Church and Ecclesiology

This is a list of legally free ebooks on ecclesiology, including writings on the nature, mission, history and structures of the Church.

  1. A Christian Apology: Volume 3, The Church, by Paul Schanz, translated by Michael F. Glancey and Victor J. Schobel (Ratisbon, Rome, New York, Cincinnati: Frederick Pustet & Co., 1891). Available in various formats at Open Library and Internet Archive
  2. Against Heresies [Or, Refutation and Overthrow of Knowledge falsely so-called], by St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c.180 AD), trans. Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut; from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, eds. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885). Available on New Advent (rev. and ed. Kevin Knight), with active links to relevant Catholic Encyclopedia articles and Scripture passages; and on The Augustine Club. On Apologetics, Salvation, Heresy, Cosmology, Gnosticism, Divine Revelation, Bishops, Roman Primacy, Tradition, Sacraments, etc. [NB, A defense of Christianity against Gnosticism, which also shows that the early Church had a Catholic view of sacramental grace, the Roman primacy, the bishops as successors of the apostles, etc. Books I and II are somewhat difficult, so it may be better to start with Book III, which begins the summary of Christian teaching.]
  3. The Ambassador of Christ, by James Gibbons. Available at Internet Archive, with a 2nd copy here
  4. On the Apostolical and Infallible Authority of the Pope: When Teaching the Faithful, and on His Relation to a General Council, Francis Xavier Weninger (New York : D.& J. Sadlier ; Cincinnati, OH : J.P. Walsh, 1868). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library. [N.B., It has no Imprimatur, but the author is stated to be a missionary of the Society of Jesus {when the members of that order were still reliably orthodox}, and the content appears to be a faithfully Catholic demonstration from faith, history and reason of papal infallibility.]
  5. Catena Aurea or, A golden Chain of Evidences Demonstrating from “Analytical Treatment of History,” that Papal Infallibility is no Novelty; a Memorial of the Papal Jubilee, June 16, 1871 to honor the “Annos Petri Completos” of Our Holy Father, Pope Pius the Great, by an Old Catholic (Perry County, Ohio: St. Joseph’s College, 1871).  Available in various formats at Open Library and Internet Archive. [N.B., While author refers to himself as an “Old Catholic”, this appears to be an ironic use of the term, since the work sets out to refute the thesis of Dollinger and the “Old Catholic” sect. The work is therefore orthodox. However, please exercise caution in view of certain statements tending to anti-Semitism.]
  6. Cathedra Petri: or, The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, and of His See and Successors; as described by the early fathers, ecclesiastical writers, and councils of the church, by C.F.B. Allnatt (London: Burns and Oates, 1883). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library. The 1879 edition is available at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  7. The Catholic Church and Conversion, by G.K. Chesterton. Available on K. Chesterton’s Works on the Web. Conversion.
  8. The Catholic Church and the Gospels, by Charles G. Mortimer (Dublin: Catholic Truth Society of Ireland). Available at Lux Occulta.
  9. The Catholic Church in Action, by Michael Williams, with the collaboration of Julia Kernan, completely revised by Zsolt Aradi (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1958). With Imprimatur. [LINKS DELETED DUE TO COPYRIGHT CONCERNS] [N.B. According to the Foreword to the First Edition, this book attempts “to describe briefly and accurately the main outlines of the organized system by means of which the Catholic Church carries on its work in the world today.]
  10. The Chair of Peter or the Papacy: Considered in Its Institution, Development, and Organization, and in the Benefits which, for Over Eighteen Centuries, It has Conferred on Mankind, by, John Nicholas Murphy (London : Burns & Oates, 1888). Available at Internet Archive.
  11. Christ’s Kingdom on Earth: or, the Church and Her Divine Constitution, Organization, and Framework, Explained for the People, by James Luke Meagher, 1848-1920 (New York : Christian Press Association, 1891). With Imprimatur. Available at Internet Archive.
  12. Church History, by Eusebius of Caesarea, translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 1, edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1890). Available at New Advent (Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight, copyright 2009 by Kevin Knight).
