Skip to comments.Refuting anti-catholic objections
Posted on 11/11/2014 2:57:30 PM PST by walkinginthedesert
This is a refutation regarding some anti-Catholic statements that were made in a history class that I attend. The history class is based on ancient civilizations to the 16th century. The professor originally stated that the reason that the Catholic Mass used to be completely in Latin was because the Church did not want the people to understand what was going on, since the Church wanted to oppress the people. I refute this argument in my first response. In this response I describe the use of Latin in the Catholic Mass and why it continues to be used.
The professor then responded and gave further anti-Catholic objections which are addressed in the second response. The objections which the professor brings up in his response is that the Church has historically monopolized knowledge, as a means of social oppression. The professor further states that the Catholic Church has also historically supported the notion of the Divine Rights of Kings which is not a Catholic concept. I help refute both these two objections in my secondary response.
Up to this day the professor has not responded to my secondary response. Let us pray that it plants some seeds of conversion.
(My original response)
Hi my name is Arturo Ortiz and I currently attend the following class (World Civilizations to 16th Century ) on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 A.M
Earlier today you made a statement during your lecture that as a Catholic I found quite offensive. You stated in your lecture that the reason why the Catholic Church celebrated Mass in Latin was as a means of keeping the people from understanding what was going on since it was not in the vernacular. Thus by making this statement you also emphasized that the Church was keeping people "ignorant" and "oppressed". I found these statements quite offensive for several reasons. First and foremost I found them offensive simply as a Catholic and similarly for the fact that the Mass itself is still celebrated predominately in Latin. Lastly simply for the fact that your statement is historically untrue.
In what basis did you make this argument? In other words what source document or historical understanding did you base your conclusions on. I can easily see by such ignorant statement that you do not have a good understanding of Ecclesiastical History and thus on the use of Latin in the Western Church or even in the world for that matter.
Do you not think people like Thomas Aquinas, Albert the Great or King Luis of France did not have the intelligence to follow a Mass in Latin? Could it not be that the Church has different Rites that date back to Ancient times including the Early Christian Church and considered Sacred and at one point one (of the 22) rites was the Roman Rite, which because the spoken language at the time was Latin, the Mass was celebrated in Latin and continued to do so down the years as a sign of uniformity with the Western World.
Many people such as those mentioned above clearly had extensive educations which would have allowed them to understand what was going on in Mass celebrated in Latin. Even the most ignorant however would have also been able to follow a Mass in Latin, for the sole reason that they would have had a good understanding on the Catholic Faith and the nature of the Mass.
I do not think you are aware at the fact that there are still millions of Catholics (including myself) who still attend Masses celebrated completely in Latin. Are you telling me that the Church is trying to keep me ignorant or oppressed? Obviously if this was the case then I would not be in such a place. Rather there are various reasons for why Mass is celebrated in Latin than those which you quickly assumed them to be.
On a similar note why do so many scientists use Latin? Or why do we have so many Latin-derived names for species and medical terms? Is it to keep us ignorant? Or is it because Latin has had tremendous influence in the Western World?I think I could extend this statement even to non- Latin languages. Why do Jews worship in Hebrew or Muslims in Arabic? It can't surely be that all these people are being oppressed because these languages are also not the vernacular?
I would suggest you check the following links to understand why Catholic Masses are celebrated in Latin other than the reasons you gave
(The professors response)
I appreciate the time an effort you put into crafting this message. Its obvious that you are passionate about your beliefs and the level of research that you put into this is impressive. I encourage you to continue to challenge the ideas that are taught to you not only in school but outside of it as well. In fact, in its most effective form, education will lead you to an introspective life that will find you questioning that which most people blindly hold to be truth. If you feel that my comments insulted those beliefs I assure you that that was not my intention.
