Skip to comments.How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
Posted on 05/03/2005 7:53:16 AM PDT by CathNY
Today is the official release date for my new book, How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. From the role of the monks (they did much more than just copy manuscripts) to art and architecture, from the university to Western law, from science to charitable work, from international law to economics, the book delves into just how indebted we are as a civilization to the Catholic Church, whether we realize it or not.
By far the book's longest chapter is "The Church and Science." We have all heard a great deal about the Churchs alleged hostility toward science. What most people fail to realize is that historians of science have spent the past half-century drastically revising this conventional wisdom, arguing that the Church's role in the development of Western science was far more salutary than previously thought. I am speaking not about Catholic apologists but about serious and important scholars of the history of science such as J.L. Heilbron, A.C. Crombie, David Lindberg, Edward Grant, and Thomas Goldstein.
It is all very well to point out that important scientists, like Louis Pasteur, have been Catholic. More revealing is how many priests have distinguished themselves in the sciences. It turns out, for instance, that the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body was Fr. Giambattista Riccioli. The man who has been called the father of Egyptology was Fr. Athanasius Kircher (also called "master of a hundred arts" for the breadth of his knowledge). Fr. Roger Boscovich, who has been described as "the greatest genius that Yugoslavia ever produced," has often been called the father of modern atomic theory.
In the sciences it was the Jesuits in particular who distinguished themselves; some 35 craters on the moon, in fact, are named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.
By the eighteenth century, the Jesuits "had contributed to the development of pendulum clocks, pantographs, barometers, reflecting telescopes and microscopes, to scientific fields as various as magnetism, optics and electricity. They observed, in some cases before anyone else, the colored bands on Jupiter's surface, the Andromeda nebula and Saturn's rings. They theorized about the circulation of the blood (independently of Harvey), the theoretical possibility of flight, the way the moon effected the tides, and the wave-like nature of light. Star maps of the southern hemisphere, symbolic logic, flood-control measures on the Po and Adige rivers, introducing plus and minus signs into Italian mathematics all were typical Jesuit achievements, and scientists as influential as Fermat, Huygens, Leibniz and Newton were not alone in counting Jesuits among their most prized correspondents" [Jonathan Wright, The Jesuits, 2004, p. 189].
Seismology, the study of earthquakes, has been so dominated by Jesuits that it has become known as "the Jesuit science." It was a Jesuit, Fr. J.B. Macelwane, who wrote Introduction to Theoretical Seismology, the first seismology textbook in America, in 1936. To this day, the American Geophysical Union, which Fr. Macelwane once headed, gives an annual medal named after this brilliant priest to a promising young geophysicist.
The Jesuits were also the first to introduce Western science into such far-off places as China and India. In seventeenth-century China in particular, Jesuits introduced a substantial body of scientific knowledge and a vast array of mental tools for understanding the physical universe, including the Euclidean geometry that made planetary motion comprehensible. Jesuits made important contributions to the scientific knowledge and infrastructure of other less developed nations not only in Asia but also in Africa and Central and South America. Beginning in the nineteenth century, these continents saw the opening of Jesuit observatories that studied such fields as astronomy, geomagnetism, meteorology, seismology, and solar physics. Such observatories provided these places with accurate time keeping, weather forecasts (particularly important in the cases of hurricanes and typhoons), earthquake risk assessments, and cartography. In Central and South America the Jesuits worked primarily in meteorology and seismology, essentially laying the foundations of those disciplines there. The scientific development of these countries, ranging from Ecuador to Lebanon to the Philippines, is indebted to Jesuit efforts.
The Galileo case is often cited as evidence of Catholic hostility toward science, and How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization accordingly takes a closer look at the Galileo matter. For now, just one little-known fact: Catholic cathedrals in Bologna, Florence, Paris, and Rome were constructed to function as solar observatories. No more precise instruments for observing the sun's apparent motion could be found anywhere in the world. When Johannes Kepler posited that planetary orbits were elliptical rather than circular, Catholic astronomer Giovanni Cassini verified Kepler's position through observations he made in the Basilica of San Petronio in the heart of the Papal States. Cassini, incidentally, was a student of Fr. Riccioli and Fr. Francesco Grimaldi, the great astronomer who also discovered the diffraction of light, and even gave the phenomenon its name.
I've tried to fill the book with little-known facts like these.
To say that the Church played a positive role in the development of science has now become absolutely mainstream, even if this new consensus has not yet managed to trickle down to the general public. In fact, Stanley Jaki, over the course of an extraordinary scholarly career, has developed a compelling argument that in fact it was important aspects of the Christian worldview that accounted for why it was in the West that science enjoyed the success it did as a self-sustaining enterprise. Non-Christian cultures did not possess the same philosophical tools, and in fact were burdened by conceptual frameworks that hindered the development of science. Jaki extends this thesis to seven great cultures: Arabic, Babylonian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu, and Maya. In these cultures, Jaki explains, science suffered a "stillbirth." My book gives ample attention to Jaki's work.