  13. The Church in Crisis: A History of the General Councils, 325-1870, by Philip Hughes. With Imprimatur (1960). Available at Documenta Catholica Omnia and Christus Rex.
  14. The Church; or, What do Anglicans Mean by the Church? Second edition, by John B. Bagshawe (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1899). With Imprimatur. Available in various formats at Internet Archive.
  15. A Commentary by Writers of the First Five Centuries on the Place of St. Peter in the New Testament: and that of St. Peter’s successors in the Church, by James Waterworth (London: Thomas Baker, 1871). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  16. Communio: International Catholic Review, vol. 38, no. 3, Ecclesiam Apostolicam (Fall 2011). Indexed at Communio, from which “The Infallibility of the Church: A Marian Mystery” by Roch Kereszty may be downloaded in PDF format.
  17. “Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium,” by Germain Grisez and John C. Ford, S.J., Theological Studies, 39 (1978): 258–312. Available in PDF format at The Way of the Lord Jesus (copyright 2009).
  18. Decrees and Canons of the [First] Vatican Council (1875). Available at Internet Archive.
  19. Dominus Iesus: Declaration on the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, approved by Pope St. John Paul II June 16, 2000, issued  August 6, 2000. May be downloaded in PDF format from Catholic Primer Library and read online at the Holy See. [NB, This is one of the most important doctrinal texts issued by the Holy See in contemporary times. It should be read together with Answers to Main Objections Against Dominus Iesus, the text of then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, published 22 September 2000, which may be read online at EWTN Library.]
  20. The Essentials of Spiritual Unity, by Ronald Knox. Available at Catholic Answers (last visited December 8, 2009).
  21. Ecclesiam Suam: Encyclical on the Church, by Pope Paul VI, August 6, 1964. Available at the Holy See.
  22. The Evidence for the Papacy: as Derived from the Holy Scriptures and from Primitive Antiquity, with an Introductory Epistle, by Colin Lindsay (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1870). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  23. The Externals of the Catholic Church: Her Government, Ceremonies, Festivals, Sacramentals, and Devotions, by Rev. John Francis Sullivan (New York : P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917). With Imprimatur. May be read online or downloaded in multiple formats at Internet Archive and Open Library
  24. The Externals of the Catholic Church: Her Government, Ceremonies, Festivals, Sacramentals, and Devotions, 2d ed. rev. to conform to the new code of canon law, by Rev. John F. Sullivan (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1918). With Imprimatur. May be read online or downloaded in multiple formats at Open Library.
  25. From Tarsus to Rome: the story of the first Christian hierarchy, by Herman Joseph Heuser (London, New York: Longmans, Green and co.1929). With Imprimatur. Available at Open Archive [microform] and may be read at com. NB, the Onread.com copy has many proofreading errors.
  26. The Government of the Church in the First Century: an Essay on the Beginnings of the Christian Ministry, by William Moran (Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1913). With Imprimatur. Available in various formats at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  27. Guide to a Catholic Church: for non-Catholic visitors; in which the meaning of various objects of devotion is simply explained, and a short exposition given of the main points of Catholic belief, with the prayers of the chief services in Latin and English, by Fox, W. L., O’Gorman, R. A (London : R. & T. Washbourne ; New York : Benziger Bros, 1904). With Imprimatur. Available at Open Library and Internet Archive (Digitizing sponsor: MSN, Book contributor: Regis College Library, University of Toronto).
  28. History of the Catholic Church from the Renaissance to the French Revolution,, by Rev. James Maccaffrey (c. 1914). With Imprimatur. Volume I available on Project Gutenberg. Volume II available on Project Gutenberg.
  29. A History of the Church to the Eve of the Reformation, by Philip Hughes. Ecclesiastial history. Available on Documenta Catholica Omnia and on the Roman Catholic Resource Index of the Secular Franciscan Order, Five Franciscan Martyrs Province.
  30. The Holy Spirit and The Church, by William G. Most. Available at EWTN Library (Copyright, 1994, by Wm. G. Most).
  31. In Love with the Church, by St. Josemaria Escriva. May be read online at Josemaria Escriva (copyright Studium Foundation, rights reserved).
