A Universal Apology Point Fourteen: SLANDERS AND RUMORS


The fourteenth point which convinced me of the truth of the Catholic faith was the untruth of the accusations made against that faith. I found out very quickly that nearly any Catholic whom I read or whom I heard knew precisely what various Protestants taught and preached, and that no Protestant I read or heard knew what the Catholics taught and preached, but instead uttered the most outrageous propaganda against the Church.

This awoke my suspicions. I had seen a similar thing in debates between Communists and Economists (I will not here use the word ‘capitalist’ to refer to any man who prefers sound economic principles to bloodthirsty tyranny). The Economists knew the errors of the Communists by chapter and verse, whereas the Communists had no idea whatever of what Economics taught or supported.

No one shoots blanks who has real ammunition. The only reason to resort to misrepresentation as a tactic in debate is when the truth will not serve.

Looking into the matter, I had expected to find that at least some, or at least one, of the Protestant objections to Catholicism to be meritorious. I found none. This was deeply shocking to me, considering that these things I now knew to be slanders had been things taught, without exception, without even a hint that there was another side to the story, in every classroom and storybook I encountered as child. It was common knowledge. Everyone believed it. Everyone knew it.

Everyone believed rubbish.

I will list a few examples, albeit, if provoked, I can list dozens and dozens more.

The Crusades. Everyone knows that the superstitious and bloodthirsty Catholics, out of idolatry for the Holy Land and the sacred sites therein, fell out of bed one day and without provocation attacked the peaceful sheepherding Muslims minding their own business in that part of the world, which had been their ancestral lands since the dawn of time.

Except this is a slander. The Crusades were primarily defensive wars meant to keep international pilgrimage routes open, and secondarily to assist the Roman Emperor in Constantinople against the causeless and ceaseless aggression of the Muslim conqueror, who had recently invaded and conquered the Middle Eastern lands of the shrinking Eastern Roman Empire.

Everyone knows that the Catholic used to lock up all copies of the Bible, depriving the faithful of the comfort and truth of the faith, and ruthlessly attacking and burning anyone who made a translation that the common people could read.

Except this is a slander. Bibles in the Middle Ages were locked up for the same reason a gold chalices or patens used in divine services were locked up: to discourage thieves, not to discourage the faithful. There was no law or custom against owning a private copy of the Bible, any more than there was a law or custom against owning a private copy of the works of St Augustine. But before the invention of the printing press, such things were handmade, hence very expensive. Most literate men were clergymen, and most clergymen were literate, so there was no pressing economic need for Bibles printed in the vernacular. And, depending on the year under discussion, Bibles in the vernacular were printed by the Church, but then again the number people in Europe who were literate in the vernacular but who could not read Latin was nearly zero: as recently as my Grandfather’s day, all educated men were expected to read Latin. In any case the translation of the Bible into the vernacular was not forbidden except during the Reformation, when the Reformers started printed up spurious copies of the Bible, with books and chapters missing, or phrases mistranslated, or crucial words left out, in order to lend credence to the theological theories of the particular Reformer. To this day, most English copies of the Bible record the salutation of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary as “Hail, Mary, Highly Favored” because the Latin or Greek words favor the Catholic interpretation of the immaculate conception “Hail, Mary, Full of Grace.” I have mentioned in a previous place Luther leaving out the Book of Maccabaeus because it refers to prayers for the dead, and therefore logically implies that the Catholic doctrine of a Purgatory or intermediate state after death and before final judgment is possible. So the Catholic Church’s efforts, in the days before copyright law, was not to prevent the poor starving masses from learning to read, or reading a book in a language they knew, or covering up their crimes by keeping the Bible out of their hands, lest the peasant discover some passage in the Gospel of Thomas saying that Mary is not the Mother of God  — no, nothing like that. The Catholic Church was, as she always did, was trying to stop the spread of heresy. If the heretics used the printing press to distort Church teaching and mistranslated the Bible in specious support of that heresy, the Church attempted by persuasion or coercion to put a stop to it. But she was the enemy of heresy, as she always was, not an enemy of the printing press, as she never was.

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church hates and fears science, and attempted to abolish science. She had Galileo tortured for daring to claim that the Earth moved.

Except that this is a lie, and one so outrageous that even atheists are aware of it. The Church founded all the institutions of higher learning in Europe. Full stop. The University system is a Church invention. The number of churchmen who founded sciences or contributed crucial advances is too long to list here: I will mention only Copernicus, Nicolas of Oresme, Bacon, Mendel, the theory of the Big Bang and the science of meteorology. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for insulting the Pope and for telling the Church what she could and could not teach: a bit of overreach on his part, but which might well have been ignored, had not Europe been in the throes of the Reformation, the first civil war in Christendom since the Arian days, and the first civil war that provoked any actual wars.

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church encourages superstition. To believe in the Real Presence is the same as to believe in magic.

Another lie. No organization in the history of the world has ever systematically opposed superstition, witchcraft, astrology, the belief in fate and the belief of the helplessness of men in the face of hostile (yet strangely open to bribes) supernatural spooks except the Catholic Church. It was the revival of superstition in Protestant lands which led to the Witch burnings.

Everyone knows that the Catholic Church forbids the use of contraception because she seeks to conquer the world through overpopulation. And also because she hates and fears sex. Also because she hates women. Also because she is a party-pooper and a killjoy.