I myself am a Catholic but also understand that the history of my religion is a complicated one that developed over thousands of years, and is full of many controversies and inconsistencies. When studying the past you need to approach it as a historian. Meaning, you need to look at history outside of your own beliefs and understand it in its own context. The religion of the past, Catholicism in this case, is certainly much different than that of today. The reasons why some masses are recited in Latin today are different that those of before- there is no doubt about that. However, monopolizing knowledge, and then restricting access to it, is a means of social control- especially when power derives from a closer association to divine forces. Having the text and language of the religion in a language that only a small minority could understand acted a means of perpetuating a hierarchy in which a small few, who claim to have divine authority, could rule over the vast majority of uneducated people. Aquinas, Albert the Great, the King of France where all very educated people that of course could understand Latin. But who were these people? A wealthy theologian and kings, the very people who had it in their best interest to restrict access to knowledge. Very few common people (the vast majority of people, by far) could read or write and only spoke their own common language.
It was exactly when knowledge no longer was monopolized by the few (because of inventions like the printing press) that you begin to see the power of religion begin to deteriorate. That of course also coincided with the rejection of the divine right of kings and the rise of democracy. I encourage you to read up on the Protestant Reformation and come speak with me about any of this as I want to encourage you to continue to pursue your own interest and passions.
Dear Professor Medina
Thank You for your generous reply regarding the statement made in class. I have been quite busy and this is the main reason why it took me several days to reply. I would like to divide this email into 4 main parts. The first one will be a gentle criticism regarding your response including your view regarding the history of the Catholic Church which you put forth, as well as your understanding of knowledge. The second section will be an overall refutation on the fact that the Catholic Church centralized all knowledge at the expense of the ignorance of the people. The third section will be a refutation of the so called Divine Rights of Kings as well as an overview of governmental society in the middle Ages. This will include the foundations of Democratic Thought in the middle Ages by various Churchmen and theologians. The fourth section will simply be a conclusion.
Section 1: A Refutation to the argument being made
I think that your knowledge of the history of the Catholic Church and the centralization of knowledge, especially in regards to the middle Ages is still off. I would point out that your understanding of knowledge is in contrast with the view of knowledge in those times as well.
In the first place I think you are operating under a modern understanding of knowledge in which knowledge is seen as power. This overall understanding of knowledge is held by various people such as Howard Zinn, and various post modernists such as we discussed in school. However the classical understanding of knowledge was seen as a contemplation of reality as it reveals itself to us. In other words the classical understanding of truth and knowledge can be called the Correspondence View of Truth and Knowledge. This view holds that, truth is the correspondence of the mind with reality. Thus, that which exists in the mind must be similar (the same) with what is the case in reality for a thing to qualify as truth. This view of truth and knowledge which dates back to Aristotle was prevalent in the middle Ages. It is also known as Metaphysical Realism. I needed to point this out, because in order to really understanding both the Church and the Middle Ages we should understand the fact that it is specifically this later view of truth and knowledge as metaphysical realism which was prevalent in Medieval thought.
On the second note I think that your view in regards to the Church and its centralization and monopolization of knowledge is for most part wrong. This is not to say that the Middle Ages or even the Church for that matter is completely without criticism. There is absolutely no society that does not have bad apples in them. The middle Ages and the Church are both included. It is most definitely true that in both these areas there were people who abused their power and their authority, but this is true of todays society as well. However as I will point in in section two of this email, for most part the Church encouraged knowledge and education.
Lastly in regards to the ignorance of people in the middle Ages (which I will also touch on the second section) I still dont think that you have shown any scholarly evidence for such a view. In that same sense, on what grounds do you hold that lay people were ignorant in this time period, specifically in terms of the Mass and their religion, specifically when their whole life was lived in their religion (primarily Catholic)? They would have known the Gospels not only through the texts, such as the Gospels read at Mass but through various other means as well. Similarly in terms of the vernacular tongue during this time and vernacular translations of the bible I think the following is helpful to consider:
Various parts of Germany, Spain and other parts of Europe had translated bibles. Furthermore what about the Latin Vulgate of Saint Jerome? Vulgar= vulgar= common (the meaning has slightly changed since then). The vulgar tongue was Latin back then. So the Bible was translated into the vernacular from Greek. We see that early on the Church promoted the Bible in the vernacular.
