The four-volume series will explore the evolution of the 1,500-year-old institution

A University of Rhode Island history professor will be leading an international team of experts that will publish a four-volume series on the evolution of the 1,500-year-old institution of the Catholic Church to be distributed throughout the world.

Joëlle Rollo-Koster, a professor at URI since 1996, will be the general editor of the series that is commissioned by Cambridge University Press, the publishing business of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

“The Cambridge History of the Papacy,” will encompass the complete history and evolution of the Catholic Church, while looking deeper into social issues. Some topics will cover how the institution dealt with women, sexuality, immigration and celibacy.

Koster used the immigration issue in Italy as a reference for how the church has evolved. “Right now in Italy, there is a very right-winged government that is very anti-immigration,” Koster said. “The [Catholic Church] is trying to say You cannot do that.’ The [Church] is trying to make people understand the issue [of immigration].”

Koster explained how fascinating it is to study the longest surviving institution mankind ever created.

“The [Church] is not the all-powerful entity it was in the Middle Ages,” Koster said. “In the Middle Ages, kings bowed to popes–we’re done with that.”

The series will also extensively cover the child abuse scandals that have been prevalent throughout the history of the Catholic Church.

“You cannot understand the child abuse without understanding the history,” Koster said. “When you take a man and tell him, ‘You are a priest, you are special and you are different from other men,’ Odds are this man will think he can do things other men know they cannot.”

There will be a chapter specifically on child abuse within the Catholic Church. Koster said that this issue will be linked to homosexuality and the issue of celibacy.

The series will also take a look at the relationship between science and the church. Koster said that the pope believes in climate change and is very vocal about telling President Donald Trump he is misguided about his views on the matter.

“When you think of [the church] telling a secular government, ‘You are wrong about sciences’ it is an interesting world change,” Koster said.

Koster is a medieval and social historian, who also focuses on topics like cultural anthropology. Koster said that the series, set to print in 2022, is unique in that no single volume ever published has addressed the church this extensively. Beatrice Rehl, a publisher at Cambridge University Press, said this very important publication will give a lot of esteem to the University of Rhode Island and Koster.

Rehl said that the main readership would be advanced undergraduates that have had relevant courses, graduate students in European history and religious studies or researchers in all of those areas.