History of the Church

By: Avery May

Background Chapter~ The Roman Empire

Roman culture was greatly influenced by the Hellenistic world that flourished before Rome became a great city. As Rome became more culturally developed, the gods were increasingly seen merely as literary inventions that expressed certain aspects of human behavior. The Romans viewed their slaves as "chattel" meaning that the master held power of life and death over the slave, once freed former slaves could even receive citizenship in Roman society. Stoicism was a very influential philosophical school and over time it became one of the dominant moral philosophies among the intellectuals in Rome.
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Chapter 1~ Jesus and The Founding of the Church

The Sanhedrin has condemned their Master to death, and the disciples believed that they would be the next targets of persecution, but God did not leave his Church alone. He declared to his disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit, the Apostles proclaimed the Good News that the long-awaited Messiah had come and that he had paid in full the terrible price required or the redemption of all mankind. Christianity began to spread quickly through the ardent and intrepid preaching of the disciples.
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Chapter 2~ The Early Christians

The eternal truths present in Christ's teaching were passed on and unfolded within a living and changing body of practicing believers. Christians remained closely associated with the Jewish faith, they retained many traditional Jewish practices in the same way that Christ and the Apostles had. The "Agape" (love in Greek) refers to an early Christian religious meal that was related to the celebration of the Eucharist. For early celebrations of the Mass, people gathered together in private homes and in the catacombs. It was not until the Edict of Milan, when Emperor Constantine began a building program favorable to the Christians.
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Chapter 3~ Persecution of "The Way"

In the early years, Christians referred to the Faith as "the Way". Living the Way required a life of integrity according to the commandments and counsels of the Gospels and a string commitment to become a disciple of Christ.Nero was the first to declare Christianity unlawful, and sought to punish all believers with death under his principle (Let the Christians be exterminated). According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Eusebius, and other writers, Nero's persecution of the early Christians helped set the Roman Empire along a path of increased, though irregular, persecution in the coming decades.
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Chapter 4~ The Church Father's and Heresies

St. Thomas Aquinas defined a heresy as "a species of unbelief, belonging to those who profess the Christian faith, but corrupt its dogmas. A material heresy is merely a heresy that is a mistake, albeit a grave mistake that needs correction. A formal heresy makes it possible to freely choose with full understanding of the Church, it carries with it a degree of culpability. A number of great and holy leaders arose to lead the Church, explain the faith, and meet the unique challenges posed by different heresies, they were known as the Church Fathers. The study of the Church Fathers and their many writings is known as patristics, the writings of the Fathers provide a unique opportunity to learn and appreciate the wealth of the earliest Christian tradition. Some important Church Fathers are: St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose of Milan, Pope St. Gregory the Great, and St. Hilary of Poitiers.

Chapter 5~Light in the Dark Ages

The absence of academic pursuits among the Germanic Franks quickly undermined the great Greco-Roman tradition of learning and culture. The loss of literacy mainly affected the Church because most people could no longer read the Scriptures. With the collapse of education, the vibrant economy declined as well, roads became unsafe, people lived in fear and distress and crime increased. The former empire dissipated into a rural society of isolated towns and villages. With the disappearance of the Roman Empire, the Church had the important task to adapt herself to a deamatic cultural change, the Church reflected the ways and customs of the Empire.

Chapter 7~ The Great Schism

For both political and theological reasons, the Christians of the East tended to minimize the pope's status as chief shepherd of the Church. Eastern Christians seldom referred to him except in extreme cases, often during a difficult dispute in the Church, at which point he was often sought out to settle the dispute. The final split between the easter and western Churches came in the year of 1054, all of the tension that had developed over the previous centuries came to head. The doctrinal dispute, crowning of Charlemagne as emperor of the West in 800, the issues of authority raised in the Photon schism, and the reforming tendencies under the leadership of the papacy in the West came to focus. Byzantium had increased its military strength

Chapter 9~ The Crusades

The word crusade referred to a series of eight expansive military expeditions that the Christian people undertook as a defensive action in the Holy Land and against continued Muslim expansion. The motivation for the Crusades was religion, reduction of taxes, dissolving of debt payments, and the protection of the crusaders' families. The First Crusade was considered the "best organized" because the armies were divided into four groups all set to meet in Constantinople, the crusaders took advantage of the Muslims disunity and established authority over Palestine, after that the crusaders organized the lands into a number of counties, fiefs, and principalities.
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The Inquisition

The Inquisition is a group of institutions within the judicial system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy, it began largely in reaction to the Albigensian heresy. The procedure for Inquisition began with a month long "term of grace" proclaimed by the inquisitor when he came into a heresy ridden district, which allowed the inhabitants to confess their sins and perform penance in front of the inquisitor. A second variety of the Inquisition was the infamous Spanish Inquisition, authorized by Pope Sixtus IV in 1478. Pope Sixtus tried to establish harmony between the inquisitors and the ordinaries, but was unable to maintain control of the desires of Ki ng Ferdinand V and Queen Isablella. Sixtus agreed to recognize the independence of the Spanish Inquisition.
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Chapter 10~The High Middle Ages

As the demand for education among monks and nobles increased, the schools began to develop expanded areas of study, the schools added philosophy, astronomy, civil snd canon law, and medicine to their curriculum. Universities were a type of corporation that protected he educational and administrative interests of its members. The universities were able to offer a program called studium generale, which included the study of theology, law, medicine, and the arts. Christian architecture was one of the best and long lasting accomplishments of the medieval period, it centered around the form of the Roman Basilica which had a wooden roof that was raised high and the walls were supported by round arches joining columns that ran down each side of the nave. Vernacular literature grew large as well, vernacular literature means literature that was written in local languages instead of Latin.

