lies, utterly to subvert the very Kingdom of Christ...We allude to many...who put themselves forward as reformers of the Church [referring to the Modernists]."
Not only that. Elaborate ecclesial machinery was established, including secret "vigilance" committees in all dioceses. Reports were sent to Rome. No teacher suspected of Modernism was to be allowed to retain his or her post in any Catholic university or seminary. Censorship was tightened for textbooks and periodicals. But even these steps were not sufficient. In 1910 the pope imposed a stringently anti-Modernist oath upon the clergy. Heresy-hunting was common and private denunciation encouraged. And only when Benedict XV came to the Chair of Peter in 1914 was this obstinately repressive policy relaxed.
Nonetheless, Modernism and lines of thinking associated with it were considered "dangerous" to the Church until the opening of the Second Vatican Council which itself began a process of self-reappraisal within the Church. As late as 1950, Pius XII (in his encyclical Humani Generis) rejected what he called "the new theology” which it linked with Modernism because it seemed to downplay the supernatural order and the official authority of the Church. But some of these latter day Modernists eventually enjoyed the Church's approval, serving as advisors at Vatican II and even becoming Cardinals of the Church (Henri de Lubac and Jean Danielou.)
Those refuting modernist thinking, tended to equate dated Catholic routine with authentic Catholic tradition. Routine is residue, unexamined collection of historical practices, often for which no rationale any longer exists or for which one has to be invented. Tradition is vital and alive - rooted in each age and taking on the stuff of that age. Clearly recognizable as meaningful today.
Likewise, anti-Modernists often equated revealed truth with academic theory. Revealed truth is unchangeable but the academic language used to express it, the explanation of truth, is never fully adequate and always in need of refinement. Language is subjective - something feared by those opposed to Modernist thinking.
Hence by default of history, Vatican I undertook only a single major action, that being something not on its agenda to begin with at all. It declared the Roman Pontiff infallible in matters of faith and morals. The pope's temporal powers simultaneously ending, these spiritual powers were strengthened against an encroaching and hostile modern world. And only the Modernism movement, which likewise failed to reach its goals, arose late in the 19th century to counter the rigid world of the Church.
The course set for the church in the 16th century by the Council of Trent underwent, therefore, little change for 400 years except, perhaps, further entrenchment. The Council of Trent remained the last major council of the Church before Vatican II.
1891 Pope Leo XXIII publishes Rerum Novarum. This landmark encyclical set the course of Catholic social teaching for a century.
1899 Pope Leo XIII issues a papal bull condemning “Americanism” within the Roman Catholic Church, especially that espoused by Isaac Thomas Hecker, an American Roman Catholic priest, born in New York City. In 1843 he was a member of the cooperative community of Brook Farm, Massachusetts, and he also lived for a time at Walden with the writer Henry David Thoreau. Brought up as a Protestant, Hecker was converted to the Roman Catholic faith in 1844 and was ordained a priest of the Redemptorist order in England in 1849. Returning to the U.S., he conducted missions to Catholics from 1851 until 1857; to proselytize non-Catholics, he wrote Questions of the Soul (1855) and Aspirations of Nature (1857). In 1858, with several colleagues, Hecker founded the Society of Missionary Priests of Saint Paul the Apostle, known as Paulist Fathers, or Paulists. He became the congregation's first superior and served until his death. In 1865 he founded the periodical Catholic World and in 1866 the Catholic Publication Society, predecessor to the Paulist Press.*
1903 Lambert Beaudin, OSB gives lecture at conference in Malines, Belgium on liturgical renewal. A monk of the abbey at Mont-Cesar in Louvain, Belgium, Beaudin is regarded as one of the key figures in the emergence and development of the liturgical movement in the early part of the twentieth century. These lectures at a Catholic conference in Malines were used as a basis for much of the liturgical renewal movement. He believed in the education and participation of the laity and sponsored workshops in his abbey aimed at providing people with a deeper love of the rites and texts, which, after the Council of Trent, had taken a second place to rubrics.
Beaudin was a close friend of Virgil Michel of St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, and influenced his launching of a full liturgical movement there. This movement spread across the United States and Canada and influenced the council fathers to proceed with reform at Vatican II, a reform which was already well underway when the council began.
1907 Sigmund Freud published his first work on religion, titled, Obsessive Actions and Religious. Freud, born in 1856, is often called the father of modern psychology. Raised in a Jewish home with a devoutly Catholic nanny, he was mildly religious as a child, observing Jewish customs and festivals and reading the scriptures. His nanny, on the other hand, taught him about Catholic piety and even took him along with her to Mass on occasion. He experienced serious anti-Semitism as a child which emerged from his neighbors: Catholics whose piety seemed not to produce the fruits of love which it advertised. This made Christianity utterly unbelievable to him.
But he disliked Jewish ritual as much as Christian piety and spent much of his professional life working all this out. He died in 1939 at age 83, having just published his final draft of Moses and Monotheism; he just couldn't say enough about religion.
Freud made his discoveries about the nature of human existence by personal observation and analysis. He concluded that most human behavior emerges from the unconscious: drives and attitudes, motivations and determinations which humans cannot well understand. We seem, in his view, to be in constant internal conflict between a strong, inner sexual urge on the one hand, and equally strong social or religious inhibition to consummate it, on the other.
His first work on religion was published in 1907 titled, Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices. In this work he argued that the practice of religion, which he'd been observing since his Jewish/Catholic boyhood, was neurotic. Its very basis is pathological. Religious adherents, he argued, are looking for explanations for things that only science can explain. In the place of reasonable explanations, religionists seek a father figure in the heavens to make sense of the world's otherwise unexplainable madness, injustice, and arbitrariness. Throughout his career he never changed this view. (For a more detailed treatment of this, read William L. Newell's The Secular Magi, New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1986.)
Hence, those who practice religion are perpetually infantile; they never grow into real adulthood because they are forever begging their parent god for this favor or that, forever explaining difficult realities with "god answers" when science ought to have been employed instead. To these people, reason mattered little: god was not reasonable but capricious and arbitrary. This god, to Freud, was imagined by people, not real. This god was an illusion.
For centuries and continuing into today, Christians believed that our ancestors had fallen from grace in paradise, a Garden of Eden described in the book of Genesis. Humans had been created, according to this view, in one whole piece, fully and entirely human, walking upright and speaking a common language. Charles Darwin had argued that this Augustinian view was wrong. Rather, Darwin postulated, humans had evolved over centuries, slowly moving upward from the status of apes and animals to human form. There had been no paradise for Darwin.