Section 2) Regarding the Church and its contributions to Education, Knowledge and Society in General
It is the main point of this section to point out some of the contributions which the Catholic Church made specifically in the time of the middle Ages. Before I start this section I think it would be good to point out two simple facts regarding this time period. The first one is simply the fact that much of the history regarding this time period (at least until recent scholarship) was vehemently anti-Catholic which Hilaire Belloc points out in his book Europe and the Faith. This is specifically true regarding much of the Protestant Whig view of history, as well as the German school of history which was popular at this time.
Hilaire Belloc basically states that The North Germans thought that their ideas were better than everyone else and similarly the English aristocracy (which was predominately Protestant) found it necessary to have a close philosophical and spiritual alliance with the Germans at this moment of history. Similarly the Germans were the last to join with the Catholic Church and so the faith had no sticking power with them and they were the first to abandon it.
The second point to bring forth before continuing with this section is that the middle Ages should be distinguished from the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages was a period from about (500- 1000 A.D) which was a time when the Roman Empire was slowly deteriorating because of constant warfare and it was a time in which the Church and the State had to constantly help restore many parts of the empire by various means. This includes using means such as preserving manuscripts and constant re-education of the people around this time. The Middle Ages (1000- 1499 A.D) in contrast was a period of great improvements in various areas including education, science, philosophy, religious thought and in society in general.
Education and the University System
The Carolingian Renaissance
A good place to start off with in regards to the contributions of both the Church and the State to education in regards to the Carolingian Renaissance. This is one of the first events that helped transit the Dark Ages into the Middle Ages. The Carolingian Renaissance started under the direction and command of King Charlemagne who Charlemagne strongly encouraged education and the arts, calling upon the bishops to organize schools around their cathedrals. 1
Charlemagne specifically chose his tutor Alcuin of York to help lead the Carolingian renaissance. It is through this Carolingian Renaissance that various educational innovations and improvements were made. Through this Carolingian Renaissance the society of this time was greatly educated. First and foremost, Alcuin help teach Latin to various individuals (which was not an easy task to do). This knowledge of Latin made possible the study of the Latin Church fathers and the classical world of ancient Rome. In fact, the oldest surviving copies of most ancient Roman literature date back to the ninth century, when Carolingian scholars rescued them from oblivion. 2
Similarly it was specifically through the Carolingian Renaissance that we derived a new improvement in writing known as Carolingian miniscule. Carolingian Miniscule helped create the concept of upper and lower case lettering, as well as the concept of spaces between words. Before the Carolingian Miniscule reading a manuscript was very difficult, for the fact that there was only one-case lettering, and there was also no spaces between words.
The University System
Moving from the Carolingian Renaissance, one of the major early contributions of the Church and State in the beginning of the Middle Ages, we go on to the origins and start of the University System as we know it in the modern sense. We need to realize that the university system as we know it to be, originated during the medieval ages. That is not to say that prior to that, there werent any schools, nor any means of higher education. If you study the times of ancient Greece for example you will realize that there were in fact schools. Plato and Aristotle themselves started their own academies for example. Academies for most part were places for studying and developing philosophical and political thought. However it was not until the Medieval Ages around the eleventh century that the university system as we know it to be was founded. The first universities were founded around the countries of Italy, France, Spain, and England.
