STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 04/22/2014
History professor Thomas (Tal) Howard recently returned from a month traveling in Italy—including time in Orvieto, Ravenna, Rome and Naples. “The life of a scholar is sometimes tough,” he quips, “but someone has to do it.”
While some travel to the Vatican in Rome for a spiritual pilgrimage, Tal spent his two weeks there poring over historic documents and records. Though the Vatican allows access only to materials from before 1939, Pope John Paul II made a special dispensation to open the archives of Vatican II for Howard’s current research project. He completed a strict application process (which even required a copy of his doctoral diploma) to be able to gather primary material for his upcoming book, tentatively titled The Pope and the Professor: Pius IX, Ignaz von Döllinger, and the Quandary of the Modern Age.
Howard’s book will be a study of the modern papacy, and German scholar Ignaz von Döllinger’s dissent after Pope Pius IX’s decree on papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1869 and 1870.
“The pope that interests me the most,” he says, “is the one Protestants tend to have the most difficulty with: Pius IX or ‘Pio Nono’ [1846–1878]. Among other controversial actions, he issued the Syllabus of Errors  that denounced modern civilization root and branch.”