St. Peter's Seminary
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Room 110, St. Peter's Seminary

INSTRUCTOR:  REV. J. COMISKEY, BA, M.Div., Hist.Eccl.L., Hist. Eccl.D.
519-455-3217, ext. 22 or

Office Hours:  By Appointment


A survey, in chronological fashion, of the growth of the Church from the time of the apostles to the modern era. The teaching and learning strategies attempt to relate the past with its context and significance. Students are guided to read some key documents of the Church=s history to complement the general approach of the lectures and the textbooks. This course fulfills the requirements for Historical Theology 5221A/5222B in the Master of Divinity degree. (Antirequisites: RS 170, RS 250E, Historical Theology 221A/222B.)


I The Birth of the Church
II Christians in the Post-apostolic Age
III The Church in the Christian Empire
IV The Development of the Papacy
V The Early Ecumenical Councils
VI The Development of Monasticism and the End of the Roman Empire
VII The Middle Ages and the Dawn of Christendom
VIII Christendom: Challenge and Demise
IX The East / West schism
X The Renaissance
XI The Reformation
XII The Catholic Renewal
XIII The Church in North America
XIV Evangelization in the New World
XV The Age of Enlightenment and Revolution B Europe in the 18th Century
XVI Restoration, Liberalism and the First Vatican Council
XVII The Growth of the Church in Canada
XVIII The Church in the Industrial Society
XIX From the First World War to the Second Vatican Council
XX The Second Vatican Council and the Aftermath

(A complete course outline is found in the front of the “course pack”)


The course is designed to assist students to grow in the following knowledge, skills and attitudes:


1. To know and understand the development and growth of the followers of Jesus Christ since the beginning of the Christian era, through a study of events and facts.
2. To be able to articulate the development of the Catholic Church from the movement begun by Jesus, to an association of his followers, to the institutional Church.
3. To know and name key people and events as a means of seeing history and theology in context.
4. To understand history from the perspective of the institutional, sociological and popular views.


1. To be able to apply the historical-critical method.
2. To read and analyse primary documents in their context.
3. To analyse the significance of events and facts, and what this significance teaches us for understanding the life of the Church today.
4. To separate the transitory from the enduring, the accidental from the essential in the life of the Catholic Church.


1. To appreciate the witness given by the followers of Jesus throughout the centuries.
2. To consider that the Church has confronted difficulties in the past, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
3. To realize the importance of impartiality in studying history, never daring to utter falsehood, never fearing to speak the truth.
4. To appreciate the role of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church throughout the ages.


Required Reading:
(1) Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Toronto: Doubleday, 2004;
(2) Raymond J. Lahey, The First Thousand Years: A Brief History of the Catholic Church in Canada, Ottawa: Novalis, 2002;
(3) primary and secondary documents as provided in the "course pack" obtained from the UWO bookstore;
(4) additional reading as may be indicated by the professor from time to time.  (Books and course pack at UWO bookstore under RS 2250 E.)

(1) Students are encouraged to prepare a précis for each of the documents indicated, including a summary of their content, context and significance. (2) Students are required to submit eighteen précises for grading. These must be in narrative form, two pages (double-spaced, 12 point font, Times New Roman or its equivalent). Three précises are due at class time on each of the following dates: 30 September, 21 October, 11 November, 20 January, 3 February, and 10 March. (value: 50% of the total mark)

The tests and examination to be given will be based on lecture material and assigned readings. (1) Two ninety-minute, in-class tests will be held on the following dates: 25 November and 17 February. (value: 25%)   (2) The final examination will be held on the date assigned. (value: 25%)

A final examination will be scheduled in the exam period. (25% of the total grade)


I Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the dates as given above. Assignments may not be dropped off at King's or submitted electronically.

II It is the responsibility of the student to organize his or her work so that the assignments are completed on time. For a serious reason, a student may approach the professor before the due-date, and may be granted an extension at the discretion of the professor. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean's Office. A penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment will be deducted for each day it is overdue without permission.

III No electronic devices will be allowed during tests or the examination, unless approved in advance by Student Services at the University or King's.

IV Students who miss tests will negotiate a "make-up" date with the professor. Any medical reasons will be confirmed by proper documentation as approved by the Dean's Office.


I. The Senate of The University of Western Ontario requires that students be informed of the policy regarding academic offenses. Accordingly:
Scholastic offences (i.e. plagiarism and other forms of cheating) are taken seriously and students are directed to read the appropriate policy, specifically, the definition of what constitutes a scholastic offence, at the following website:

II. Checking for Plagiarism: 
Required papers may be subject to submission for 'textual similarity review' to the commercial plagiarism detection software under license to the University for this purpose. Submitted papers will be included as source documents in the reference database for future similar purpose. Use of the service is subject to the licensing agreement between the University and (


Students are responsible for ensuring that their selection of courses is appropriate and accurately recorded, that all prerequisite course(s) have been successfully completed, and that they are aware of any anti-requisite courses that they have taken.


One-volume history:
Dwyer, John C. Church History: Twenty Centuries of Catholic Christianity. New York: Paulist Press, 1998.

Multi-volume reference works:
Chadwick, Owen, ed. The Pelican History of the Church. London: Penguin Books, 6 vols., 1967-1986.
Jedin, Hubert, ed. History of the Church,. 10 vols., Kent: Burns & Oates, 1981.
Malone, Mary. Women and Christianity. 3 vols., Ottawa: Novalis, 2000.

Other references:
Chadwick, Henry and G. R. Evans. Atlas of the Christian Church. Oxford: Phaidon Press, 1990.
Trigilio, John Jr., and Kenneth Brighenti. Catholicism for Dummies. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2003.

N.B.: A complete bibliography for the primary sources can be found in the "course pack".