  32. In Soft Garments: A Collection of Oxford Conferences, by Ronald A. Knox (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1953). With Imprimatur. Available at Internet Archive. Includes the essays “If God exists”, “The Living Witness”, “The Unholiness of the Church”, “Verbum baro factum est”, “The Church and Human Progress”, and “Unselfishness in Marriage”.
  33. The Independence of the Holy See: with an Appendix containing the Papal Allocution of March, 1877, and an English translation, by Henry Edward Manning (London: Henry S. King and Co., 1877). Available at Internet Archiveand Open Library. With a second copy at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  34. The Inquisition: A Critical and Historical Study of the Coercive Power of the Church, by E. Vacandard, translated from the Second Edition by Bertrand L. Conway, C.S.P. New Edition (New York, London, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). With Imprimatur. Available at net and Project Gutenberg.
  35. Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on Some Aspects of the Church Understood as Communion, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, May 28, 1992. May be read online at the Holy See, atEWTN Library, and at Catholic Information Network.
  36. [Letter to William Palmer, 4th] Fourth letter to the Rev. William Palmer, M.A., of Worcester College, Oxford: on the way to find the true church of Christ on earth, on satisfaction, on indulgences, on the supremacy of the See of Rome, infallibility, Eucharist, etc., etc., by Verax, a Catholic layman (London: T. Jones, 1842). Internet Archive and Open Library.
  37. [Letter to William Palmer, 5th] Fifth letter to the Rev. William Palmer, M.A., of Worcester College, Oxford: God has confided the sacred deposit of the revelation of Christianity to an infallible authority, by Verax, a Catholic layman (London: T. Jones, 1843) Available in various formats at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  38. “Malankara Catholic Church sui iuris: Juridical Status and Power of Governance”, (Article) by Fr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath”.  Available at com, which states “This article was originally published in www.malankara.net and Christian Orient XXI/I, pp. 41-48 in 1998, prior to the elevation of the Malankara Catholic Church as a Major Archiepiscopal Church (10th Feb. 2005).”
  39. The Melkite Greek Church at the Council: Discourses and Memoranda of Patriarch Maximos IV and of the Hierarchs of His Church at the Second Vatican Council, with Introduction by Fr. [Archimandrite] Robert S. Taft, S.J., Pontifical Oriental Institute, and Preface by Maximos IV [Cardinal Sayegh], Patriarch of Antioch and of All-the-East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem. May be read at the Melkite Eparchy of Newton. [First published as L’Eglise Grecque Melkite au Councile: discours et notes du Patriarche Maximos IV et des prélats de son Eglise au Concile oecuménique Vatican II (Beyrouth: Dar Al-Kalima, 1967).]
  40. Mysterium Ecclesiae: Declaration in Defense of the Catholic Doctrine on the Church Against Certain Errors of the Present Day, by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 24, 1973. May be read online at Michael’s Cyberspace Scriptorium and Library and the Holy See.
  41. On the Unity of the Church, by St. Cyprian of Carthage. Available at New Advent.
  42. The Pastoral Office, Henry Edward Manning (London: Printed for private use only, 1883). Available at Open Library and Internet Archive.
  43. Peter’s Name; or, A Divine Credential in a Name, by Smyth-Vaudry, Telesphor (Techny, Ill.: Printed by the Society of the Divine Word, 1909). Available at Internet Archive.
  44. Peter’s Rock in Mohammed’s flood: from St. Gregory the Great to St. Leo III, being the Seventh Volume of The Formation of Christendom, by Thomas William Allies (London: Burns & Oates; New York: Catholic Publications Society, 1890). Available at Open Library and Internet Archive (Digitizing sponsor: MSN, Book contributor: Kelly Library, University of Toronto). History, Islam.
  45. Petri Privilegium: Three Pastoral Letters to the Clergy of the diocese, by Henry Edward Manning (London: Longmans, Green, 1871). In English, The Privilege of Peter. The Pastoral Letters discuss the doctrine and historical basis of Papal infallibility. Available at Internet Archive.
