The Catholic Church: A Short History
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The Catholic Church: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles #5)

3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  232 ratings  ·  40 reviews
In this extraordinary book, the controversial and profoundly influential Hans Küng chronicles the Roman Catholic Church’s role as a world power throughout history. Along the way, he examines the great schisms—between East and West, and Catholic and Protestant—as well as the evolving role of the papacy, the stories of the great reforming popes, and the expansion of a global...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 2001)
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Mark Desrosiers
All religions are strange, but Catholicism is the weirdest of them all. I know this because I was brought up in the faith -- stumbling up steps, lighting candles, wobbling as I held a massive decorative Bible aloft just under the Reverend Father's eye during mass. Nothing can delete the religious impulse from a boy's brain more quickly than constant contact with nuns, combined with impressment as an altar boy. Yet Jesus of Nazareth remains an inspiring figure in my mind, and I thoroughly admire...more
Hans Kung is the Catholic that every Protestant will love.

He's not afraid to expose the ugliness of the Church's history along with its triumphs. This book will probably not sit well with Catholics. However, I believe he's a prophetic voice from within the Church much like Erasmus during the Renaissance, but not a separatist. I'd like to read his book Why I'm Still a Christian next.

A very interesting book from the controversial theologian, Hans Kung. He traces the formation of Catholic theology alongside the growth of the church from Acts, the Gospels, Peter and Paul, all the way up through the second Vatican Council and the pontificate of John Paul II. Throughout the narrative Professor Kung takes particular issue with the Papacy and the doctrine of papal infallibility. In fact, Kung places the formation of church government and the centralized power of the papacy at the...more
Grace Tjan
WARNING: avoid this review if you are someone who believes that religion is one of the three topics that should not be discussed at the dinner table.

Catholicism 101: Final Exam

Required Text: The Catholic Church A Short History, Hans Kung, trans. John Bowden, Modern Library chronicles, 2003. Hereinafter referred to as “short history”.

Part One

Multiple-choice questions

1. According to the short history, who founded the Catholic Church?

A. Why, Jesus himself, of course. Next question.
B. Peter, who was...more
Chase Parsley
I found this book fascinating. First of all, I was quite interested in the author's perspective. Far from being a person who wants to criminalize the entire Church and its history, Hans Kung is a Catholic theologian who, in the late 1970s, was hence forbidden to teach within the Church due to his progressive (i.e. common sense!) views. Kung traces the entire history of Christianity with a focus on the Catholic Church from the time of Jesus to pope John Paul II. It is an amazing sweep of history...more
Real Supergirl
Kung's writing is clear and concise, his strength is in his ability to make history make sense in today's world - as in, help me understand just why the Catholic Church is the way it is today - without relying on exaggeration or grandiose versions of history. He's a Catholic theologian, but he is no apologist for the Catholic church. His honesty and forthrightness has gotten him into trouble with his church in the past.

This is an excellent, relatively quick read for anyone who is interested in...more
Aug 03, 2007 Nathan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People wanting a RCC self-critique
Can one be proud of being Catholic anymore? Kueng's lost his nerve and can't seem to marshal much of a defense of Rome.

One star. The four missing stars are for missing what should have been the main point. The lone star is for making good points while missing the main point.

Not a good book to read if you're looking at traditional view of the Roman Church, which is what I was seeking. It's a revisionist history better suited to those who already have a pretty good grasp of what Rome is all about...more
John Moyle
The first thing to address with this book, is to apply the Pringles Principle, which is: Judge things by what they are, not by what they claim to be.

This book is subtitled "A Short History". It is, i in fact, short (about 250 pages) and it is mostly a history, but not necessarily the history you might be expecting.

Hans Kung is a Roman Catholic and a theologian who has strong opinions about the Church, the papacy, the Churches theological evolution, and its inability to deal with or even recogn...more
Malé dějiny katolické církve nebo Kritické dějiny katolické církve. První název je oficiální ten druhý možná věcnější.
Nemyslím si, že český název je názvem povedeným. Víc než o přehled dějin představuje Küng čtenářův, a to v kritickém podání, především vývoj římsko-katolické církve k monarchistickému episkopátu - tedy k soustředění veškeré politicko-teologické moci do rukou papeže, potažmo kurie. Tento postupný přerod se podle mě daří Küngovi popsat věrohodně, ale jistá a nezanedbatelná porce p...more
Fredrick Danysh
Father Kung presents a short history of the Catholic Church. He starts with the beginning of the Church following the death of Jesus. Some of the points covered include the schism from the Jewish faith, the rule of celibacy, the Crusades, the Protestant Reformation, and the Second Vatican Council. I found Father Kung's work easy to read.
Jozef Kuric
Katolícka cirkev od Hansa Künga možno nie je zásadným dielom o dejinách kresťanstva a katolíckej cirkvi, no je určite rukoväťou poskytujúcou základné argumenty a kritické otázky, ktoré vyjadrujú všetko to, čo trápi nielen ateistov, ale aj nezanedbateľnú časť veriacich, ktorí stále nestratili vieru v Krista, odmietajú sa však vzdať slobody a prekáža im predstieraná zbožnosť.

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My strongest impression after reading this is that the history of the Catholic Church is one Papal power grab after another. To say this book is an incomplete account would be accurate, but in the author's defense it is subtitled "A Short History." You can't get it all in 207 pages, so you might have to focus on a particular angle. Fr. Hans Küng picked his angle.

