Skip to comments.How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization
Posted on 06/02/2014 7:13:05 PM PDT by NKP_Vet
Thomas Woods' book titled HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILD WESTERN CIVILIZATION is an unanswerable antidote to anti-Catholic bashers and their mindless sychophants. Prof. Woods provides a compelling case that Western Civilization could not have thrived without the valuable achievements of the Catholic Church over the past 2,000 years.
Prof. Woods survey of the Catholic Church in late Ancient History and during the Dark Ages makes clear that the Catholic Church authorities and especially the monks were invaluable in preserving learning. He makes clear that the early Catholic monks and nuns were the only literate people in Europe, and they preserved learning by handcopying books and teaching. Prof. Woods' treatment of this historical episode gives the thoughtful reader an insight as to how crucial those who were in religious orders were to European recovery.
Prof. Woods' chapter on Medieval universities is solid. He gives the conditions under which teachers and students operated and makes clear that the "Age of Scholasticism" was an intllectually vibrant age. The books gives examples of the curriculum and the emphasis on logic and reason both in learning and solving intellectual issues. The Age of Reason actually began in the Medieval Catholic universities rather than in the 17th and 18th centuries. Prof. Woods' evaluation of Medieval Scholasticism compares favorably with John Baldwin's THE SCHOLATIC CULTURE OF THE MIDDE AGES, 1000-1300.
Chapter five of this book undermines the notion that the Catholic authorities tried to undermine scientific study. For example, Prof. Woods cites numerous examples of Catholic university officials supporting scientific study and lending considerable resources to the study of astronomy. He also gives an honest assessement of the trial of Galileo who was also highly praised by Catholic authorties including the Pope. This reviewer learned for the first time that the Jesuits started the study of seismology. This chapter is important because it undermines the false notion that the Catholic Church was against science. One should note that many scientific advances that are taken for granted and which are important originated with the Catholic Church.
Not only did the Catholic Church make invaluable contributions in science and philosopy, but Prof. Woods presents an abundence of evidence of the valuable contributions that the Catholic Church made in developing both Canon Law and the concepts of natural and legal rights. These chapters are especially important in that they clearly prove that the Catholic jurists had meticulous concern for the rights of individuals including those who were not Catholic. This thesis is proven beyond doubt in chapters nine, ten, and eleven.
Prof. Woods presents a historical case of what happens in "A World Without God" which is the title of the book's conclusion. The twentieth century is thus far history's bloodiest century. The absence of moral codes except that of what the state dictates without religious convictions, convictions taught by the Catholic Church, presents historical tragedy.
Prof. Woods could have written a five foot book shelf on the crucial role of the Catholic Church in creating Western Civilization. Those who want to know more should consult the bibliography at the end of the book HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILT WESTERN CIVILIZATION which is a good bibliography. This reviewer would have included Regine Pernoud's book titled THOSE TERRIBLE MIDDLE AGES:DEBUNKING THE MYTHS and G.K.Chesterton's ORTHODOXY. A recent book published by Father Duffy titled QUEEN OF THE SCIENCE:THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CATHOLIC THEOLOGY AND LIBERAL LEARNING should be read in tandem with Prof. Woods' book.
Prof. Woods has simply written a great book. HOW THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BUILT WESTERN CIVILIZATION should be in every Catholic school on the planet. Thoughtful Protestants who do not define their religion by Catholic bashing would benefit from this book. This book should not be recommended to Catholic bashers as it could cause cultural shock and apoplexy. If anyone reads this review and assumes this reviewer is a Catholic, they would be wrong. This reviewer has studied enough history to know just how crucial the Catholic Church has been and is wise enough to appreciate the Catholic Church's achievements.
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There were certainly many valuable contributions. How does that balance out against many of the problems?
The reformers did not disavow their heritage. Protestants have as much claim on the accomplishments of Christianity as any Roman.
I was about to cry, thinking that my cherished, sweet Dr.O would have loved to have read this book, then I checked the source and saw its publication date: Regnery History; 1ST edition (May 2, 2005).