  46. Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth, by Karl Keating, Catholic Answers. (Copyright 1993 Catholic Answers, Inc). Available on the EWTN Library, which states: “This text file may be uploaded to and downloaded from computer bulletin board systems provided the text is in no way altered and the above copyright notice and address of Catholic Answers are included.”).
  47. The Primacy of the Apostolic See Vindicated, by Francis Patrick Kenrick (Baltimore: J. Murphy, 1875). At Internet Archive and Open Library  (Digitizing sponsor: National Institute for Newman Studies, Book contributor: Saint Mary’s College of California)
  48. The Primacy of the Successor of Peter in the Mystery of the Church: Reflections of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith , (from L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 18 November 1998, page 5-6). May be read online at EWTN Library and Catholic Information Network.
  49. The Purpose of the Papacy, by Bishop John S. Vaughan (London: Sands & Co.; St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.: B. Herder, 1910). Available at Project Gutenberg.
  50. Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church, by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, June 29, 2007. May be read online at the Holy See and at Catholic Eternal Truth.
  51. The See of St. Peter, the Rock of the Church, the Source of Jurisdiction, and the Centre of Unity, by Thomas William Allies (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1896) Apologetics. Available at Internet Archive.
  52. The Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam. Dogma, Grace, Salvation, Church. Available at EWTN Library. [NB: This book is highly recommended by Dave Armstrong and Scott Hahn. Having read it repeatedly myself, I heartily agree with their approbation.]
  53. Peter at Rome: Being an Historical Dissertation; With an Appendix, Containing Reference to the Discussion Held in Rome, February 9th and 10th, 1872, in the Hall of the Pontificia Academia Tiberina, between Three Catholic Priests and Three Evangelical Ministers, Concerning the Coming of St. Peter to Rome, by John Stewart M’Corry (London: Burns and Oates,1874). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  54. Peter, His Name and His Office: As Set Forth in Holy Scripture, by T. W. Allies (1852). Available at Internet Archive.
  55. The Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, by Manning, Henry Edward, 1808-1892 (London : Burns and Oates, 1880). Available at Internet Archive.
  56. The Temporal Power of the Pope in its Political Aspect, by Henry Edward Manning (London: Longmans, Green, & Co.,; Burns, Lambert, and Oates, 1866). Available at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  57. The Temporal Sovereignty of the Pope, with Relation to the State of Italy: a Lecture Delivered in St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Ottawa: with Additional facts and Observations, by Aeneas McDonell Dawson (London, Ottawa : Catholic Pub. and Book-Selling Co., 1860). From microfilm. Available at Internet Archive and Open Library, with a second copy at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  58. The Tradition of the Syriac Church of Antioch, Concerning the Primacy and the Prerogatives of St. Peter and of his Successors the Roman Pontiffs, by the Most Rev. Cyril Benham Benni, Syriac Archbishop of Mossul (Nineveh), translated under the direction of the author by Joseph Gagliardi  (London: Burns, Oates, & Co., 1871). Available in various formats at Internet Archive and Open Library, with a second copy at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  59. A Treatise on the Church, by Heinrich Klee, translated by Edward Cox (London: T. Jones, 1847). Available in various formats at Internet Archive and Open Library.
  60. The vicar of Christ, by Humphrey, William, 1839-1910 (Londo : Art and Book Co.; New York : Benziger, 1892). Available at Internet Archive (Digitizing sponsor: MSN, Book contributor: Kelly Library, University of Toronto).
  61. The Visible Church, Her Government, Ceremonies, Sacramentals, Festivals and Devotions, a Compendium of “The Externals of the Catholic Church”, 5th ed., rev., by John F. Sullivan; with 120 illustrations from pen drawings by the author. (New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922). Available at Open Library. (copyright status uncertain).
  62. What is the Catholic Church?, (Booklet) by Fr Stephen Wang. May be downloaded in PDF format through the Catholic Truth Society, which states that it provides “An introduction to the world’s oldest institution founded by Jesus Christ”.
  63. Which is the True Church?: or, a Few Plain Reasons for Joining the Roman Catholic Communion, by C.F.B. Allnatt (Edinburgh: Ballantyne Press, 1881). Available at Internet Archive. and Open Library.
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