Chapter 11~ The Plague

The Black Death also known as the bubonic plague, first broke out in the small, Genoese Black Sea trading post of Kaffa on the Crimean Peninsula. Tartar invaders brought the disease from Asia, the disease was commonly carried by black rats to fleas. The rats carried the fleas throughout Europe and they eventually spread the plague to humans. Most of the sailors and people who got the disease aboard the ships were dead, and those who were still alive were gravely ill. They were overcome with fever, unable to keep food down and delirious from pain.

The Hundred Years War

The Hundred Years War was in fact a series of short battles interrupted by long periods of relative peace, the English gained the upper hand early in the conflict. The infighting left France vulnerable to an invasion, and England's King Henry V did not miss his opportunity. He destroyed the elite of the French aristocracy and overwhelmed the king of France at Agincourt in 1415, this left a failing legacy for the Medieval feudal system. Henry V of England renewed the war and proved victorious at Agincourt. Thanks to Joan of Arc, the siege of Orleans was lifted. Then Paris and the lle-de-France were liberated and after the French army had been reorganized and reformed Charles VII recaptured the duchy of Normandy. The end of the conflict was never marked by a peace treaty but died out because the English recognized that the French troops were too strong to be directly confronted.
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St. Joan of Arc

Joan began to hear voices, which she determined had been sent by God to give her a mission of overwhelming importance: to save France by expelling its enemies, and to install Charles as its rightful king. Joan’s reputation spread far and wide among French forces, she and her followers escorted Charles across enemy territory to Reims, taking towns that resisted by force and enabling his coronation as King Charles VII in July 1429. St Joan of Arc led a small army of five hundred soldiers against a far stronger force, after all her battles she was put on trial for heresy and witchcraft by Pierre Cauchon. Her efforts enabled the French army to begin a counter-offensive against the English, at the end of the Hundred Years War she became a symbol of French unity and national spirit.
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Chapter 12~ The Renaissance

The Renaissance was literally a rebirth of the period in European civilization immediately following the Middle Ages and conventionally held to have been characterized by a surge of interest in classical scholarship and values. The Renaissance also witnessed the discovery and exploration of new continents, the substitution of the Copernican for the ptolemaic system of astronomy, the decline of the feudal system and the growth of commerce, and the invention or application of such potentially powerful innovations as paper, printing, the mariner’s compass, and gunpowder. Humanism took human nature in all of its various manifestations and achievements as its subject. It stressed the unity and compatibility of the truth found in all philosophical and theological schools and systems. Art came to be seen as a branch of knowledge, valuable in its own right and capable of providing man with images of God and his creations as well as with insights into man’s position in the universe. In the hands of men such as Leonardo de Vinci it was even a science, a means for exploring nature and a record of discoveries.

Chapter 13~ The Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation was the 16th-century religious, political, intellectual and cultural upheaval that splintered Catholic Europe, setting in place the structures and beliefs that would define the continent in the modern era. Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin and Henry VIII challenged papal authority and questioned the Catholic Church’s ability to define Christian practice. They argued for a religious and political redistribution of power into the hands of Bible- and pamphlet-reading pastors and princes. Martin Luther composed his “95 Theses,” which protested the pope’s sale of reprieves from penance, or indulgences.Luther translated the Bible into German and continued his output of vernacular pamphlets.
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The English Reformation

The English Reformation began with Henry VIII’s quest for a male heir, when Pope Clement VII refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could remarry. The English king declared in 1534 that he alone should be the final authority in matters relating to the English church. Henry worked to place the Bible in the hands of the people. Beginning in 1536, every parish was required to have a copy. After Henry’s death, England tilted toward Calvinist-infused Protestantism during Edward VI’s six-year reign and then endured five years of reactionary Catholicism under Mary I.
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Chapter 15~ Exploration and Missionary Movements

This period of evangelization came about through the efforts of a relatively small number of holy missionaries who truly believed that "God desires the salvation of everyone." The good news of Christ was being preached in Africa, Asia, and the New World. Christopher Columbus set sail with three ships and a crew of 90 men, he discovered the New World, he was awarded with the title "Admiral of the Ocean Sea" and made governor of all lands in the West. The Spanish discovery of the New World created a craze for exploration, which resulted in expansion and trade in the Americas and beyond. Missionaries faced many difficulties such as the climate, language was a great barrier because of the limited vocabulary, and the travel distance was staggering. The lands of Asia also produced an extraordinary number of converts to the Faith.
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Chapter 16~ The Age of Enlightenment

The great scientific discoveries of the seventeenth century laid the foundation for what is known as the Age of Enlightenment. During the Age of Enlightenment, the Church was increasingly disregarded as an enemy of scientific process and a promoter of "superstition". Descartes believed people could discover basic truths through reason and Bacon was a scholar who stressed experimentation and observation. Copernicus argued that a sun-centered model made it much easier because it was easier to calculate planetary motions than in the Ptolemaic model. Galileo combined observation, experimentation, and application into a new "scientific method" that standardized the study of different areas of natural science and Newton was a scientist who discovered the principle of gravity.

