February 25, 2013

Top Ten Myths About the Catholic Church, Part 2

10. Clerical Celibacy is a Doctrine

If the Church decides to let priests marry in the near future this myth is no doubt going to cause a great deal of damage as cries of "changed doctrine" cry through the anti-Catholic community. Simply put it is a utilitarian discipline adopted in the fourth century. The Church merely chooses clergy from men who are willing to remain celibate so that they can better dedicate themselves to the Church without as much spiritual or temporal issues and distractions.

9. The Church Sold Out By Accepting Evolution

The issue of Fundamentalism so grave that I have already dedicated an entire note to it. The simple truth is that when you have Church theologians raising the possibility of an allegorical Genesis as far back as the third century, it isn't selling out when you accept scientific evidence that confirms those ideas.

8. The Church Supported Nazi Germany

Henry IV at Canossa, Bismarck and the Kulturkampf, it is a tragedy that the Church has struggled so much with German leaders, however Hitler was not the exception to this unfortunate pattern that he's often made to be. Pope Pius XI disproved this myth when he wrote the encyclical Mit Brenneder Sorge. Saving hundreds of thousands of Jews helped out too. Could he have done more against the Holocaust? Of course, however this applies to most of not all world leaders of the time as well.

7. The Church Helped Cause the Dark Ages

User deiseach of Mike Flynn's Journal humorously phrased this myth as the idea that "Before Christianity came into power, the peasantry of Europe were discussing Catullus and Euripides as they dunged the fields; as soon as the Evil Church came along, it forcibly scooped out their brains so they couldn't even write their own names." The truth however is that the Dark Ages were caused by barbarian invasions, Catholic monasteries preserved Classical Knowledge, and when Church and State were united under Charlemagne it produced the Carolingian Renaissance.

6. Scale and Nature of the Priest Abuse Scandal

With so many pedophile priest jokes and references floating around you'd think that half the priests in the Church were caught committing these crimes. 4,392 "substantiated" accusations were made in a period of about 50 years. This makes up 4% of all priests during this time. It's an abominable scandal all right, but its been blown to mythological proportions. The percentage should also dispel notions that the scandal was caused by clerical celibacy.

5. The Crusades Were Offensive Holy Wars

Regarding the Crusades, the myth is that the Church invaded the Holy Land mainly because there were Muslims there. People here forget that the Muslims were invaders that had gotten dangerously close to Europe. When Cisterian Monk Radulf advocated that the Jews be killed, he was reproved by St. Bernard because the Jews were peaceful. When the Fourth Crusaders decided to go sack non-threatening Constantinople, the leaders were excommunicated by the pope himself.

4. Belief in God is a Matter of Faith

While this myth applies to all of Christianity, in some cases it is true, but in the case of the Catholic Church it is not. The Church has never taught that belief in God is a matter of faith. Without a doubt this myth has caused incredible damage by contributing to secularization, but it goes back way before the Secular Age or even before the rise of fideism. St. Thomas Aquinas himself wrote against the idea in Summa Theologica.

3. The Church Persecuted Galileo For Contradicting the Bible

A whole article could be written of this issue, but basically the science of the day supported geocentricism, the Reformation had caused the Church to be wary of any idea that made it seem anti-Biblical, and Galileo had not yet enough conclusive evidence for Heliocentricism to change science and exegesis. Cardinal Bellamarine explicitly stated that if better evidence came along the Church would have to get a new interpretation of those passages which seemed to support geocentricism.

2. Scale of the Inquisition

Anti-Catholics estimates of Inquisition executions range from the ignorant (about 100,000) to the insane (1,000,000+). Accepting the larger scholarly estimates (about 5000) results in about 10 deaths a year. You must remember that the Inquisition was an official judicial institution; people were tried, they weren't killed carelessly. Was there torture, abuses, injustices? Yes, but just as with the Priest scandal this has been blown incredibly out of proportion.

1. Constantine's Church

I could fill a book addressing all the myths regarding the "true" origins of the Catholic Church, but this is probably the most prevalent one, that the Church is merely the ghost of the Roman Empire. Never mind the fact that the point of the Council of Nicaea wasn't to form a Church but to solve the Arian Crisis. The papacy and Church hierarchy were all explicitly established in the historical record before Constantine ever came to power. The Catholic Church was already a prominent, steadily growing institution. The idea that Constantine founded the Church at the Council of Nicaea, rightfully earns its place as the number one myth about Catholicism.

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