I enjoyed very much hearing about the life and times of Emperor Charlemagne. Yet, I noticed in this author a tendency to make various claims about the Emperor's view of the Church and its Popes at that time, claims that did not add up to how he behaved toward them. I decided to do a little research to check some of these claims.
The one that had me most interested was how Charlemagne viewed his position within the Church. The historian Warren Carroll reports that "the Caroline Books declare, outspokenly and truly: 'There is as great a gulf between the Apostles and the emperors as between saints and sinners.' The emporers have no rightful power over the Church, which is ruled by Peter and his successors alone" (The Building of Christendom, p. 318). This is not what came across in the book.
In regards to the trial of the falsely accused Pope St. Leo III, Warren Carroll reports: "There is not a scintilla of evidence that this ten-man judicial committee ever regarded itself, or was regarded, as sitting in judgment on the Pope himself. His accusers were on trial, not he. It was they who stood charged with premeditated mayhem, of a crime to shock the conscience of any civilized man" (ibid, p. 324). After the men who falsely accused Pope Leo were sent to Charlemagne for punishment, he himself later convoked an assembly of bishops, priests, abbots, and nobleman to consider this whole affair in the hopes of settling things once for all. Yet, in doing so, he said, "We dare not judge the apostolic see, which is the head of all the Churches of God; we are all judged by Him and His Vicar, who is judged by none; this has been the custom since the earliest ages. As the supreme pontiff decides, so shall we obey according to his canons" (ibid).
Both of these matters as well as some others were not treated fairly in this book. What I heard was a typical modern writer revising history to match our modern "enlightened" way of thinking.
When I saw the title, I was excited to hear something about the St. Patrick Battalion that went over to Mexico. Yet, the story is so crudely told (lots of unnecessary details about sex and sex abuse that could easily be indicated in a more mature manner) that I gave up in the first chapter.
The life and times of Pope Celestine V is truly a story worth knowing. I think this author's goals in writing this book were admirable, but I think he failed in his efforts in many ways.
One of the main ways he falls is by constantly imputing motives to the individuals of history. A good historian shows what happened according to the facts that are known and then perhaps suggests some possible motives but with some reluctance. The reader is capable of deducing these things on their own if the author presents the information properly. Beside, we must always remember that we were not there. We do not know at this distance all that a person was thinking and doing. We pay our courts millions of dollars to determine motives in the present without much assurance that we have the right answer. What is sad is how this author rarely gives anyone the benefit of the doubt. Thank God there will be a General Judgment where God will show the truth of all history, including motives. Surely all will be surprised at how wrong they were in their own private judgments.
Second, he is a typical modern writer who looks down on the middle ages or those that came before us as if we know better now. For example, a number of times he mentions how science has helped us. He says science has helped us understand death. My goodness, how is this? Science may have helped us understand the mechanism of death, but to my knowledge science has not helped us understand anything about death itself which is the separation of body and soul. If anything, science denies the existence of the soul. As a result, the arrogance of his writing is almost too much to take in places.
Third, this author is typical of those who see only the worst in things in historical figures and situations. They love to report even the hints or rumors of wrong doing at the level of the papacy or any other office. They love to concentrate all their efforts on where a saint seems to have failed. This is all part of modern thinking where we blame our parents and ancestors for everything and how they did nothing right.
I could go on and on with this book...but, in a word, sad to say, I cannot recommend this book for anyone seeking to understand the fascinating life and times of Pope Celestine V.
The author starts this work by saying he is only trying to stick to the facts that are known about St. Patrick. But then he makes St. Patrick to be a Protestant. I was amazed to hear how St. Patrick studied only the Bible and himself placed so much stress on reading primarily the Bible. I was amazed to hear how St. Patrick objected to any connection with the Pope in Rome... that he, St. Patrick, was in Ireland on authority that came straight from God rather than through His Vicar on earth, the Pope. We know this is false in light of history. We know that this saying is true: as the leader so the people. After King Henry VIII broke away from Rome in the early 16th Century, the country remained divided from Rome even after many attempts to heal the schism. As the leader, so the people. If St. Patrick never had any connection or allegiance to Rome, how come Ireland has been among the most loyal, if not THE most loyal, of all countries to Rome throughout history? Until recently, they have been a most faithful people...coming to the rescue of the Church time and time again. If they started out with such independence, would they, the fiercely independent people that they are, not want to keep it that way? Would they not at least sympathize with King Henry VIII on that point? Sorry. The author of this book is reading things into the life of St. Patrick. So much for sticking to the facts. Just because there may not be an explicit mention of Rome in the very slim writings we have from St. Patrick, can in no way justify the conclusions of this author. He is forcing a Protestant 16th Century mentality upon a 5th Saint. For this reason alone, I cannot recommend this book. Even one star seems too high.
I found this book very helpful in piecing many things together. It is amazing to see how the occult has played a role in the lives of many leaders of America and Europe. But, I was disappointed when the author did not address some major elements of the self-help programs that find their roots in the occult. Here I am specifically thinking of the AA 12-Step programs that were initiated with Bill Wilson. He started under the Oxford Group Movement which later changed its name to Moral Rearmament. They incorporated occult ideas. It is also well known that Bill Wilson attended many seances and perhaps even wrote the 12-Steps under the influence of praeternatural beings in sessions of automatic writing. Also, I was waiting to hear about the various groups that influence Hollywood and other figures that shape our country through the media. What about Charles Manson and the Process? What about Charles Manson and Scientology? What about the occult and the use of drugs like LSD? These things have greatly influenced us...as the book "Turn Off Your Mind" by Gary Lachman explains. Still, I would recommend this book even though it is deficient in providing a more complete picture.
This story has many interesting points that are worth considering even at this late date, and I think the author does this quite well. Yet, I do take exception with at least a couple of comments he made. First, the mention of the ignorance of the sailors about the whale does not seem to jive with what Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick. Although it was their business to carve up whales and they went about it in a business like manner, surely they had some understanding of the anatomy of the whale including the size of his reproductive organs. Really, the mentioning of this organ and its size by the author is just typical of our sex crazed times. Totally out of place and unnecessary. Second, the author goes to some length to explain how painful it is to suffer dehydration and starvation. But, as he noted, as one approaches the end, all the pain starts to go away. Then, amazingly, he comments how the various supporters of euthanasia in America consider this a painless way to die. Did I miss something?! Yes, it is not very painful at the end but what about all the suffering involved to get to that point? It seems clear to me that such digressions are politically motivated and have no place in a work like this.
The story is interesting and worth recounting in its own right. But the author's frequent digressions into how things evolved in the jungle to produce what the Roosevelt team were experiencing were a distraction. The author kept referring to how complex the jungle is...but this is an argument totally opposed to evolution. The chances of such an incredibly complex ecosystem developing by means of evolution are astronomical. Furthermore, there is no tangible evidence of this sort of development as many evolutionists like Sir Julian Huxley and others will openly admit in their more candid moments. Thus, listening to this book became rather painful in places there every other sentence was how this or that thing in the jungle evolved. Sorry, it just does follow. I think the evolution thing is a distraction...and filler that would be best left out of this or any other story. For this reason I would hesitate in recommending this book to anyone else.
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