Chapter 19~ The Rise of Soviet Communism

Soviet Communism was to become the driving force behind an international program of subversion, revolution, conquest, oppression, and religious and political persecution that cost millions of lives and threatened the peace and stability of the world for seven decades. The Bolshevik Revolution brought Communists to power under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, the new master's set about cruelly suppressing political opposition. Both Catholic and Orthodox churches were destroyed or desecrated and put to other uses including dance halls, stables, museums of atheism, chicken coops, and public baths. By 1939, there were fewer than 100 churches, only two of which were Catholic. Unfortunately, it would take 50 years for the Soviet Union to crumble and for Communism to fall in Eastern Europe.
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The Rise of Nazism

One of the most critical challenges facing Pope Pius XI was the rise of Adolph Hitler to power and the Nazi party in Germany. The Concordat led to a self-disbanding of the once powerful Catholic Center party, which may have helped resistance against the Nazi dictator. Hitler and the Nazis violated the Concordat from the start. Nazism was a blend of nationalist totalitarianism, racism aimed especially at Jews, neo-paganism, and the moral nihilism of the nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. The Concordat could no longer hide the animosity between the Nazis and Catholics, there would be no turning back.
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Pope Pius XII and World War II

When Pius XII was elected pope,all-out war in Europe was already thought inevitable, he worked strenuously to promote peace and try to prevent World War II. Once the war broke out he continued to appeal for peace and he knew knew that World War II was a different kind of war and the Vatican could not be satisfied with simply acting as a voice of peace. Pope Pius XII was accused of not speaking out against the Nazi persecution of Jews, he was indeed cautious in his public statements for fear of reprisals against the Church and the Jews.Pius XII sought to help the world through hands- on practical methods. He tried to save as many lives as possible, for this, historian Rabbi David G. Dalin joined Jews throughout the world, calling Pius XII "a righteous gentile."
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Chapter 20~ Vatican II

The Second Vatican Council took place in four sessions, about 2860 bishops attended some or all of the Council. The council was one of the major media events of the 1960s, it became the focus of an enormous amount of speculation, hope, anxiety, pressure, and debate.Pope BI John insisted a "new order of human relations" was emerging under the inspiration of God's providence; and the Council would allow the Church to make her proper contribution. The substantive work of the Second Vatican Council is embodied in sixteen documents, there are 4 constitutions, nine decrees, and three declarations, those are the central documents of Vatican II and provide the theological basis and vision for the rest.
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Pope St. John Paul II

John Paul II saw two fundamental threats to christianity in the contemporary world: the secular humanism of Marxist Communism and the secular humanism of the consumer society present in the United States and Western Europe. He wrote fourteen encyclicals on topics from economics to spiritual life and he upheld positions on matters like abortion, contraception, and divorce. He especially had strong devotions, mainly to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he surprised many people by adding to the Rosary five new luminous mysteries based on Jesus' public life. At his funeral people cried out " Santo submit" which means a saint immediately.
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Chapter 21~ The Church of Immigrants to the U.S.

Nearly three million Catholic migrants who came between 1830 and 1870, most came from Ireland, Germany, and France, the growth of American Catholicism was remarkably rapid. The new incomers were attracted by the promise of work, land, and religious and political freedom. Church leaders made heroic efforts to provide personnel and parishes, schools, convents, and other institutions to keep up with the expansion. By 1840, there were fifteen American dioceses and 663,000 American Catholics served by 500 priests, the Catholic Church was the largest religious body in the country by about the 1860s.


Although Pope Gregory XVI had condemned the slave trade in 1839, Catholic leadership in the U.S., had little to say about the issue. Many Catholics supported the legal institution of slavery. Large numbers of Catholics fought on both sides of the Civil War, more than twenty Union generals and eleven Confederate generals were Catholics. Of the four million slaves emancipated in 1863, an estimated 100,000 were Catholics, about 60,000 of those in New Orleans. Catholic parishes and schools both in the North and the South remained largely segregated by race until the middle years of the next century.
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The Church in the U.S.~ Present & Future

The conflict between religion and secularism has become an ongoing "culture war" - a struggle over values and beliefs that shape American institutions and policies. The Catholic Church in the United States faced a host of challenges bearing in one way or another upon the question of the Catholic identity. The United States is the scene of a profound conflict between Americans who support religiously based values and secularized Americans who advocate a relativistic morality of "individual choice". The history of the Church has demonstrated throughout the centuries that the witness of holiness will push the kingdom of God forward in the United States.