Influenced by this new thinking, Freud concluded that humans hadn't begun their corporate existence on a lofty, paradisal plane and been reduced by a fall from grace. Rather, humans had begun on the animal plane and were now in the process of evolving to a more sophisticated level of existence in the world.
Religion, for Freud, shared the same beginnings. As primitive men and women, it served to explain the unexplainable: pain in childbirth, hunger, death, even our fear of snakes. God and religion were created, according to this view, as a protective father-god. God was, therefore, created by humans, not the other way around, and this human-made divinity continued to have influence in the world: explaining still birth, sickness, and natural destruction.
The more humans understand science and the making of the world, however, the less needed this created god would become. Their very reason for existence was slowly being replaced by human knowledge and understanding.
The god once found in nature and planets, slowly evolved to a god now more removed, no longer responsible for the winds, the waves, and the tides, this god now became only the moral guide for humans. God inhabits heaven, now, setting down a moral code, handed to Moses first, and providing another purpose for keeping a divinity around. Religionists, Freud would argue, don't deal with scientific facts and indeed, claim that "it's all a matter of faith." To Freud it isn't faith but only an illusion. Humans want to be safe, well, and eternal. Religious belief provides the illusion of all of these and more.
Freud's seminal work in psychology was followed by the work of many others but his notion of religion and the idea of god as an illusion remained a vital challenge to the mystical religious practices of the Church.
1943 Pope Pius XII publishes the encyclical, Divino Afflante Spiritu, permitting and encouraging the study of Scripture according to modern methods of research. This was the first time in many centuries that such encouragement was given to biblical scholarship by the pope.
1958 Angelo Roncalli is elected Pope John XXIII.
1959 Pope John XXIII announces his intention to call Vatican II, along with a synod in the Diocese of Rome and a revision of the code of canon law. His announcement is met with little support by members of the curia.
1962 Invitations are sent to all Christians in the world, encouraging them to send observers to Vatican II.
October 11, 1962 The first session of Vatican II gets underway. The schema on liturgy is chosen as the first item with which the council will deal. The council fathers pass over other possible schemata because they seem unready. The council's first act is to send a "message to the world," calling for peace and social justice for all humankind. "We wish to convey to all people and to all nations the message of salvation, love, and peace which Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, brought to the world and entrusted to the Church," the message begins. (See paraphrase of this message.)
In November, 1962, The first lay observer is invited to the council. He is Jean Guitton, a member of the French Academy whom Pope John knew when he lived in Paris as papal nuncio to France.
On December 1, 1962, the schema on the Church is introduced for debate by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, chair of the Theological Commission which had prepared it. By and large, Ottaviani's commission has prepared a draft that hails the status quo as acceptable and does not address the Church as the people of God. Cardinal Suenens of Belgium speaks in favor of redrafting the schema on the Church. As Vatican I was the council of the papacy, he says, let this be the council of the Church of Christ, light of nations! He goes on to propose that the document be divided into two parts: one dealing with the nature of the Church as the Mystical Body and the other dealing with the Church's mission in the world. He calls on the Church to be in dialogue with the society around it on matters such as the dignity of the human person, social justice, private property, the poor, internal peace within nations, and international relations. His speech is met with sustained applause, so much so that it has to be choked off by the day's president with a reminder that such boisterous responses are not in order.
Cardinal Bea seconds Suenens' remarks, followed by others who agree, along with a smaller number who favor the approach taken by Ottaviani's commission. The following day, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan rises to take the microphone. In the entire first session he addresses the council only twice. He says that he approves wholeheartedly of Cardinal Suenens' statement of the day before regarding the need for revision of the document on the Church and confirms the suspicion in the council that Suenens has indeed been speaking the mind and heart of the pope himself. The Church, Montini goes on to say, is nothing by itself. It is not so much that the Church has Christ, he says, but that Christ has the Church to carry on his work of bringing salvation to all. It is up to this council, he says, to clearly restate "the mind and will of Christ" by defining collegiality among bishops, projecting a truly ecumenical view of the Church, and teaching faithfully that each bishop is indeed a vicar of Christ. It is necessary, he says, to send this schema back to its commission for redrafting. All present know that he is speaking for Pope John. (Montini is the only cardinal from outside Rome who has been invited to reside in the papal apartments during the eight weeks of the first session.)
Only a few months later, this very cardinal, Montini, is named Paul VI.
On December 8, 1962, the first session of the Second Vatican Council is formally adjourned for nine months, until September 8, 1963. In his address, the pope stresses that he appreciates the sometimes sharply divergent views expressed in the first session because this demonstrates the "holy liberty" of thought in the Church. "A good beginning has been made . . . ," he says.
The first session has produced no completed results.
June 3, 1963 Pope John XXIII dies.
June 21, 1963 Pope Paul VI is elected.
June 22, 1963 Pope Paul announces his intention to continue the ecumenical council. He announces the reopening date as September 29, 1963—sooner than had been expected by even the most optimistic observer since preparations had stopped upon the death of Pope John.
September 29, 1963 The second session of the council opens. Pope Paul has invited 63 separated Christian observers and 11 laymen to attend this session, an increase over the first session. The pope opens this session with a long and stirring speech, addressing the "living presence" of Pope John and committing himself to continued reform.
October 22, 1963 Cardinal Suenens urges that the number of laypeople present at the council be increased and that the number should include women. "Unless I am mistaken," he says, "women make up one half of the world's population."
November 22, 1963 President John Kennedy is assassinated in the United States at about 7:00 P.M., Roman time, sending a hush upon the whole city. One news commentator writes that in a single year, two great Catholic men—Pope John XXIII and the president of the United States—died, having initiated much work which they left unfinished.
December 4, 1963 The second session of the Second Vatican Council closes with a solemn liturgy and the promulgation of the constitution on the liturgy and the decree on communications media. Voting on them is as follows:
Liturgy: 2,147 to 4

