Absolute Power

How the Pope Became the Most Influential Man in the World


By Paul Collins

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$50.00 CAD

The sensational story of the last two centuries of the papacy, its most influential pontiffs, troubling doctrines, and rise in global authority

In 1799, the papacy was at rock bottom: The Papal States had been swept away and Rome seized by the revolutionary French armies. With cardinals scattered across Europe and the next papal election uncertain, even if Catholicism survived, it seemed the papacy was finished.
In this gripping narrative of religious and political history, Paul Collins tells the improbable success story of the last 220 years of the papacy, from the unexalted death of Pope Pius VI in 1799 to the celebrity of Pope Francis today. In a strange contradiction, as the papacy has lost its physical power — its armies and states — and remained stubbornly opposed to the currents of social and scientific consensus, it has only increased its influence and political authority in the world.

  • "A thoroughly researched but tendentious history in support of a call for a radically different papacy and church."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "Convincing history... This trenchant work will be of primary interest to general readers curious about papal authority since the Enlightenment era."
    Publishers Weekly
  • "Well-documented... An honest but critical analysis of the role of the papacy in both the church and the world in modern times."
    Library Journal
  • "Fasten your seat belt for a rollicking ride through two hundred years of papal history culminating in a generally positive assessment of Pope Francis' new approach to the role. Paul Collins offers a broad and deep albeit astonishingly accessible read of the complicated, deeply fraught currents in the Roman Catholic Church. He wisely does not presume to predict what will be next. But scholars and interested observers alike will want this resource at hand to make sense of it as it unfolds."
    Mary Hunt, codirector of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER)
  • "In this essential guide to the history of the papacy, Paul Collins dramatically traces the Vatican's near-death experience and remarkable restoration of power over the past two centuries. Absolute Power reveals how the history of the papacy affects--and distorts--our understanding of the church today, and offers a prophetic challenge to an institution that must evolve if it is to survive. Collins has given us an urgent, meticulous historical study that reads like a page-turner."
    Jamie L. Manson, columnist and books editor, The National Catholic Reporter
  • "Extensively researched and well written, Collins' latest is a tour de force. If you want to have a deep understanding of the modern-day papacy and want to discover the deep roots of the challenges facing anyone (like Pope Francis) who seeks to reform it, then get this book. You won't put it down!"
    Robert Mickens, English language editor, La Croix International

On Sale
Mar 27, 2018
Page Count
384 pages

Paul Collins

About the Author

Paul Collins is a historian and broadcaster with degrees from Harvard and the Australian National University. He has worked as a religious commentator for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, PBS, and more; as a teacher of theology and history; and as a Catholic priest. In March 2001, he resigned from active ministry due to a doctrinal dispute with the Vatican over his book, Papal Power. He is also the author of The Birth of the West, published by PublicAffairs in 2013.

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