Sure enough. If he had wanted to, he had the chance to read it. One day, I’ll check his massive book shelves, in every room, and I’ll likely find a copy there.
What's wrong? Not enough new stuff to trash Free Republic non-Catholics with?
Spoken like a true anti-Prot basher.
“He makes clear that the early Catholic monks and nuns were the only literate people in Europe, and they preserved learning by handcopying books and teaching.”
Their vows of poverty were, no doubt, necessary because of their immense student loan debts. Probably all of them were liberal arts majors.
The Catholic Church IS western civilization. I don’t recall the likes of Bernard Berenson seeking out Methodists in his books on the great art of Europe.
It’s Prod, not Prot.
“Mindless” is unhelpful. Ad hominem attacks are unnecessary from those who hold a logically strong position. Overplaying one’s hand like this would tend to make an undecided person actually doubt the veracity of the Catholic position.
If you can read this thread thank Jean Chauvin.
Well, while it’s certainly true that Christianity has made the Western world what it is, we can’t take all the credit. The Jewish people certainly laid a great foundation to build on (Mosaic law, 7 day week, health practices, God as Creator, etc.).
What if we chant it? < / humor>
it’s interesting to note that Tom Woods is an anarcho-capitalist. Just listening to his show this morning.
Just pointing out an historic fact.
Unless you are so delusional that you think all accomplishments of western civilization were accomplished by romans.
Overreaching a bit aren’t you dear?
Yes, I agree. Jews certainly made huge contributions to civilization.
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
If the Baptists take over Western Civilization and make everyone Baptist by law, then after a 1000 years they can say that Baptists did all that was accomplished by all Christians, non-Christians and all of Western Civilization during that period, it is silly thinking.
Prod - that’s the current slur used by the bead counters.
No, darling. You can’t overreach when it comes to Catholic art. How’s that nice painting of dogs holding playing cards on your wall?
Don’t forget feeding Christians to the lions.
International Law - from the Catholic Church.
Western Art - from the Catholic Church or preserved by the Catholic Church.
Western Music - from the Catholic Church.
Education - Universities and grammar schools are specific Catholic creations.
Gregorian Calendar - invented by the Catholic Church. Read here about how stupidly Protestant countries acted in regard to the new and more accurate calendar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar#Adoption_in_Europe
The Reformation was a reaction to the overreach of RC INC.
No, Prod is a very old-fashioned term used by Catholic Irish. It goes back, at least in my family, to about 1840. “Prot” sounds ridiculous.
Read #4 sweety pie.
I guess they built on the achievements of pagan Roman Empire, especially Latin language, which built on the pagan Greek, who built on the Egyptians, Phoenicians,etc. The Church itself really used the foundations the Jews had laid, I suppose, to Mountain Sinai and the giving of the Law to Moses, that’s where I’d guess that’s where that trail ends. Everybody gets a piece of that history for what it’s worth. Jesus, on the other hand, did say his kingdom was not of this world and that Satan was the ruler of this age.
After a thousand years of Baptist rule, we’d still not be allowed booze on Sunday. Not my idea of great culture.
I leave the Catholics, the Russians, and the Mohammedans to argue about who invented everything.
How a Catholic priest gave us the Big Bang Theory
American Chronicle ^ | December 28, 2007 | Alex Higgins
The history of cosmology the study of the Universe for the last five hundred years is often portrayed as a clash between science on the one hand, and the cold hand of religious dogma on the other.
The relationship between the Church and science has not always been so bad. And if we wanted an example of an alternative model of co-operation rather than antagonism, we could take as an example the most famous theory in cosmology today the Big Bang Theory, whose surprising origins lie with a Catholic priest toiling away in a Catholic University in Belgium.
I once attended a youth club in Colchester, a town in England where I grew up as a teenager. Run by fundamentalist evangelicals (generous, kind people incidentally), who are rare in Britain, the night’s activities of five-a-side football, cricket or pool would come only after some kind of Bible-reading or an unsuccessful attempt at debunking the Theory of Evolution, which was a particular bugbear of theirs.
