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Steve Weidenkopf: ‘Timeless: A History of the Catholic Church’


In this clip from the Busted Halo Show, Father Dave chats with Steve Weidenkopf, prolific author and professor of church history at the graduate school of Christendom College, about his new book “Timeless: A History of the Catholic Church.”

In his book, Weidenkopf tries to break down 2,000 years of major historical events into easily digestible stories. “History really is a story because that’s what resonates with people,” he says. “I take my cue from our master catechist Christ himself. I mean, that’s what he did … with large groups of people he told parables, he told stories. Why? Because people remember stories. … So, that’s what I tried to do with this book, to help us to learn about our spiritual family history through the actions of the men and women who have come before us.”

In one chapter of the book, Weidenkopf argues that there is more to the Crusades than meets the eye. If someone thinks the Crusades are just a “blemish on our history,” Father Dave asks, “How would you respond?” The one-sided narrative about the bloody, ruthless, power-hungry Crusades, Steve responds, is in reality, far more complicated.

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In 1095, the Eastern Byzantine patriarch asked Pope Urban II for Western military aid to protect Christian pilgrims journeying to the Holy Land. The pilgrims were vulnerable to new waves of Muslim Turks who harassed, attacked and even murdered them. So, Urban II called for an armed pilgrimage to defend Christians in the Middle East. In the First Crusade, the pope united the divided factions of Europe and offered Europeans a “unique spiritual opportunity to … help their fellow Christians who were being harassed and killed and persecuted across the ocean.”

So, Father Dave asks, would it be a mischaracterization to say that the Crusades were a campaign of conversion?

“The Crusades were not wars of conversion,” Weidenkopf responds. “Rather, these were really defensive wars of protection, wars of liberation to restore ancient Christian territory to Christian hands, and in no way, shape, or form was evangelization a focus.”

In another section of the book, Weidenkopf traces the origins of the Protestant Reformation (or as he calls it, the Protestant Revolution) back to the shaky papacies of the 14th century.  The seeds of the great division, he says, were sown through two major events: the Avignon papacy, in which the pope ruled as an absentee pope from Avignon, France, instead of Rome and the appearance of “anti-popes,” or false, rival popes, shortly after the Avignon papacy. With these two major events, the image and prestige of the papacy was weakened, and the succeeding corruption of the Renaissance popes paved the way even further for a break from the Church.