Communications: 1,960 to 164
January 1964 Pope Paul VI (who is the bishop of Rome) and Patriarch Athenagoras I (who is the bishop of Constantinople) meet in a historic gesture of reconciliation in the Holy Land while both are on pilgrimage there. They meet 3 times, first at the pope's place of residence in the Holy Land where he greets the patriarch with the gift of a chalice and says that he hopes they will one day share it again. The second meeting is at the patriarch's place of residence in the Holy Land where the pope receives the gift of a pectoral chain, symbolic of a bishop's apostolic succession, which he immediately dons. The third meeting is an accidental one on the street where they stand for 10 minutes of intimate visiting.
This carefully planned meeting, the first between the pope and the patriarch since the Middle Ages, results in a major move forward in relations between the Churches of the East and the West and lays the groundwork for work still to be done on the document on ecumenism, which is on the agenda for the third session of the council.
September 14, 1964 The third session opens with a concelebrated mass in St. Peter's. Pope Paul's opening remarks are a call to the council fathers to define the place of the bishop in the Church, an effort which has thus far proved to be frustrating for the council fathers because of the tactics the curia members have used to prevent any reduction in their powers.

November 21, 1964 The third session is closed by Pope Paul VI who takes the occasion to proclaim Mary the Mother of the Church, a move which disappoints the Protestant observers and adds to the generally gloomy feeling at the end of this stormy session.


