History of the Church

Kassidy Fender

Background Chapter: The Roman Empire

Much of Rome's pagan religion came directly from Greece. Pagan beliefs were enforced throughout the empire to ensure unity of the people. The Roman Empire was normally tolerant of all religions as long as they offered homage to the Roman gods as well. Judaism, however, did not pay homage to the gods of Rome. This was allowed at first, but not without reservation. Many foreign cults also came into practice. Stoicism was also prominent in Rome. It became one of the dominant moral philosophies among the Roman intellectuals.
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Chapter 1: Jesus and the Founding of the Church

After the death of Jesus, the disciples were afraid of persecution. Before Jesus left, he told the disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit. On the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and resolved all their fear. In the years following, the disciples set out on a mission to build the Church. They carried the message of Jesus' salvation all over the world. The teachings of the apostles initiated the Tradition of the Church.
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Chapter 2: The Early Christians

The beliefs and practices of the Church did not develop quickly. Rather, they emerged from centuries of theological and historical development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As early Christians began to reflect on the message of the Gospel, the tradition of the Church began to take shape. Certain practices, like Baptism, also began to form. Baptism started off as a 2-3 year process in which the person being baptized can learn more about the message of the Gospel. The ritual of the Mass also developed over time. It started from an early Christian religious meal and then turned into a full Eucharistic celebration.
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Chapter 3: Persecution of "The Way"

In the times of the early Church, the Romans feared Christians greatly. Rulers an mobs would find unique ways to torture and kill Christians. Thousands lost their lives in the 300 year persecution of Christians. Despite the pressure put on these men and women to renounce their faith, they remained faithful and were martyred because of their beliefs. St. Ignatius of Antioch was one of these martyrs. He is considered to be one of the Apostolic Fathers and was the third bishop of antioch. On his way to Rome to be martyred after being arrested, he wrote the Seven Epistles in which he expresses his desire to be martyred.
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Chapter 4: The Church Fathers and Heresies

The persecution of Christians in the fourth and fifth centuries was followed by a series of heresies that posed a threat to the Church. One may enter into heresy by two different ways:

Material Heresy: This type of heresy is brought through ignorance and is not caused by the will of the subject and is therefore not considered a sin.

Formal Heresy: This type of heresy comes by freely choosing to believe something contradictory to Church teaching, therefore is considered to be a sin.


The first heresies that struck the Church were very dangerous because they had to do with the center of Christian Faith: the figure of Christ. One example of an early heresy is Gnosticism, which says that salvation can be achieved through knowledge.

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Chapter 5: Light in the Dark Ages

There is no official date for the fall of Rome, but sometime in the fifth century the West collapsed. The Huns eventually took over and devastated much of Rome. Eventually, monasticism began to take rise in Rome. This way of life is characterized by prayer and self-denial. Monastic communities would withdraw from the world in order to seek God through silence. The rise of monasticism was important for the spread of Christianity and the preservation of many significant writings.
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Chapter 7: The Great Schism

The Great Schism was the final shattering of communion between East and West in 1054. After the Third Council of Toledo in 589, the words "and the Son" were added to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. This was called the Filioque and was added to clarify a theological point. This caused a controversy in the Church because the Patriarch of Constantinople refused to accept the addition to the creed. The Filioque controversy, the crowning of Charlemagne as emperor of the West, the Photian schism, along with other issues all contributed to the Great Schism.
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Chapter 9: The Crusades

The Crusades were a series of Holy Wars fought by Christians against the expansion of Muslim territory. The Crusaders were motivated by religion and by other incentives, like the reduction of taxes, by the Church. The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II and took place from 1095 to 1099. It was considered the best organized. The First Crusade was mostly a success which inspired a string of crusades that lasted for 5 centuries. None were as successful as the first.
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The Inquisition