One night, a local volunteer was explaining why the Big Bang Theory was obviously nonsense with a cutesy, homely analogy “If you blow up a pile of bricks, you dont get a building, its stupid.” In your face, Stephen Hawking!
He didnt know why scientists might have come up with the idea of the Big Bang, except perhaps as a sneaky rationalization for undermining Christianity. He wasnt even clear as to why he thought it posed a theological problem for Christians in the first place, though he is not alone in thinking that it does.
The irony is extraordinary - aside from being uninformed about the Theory itself, fundamentalists are usually unaware of its religious origins, and the fact that the Big Bang Theory successfully replaced a theory much less compatible with Christian ideas about the beginning of time - the Steady State Theory.
The groundwork for the Big Bang Theory was laid in the early twentieth century by the paradigm-crunching work of Edwin Hubble (as in Hubble telescope) and Albert Einstein.
Einsteins crucial contribution was part of the fallout of his work on gravity in Switzerland around the time of the First World War. By showing that gravity was a curve in space-time caused by the distorting impact of matter, the implication was that in a Universe where everything stayed in one place, gravity would gradually draw all matter together in an almighty collision. This meant that, contrary to the prevailing view of contemporary cosmologists, the Universe could not be static - it had to be either expanding or contracting.
Einstein didnt much like this implication and was wedded to the notion of an unchanging Universe that had always existed. So he assumed there must be a problem with his theory, and compensated for it in his equations by inventing an artificial cosmological constant while he tried to figure out what was going on.
And on the other side of the Atlantic, from 1919 and through the 20s, Edwin Hubble was busy spending all night, night after night, making minor adjustments to the 100-inch Hooker Telescope on Mount Wilson, then the largest in the world. By photographing some of the most distant objects in view he resolved an earlier debate and demonstrated conclusively that the Universe, far from consisting of a single galaxy ours, the Milky Way actually contained a huge number of galaxies, each consisting of billions of stars. Our collective view of the Universe had to be adjusted as people realised it was a billion times larger than previously thought.
In addition to discovering these galaxies, Hubble also discovered something significant about them. Just as the pitch of a siren on an emergency vehicle changes as it drives past us - because the length of the sound waves change as they become more distant according to the Doppler effect - so too the light from distant objects can tell us whether they are moving closer or drifting away. Together with Milton L. Humason, Hubble showed that the galaxies were moving further away from us part of what is today called Hubbles Law concerning the light emitted by moving galaxies. The conclusion Hubble had to draw was that the Universe was expanding, and everything in it was on the move.
But, unknown to either of them, Hubble was actually beaten to the basic idea of Hubbles Law by a Belgian priest, Fr. Georges Lemaitre. Lemaitre trained as a Jesuit priest, served in the Belgian Army during the remorseless slaughter of World War One, and then became a student of astronomy and mathematics. He studied in Cambridge in England, then in Cambridge, Massachusetts for the Harvard Observatory and finally the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Returning to Belgium in 1925, where he worked at the Catholic University of Leuven as a part-time lecturer, his big break came two years later in 1927 when he proposed his theory of an expanding Universe to explain the movement of the galaxies, published in the Annals of the Scientific Society of Brussels.
Lemaitre was still pretty hazy about how the process of expansion could have begun. Like many scientists, he was still committed to the idea of a static Universe of unchanging size, so he proposed that it might have begun like this but then started to expand. Since his ideas were not getting very much attention, he decided to arrange a meeting with Einstein at the Solvay Conference in Brussels in October 1927.
Einstein, though interested, was largely dismissive, telling Lemaitre that, “Your calculations are good, but your physics is terrible”. Einstein was also a little suspicious of the religious implications of these ideas. He declined to describe himself as an atheist (or a theist, or a pantheist) and liked to use the vocabulary of religion, most famously in his misguided rejection of much of quantum physics, “God does not play dice!” But his complex and shifting view of God was of something impersonal behind fixed laws that governed the Universe, partly influenced by the 17th century philosopher Spinoza.
