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

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  375 Ratings  ·  55 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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Grace Tjan
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.

Mark Desrosiers
Feb 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: god-box
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
El libro intenta abordar la historia de la Iglesia. Solo decir eso debiera bastar para que quede claro que la empresa que se propone es harto compleja. Sin embargo también se propone a medida que la va presentando, ir introduciendo algunos elementos de la historia universal (europea al menos). Si bien esto no es mandatorio, el lector común agradece algunas referencias que es casi imposible tener todo el tiempo presentes. Al menos ayuda saber que hechos el autor considera los sobresalientes, aunq ...more
Chase Parsley
Aug 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Real Supergirl
Jan 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
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
Aug 03, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Fredrick Danysh
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, history
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.
Marcus Wolfe
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
It is important to read his forward/introduction to understand where he is coming from, his hermeneutic if you will. Definitely does not gloss over previous church abuses but due to publishing date does not deal with the current priest abuse scandals or comment on the most recent 2 popes. It is clear he was not a fan of John Paul II. He is also clearly coming from a Liberal/Reform point of view. Many of his theological assertions are not well supported within the text, although this wasn't meant ...more
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I left the Catholic Church, in which I was duly raised, about ten years ago, after reading a lot of Mexican history and realizing how damaging the Church's influence had been in my country. However, after reading Küng's take on the philosophy that gave birth to Christian thought, and especially after his well founded critic on how another Church is possible, I miiiight think of coming back to the flock. A lovely history book for the informed beginner on the subject.
Saša Vuković
Iako autor širi neke misli zbog kojih sam se u pojedinim dijelovima knjige pitao zašto jednostavno ne prijeđe na protestantizam, knjiga je dobar primjerak povijesti Katoličke Crkve napisane na sažet i čitak način.
Adam Windsor
Mar 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
I was looking for an introductory narrative history, which I didn't really get, but this view of a liberal-minded insider to the Catholic church is an interesting if sometimes rather dry and technical account of the institution's development.
Nov 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Yaser Aein
Apr 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
این اثر در ۸ بخش، در قطع رقعی و در ۲۹۶ صفحه به چاپ رسیده است. عنوان کتاب به خوبی با موضوع و محتوای آن تطابق دارد؛ اگرچه بهتر بود قید a short History در عنوان اصلی، به نحوی در نام فارسی نیز لحاظ میشود. علاوه بر فهرست مطالب در ابتدای کتاب، نمایهای کلی در انتهای آن درج شده است. کتاب، در ابتدا با سخنی از مترجم آغاز میشود که شامل معرفی ادوار زندگی، تطور فکری و دیدگاههای مؤلف است و نقش مهمی در شناخت خواننده و همراهی او با نویسنده در طول مطالعه کتاب دارد. پس از آن، مقدمهای دقیق از نویسنده وجود دارد که ...more
John Moyle
Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Si Jesús viviera hoy, ¿sería católico?
Sirva esta pregunta como reseña sobre lo que trata el libro. Escrita por uno de los más famosos teólogos de los últimos tiempos, que incluso asistió como asesor al Concilio Vaticano II, y que perdió el favor del Cardinal Ratzinger por sus críticas a la deriva filosófica y religiosa que estaba tomando la Iglesia, el libro analiza con mayor o menor detenimiento la historia de la institución católica. Subraya en mayor profundidad aquellos temas en los que se mu
Jun 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es el primer libro que leo que aborda a la Iglesia Católica desde una perspectiva historica-científica. Bastante instructivo en este aspecto. Sin embargo, es un libro pequeño y quizá esto hace que ciertos temas, a mi parecer fundamentales, no se aborden con mayor profundidad. Es clara la tendencia de Küng en pro de la reforma de una Iglesia Católica acorde con los tiempos modernos. Menciona temas como el divorcio, el aborto, el sacerdocio femenino, la homosexualidad, el matrimonio dentro del sac ...more
Jul 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teologie
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
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Kristine Payant
Sep 22, 2014 rated it liked it

Progress so far: as a recent (3 years) convert to Catholicism and embarking on facilitating the conversion class I took, this book has been invaluable for the history alone. Good and bad, it is presented clearly and concisely. It has been illuminating in terms of understanding my former faith's opinions about Catholicism, including a lack of understanding of the Church's full history (again, good and bad alike). I am a little disturbed at the background of the author...I don't want my burgeoning
Apr 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, religion
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
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Jun 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jozef Kuric
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.

Čítajte viac:
Keren Threlfall
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reading
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
Oskars Kaulēns
Jul 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
konspektīvs, izsmeļošs izklāsts par to, kā Romas Katoļu baznīca laika gaitā no visaptverošas, humānas ticīgo kopienas ir kļuvusi par iekšēji sašķeltu, dogmatisku un patriarhālu varas mehānismu. autors ilustrē katoļu baznīcas lomu vai drīzāk anti-lomu lielāko vēsturisko notikumu kontekstā (reformācija, renesanse, apgaismība, industriālā revolūcija u.c.) un uzskatāmi parāda pārmaiņu iespējas, ko baznīca ir palaidusi garām, lai kļūtu par modernu, sabiedriski pieņemamu un iekļaujošu morāli ētisko un ...more
Steven P.R.
Jun 14, 2014 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic-history
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.
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Super short, given all years of history of the Catholic Church!
Kueng hits on major theological schisms, events, and dogmas as they arise. It is both a historical and a theological history. He exposes the unsavory truth but continually expresses his love for the gospel, Christ and the Church. It is a great read (or audiobook) for a person of faith who wants to think about where the church is going in light of where it has come from.
Leroy Seat
Jun 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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.

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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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“What a revolution! In less than a century the persecuted church had become a persecuting church. Its enemies, the “heretics” (those who “selected” from the totality of the Catholic faith), were now also the enemies of the empire and were punished accordingly. For the first time now Christians killed other Christians because of differences in their views of the faith. This is what happened in Trier in 385: despite many objections, the ascetic and enthusiastic Spanish lay preacher Priscillian was executed for heresy together with six companions. People soon became quite accustomed to this idea. Above all the Jews came under pressure. The proud Roman Hellenistic state church hardly remembered its own Jewish roots anymore. A specifically Christian ecclesiastical anti-Judaism developed out of the pagan state anti-Judaism that already existed. There were many reasons for this: the breaking off of conversations between the church and the synagogue and mutual isolation; the church’s exclusive claim to the Hebrew Bible; the crucifixion of Jesus, which was now generally attributed to the Jews; the dispersion of Israel, which was seen as God’s just curse on a damned people who were alleged to have broken the covenant with God . . . Almost exactly a century after Constantine’s death, by special state-church laws under Theodosius II, Judaism was removed from the sacral sphere, to which one had access only through the sacraments (that is, through baptism). The first repressive measures” 1 likes
“The comprehensive organization of the church, with its solid roots and the manifold forms of charitable help to the many who were poor and in distress; • Christian monotheism, which commended itself as the progressive and enlightened position in the face of polytheism, with its wealth of myths; • The lofty ethic, which, tested by ascetics and martyrs to the point of death, showed itself to be superior to pagan morality;” 0 likes
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