It was specifically the Church and the State themselves who helped encourage the building and establishing of universities. It was specifically the papacy for example that granted a charter to a university. It is stated that Eighty-one universities had been established by the time of the Reformation. 3
Not only did the papacy have a big role in helping expanding and encouraging the university system, but furthermore it was also through the pope that universities were able to function in the first place. For example Pope Gregory IX issued a papal bull called Parens Scientiarum. This document granted the University of Parish the right to self-government which allowed it to make its own rules regarding to courses and studies. The Church granted charters, protected the universitys rights, sided with scholars against obnoxious interference by overbearing authorities, built an international academic community, and permitted and fostered the kind of robust and largely unfettered scholarly debate and discussion that we associate with the university. 4
One historian thus states that it was the Church and furthermore the papacy which encouraged the establishment of the university. On one hand Lowrie J Daly states that in regards to the university the most consistent and greatest protector was the Pope of Rome. He it was who granted, increased and protected their privileged status in a world of often conflicting jurisdictions5 similarly this same scholar states regarding the Catholic Church that it was the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge 6
The medieval education one would get in a medieval university was quite extensive and profound. In many ways the medieval university was also very similar to the modern university (after all the university has its origins in the medieval ages). In one hand the medieval university. In regards to the medieval university a university possessed a core of required texts, on which professors would lecture while adding their own insights. A university was also characterized by well-defined academic programs lasting a more or less fixed number of years, as well as by the granting of degrees 7
Some other similarities to be considered in the University of the Middle Ages includes the fact that there was a distinction between an undergraduate and graduate. The undergraduate, or artist (that is a student of the liberal arts), attended lectures, took part in occasional disputations in class, and attended the formal disputation of others. His professors or masters, as they were known- typically lectured on an important text, often drawn from classical antiquity.8
So what specifically was studied at these universities? There were a host of things that people would learn in university in the middle Ages. In the first place the seven liberal arts including the quadrivium of astronomy, music, arithmetic, and geometry, as well as the trivium of logic, grammar, and rhetoric. There are a lot more things that were studied At these great institutions students studied not only many of the standard liberal arts disciplines but also civil and canon law, natural philosophy (science), medicine, and theology.9
The following is a good overview of what a graduate would be required to read:
After his bachelorship, and before he petitioned for his license to teach, the student must have "heard at Paris or in another university" the following Aristotelian works: Physics , On Generation and Corruption , On the Heavens , and the Parva Naturalia; namely, the treatises of Aristotle On Sense and Sensation, On Waking and Sleeping, On Memory and Remembering, On the Length and Shortness of Life. He must also have heard (or have plans to hear) On the Metaphysics , and have attended lectures on the mathematical books. [Historian Hastings] Rashdall, when speaking of the Oxford curriculum, gives the following list of works, to be read by the bachelor between the period of his determination and his inception (mastership): books on the liberal arts: in grammar, Priscian; in rhetoric, Aristotles Rhetoric (three terms), or the Topics of Boethius (bk. iv.), or Ciceros Nova Rhetorica or Ovids Metamorphoses or Poetria Virgilii; in logic, Aristotles De Interpretatione (three terms) or Boethius Topics (bks. 13) or the Prior Analytics or Topics (Aristotle); in arithmetic and in music, Boethius; in geometry, Euclid, Alhacen, or Vitellio, Perspectiva; in astronomy, Theorica Planetarum (two terms), or Ptolemy, Almagesta. In natural philosophy the additional works are: the Physics or On the Heavens (three terms) or On the Properties of the Elements or the Meteorics or On Vegetables and Plants or On the Soul or On Animals or any of the Parva naturalia; in moral philosophy, the Ethics or Economics or Politics of Aristotle for three terms, and in metaphysics, the Metaphysics for two terms or for three terms if the candidate had not determined. 10
The Contributions of Monks
Just as it was through the Middle Ages which the university as we know it was founded, thanks to the help of various popes, and churchmen, Catholic monks themselves help contribute to society in various ways. If it would not have been for the monks for example then chances are that many manuscripts of antiquity would have been lost. It should be first noted that people such as Alcuin of York were able to quote from various classical authors which included Aristotle, Cicero, Lucan Pliny, Statius, Trogus, Pomeius, and Virgil. It was the monastic library and the scriptorium, the room set aside for the copying of texts, to which much of ancient Latin literature owes its transmission to us today11
At one swoop a number of texts were recovered which might otherwise have been lost forever; to this one monastery in this one period we owe the preservation of the later Annals and Histories of Tacitus (Plate XIV), the Golden Ass of Apuleius, the Dialogues of Seneca, Varro's De lingua latina , Frontinus' De aquis, and thirty-odd lines of Juvenal's sixth satire that are not to be found in any other manuscript. 12
Similarly the monks themselves helped educate society. This is true not only regarding their own, but to various individuals in society. St. John Chrysostom tells us that already in his day it was customary for people in Antioch to send their sons to be educated by the monks. St Benedict himself personally instructed the sons of Roman nobles. St Boniface established a school in every monastery he founded in Germany, and in his monks set up schools wherever they went.13
Scientific Development in the Medieval Ages
Now we get into the medieval foundation of modern scientific thought. Contrary to common opinion, science was not suppressed as is the common understanding of this time period. Modern scholarship has brought about the reality that contrary to the common opinion, the Middle Ages actually is the root for modern scientific thought.