The Inquisition started in response to the Albigensian heresy, a form of Gnosticism that was growing strong and posing a threat to the Church. In 1231 Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition as a means of detection of heresy. He appointed Dominicans and Franciscans who could serve as judges free of secular influence. The procedure would begin with a month long grace period where the person accused of heresy could repent. If the accused did not confess, the trial period would start. Though the Inquisition was established to lessen evil, it still allowed some injustice to remain.
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Chapter 10: The High Middle Ages

The High Middle Ages were a golden age in the Church. Christian philosophy, art, and piety grew to new heights. The saints of this period show holiness can benefit all of society like St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Bonaventure, and many others. This Medieval period saw a moment in which all aspects of life and culture were identified with the Faith. The individual was in harmony with the world, the Faith, and God in the journey through life.
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Chapter 11: The Plague

From 1315-1317, a famine struck Europe for the first time in 200 years. Trade declined, business failed, and there was a widespread economic depression. Rats carried fleas infected with the disease all over Europe. It laid waste to the political, intellectual, and economic leadership of Europe. It is estimated that 25 million people died as a result of this disease. Jews were the scapegoats for this disease and antisemitism grew greatly.
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The Hundred Years War

The religious bonds that European kings once recognized, known as the Peace and Truce of God, were no longer held sacred. The problem of inheritance started putting many kings at odds against each other. A conflict arose between England and France during the fourteenth century that would change the political makeup of Europe. The Hundred Years War was a series of short battles in which England had the upper hand early on in the conflict. St. Joan of Arc, who fought for France, changed the fate of the War in France's favor.
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Joan of Arc

St. Joan had a vision of St. Michael the Archangel, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine of Alexandria electing her as liberator of France. She went to King Charles VII to convince him of the sincerity of her mission. She succeeded and in May 1429, led a small army against the captured city of Orleans. Eventually she was captured by the English and convicted of heresy. She was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. By the end of the Hundred Years War, Joan became a symbol of French unity and national spirit.
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Chapter 12: The Renaissance

The Renaissance is often considered one of the pinnacle points of human history, though it did have its ups and downs. It offered the social climate perfect for the rise of Christian humanism, a rebirth in classic principles, and magnificent developments in the fine arts. However, it also exaggerated the understanding of human capacity. This period represents a time when thinkers and artists grew confident enough to explore human understanding outside of religion. New developments in art, politics, and economics showed people that society could function outside the traditional realms of religion and morality.
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Chapter 13: The Protestant Reformation

Reform was needed in the Church: simony, nepotism, and the abuse of indulgences had spread throughout Western Europe. Moral character and the level of learning among priests had declined greatly; many could not read or write in Latin. By 1517, the practice of selling indulgences was being abused. Martin Luther, angry at the widespread abuse, decided to do something. On October 31, 1517, he nailed the 95 Theses to the Cathedral door at Wittenberg. He began to develop his theology and gained a strong support for works.
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The English Reformation

King Henry VIII became unhappy with his marriage. He asked Pope Clement VII for an annulment, which was not a common thing of the day and was considered immoral. The annulment was denied, but the new archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, nullified Henry's first marriage and recognized his second. He passed the Act of Supremacy law in which the king was proclaimed the supreme head of the Church in England. Lutheranism began to grow in England which angered the king, who still considered himself Catholic. Eventually, England became a completely Protestant country.
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Chapter 15: Exploration and Missionary Movements

After the new lands had been discovered, Catholic authorities soon realized that missions needed to be sent to evangelize the indigenous people. The Spanish crown was a major supporter of these missions. Missionaries introduced the Christian faith and learned native traditions and dialects to help them teach and train the Indians. These efforts brought millions to the Church and helped bring a Christian culture to the Latin world. This period of evangelization is highlighted by the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which offered hope to the New World.
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Chapter 16: The Age of Enlightenment

The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were difficult for the Church. Faced with both political and philosophical opposition, it seemed like the whole world was turning against the Church. The rulers and thinkers of Europe began to turn away from religion. Secular states in both Europe and America tried to institute tolerance and religious equality. Through all of the persecution, the Church found ways to minister to the faithful. As new ideologies emerged in the modern world, the Church stood fast in proclaiming Jesus Christ the ultimate truth and meaning of human life.
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Chapter 19: The Rise of Soviet Communism