Fr. Hans does an admirable job with the material. There's a common understanding among Roman Catholics that Jesus Himself founded our...more
Steven P.R.
Hans Kung delivers a good overview of the history of the Catholic Church, but the book also delves into criticisms of the church which may make a Catholic waver in his or her opinion of the book's presentation. Though I felt I learned a lot while reading it, Kung's interpretation and analysis seemed to lean on the side of criticism.

Overall, I felt I gleaned a lot from the book--though with reservations.
This is a very good book for getting a quick education on the overall history of the Catholic Church. If you’ve ever wondered what a medieval institution would be in today’s time, you already know what it is! The Catholic Church. I really appreciated the background story that has brought into understanding why the institution is the way it is. The reasons behind what we consider quirky behavior for some of the Church’s views, and why they seem backwards in the context of today’s society. Althoug...more
Perhaps the title should read, The Catholic Church: A Short, Critical History. Kung definitely takes, as expected, a critical look at the sometimes inspired but often unfortunate turns in this Church's history, but his writing is always imbued with hope and reason for redemption. To capture this fascinating and complex history so succinctly and penetratingly is astonishing!
If you're new to Catholicism, start somewhere else first. This book is written for those in the know.

I forced myself to read this, even though I didn't understand it. I don't feel it's right for me to give it one or two stars, since I'm sure it's interesting if you're well-versed in Catholicism. It tackles the criticisms against the church (without justifying at all, as far as I can tell; Küng is very fair), but it doesn't explain them. So you're screwed if you're just an average lay-person, loo...more
Keren Threlfall
Very helpful book written by Hans Küng, who although a Catholic theologian himself, has some very big problems and disagreements with the RCC. Through most of the book, it seems that he embraces the same Gospel as myself, an orthodox evangelical Protestant. (Though toward the end, that seems questionable.) I was amazed to see the way that God has used Catholicism to indeed preserve and perpetuate both His written Word and the truly catholic, universal church. Helpful history of the Catholic chur...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 11, 2008 ♥ Ibrahim ♥ rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: both Evangelicals and Catholics
Catholics will read this book and see what is good and what needs reform and what what we can't just t turn a blind eye to. Evangelicals will read this book and will become more compassionate and understanding towards Catholicism and be reminded once again of the long-suffering God. Both sides will hear an very interesting, enjoyable reading of our Church history. The book exposes a lot fallacies and is more forthright than you can ever imagine. It is rare to see such an honest scholar who doesn...more
Kung's theology is featured prominently in this brisk but interesting overview
Lots of interesting information.
I found the most interesting parts of this book to be the blatant falsifications the church has used over the years to shore up its power structure. Many in power in the church must have a good idea of how short people's memories are....and once a forgery is seen as "true" for a few centuries, it's too late to undo what it was used to build. Humans are pretty forgiving it seems. Or they just don't care.
It was a very brief overview of the Catholic Church. The author was part of the Vatican 2 council and has an insider's view. To be honest it wasn't a glowing report of the church and he calls for reform in order to save the institute of the Catholic church. Helpful, but it raised a lot of questions for me concerning the role of the Pope and the Catholic church as a whole.
Leroy Seat

This book, along with Alister McGrath's "Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution," is the textbook for my Rockhurst University course this fall. I was a bit surprised he was so hard on John Paul II, but he still has a hopeful conclusion--which was waylaid, to a large degree, by Cardinal Ratzinger being elected Pope after Kung's book was published.

OK, history nuts, listen up: These Modern Library Chronicles "Short History" books are awesome. They're more academic (and less gaudy on a bookshelf) than "Idiot's Guides," but the trade-off is no cartoons.

Küng is a reformer, and his short history on the Catholic Church is both an apology and apologetics. You don't get that a lot in religious history.
Pulls no punches about the history and problems with the church (not the Catholic church, but with the development and current state of the curia and papacy). I found the Conclusion most informative and formative. Very good review of church history with an eye towards how the future can redeem the past. Really enjoyed it.
A most readable, and I mean easy to read, book from Hans Kung giving the reader a brief, but insightful, survey of the history of the Roman Catholic Church. I found it to be both crtical and sympathetic and always honest in its narrative. If you have never read Kung this would be a good place to start.
This book was primarily useful to me as a way to fill in some gaps in my knowledge of church history. Kung has some pretty obvious axes to grind, but if you can take his interpretation with a few grains of salt there is some good background information to be had here, in an easily readable format.
I like Kung. A Catholic priest who has faced harsh criticism from the church, still he does not shy away from presenting undesirable aspects of the church's history. He would've been excommunicated in an earlier time. I found this book interesting to read, and quite concise.
Jack Lindgren
I got drunk once and explained the contents of this book to a friend who had been raised Coptic. I will never forget his expression when he realized that 95% of the anti-Catholic propaganda he'd been exposed to as a kid was basically historical fact.
A history-based history of the Church that separates the myth and legends from fact in the hopes of giving a starting point for believers who know a reform of the hierarchy is past due.
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Hans Küng is a Swiss Catholic priest, controversial theologian, and prolific author. Since 1995 he has been President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic (Stiftung Weltethos). Küng is "a Catholic priest in good standing," but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology. Though he had to leave the Catholic faculty, he remained at the University of Tübingen as a professor of...more
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