Fr. Michael Collinsí book The Fisherman's Net is a summary history of the popes from Saint Peter to Pope Benedict XVI. He presents the stories of more important popes but refrains from covering all of them; that would require a much longer book. This edition is updated and revised to include the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict. The earlier edition was published in 2004 by Columba Press of Ireland.
Fr. Collins presents both the good and the bad found in the history of the papacy. There are the notorious Borgia popes, especially Pope Alexander VI and his children, and other popes who had children contrary to Church law, during the Renaissance period especially. Some popes were corrupt, but this did not affect the doctrine of the Church since they did not deal with such issues but were more interested in the comfort of their lives and having political power. This was an unfortunate time in the Churchís history. Many popes, though, were indeed holy men, like Saint Peter, Saint Gregory VII, Saint Pius V, Saint Gregory the Great, Blessed John XXIII, Pius XII, John Paul II, and many others. Their good outweighs the bad of the others.
Fr. Collins presents the papacy and the Catholic Church in relationship to what was occurring in the secular world. The early Church was somewhat persecuted and in hiding at various times. When the Roman emperor Constantine came to power, he favored Christianity; this was a turning point for the popes, who grew even more powerful. Collins also presents the history of investiture controversy during Saint Gregory VIIís reign, the time when three men claimed to be the pope, Napoleon Bonaparteís kidnapping and imprisonment of popes, Hitlerís attempts to destroy the Church, Blessed John XXIIIís calling of Vatican II, and other significant historical periods.
Fr. Collinsí book is readable and interesting, especially to those interested in Catholic Church history and the history of the papacy. There are no illustrations or maps, but a list of the popes and a select bibliography are included.
Fr. Collins is a priest with the Archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland. He did post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology and taught in Rome. He is the author of Pope Benedict XVI: the Successor of Peter (2005), edited The Father of the Little Flower, Louis Martin (2005) and The Mother of the Little Flower, Zelie Martin (2005), and the author of Story of Christianity (1999) and other books. Ė Br. Benet Exton, O.S.B., St. Gregory's University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.