Those anti-Catholic lies that won’t die

Setting up the context

The Catholic Church has been around for two thousand years. It has an extremely rich and variegated history that has witnessed everything from the height of the ancient Roman Empire to the current hyper-connected state of our globalized world.

Given such length and complexity, it’s no surprise that we find many inaccuracies, oversimplifications and outright lies and myths used by the detractors and enemies of the Church in an effort to cast her in an unfavorable light.

I have personally experienced such myths of Catholic history in the form of questions ranging from the legitimacy of the Crusades of the Middle Ages to the alleged atrocities of the Catholic inquisitions in medieval Christendom. What’s the average Catholic to do in the face of such challenges?

A much needed and longed-for resource

 

Professor Steve Weidenkopf is a lecturer of Church history at the Christendom college graduate school of theology and a regular contributor to Catholic Answers’ published material. His most recent work titled “The real story of Catholic History: Answering twenty centuries of anti-Catholic myths” is a magnificent compendium of sound scholarship and apologetic finesse that seeks to put to rest the most vicious and pernicious myths of Church history.

Without ever whitewashing the faults perpetrated by some of her members, Professor Weidenkopf deals honestly with the major events of Church history and applies a much needed corrective to the popular yet false narratives that still enjoy widespread circulation.

At 55 yet succinct chapters, the book is staggering in the number of topics it addresses. All the major events in Church history that have been subject to gross distortions are aptly handled including some you probably have not heard of such as this one: “The Church began mandating clerical celibacy during the Middle Ages so that it could acquire the clergy’s family property.”

Our mission

Pope Leo XIII once said that the detractors of the Church “narrowly inspected archives; unearthed stupid fables; and repeated for the hundredth time legends a hundred times confuted.” (Saepenumero Considerantes, slightly modified quote). It’s a good question to ask ourselves: in light of such solid scholarship, why do these myths endure?

Professor Weidenkopfs’ answer is worth quoting in full :”because avowed enemies of the Church find them useful in discrediting the Church and limiting its influence in the world; because bitter ex-Catholics use them to paint the Church in a negative light; because atheists who hate religion in general use them to point out the folly of faith; and because some Protestant groups use the myths to justify their separation from the Church Christ founded.”

We have the mission as Catholics to bear witness to the apostolic faith in word and deed. Equipped with Professor Weidenkopf’s new book, we can be more confident that the splendor of truth will shine more radiantly as we work for the advancement of God’s kingdom on earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crusades Controversy: Puting Old Myths to Rest

Feeling Cornered

Has anybody ever asked you about the Crusades and what you thought of them? Chances are, somebody has. I myself was confronted with this question some years ago and to be honest, I froze. I felt embarrassed since I had no idea what to say in response.

Certainly the topic of the Crusades is not something most ordinary people have  devoted much thought and study to. It’s not one of those events in history that lots of people are losing sleep over. And yet, some of us wish we’d been better equipped to answer questions about it!

30 Minutes Is All You Need

Thomas F. Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. He has written several scholarly works on the history of the Crusades and the impact they’ve had in our modern world.

Thomas Madden
Thomas Madden

His most recent work on the topic is a very short and accessible 50 page booklet called The Crusades Controversy.

In six short, but by no means simplistic, chapters, Madden has managed to provide us with enough information to clear away the most common misconceptions and distortions many people still hold about the Crusades.

Two portions of the booklet deserve lengthy quotations.

“the Crusades….were a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslim armies had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point Christianity as a faith and a culture either defended itself or was subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.”

“The eighteenth century saw the rise of the Enlightenment with its strict emphasis on rational thought, religious tolerance, and anticlericalism. In an intellectual atmosphere like that the medieval Crusades did not fare well…the Crusades were described as a bizarre manifestation of medieval barbarism in which thousands of the deceived and the foolish marched through rivers of blood in a pitiful attempt to save their souls. In his famous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), Edward Gibbon insisted that nothing good at all came out of the Crusades, except perhaps Europe’s exposure to more sophisticated Eastern cultures.”

These two quotes are among the many excellent take-away points of the booklet.

Now you can answer the questions!

I highly recommend Madden’s little booklet The Crusades Controversy. It’s a superb and easy to digest introduction to a topic around which there is much misinformation and even disinformation!.

At 50 pages, you can read it easily in one sitting. I can’t think of a better way to give yourself a sound basic knowledge on this intriguing topic. Enjoy your reading and help set the record straight!