Economic thought is another area in which more and more scholars have begun to acknowledge the previously overlooked role of Catholic thinkers. Joseph Schumpeter, one of the great economists of the twentieth century, paid tribute to the overlooked contributions of the late Scholastics mainly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish theologians - in his magisterial History of Economic Analysis (1954). "[I]t is they," he wrote, "who come nearer than does any other group to having been the 'founders' of scientific economics." In devoting scholarly attention to this unfortunately neglected chapter in the history of economic thought, Schumpeter would be joined by other accomplished scholars over the course of the twentieth century, including Professors Raymond de Roover, Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, and Alejandro Chafuen.
The Church also played an indispensable role in another essential development in Western civilization: the creation of the university. The university was an utterly new phenomenon in European history. Nothing like it had existed in ancient Greece or Rome. The institution that we recognize today, with its faculties, courses of study, examinations, and degrees, as well as the familiar distinction between undergraduate and graduate study, come to us directly from the medieval world. And it is no surprise that the Church should have done so much to foster the nascent university system, since the Church, according to historian Lowrie Daly, "was the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge."
The popes and other churchmen ranked the universities among the great jewels of Christian civilization. It was typical to hear the University of Paris described as the "new Athens" - a designation that calls to mind the ambitions of the great Alcuin from the Carolingian period of several centuries earlier, who sought through his own educational efforts to establish a new Athens in the kingdom of the Franks. Pope Innocent IV (124354) described the universities as "rivers of science which water and make fertile the soil of the universal Church," and Pope Alexander IV (125461) called them "lanterns shining in the house of God." And the popes deserved no small share of the credit for the growth and success of the university system. "Thanks to the repeated intervention of the papacy," writes historian Henri Daniel-Rops, "higher education was enabled to extend its boundaries; the Church, in fact, was the matrix that produced the university, the nest whence it took flight."
As a matter of fact, among the most important medieval contributions to modern science was the essentially free inquiry of the university system, where scholars could debate and discuss propositions, and in which the utility of human reason was taken for granted. Contrary to the grossly inaccurate picture of the Middle Ages that passes for common knowledge today, medieval intellectual life made indispensable contributions to Western civilization. In The Beginnings of Western Science (1992), David Lindberg writes:
[I]t must be emphatically stated that within this educational system the medieval master had a great deal of freedom. The stereotype of the Middle Ages pictures the professor as spineless and subservient, a slavish follower of Aristotle and the Church fathers (exactly how one could be a slavish follower of both, the stereotype does not explain), fearful of departing one iota from the demands of authority. There were broad theological limits, of course, but within those limits the medieval master had remarkable freedom of thought and expression; there was almost no doctrine, philosophical or theological, that was not submitted to minute scrutiny and criticism by scholars in the medieval university.
"[S]cholars of the later Middle Ages," concludes Lindberg, "created a broad intellectual tradition, in the absence of which subsequent progress in natural philosophy would have been inconceivable."
Historian of science Edward Grant concurs with this judgment:
What made it possible for Western civilization to develop science and the social sciences in a way that no other civilization had ever done before? The answer, I am convinced, lies in a pervasive and deep-seated spirit of inquiry that was a natural consequence of the emphasis on reason that began in the Middle Ages. With the exception of revealed truths, reason was enthroned in medieval universities as the ultimate arbiter for most intellectual arguments and controversies. It was quite natural for scholars immersed in a university environment to employ reason to probe into subject areas that had not been explored before, as well as to discuss possibilities that had not previously been seriously entertained.
The creation of the university, the commitment to reason and rational argument, and the overall spirit of inquiry that characterized medieval intellectual life amounted to "a gift from the Latin Middle Ages to the modern world...though it is a gift that may never be acknowledged. Perhaps it will always retain the status it has had for the past four centuries as the best-kept secret of Western civilization."
Here, then, are just a few of the topics to be found in How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. I've been asked quite a few times in recent weeks what my next project will be. For now, it'll be getting some rest.
So you are going to judge him on the basis of a book he wrote for a popular audience? Have you read his other stuff, like his book published by Columbia Univ. Press? I've actually read Woods's books, with the exception of this one. His Columbia book has been endorsed by totally mainstream people in the Catholic world. Lighten up, man. Criticize stuff you don't like about him, fine, but it poisons the Catholic world when a guy writes a positive book and people still go after him. That's just wrong.
You are being overly generous to the Catholic West and deafeningly silent on the Byzantine East (Orthodox Church). Western civilization was not built by the Catholic Church - extended and enhanced based as it is on the Eastern Orthodox Church in some ways yes, but built? Not hardly!
