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History and the Catholic Church ^ | Jeffrey Rubin

Posted on 07/27/2002 6:37:13 PM PDT by JMJ333

History and the Catholic Church by Jeffrey Rubin

Jeffrey Rubin, editor of the Conservative Book Club, interviews H.W. Crocker III, author of the LRC bestseller, Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History (Prima/Forum, 2002, $29.95)

Q. Why the title? I don't know many Catholics who are feeling triumphant right now – except, perhaps, liberals who think that recent scandals will force more of the changes they've been advocating.

A: History tells us that the liberals will be disappointed; just as they have been disappointed by the failure of the Reformation, Revolution, Statism, and Secularism to eradicate the Church. For 2,000 years the gates of Hell have not prevailed – and they will not. The Church militant will become the Church triumphant. And that’s true with this latest round of sex scandals, too.

Q. How so?

A: Because the Vatican knows that if this scandal were reported accurately the headlines would read: “Church Experience with Homosexual Priests Confirms Boy Scout Fears.” That’s why the Vatican has already directed the American Church to purge itself of homosexuals. And that’s why next on the chopping block will be the morally lax liberalism that allowed this happen. So the inevitable long-term result will be a rejuvenated, more conservative Church full of orthodox celibate priests – exactly the reverse of what the media is predicting. But the media is too blinkered by liberal prejudice and superficiality to understand this.

Q. Near the end of the book you quote Cardinal Newman's remark that "to be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant." That's a key theme in the book, which constitutes a kind of "argument from history" for the Faith. Can you expand on that?

A: Newman goes even farther, saying that Protestantism understands this, which is why it created a religion based solely on the Bible. I think Newman is absolutely right. The argument from history is virtually irrefutable – it is in fact what brought Newman into the Church. In the book, I rely heavily on secular and even liberal sources to make the case – not only to Catholic readers, but to Protestants and secularists as well – that objective history is Catholic history. Indeed, we now know for a fact – from secular historians – that the “black legends” of the Church, are just that: myths. Triumph does a lot of myth-busting: about the Spanish Inquisition, about the Renaissance popes….

Q. Let’s stop there for a minute. Many Catholic historians have seen the Renaissance as the tipping point into secularization. Yet you’re a fan of the Renaissance, and even of the Renaissance popes.

A: Yes. When it comes to the debate between Alexander VI and Savonarola or between Pope Leo X and Luther, I happily take the ultramontane position. I see the Renaissance as the culmination of the Church’s arduous rebuilding effort after the fall of Rome. Catholicism is naturally the religion of high civilization, of art, learning, and beauty, and of understanding that everything’s not in the Bible and that the classical world had virtues worth preserving and building on. St. Augustine recognized that pagan Rome had great virtues. Dante’s guide in the Divine Comedy is the pagan poet Virgil. Aquinas built on Aristotle. The Church incorporates everything. It truly is universal, and that is one of its great glories.

Q. You also show affection for some of the barbarians.

A. Well, yes, I do think that the Christianized-barbarian West had many redeeming qualities. I do like the Heliand, the Saxon New Testament – it’s a sort of The Bible Meets Beowulf. I admire the vigor, the loyalty, and the rough-hewn honor of these tribes. It was the Church’s genius to marry their virtues with the virtues of high Roman civilization and incorporate both within the Church, consecrating formerly barbarian swords for Christian ends, reconciling barbarian concepts of honor and loyalty with Catholic concepts of faith and fidelity. In the book, I refer to the Dark Age newly Catholic tribes as “Bikers for the Bishop of Rome.” I find them much better company than the perfervid, oft-schismatic Eastern church

Q. Indeed, your book is very western, very Roman – “Eurocentric,” the multiculturalists might say.

A. Yes, Triumph has been compared to the works of Hilaire Belloc – the Belloc who said that Europe is the faith and the faith is Europe. No institution has had a great shaping influence on the Western world than has the Catholic Church. And I happen to think that the West is a great thing. In fact, the end of the book is a call for the Catholic West to rise again. I’ve also come to realize that – though I didn’t see the movie Gladiator until after I’d finished writing Triumph – that Triumph really is the history of the Catholic Church as seen through the eyes of that movie’s hero, Maximus. Like Maximus, Triumph upholds Rome as “the light.” And like Maximus, the book is very martially minded. Triumph is probably the only Catholic history you’ll find with five or so books in the bibliography devoted to the French Foreign Legion – a great Catholic institution.