Einstein had previously dismissed the work of Russian mathematician, Alexander Friedman, who had proposed an expanding universe as an abstract mathematical solution to his equations in 1922. Einstein offered Lemaitre some suggestions for further investigations but left unconvinced.
Lemaitres old teacher, the British astronomer Arthur Eddington, was more encouraging and published a commentary on his 1927 paper in English in 1930, describing it as a brilliant solution to some of the outstanding problems astronomers faced. In 1931, Lemaitre was invited to London by the British Association to discuss cosmology and spirituality. There he described his new solution that the Universe had begun from a tiny and incredibly dense singularity containing all its existing matter. This he called ‘the primeval atom’ or a “Cosmic Egg exploding at the moment of the creation”.
The Primeval Atom theory was born (or Cosmic Egg theory if you like). It wouldnt be known as the Big Bang Theory until the British physicist, Fred Hoyle, did a radio series in 1949 in which he attempted to debunk it. He failed to change many peoples minds by then, but he did give it a better name.
Neither Eddington nor Einstein were persuaded by this idea as Stephen Hawking, perhaps the worlds most famous living astrophysicist, has said, “few people [meaning scientists] took the idea of the beginning of the Universe seriously”. But Lemaitre was a passionate and persuasive man, and he was gaining a wider audience as he began to travel the US. He decided to surprise Hubble and Einstein by turning up to meet them both unexpectedly in 1931 and push his idea again. This time he won them over, demonstrating how their work led to his conclusion. It was a dramatic event Hawking has said that, “The basis of modern cosmology was established at this meeting. Looking back I can recognise this as the foundations for my own work”.
Einstein regarded his initial rejection of an expanding Universe as the “biggest blunder of my life”.
The Big Bang did not gain easy acceptance. Like any dramatic new concept in science, it had to be tested against the evidence and alternative hypotheses. Opponents adopted the Steady State theory of the Universe which proposed that the Universe stayed fundamentally the same over time. Since the galaxies were clearly moving apart from each other, the theory suggested that new galaxies must be constantly formed somewhere in the Universe and propelled outwards. But Steady State theorists could not explain where many of the chemical elements we see in the Universe could have been formed, if not in the extreme conditions of the Big Bang.
They also struggled to explain where the hydrogen fuel to create these elements was being formed in the Universe, and why there was so much helium in the cosmos the leftovers of hydrogen fusion. But the Big Bang Theory could answer that hydrogen was created in gigantic quantities in the original explosion, and the helium was part of the aftermath. The jury came back in and a new consensus was formed.
The existence of God, of course, is not settled by the truth of the Big Bang Theory, nor should religion rest its case on any scientific theory. But what can be said is that the Big Bang fits surprisingly well with the religious idea that the Universe had a distinct beginning, willed by a Creator. Betraying some bemusement, the astrophysicist Robert Jastrow put it like this:
“For the scientist the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been there for centuries.”
In reality, both the scientists and the theologians are still busy hauling themselves over the mountains of ignorance. Hopefully, they will help each other out.
Sadly, we hear little of Lemaitre today. Arguably, the way the evidence was pointing in the late 1920s, someone else might have come up with the same idea, taking up where Hubble, Friedman and Einstein left off. But the fact remains that one of the best known of all modern scientific theories was his. In his own lifetime, his achievement was recognized. He received the Francqui Prize in Belgium, the highest honour for a scientist in the country, with Einstein and Eddington among his proposers and judges respectively. The Vatican chose him to be a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1936 (founded that year), where he worked and taught until becoming its president in 1960.
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences had its origins in an institution called the Academy of Lynxes (so-called because of the lynxs keen eyesight), founded in 1603 under Pope Clement VIII by an Italian prince, Federico Cesi. The first president of that institution had been Galileo.
Pope John XXIII appointed Lemaitre, to his surprise, to lead the Second Vatican Councils commission on birth control. His commission was the first ever to appoint lay people and women and to undertake a sociological investigation of the lives of Catholic families to help come to a truly fair and grounded decision. Lemaitre died before the commission completed its report.