Another lie, and a particularly persistent one, considering how stupid it is, and how easily refuted. The Catholic Church’s position on sex and sexual are a matter of public record recording in public documents. Anyone can read them. I will not bother contradicting them here, since every Protestant has in recent years heard those same Protestant slanders against the Church now turned around and used by Atheists against all Christians, Protestants included. I will say only that the Church forbids the use of contraception for the same reason she forbids other sterile and selfish uses and abuses of the sexual nature  of man, because she thinks sex is sacred, a joy and blessing bestowed by God on undeserving mankind, and not a thing to be warped out of recognition and robbed of all meaning and pleasure.

Everyone knows the Catholic Church hates women. That is why they do not ordain priestesses and use contraception, and why the Bible holds up Eve as the source of all evil. That is why they call God ‘Father’.

Another lie. Women are treated like dirt in every culture that does not take its basic view of mankind from Christianity, which holds, as do the Jews, that all men are created in the image and likeness of God. Read your histories of China and India and the New World. Read up on how things are done in Islamic nations. Look at the way the Greeks and Romans treated their womenfolk.  A single example will have to do: where the pagan Romans legally allowed a husband to kill his wife or a father his daughter as part of his prerogative as Paterfamilias, the Christian Romans allows women to become Abbesses and founders of Holy Orders, in control of money and property, and required that no woman could be wed against her will. There are female saints in Christianity, a plethora of them, starting with Mary; there no female saints in Islam.

Everyone knows that the Catholics worship the Pope and think he is infallible.

The doctrine of Papal infallibility is not any sort of honor due to the Pope. It is rather that the Catholics take quite seriously the promise of Christ that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church and protect her from error. This does not mean that the Church makes no mistakes. This means that the Christian teaching preserved by the Church, teaching on the matter of faith and morals, is without error, because the Holy Spirit protects it. Since the Pope has the final veto on debates within the Church on matters of faith and moral, logically his decision — an authority he has used exactly twice in all of history — is inspired by and ratified by the Holy Spirit, hence is infallible.

No doctrine has been the butt of so many jokes and so much abuse and misunderstanding. Except for some few ethereal New Age mystics or pragmatic witches comfortable with the idea that their ideas do not need to be truthful to be useful, every man of any religious conviction whatsoever thinks his ideas are true. The Christian has the additional assurance that his faith is a grace of God and is protected by error from the Holy Spirit. The Catholics believe this power vests in the official body of the Church, laity and clergy both, when they act as one, and therefore in the bishops and archbishops and in the Pope. In other words, something that the main mass of Christian men have always taught and believed, such as abominable nature of sodomy, cannot be in error. The only difference is that the Protestants believe this power vests in the King of England, or in their particular founder or leadership council, or in the individual, or in the Bible itself.

Everyone knows the Catholics worship Mary rather than God.

This one is a howler. It is the one belief I did not even bother to investigate or think about when investigating which denomination to join. It was too obviously stupid, the kind of thing a man says only when he knows he is speaking to people who will never, ever speak to the person being accused.

I will say one or two things on this point now, however, since both Mohammedan in his Alcoran makes this accusation, as did at least one crackpot on my web journal. The Catholic Church officially anathematized a sect called the Collyridians in the Fourth Century, who taught that Mary was a deity. If we worshipped Mary as a goddess, it would be odd that we excommunicated and persecuted anyone who worshipped Mary as a goddess.

However, the crackpot’s argument was that we worship Mary without knowing that we worship her. To prove this, he pointed out that we pray to her, that we bow and show other signs of reverence and respect, and so on. I asked him if he took his hat off to ladies or put his hand over his heart when saluting a flag. I do not recall getting a reply.

His claim was that the pagans he knows who worship goddesses behave in just the same way, and say the same thing, about Juno or Isis or Amaterasu or Kali as we say about Mary. I know something about paganism, indeed, I know much more about paganism than I know about Christianity, since I studied the one for roughly three times the years I studied the other. Catholics in reciting the rosary say “Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” There is no prayer anywhere which where the faithful pagan says “Juno, please pray to your husband Jove on my behalf.” Likewise, Mary was assumed up to heaven, unlike her son, Our Lord, who ascended unto heaven. ‘Assumed’ is a technical term that means she was not moved by her own power, but was plucked up from on high. There is no report in any mythology of a pagan goddess who does not have the ability to go up to Olympus on her own, except, perhaps for Proserpine when she is chained up by her husband during winter.

Do I need to go through another half dozen? If have spent any time on the Internet, you have seen countless little accusations and slanders offered up against all Christians, such as that there are many pagan gods who are born of virgins, or that Christmas is a pagan holiday, or that Easter is a German goddess, and so on and so on. If you have been the butt of one of these drive-by slanders, you know them to be historically illiterate and logically suspect. All accusations about Catholicism having been corrupted by pagan ideas are of an alike level of illiteracy and idiocy. They are either half-truths or out and out lies. In each case, any attempt to determine a date at which the corrupting idea entered the Church will soon explode the myth, unless one is willing to believe that martyrs will die under hideous torture rather than say Caesar is divine, but will without leaving behind any evidence of a dispute or debate accede to a popular error saying Mary is divine.