Q. You have no qualms about being a Crusader.

A. No. Pat Buchanan has talked about the “milquetoast Christianity” we have on offer today. Well Triumph is the pure, unadulterated fighting faith. In hoc signo vinces is the spirit of the book. Constantine, the Crusades, the Monastic Military Orders, the Conquistadors – when Christendom was Christendom it rightly turned swords on the faith’s behalf, just as Peter had leapt for his scabbard to defend his Lord. It was the Church that gave us chivalry, turning barbarian high spirits to useful ends. It was one of the great historic tragedies of Reformation Protestantism that it broke this Church check and guide on the martial spirit by saying that the power of the state was scriptural and that the power of the Church was not.

That was a terrible regression. It sanctified the idea that might makes right, and the idea that the Church was of marginal importance to society, civilization, and politics. It undid the work of centuries. Where once the Roman emperor, commander of all Rome’s legions, could be forced to do penance by the Bishop of Milan, as the Emperor Theodosius was compelled to do by St. Ambrose, after the Reformation the Church’s check on state power was abolished. If any institution was not surprised by the twentieth century being a century of genocide and two world wars, it was the Church. The Church predicted that this was the path that was being laid by the Reformation, Revolution, Liberalism, Secularism, and Statism, all of which inevitably followed one after the other, as the Church saw they would.

Q. There’s not a lot of apologizing in your book for the “sins of the Church.”

A. I think there’s plenty of criticism where criticism is called for. I think the popes have not always been as politically astute as would have been good for the faith. Indeed, I charge the papacy with wrongly fearing the power of the Holy Roman Empire more than the Protestants whom the empire was at the brink of bringing to heel. But the fact is that this flood of books with titles like Papal Sin, Hitler’s Pope, and worse to come, all alleging institutional anti-Semitism and a variety of other crimes against the Church are just more “black legend” mythologizing that needs to be called to task.

The Church rarely responds to its critics. Triumph is meant to be that response – because the truth is on our side. And these myths take pernicious root. How many people have any idea that the Spanish Inquisition was responsible for executing fewer people per year, on an average year, than the state of Texas – and that it was among the most lenient and fair-minded courts of its time? That’s established secular history now. But I’m sure to most everyone, the words Spanish Inquisition still dredge up images of horror beyond compare. Just as now the word “priest” is immediately linked to “pedophile” when we know, as far as we have factual data, that Catholic priests are no more likely – in fact, they are probably less likely – to be pedophiles than anyone else.

And then there’s the smear campaign against Pope Pius XII, which would be absurd if it weren’t so evil – trying to erase the testimony of the Jews who survived the Holocaust and praised Pope Pius XII. And it’s all done for partisan political ends. The Communists did that of course; they began this big lie about Pius XII. Now it’s liberals who have picked up Voltaire’s battle standard of ecrasez l’infame and made Pius one of their targets. But as I point out in the book, no institution – save the Allied Armies – rescued more Jews during the Second World War than did the Catholic Church. Pope Pius XII had a long history of battling the Nazis, going back at least to 1921. But by the twentieth century of course, the Church didn’t have armies of its own to command any more, unless one counts the Swiss Guards – who were rather weak on heavy weapons, tanks, and air support.

The really extraordinary thing is that if you talk to most people about Catholic history, this is what you get – a lot of unexamined, scandal buzzwords: Hitler’s Pope, deal-cutters with Mussolini; sexual depravity in monasteries and nunneries; decadent Renaissance popes; the Spanish Inquisition; the sacking of Constantinople; and so on. The Church, to its credit, has never tried to deny bloody history – it doesn’t opt out of history the way Protestantism does; and it doesn’t nurture historical grudges like the Eastern Orthodox. The Church accepts that it operates in a sinful world with fallible human beings. But what is always missing among the buzzword droppers is any sense of historical context or understanding that would lead a fair-minded observer to see that in many cases the charges leveled against various aspects of Church history are sheer propaganda or even the very reverse of the truth.

It might be too much to hope for, given “the closing of the American mind,” but I do hope that Triumph will remind Catholics just how great the Church’s gifts to the world have been. And I do sincerely hope that it will bring fallen away Catholics back to the fold and bring many others now outside into full communion with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of the Creed. A tall order, I know. But if I have succeeded – as I hope I have – in giving Catholics the first affirmative, accessible, one volume history of their Church in at least fifty years…. Well, I like to think that a drought has been ended, and that Triumph might bring refreshing water to those thirsting after righteousness. Or at least give them an entertaining read, with a bit of humor between the battles. I’ll settle for either.