Some of the most compelling arguments came from the medieval times. For example prior to the start of Christianity, and definitely from the time of the Middle Ages, there was a popular scientific consensus that the universe was eternal, that was the belief that the universe had no beginning and no end. This belief was common throughout most if not all the pagan civilizations. This is true of the Babylonians, Aztecs, and even to some extent the Romans and Greeks. Modern science disregards this as wrong. Most atheists denounce this claim, stating that the universe is not eternal but rather created to what is referred to as the Big Bang. This belief in a created universe however roots itself in Christianitys belief in a created universe by God, which was a predominant belief in medieval Europe; a predominant Catholic place.
Similarly prior to the medieval ages, and definitely prior to Christianity, there was a certain animism that was held in scientific consensus throughout the entire pagan world. Such stillbirths can be accounted for by each of these cultures conceptions of the universe and their lack of belief in a transcendent Creator who endowed his creation with consistent physical laws. To the contrary, they conceived of the universe as a huge organism dominated by a pantheon of deities, and destined to go through endless cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. This made the development of science impossible. Created things had a mind and will of their own14
Fr. Stanley Jaki further explains that it was the Christian belief in the Incarnation which helped disprove an eternal and animist universe. The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation militates strongly against such thinking. Christ is the monogenes or only begotten Son of God. Within the Greco-Roman worldview, on the other hand, the universe was the monogenes or only begotten emanation from a divine principle not really different from the universe itself.15
Astronomy was greatly advanced as well during this time period. It was the monasteries of the medieval world that provided scientists to develop their astronomical understandings and knowledge. Most monasteries during that time served not only as a sacred place of worship but also practically as solar observatories. It its scientific zeal, the Church adapted cathedrals across Europe, and a tower at the Vatican itself, so their darkened vaults could serve as solar observatories. Beams of light that fell past religious art and marble columns not only inspired the faithful but provided astronomers with information about the sun, the earth and their celestial relationship16 It is shown that the Church gave a lot of financial support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries.
There are several other scientific breakthroughs and innovations which came about during the Middle Ages. For example a German monk named Gerbert de Aurillac (943-1003) became Pope Sylvester II. History credits him as the Pope who introduced the system of Arabic numerals to the West 17
It was through Saint Thomas Aquinas who helped develop the scholastic approach to science, including philosophical inquiry that we use today. A scholastic argument begins with a question, followed by a contrary argument and then to state the contrary to the contrary argument18 It was through this scholastic approach that Aquinas helped develop another modern scientific concept called the principle of objective reality. This states that things that can be observed are real (this is basically similar to the metaphysical realism talked about at the beginning of this article).
The Galileo Case
I have spent the entirety of the second section stating various contributions that the Catholic Church made to society, specifically in the middle ages. I think the best way to conclude this section is by briefly talking about the Galileo case which involved Galileo Galilei. This case is the most common case used against the Church, but in defense of the Church I will help give a brief background regarding the case itself and show that Galileo was not completely blameless. Cardinal John Henry Newman once stated that Galileo was the one stock argument against the Church He found it amazing that this is in reality the only case that people could come up with in regards to the Churchs apparent opposition to science.
Before we get to Galileo and the case itself we should go a little back in regards to Nicholas Copernicus and Ptolemy. Nicholas Copernicus was a Catholic scientist who came from a devoutly religious family. Nicholas Copernicus believed in the Ptolemaic view of the universe. Ptolemy was a Greek philosopher who believed in the geocentric view of the universe. He believed that the earth was the center of the universe and that all the other planets including the sun revolved around it. He also believed that planets were perfect spheres and that they orbited in a perfectly constant speed.
