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.”
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.