(Excerpted from an interview that appeared in the April 18, 2002, issue of The Wanderer.)

TOPICS: General Discusssion
KEYWORDS: catholiclist
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1 posted on 07/27/2002 6:37:13 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: PA Lurker; EODGUY
2 posted on 07/27/2002 6:37:49 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
I enjoyed this book very much.
3 posted on 07/27/2002 6:38:49 PM PDT by Lady In Blue
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To: Lady In Blue
I was kind of wary to post it because I thought it would bring flames from people who dislike [myself included], but I couldn't find the original link from the wanderer. I think the article is very good. Thanks for posting and good to see you. =)
4 posted on 07/27/2002 6:51:30 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333; GatorGirl; tiki; maryz; *Catholic_list; afraidfortherepublic; Antoninus; Aquinasfan; ...
5 posted on 07/27/2002 7:12:38 PM PDT by narses
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To: narses
Thanks for the bump. =)
6 posted on 07/27/2002 7:14:07 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
I found a copy at a Border's book store. A single copy, whereas James Carrol's "Constantine's Sword" was prominently displayed with a dozen copies. The myths continue to be disseminated, but it is nice to know that someone is working to counter them. I have not read it yet as I am still immersed in a book about the early Jesuits. I'm looking forward to it though. Have you read it?
7 posted on 07/27/2002 7:17:34 PM PDT by St.Chuck
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To: St.Chuck
No, not yet. But the interview interested me enough that I ordered it online!
8 posted on 07/27/2002 7:26:28 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
My pleasure. I added you to my Ping list. I hope that's OK.
9 posted on 07/27/2002 7:27:43 PM PDT by narses
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To: narses
Yes, that is fine. I may not respond to each thread, but I always look at them. Thanks.
10 posted on 07/27/2002 7:31:23 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
Indeed, we now know for a fact – from secular historians – that the “black legends” of the Church, are just that: myths. Triumph does a lot of myth-busting: about the Spanish Inquisition, about the Renaissance popes….

There is a little too much evidence to bury the inquisition. The author is a revisionist.

11 posted on 07/27/2002 7:45:07 PM PDT by aimhigh
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To: JMJ333
Dear JMJ333;

To all our friends, it has just been announced that there are one million people in attendance in Toronto, Canada. Old Grandpa has three grandchildren in attendance in addition to a wonderful daughter, called Kathleen. In addition we have a wonderful group of young people from our parish that are in attendance.

Please keep them all in your prayers. They will all spend an all night vigil tonight and witness Holy Mass with the Holy Father tomorrow morning.

If you can do EWTN tomorrow morning please tune in.

To all,I think there is much hope for Holy Mother Church in the future.

Please pray for granddaughter Steffie (22)and Peter (11) who feel the draw to a religious life. Your prayers are most important.

Anyone on this thread can send me a birthday message tomorrow as I will attain the ripe old age of 72 years young.

To you JMJ333, a big hug as always. PA Lurker

12 posted on 07/27/2002 7:47:08 PM PDT by PA Lurker
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To: aimhigh
You'll have to provide links to support your assertion. Here is an excerpt from a noted Historian Anne W. Carroll on the Inquisition:


One other task within Spain faced Isabel. During the years of turmoil, the Church had become weak and corrupt. Isabel was a fervent Catholic, putting the cause of Christ first in all she did. Furthermore, she knew that Spain's unity as a nation depended upon a strong Church — Spain might as well not exist if it were not Catholic through and through. She set about reforming the Church, raising the educational and moral standards of the clergy. Many abuses were halted, including the practice of selling indulgences, which would cause much grief in the rest of Europe.

One of the most serious problems the Church faced was the number of Jews and Moors who had been baptized Catholics and risen to high positions in the government and the Church without really believing in Christian doctrine. These false Conversos and Moriscos (converted Jews and Moors) were a threat to the Church and to Spain, and a way had to be found of determining who was a true Christian and loyal Spaniard and who was a traitor. Isabel knew that not all the Conversos and Moriscos were enemies — her own confessor was a Converso as was the husband of her best friend. But to protect the innocent, the guilty had to be found.

The method Isabel chose was the Inquisition: a court which would examine evidence and judge whether a person was a faithful Christian or an enemy of Church and country. At the beginning of the Inquisition, there were many abuses — some innocent people suffered and torture was used frequently. At this point the Pope stepped in and appointed new Inquisitors, with the Grand Inquisitor (head of the Inquisition) being a Dominican monk named Tomas de Torquemada. Torquemada reformed the procedure of the Inquisition to ensure that justice would he done. He made its procedures more lenient and improved conditions in the prisons. He personally examined appeals from the accused and gave money to help the families of those on trial.

