In his narrative of the time from the French Revolution to the present in Church History: Twenty Centuries of Catholic Christianity of the Roman Catholic Church, John C. Dwyer makes it apparent that he has several goals in mind for where the church ought to end up, and his account gives us a sense that it is all leading up to these goals. They are largely accomplished by the time he gets to the Second Vatican Council, though in some ways they are left undone even at the end. One of these goals is that the Church must forget about holding on to the Papal States, and more importantly, that the Pope should not waste his efforts in trying to hang on to them. Another is for the Church to become truly catholic by losing it's Latin focus, and accept that it is the church of many cultures around the world, not just of the Italians. Dwyer also seeks a general modernization of the conduct of Church business and decision-making, such as a more open and democratic process, and one that seeks input from all concerned parties and arrives at its decrees more by consensus than by fiat. In his descriptions of each of the Popes that he covers in this history, they are judged on how well or poorly they succeed in working towards these goals for the growth and improvement of the Church in the two centuries leading up to our time.
On the eve of the French Revolution, "the Papal States had become an obstacle to the independence and universality of the papacy, but the Popes of the time were utterly unaware of this". The problem of with the Papal States was that they involved the Popes "incessantly in internal Italian political squabbles" and made their relationship to the Catholic powers...
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...n an overall trend towards the kind of world view taken for granted by much of the West in the 21st century. The moves towards social justice and equality of the 19th century are tracked slowly and reluctantly by the Church, until the centralized power of the Pope is weakened to the point that it becomes impossible not to recognize that the real power of Catholicism lay outside the immediate grip of the Vatican. With this realization, the Church adopted a much more diverse and democratic outlook, while at the same time remaining at odds with the strongly-held beliefs of much of the laity. It is this central tension that remains with the Church today, and the pattern that Dwyer presents is one of slow and reluctant liberalization.
Dwyer, John C. Church History: Twenty Centuries of Catholic Christianity. Paulist Press. New York. Mahwah. 1998.
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