Three documents are promulgated: The Church, Ecumenism, and Eastern Churches. That there will be a fourth session is also announced. The voting on the documents is as follows:
The Church: 2,151 to 5

Ecumenism: 2,137 to 11

Eastern Churches: 2,110 to 39
June 10, 1965 Pope Paul VI "rehabilitates" Galileo Galilei. This rehabilitation by Pope Paul VI does not actually admit error on the part of the Church or the medieval popes involved with Galileo’s silencing.
September 14, 1965 The fourth session of Vatican II opens. Pope Paul presides at a simple ceremony, lacking the pomp of previous openings.
October 4, 1965 Pope Paul VI travels to the United Nations in New York City where he delivers an address, the first ever by a pope, calling on the nations of the world to cease war and disarm themselves. His trip is couched in ecumenical gestures, including a key farewell message from the patriarch of Constantinople whom the pope had met the previous year in Palestine.
October 28, 1965 Five documents are promulgated by Pope Paul VI. The final voting is as follows:
Non-Christian Religions: 2,221 to 88

Pastoral Duties of Bishops: 2,319 to 2

Renewal of the Life of Religious: 2,321 to 4

Priestly Formation: 2,318 to 3

Christian Education: 2,290 to 35
November 18, 1965 Two more documents are promulgated today. The votes are as follows:
Divine Revelation: 2,344 to 6

Lay Apostolate: 2,305 to 2.
December 7, 1965 A joint declaration from both Pope Paul VI and Orthodox Patriarch Athenagoras I is read simultaneously in Rome and in Istanbul, lifting the excommunication they had jointly placed on one another in 1054. In so doing, they also invite the whole world to follow suit and to enter into greater unity. When the representative of the patriarch kneels to kiss the ring of the pope, Paul graciously raises him up and embraces him in a kiss of peace. As the patriarchal representative turns to leave the papal chair, a loud ovation of applause greets him.
Final voting on the remaining documents occurs as well as their promulgation. The results are as follows:

Religious Liberty: 2,308 to 70

Missions: 2,394 to 5

The Church in the Modern World: 2,309 to 75

Priestly Life and Ministry: 2,390 to 4
December 8, 1965 The fourth session of Vatican II ends and the council is officially closed at an open-air Mass in front of St. Peter's Basilica.


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