Nicholas Copernicus believed in the Ptolemaic view of the universe and accepted most of its ideas for granted however he just wanted to change a few things. He stated that the sun was at the center and that all the planets revolved around it (heliocentric model). What should be noted in that for most part the Copernican theory of the universe (heliocentric model) was actually applauded by the Church. Copernicus died in 1543 he had published a series of work at the urging of Catholic Cardinals. It was not primarily the Church, but astronomers who objected to it because they had strong arguments against it 19
Now we get into the actual topic of Galileo. Galileo Galilei was an astronomer who started to observe the universe through a telescope and he observed certain things which seemed to undermine the traditional Ptolemaic system. For example Galileo observed craters on the moon which seemed to contradict the notion of a perfect sphere which the Ptolemaic system was founded upon. Similarly he found moons on Jupiter which also seemed to contradict the traditional Ptolemaic system of the universe. What is to be noted is that Galileos work for a long period of time was actually celebrated by prominent churchmen. In late 1610, Fr. Christopher Clavius wrote to tell Galileo that his fellow Jesuit astronomers had confirmed the discoveries he had made through his telescope20
Furthermore even the popes of that time found favor in his scientific theories he was bringing forth. Galileo enjoyed a long audience with Pope Paul V, and the Jesuits of the Roman college held a day of activities in honor of his achievements21 Even Cardinal Maffeo Barberini who became Pope Urban VIII praised the work of Galileo. It was after all Pope Urban VIII who brought the case against Galileo. So the question is what happened? Why did such change take place in regards to Galileo?
What should be noted is that the Church always allowed Galileo to bring forth his scientific observations with the only prohibition that he treat them merely as theories until they are fully proven. It is specifically this which got Galileo in trouble Galileo believed the Copernican system to be literally true rather than merely a hypothesis that yielded accurate predicitons.22 The problem is that Galileo did not have sufficient proof to back up his argument. As the scholar Jerome points out
Galileo was convinced that he had the truth. But objectively he had no proof with which to win the allegiance of open-minded men. It is a complete injustice to contend, as some historians do, that no one would listen to his arguments, that he never had a chance. The Jesuit astronomers had confirmed his discoveries; they waited eagerly for further proof so that they could abandon Tychos system and come out solidly in favor of Copernicanism. Many influential churchmen believed that Galileo might be right, but they had to wait for more proof 23
Thus the reality is that Galileo started to promote his scientific ideas against the prevailing geocentric Ptolemaic model, when he could not even find solid proof for defending his own argument. The only real argument that Galileo had for proving his scientific theory was in regards to tidal waves. For example Galileo used the example of a tidal wave and argued that the reason we see waves is because the earth is both rotating and revolving and the result is that it creates waves. While this argument is not altogether bad, it did not even come close to the arguments that his opponents had. When you study the prevailing ideas regarding those who held the geocentric model, you can easily see that they were not mere simpletons who had absolutely no scientific understanding. Rather it was precisely because their arguments were pretty well grounded that Galileo had a hard time refuting them.
In the first place, the geocentric ideas make common sense. If the universe is truly rotating and revolving the why dont we feel like we are moving? On a more sophisticated level the geocentric model did work quite well for observing planetary motion. There would not be any reason why this model would have been used for about 2000 years if it were not the case. The most solid evidence that the geocentrists had however was in regards to stellar parallax. A parallax is simply the apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer. A stellar parallax is simply the extension of a parallax in regards to stars. The geocentrists argued against Galileo stating that if he was so sure that the earth is revolving around the sun then why do we not see parallax shifts? This is a rather sophisticated argument.
Besides the fact that Galileo started to teach his own scientific views without sufficient evidence, which went against the prohibition of treating his views as mere theories, there are two other significant incidents which got Galileo further in trouble. The first one is simply Galileos insistence that all biblical verses which portray the world as motionless needed to be reinterpreted. The question that arose was, can a layman simply go around and demand that biblical verses be re-interpreted based on a theoretical model that he couldnt even prove?
Saint Cardinal Robert Bellarmine being more of a scientist than Galileo commented:
If there were a real proof that the sun is in the center of the universe, that the earth is in the third heaven, and that the sun does not go round the earth but the earth round the sun, then we should have to proceed with great circumspection in explaining passages of Scripture which appear to teach the contrary, and rather admit that we did not understand them than declare an opinion to be false which is proved to be true. But as for myself, I shall not believe that there are such proofs until they are shown to me 24
The most significant incident that got Galileo in trouble was his Dialogue on the Great world Systems in which he expressed the Copernican heliocentric model as literal truth instead of as a mere theory. Furthermore Galileo wrote this book as a dialogue and one of the characters of this dialogue was named Simplicio (simpleton or simple-minded; stupid) an individual who did not know much. In this character he put Pope Urban VIIIs opinion which justifiably got him angry. Galileo was known for having a pretty rough personality which made it easy for him to make enemies.