Just before Lemaitre died in 1966, he learned of the first discovery of ‘cosmic background radiation’ the predicted fallout from the Big Bang, and further confirmation of his theory.
It surprises me then, that many Christians still find the idea of the Big Bang problematic. They might instead try and take the credit for it and - why not? - get on with doing some science themselves.
Some Notes on Sources
Stephen Hawking’s quoted statements were made in the 1997 PBS series, ‘Stephen Hawking’s Universe’
Robert Jastrow’s quote is cited in ‘Finding Darwin’s God’ by the Catholic biologist Kenneth Miller which is strongly recommended to readers interested in the debate over the compatibility of religion and contemporary science.
Einstein’s complex views on religion, often simplified in polemics, are explored in Walter Isaacson’s new biography, a summary of which he wrote here:
Well, some heads are so big that if they were a bounce house, they could carry away about a dozen kids with a good breeze.
Yeah, but top this, the Chinese invented fireworks. By the way, 4th of July coming up next.
No, a Roman priest brought gun powder to the Chinese.
Are you sure this isn’t a satire?
The RC closed book, discouragement of reading, earthcentric theories, inquisition contributed to the dark ages.
Freedom - in NORTH America is a result or the Reformers.
Each of us is responsible to God.
What the church did for ‘worship’ was invent a new substitute calendar opposite of scripture (and the world uses it religiously today)
-a new substitute sabbath opposite of scripture..
-new substitute holy days opposite of scripture...
The substitutes don’t end there but I don’t want to be accused of uniting catholics and protestants against a common foe, when they seem so into wanting to have their mother/daughter spats....
Reminds me of a funny joke...
Catholics don’t recognize the Protestant Reformation,
Jews don’t recognize the authority of the Pope,
And Baptists don’t recognize each other in the liquor store.
This is a non-sequitur argument. I have read the book. Go read it and read for yourself the specific fact-by-fact argument on the Catholic Church built western civilization. Not just in ideas by the great Catholic philosophers but also the massive movements in philanthropy, universities, charitable organizations, spendthrift habits, arts, sciences, sculpture, literature, architecture, and shaped the culture of our times. There sis the Catholic Church and then there is everything else.
Not to mention the Catholic Christians that stood against Hitler in Nazi Germany. This is even noted at the Holocaust Museum in DC. PS, I am not Catholic.
Quite a point, all of the nations South of the United States are Catholic and allow alcohol, all 20 of them or so.
Former Lutheran Dr. Thomas E. Woods is one more favorite CATHOLIC CONVERTS.
White people did well before Christianity, after Christianity started, after the Catholic denomination gained power, and after the Catholic denomination lost power.
It seems to have something to do with white people, because I look at 500 years of protestant Christianity here, and 500 years of Catholic Christianity to the South, and I see some things related to science and such.
Orville and Wilbur Wright were actually secret Catholics. That’s how they gained access to Vatican archives to find Geovanni Ghinovagelli’s plans from 1427 for a working flying popemobile.
John wrote to the seven churches, so I just accept the fact that it is God who gave us all we have and give Him the glory. Period.
Without the Catholic Church there would be no United States. Columbus and the rest of the great exployers were Catholic.
But we speak English. Isn’t that weird?
Sounds like it. Thanks. Just read Orthodoxy, by GK Chesterton, and it is great. Chesterton was a brilliant Catholic apologist.
Chesterton was so wise—way ahead of his time, and he recognized the evil Postmodernism/Atheism, which was descending on Western Civilization as early as 1905, and if not rejected, would destroy the greatest civilization in the history of man.
Common Sense and Reason was being ejected; Language/Words were being made meaningless. And Chesterton recognized it all and sent out warnings constantly....but it fell on deaf ears. There is a book which includes many of his best essays which is great. He was a prolific writer who wrote on every topic—including the destruction of the Natural Family.
The Catholics could never have created a United States, and they didn’t, but there about 20 Catholics nations starting a few miles from my house.
So every nine years you are going to post this garbage?
So says the church of what's happening now.