He gives nothing else concrete with which to criticize Woods' position.
Heaven knows, I disagree with Woods theologically, but just what particular view of economics does he have that trumps Catholic social teaching?
We don't have a clue from Storck.
* I posted nothing that was "vicious." I posted the excellent analysis by Mr. Storck to alert my brothers and sisters that Mr. Woods is an opponent of the Magisterium.
I won't buy his book but I hope it is acccurate. I have read the books by Mr. Jaki. Those works by the orthodox Fr. Jaki are too little known by Christians.
So, a libertrad historian (no degree in economics. Woods is a Lew Rockwell kooky-cutout) is going to tell the Popes what is what re economics using amoral/imoral libertarianism as the benchmark.
Baptism, by the very word indicates immersing something; dipping or plunging something into something else (e.g. a solid object into a liguid medium. It also can refer to the operation of God (Colossians 2:11,12) placing (immersing) the believer into (the body of) Christ. Again, there is no reference or connection in any such verses to one particular human agency; not one particular church organization.
What about the millions of Roman Catholics who have never been immersed, dipped or plunged, which is what took place in the baptism in 2 Peter. (And, by the way, those who were immersed, dipped and plunged there, were those who refused to believe Noah's prophesy -- refused to repent, and were drowned. Noah and the other seven on the ark were never in the water.)
Not all references to "saved" and "salvation" in the Scriptures are to the soul, but some are to deliverance of God's people from cataclysmic judgments on this earth. And not all references to "baptism" are to an event that can be seen and felt with mortal senses (solid object into liquid medium, remember, is only one example of the use of the word).
Noah and his family, and their posterity (in the seed line of Jesus Christ) were saved (from that wicked, demon intermingled generation) by the baptism of the wicked into the judgment of the flood. God dipped, immersed, plunged, baptized -- DROWNED -- the entire population of the world in order to save or preserve the "seed of the woman" (see Genesis 3:15) through Noah, being described in Genesis 6 as being "perfect in his GENERATIONS." This has to do with the fact that the seed of Noah's family had not been intermixed with the "sons of God" (i.e. indivdual creations of God; fallen angelic beings that co-habitated with the daughters of men to bring about a race of God-hating demonic giants -- Gen. 6:1-7; see these "sons of God associated with Satan in Job chs. 1 and 2 and other passages), like those still seen "and also after that"(6:4) in the sons of Anak (Numbers) and in Goliath, who fought David, and his brothers, etc. etc.
Baptism in the 2 Peter reference has nothing to do with the sprinkling or dampening of infants' foreheads with water, examples of which are nowhere found in Scripture.
But then, as a God-called preacher of the Goespel, I have baptized (by immersion, plunging, dipping in water) scores of believers, who with knowledge and forethought, deliberately repented of any hope outside of the Person and Redemptive Sufferings and Resuurection of Jesus Christ our Savior, and resting the safety of thier eternal soul in Christ, wanted to give a public testimony of that faith by water baptism. They were making the public position and giving open witness that the Death (in payment for sin and sins), Burial and Resurrection (for the believer's justification - a dead savior, obviously, would be no savior at all) of Jesus Christ provided the only means of their soul's redemption, and that they have accepted this fully by faith.
The Roman Catholic Church cannot admit that God has called me or any other non-Catholic to preach Christ. The RCC cannot admit that God would use anything except the Vatican's liturgical and sacramental religious system. The RCC could not admit that those who came to Jesus Christ as we preached the Gospel were admitted to Christ and His salvation by faith without the RCC, and the RCC cannot admit that our immersion baptism of self-professing believers (as opposed to infants) is legitimate by the very same Scripture references: Matt. 28; Mark 16; Acts 8, 10, 16; etc.
All Vatican Counsels, especially since Trent have cursed all Christians outside of the liturgy and sacraments of the RCC. It is in writing, "Let them (us) be anathema."
Further, There are tares in every church or religious organization, but those who profess to be ministers set themselves up as targets when their public demeanor is questionable; they should expect to be challenged.
Furthermore, There is no such thing as "THE Baptist Church," unless you are speaking about (1.) one local congregation within a specified, say, acre or less where they assemble; or about (2.) a voluntary association or convention of multiple local assemblies into one organiztion. One historical distinctive of Baptist peoples is the absolute autonomy and independence of the local congregation. A Baptist "bishop" (overseer) or "elder"(1 Timothy ch. 3; Titus ch. 1) is the pastor (say, presiding elder)within a single local congregation. He is never the overseer of multiple, involuntarily affiliated congregations. There are rare cases where one Baptist preacher is indeed the pastor of more than one congregation (I've never heard of it being more than two assemblies), but those local congregations are not involuntarily affiliated, and either may dismiss the man as pastor if need be, without him being dismissed from the other one. It is a congregational decision.