Soviet communism had its roots in the theories of Karl Marx. After seizing power, the country's new masters set about suppressing political opposition and managed to establish tight socialist control over the country. Out of this bloodshed and violence, the Soviet Union emerged. Around the same time, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three children in Portugal. Mary spoke of the evils going on in Russia and urged prayer for the conversion of Russia. Religious persecution was a major element of the Communist program. Catholic and Orthodox churches were destroyed or put to other uses.
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The Rise of Nazism

Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, was concerned with the independence of the Church in Germany after signing the Concordat of Germany. Recognizing the potential radicalism of Hitler's regime, he wished to preserve religious freedom for German Catholics. Despite this agreement between the Church and Germany, Hitler and the Nazis violated the concordat from the start. Nazism was a blend of nationalist totalitarianism, racism, and neo-paganism. It maintained that superior individuals had the right to ignore conventional morality and live by their own rules. The Nazis launched a campaign of propaganda against the Church after the pope's criticism of them. The conflict was now in the open and there was no turning back.
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Pope Pius XII and World War II

In 1918, Pope Benedict XV sent Achille Ratti to Poland on a diplomatic mission and later appointed him Nuncio of that country. He demonstrated extreme courage and determination when he refused to leave the city in the face of a threatened Bolshevik attack in August 1920. The following year, the pope named him Archbishop of Milan and a cardinal. He was elected pope after Benedict XV's death. Despite the criticism that Pius was indifferent towards the Nazi persecution of the Jews, he was actually responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives during World War II.
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Chapter 20: Vatican II

Pope John XXIII convened Vatican Council II in hope to update the Church in order to meet the urgent spiritual needs of the world. It took place in four sessions and was held in St. Peter's Basilica. About 2860 of the world's bishops attended, along with representatives of other Christian churches and religious bodies. The substantive work of the Second Vatican cancel is embodied in sixteen documents. The four constitutions are the central documents of Vatican II and provide the theological basis and vision for the rest. They include the dogmatic constitution on the church, on divine revelation, on the sacred liturgy, and on the Church in the modern world.
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Pope St. John Paul II

During World War II, Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, entered an underground seminary sponsored by Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Krakow. After his ordination, he traveled to Rome to study at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas where he wrote a thesis on St. John of the Cross. After being elected pope, John Paul emphasized the dignity and rights of every human being in his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis. To address the dissent and defections that weakened Catholic life, he wrote fourteen encyclicals and countless other documents on topics that ranged from economics to spiritual life. In 1983, John Paul brought to completion and published the new Code of Canon Law for the Western Church.
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Chapter 21: The Church of Immigrants to the U.S.

Massive Catholic immigration from Europe to the United States began early in the nineteenth century and continued well into the twentieth century. The newcomers were attracted by the promise of work, land, and religious and political freedom. Due to immigration and higher birth rates, the spread of American Catholicism was extremely rapid. Church leaders worked hard to provide parishes, schools, convents, and other institutions to keep up with the spreading of the faith. By the 1860's, the Catholic Church was the largest religious body in the country.
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Slavery

Though Pope Gregory XVI had condemned slave trade in 1839, Catholic leadership did not speak out against it. Many Catholics, especially in the South, supported the legal institution of slavery. A large number of of Catholics fought on both sides of the Civil War. Forty Catholic chaplains fought for the Union and twenty-eight were soldiers for the Confederacy. Hundreds of Catholic women helped the injured and wounded during the War. Of the four million slaves emancipated in 1863, an estimated 100,000 were Catholics.
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The Church in the U.S.: Present and Future

Some argue that the founding documents of the United States, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are grounded in the natural law largely shaped by Catholic thinkers such as St. Thomas Aquinas. As a result, many say that American values offer a congenial setting for practicing the faith. Religious and secularist world views have both been a part of the American experience from the time of the nation's founding. Catholics are not only a part of America's culture war but also their own ideological struggles over the future of the Church. 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.
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