The actions of the Inquisitors are often criticized, usually as a means of attacking Spain by those who resent the strong Catholic character of the country. One criticism is that the Inquisition used torture. It did, though less so under Torquemada than before him. Torture is wrong, and the Church has since condemned any use of torture. But at the time, all governments routinely used torture as a means of extracting confessions. Though the fact that a sin is routinely committed does not justify it, the Inquisitors were most probably acting in good faith, and they should not be singled out as unusually evil.

A second attack is that the Inquisition's judgments led to the execution of the guilty. People in modern times consider it wrong to execute people for not truly believing in the religion they professed, but that is not in fact why they were executed. Those found guilty were traitors to the state and to the Church, and treason has almost always been recognized as a crime justifying capital punishment. Furthermore, those found guilty were always given a chance to repent. Only if they refused to repent or if they relapsed into their crimes after promising repentance were they executed. Finally, only 2,000 were executed, a small percentage of the 100,000 put on trial.

A final charge is that the method of execution, burning at the stake, was unusually barbaric. But the 16th century was a brutal time. In England capital punishment consisted of being hanged, cut down while still alive, disembowelled, and then cut into four pieces (hanged, drawn and quartered); in France, it was to be boiled alive. Again, Spain should not be singled out for condemnation.

The Inquisition, in fact, though not perfect, was a more just court than most. Often, people charged with regular crimes would pretend to be heretics so that they could be transferred to the custody of the Inquisition, whose prisoners were better treated.

Looking at the Inquisition historically, we see that it avoided more deaths than it caused. Because Spain was united religiously as well as politically, it did not suffer the religious wars which came when Protestantism began in other countries. Furthermore, a few years later other parts of Europe went through a witchcraft hysteria, when many people were executed as witches on only the flimsiest of evidence, or no evidence at all (30,000 in England, 100,000 in Germany). In Spain, the Inquisition investigated charges of witchcraft and found them baseless, thus saving many innocent people from death.

All the efforts of Ferdinand and lsabel — ending civil war, restoring order and justice, completing the Reconquista, reforming the Church — brought peace and prosperity to Spain. The latter years of their reign and the years immediately following are known as Spain's Golden Age, when art, literature, culture and science reached a high point. During the 16th century, Spain was the intellectual capital of the world, with scholars coming from all over Europe to study there.

Out of Spain's optimism, joy and excitement came the explorations and discoveries which were to open up our own hemisphere and bring about the settlement of a whole new world.

13 posted on 07/27/2002 7:52:47 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: PA Lurker
We have some youth from our parish attending the celebration in Toronto as well!

And Happy Birthday to you, and many many more. ;)

Hugs back to you!

14 posted on 07/27/2002 7:55:10 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
The English-speaking world is loathe to acknpwledge their debt to Spain for saving Europe from the Turk. Bernard Lewis, the noted scholar on Islam, does did mention Lepanto in a recent book. It is as though four hundred years from now, a historian would fail to mention Churchill and the Battle of Britain. Only in retrospect does it seem that the Turks were not a mortal danger to Christendom. It is hard to believe that modern science itself could have arisen in a Europe dominated by Islam, even in its relatively benign Turkish form.
15 posted on 07/27/2002 8:13:49 PM PDT by RobbyS
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To: RobbyS
Correction: Lewis does NOT mention Lepanto.
16 posted on 07/27/2002 8:15:25 PM PDT by RobbyS
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To: RobbyS
Thank goodness for El Cid Campeador! I love those "master warriors."

17 posted on 07/27/2002 8:24:10 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
Interesting post. St. Ignatius was subject to the Inquisition at various points in his life, as were many of his early followers, some for the suspicion that they were conversos. The inquisition appears to have had a broad brush.
18 posted on 07/27/2002 8:30:44 PM PDT by St.Chuck
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To: St.Chuck
One thing is for sure: The 2,000 or so documented executions of the Inquisition pale in comparison to the 150,000 documented witch burnings elsewhere in Europe over the same centuries. It seems to me that black myth has triumphed over truth.
19 posted on 07/27/2002 9:34:07 PM PDT by JMJ333
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To: JMJ333
Great read. Puts it all in perspective in a single volume.
20 posted on 07/27/2002 9:55:57 PM PDT by ultima ratio
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