Then, there are Baptist (say, church-planting)missionaries, who, similarly to the apostles of old, may have the care of several new, fledgling congregations until pastors can be taught/trained and ordained for those local assemblies. This is sometimes the case in remote (domestic or foreign) locales where few if any churches had hitherto existed.
And before Constantine's day, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of Gospel preachers (No, not called "Baptists") who were doing just as I've described above, without any connection with either Constantinople or Rome. The RCC wants to deny and bury all such history, but that history is truly out there.
As the Jews, the Israelies (in general) continued to reject Christ, and as God scattered the believers from Palestine, Jerusalem waned in its usefulness to New Testament Christianity. Our faith is in NO earthly city, not even in Jerusalem by the Med, but our faith is in Christ, Himself, and "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." (Galatians 4:26; and see Hebrews 13:12-14). This is why Rome and the RCC cannot be our mother. The RCC believes that it should be the mother of everyone who calls themselves "Christian." At times in history, she has taken up sword to enforce that as a goal, too.
People, even ministers, may leave Baptist and other Christian churches without being labeled heretics, notrious liars, enemies of the Church, etc. But, seemingly, no priest may leave Romes's clutches and become an independent minister of the Gospel without being labeled "heretic," "liar," "enemy," etc, or without is being declared that they were "thrown out." So Brewer, Chiniquay, and all such, must be presented by the RCC's top end as the very worst of all creatures.
It is why We recommend the reading of THEIR books and papers, along with those of Rome.
That's what the FREE REPUBLIC is all about, in't it?
I have here dozens of pages of quotes from John Wycliffe, and personal journal accounts from his hand that give the reasons that his bones were later on dug up and his ashes scattered on a river by the RCC. Some claim he was merely on the fringes of heresy, but to the RCC he was an outright heretic. He did have a definite personal connection with the Lollards of England, my friend. And his doctrinal tenets militated against Romes sacraments and liturgy in a substantial way.
Perhaps more soon.
Thanks for posting, and welcome to FR.
Might surprise you to know that I am pretty closely
associated with a Baptist preacher on a personal basis,
and he's much the better and smarter man than you,
because he's never tried to deride my religion and has
only answered questions I have posed to him regarding his and your shared religion.
What has it done ultimately to your understanding of the salvation of your soul? Are you still bound in Rome's system for salvation of your soul? Does your Baptist preacher friend tell you the truth that sacramental religion stands between men and their knowing Christ?
Well, much of the commentary that has come out of the Vatican on economics over the last century has been, to be kind, naive.
The Church may have something to say about economics, but JPII seemed to have a knee-jerk aversion to the American version of free market capitalism, and often blamed it for the plight of the third world. He almost completely ignored the tyrannical governments that keep these people in poverty.
Thanks for the ping MurphE, and another "welcome to FR" greeting for CathNY.
Is arrogance OK in your religion? How about trolling and baiting under the cloak
of civility? Your carefully worded essays are really nothing more than Catholic
bashing. You do fairly well, until that hatred of yours for Rome manages to permeate every one of your writings.
Don't fret about my salvation. Here's the tried and true stock answer.
"Are you saved?" asks the Fundamentalist.
The Catholic should reply: "As the Bible says, I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:58), but Im also being saved (1 Cor. 1:8, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:910, 1 Cor. 3:1215). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:1113)."
Got my copy today. Here's what Alice von Hildebrand says on the back cover: "Dr. Woods's book is a superb and scholarly refutation of the widespread and deeply rooted prejudice that the supernatural outlook of the Roman Catholic Church disqualifies her to make any valuable contirbution to the 'progress' of humanity. This book is a magnificent illustrationof Christ's saying: 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice; the rest will be added unto [you].' Whether we turn to science, legal questions, economics, education, scholarship, fine arts, Dr. Woods shows convincingly the fecundity of a supernatural approach to life. This book is highly recommended."
I dearly love Alice von Hildebrand and her work, to say nothing of that of her husband, so this means a great deal to me. If she calls it scholarly, I'll assume it is until I see otherwise.
*enlightened, inspired, and truthful is more like it, from my pov.
In my 27 years as a Christian and 26 years preaching the Gospel, and 15 years in Asia, and 6 years in the (95%+) Roman Catholic Philippines, I've never heard anything near that kind of response. You have a lot of educating to do among your own Catholic people. But (if it was you) you said that the Scriptures are profitable but insufficient. So what is your sufficiency for your soul's salvation?
Thank you for the article. I will buy the book- looks fascinating.Regards,
An excellent post. I strongly advise you to feed this troll nothing more. No answer will every be sufficient for him, because his work is not genuinely concerned with you.
Please don't be baited. :O)