In conclusion it is most definitely true that the Galileo case could have been handled better, but the fact is that Galileo is not altogether blameless. The Church allowed Galileo to express his scientific theory with the only provision that he treated as such and not as anything more without sufficient proof. For this reason Galileo went against this provision with a lack of proof and solid arguments to defend his position. Furthermore his personality was noted to be quite rude in general.
In the second section I showed various contributions that the Catholic Church made to the areas of education and knowledge and thus refute the idea the Church was opposed to it. I will use this third and last main section to help refute the so called Divine Rights of kings. I will show that the concept of Divine Rights is actually not a Catholic and for most part a medieval concept, but rather a concept which derived from the Late medieval ages, and which found its way into complete acceptance in the Protestant Reformation. Similarly I will show that too much extent the Catholic Church actually helped develop much of democratic though, such as is found in the Declaration of Independence.
Before I get into the whole concept of divine rights of kings or even the Churchs contribution to a medieval concept of government including democracy, I will give a simple background on what the Church teaches regarding society, the state, and authority.
Society and civil authority
The Church does teach that civil authority comes from God. This belief comes from several aspects including Divine Revelation which includes various biblical verses. Some of these verses include (John 19:11) in which Jesus tells Pontius Pilate You would have no power over me had it not been given you from above. Another evident biblical verse regarding the origins of civil authority comes from (Rom 13) in which Saint Paul states There is no power but from God and those that are, are ordained of God. Therefore he who resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God Similarly the Church teaches that civil authority is comes from God similarly on the basis that God is the author of Nature, and Nature imperatively requires civil authority to be set up and obeyed.25
The Church teaches that society just as marriage is a natural institution. In following Aristotle the Church states that man is a social creature, and this can easily be seen. Aquinas states It is natural for man more than for any other animal to be a social and political animal, to live in a group. It is specifically this reality why John Donne wrote his poem No Man Is an Island
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
Is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
Is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
Well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
Own were; any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
The bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
For this reason authority then in the abstract is something that everyone loves, for it is in his nature to live in society and authority is what keeps society together.
Limitation of civil authority and Medieval political thought
It is specifically right here which I will help refute the idea that the divine rights of kings originated with the Catholic Church, or that it was ever practiced during the majority of the middle ages. I should however quickly point out the fact that various ancient civilization prior to Christianity did in fact believe in a divine rights of kings. The predominant reason for this is that there was no distinction between religion and the state. All religions were localized to a particular nation, tribe or city, and the cult of the gods was bound up with the cult of the state- this was true in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, everywhere. It was Christ who first introduced a distinction between the sacerdotium and regnum (Church and State) when He said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and God what is God's" (Mark 12:17)26
For this reason it is that the Divine Rights of kings is incompatible with Catholic thought. According to the divine rights in a State once monarchial, monarchy is forever the only lawful government, and all authority is vested in the monarch, to be communicated by him , to such as he may select for the time being to share power. This divine rights of kings (very different from the doctrine that all authority, whether of king or of republic, is from God), has never been sanctioned by the Catholic Church27
In the High Middle Ages, the king did not have absolute power. Furthermore his creeds were not absolute, nor his commands. It could be stated that the deciding factor of each major decision rested upon the Grand Council. This council was a political entity made up of the king, as well as heads of the various noble families of that region, clergymen, commanding knights, and the sort. Furthermore they would vote on the particular issue at hand, putting a check on the power of the king. In the middle ages there was a strong belief that government is based on the consent of the governed.
Catholic sources of democratic thought and the Declaration of Independence
Something that many people might not realize is precisely the fact that much of democratic thought and furthermore the Declaration of Independence was influenced by Catholic theologians such as Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. Although it is true that for most of the medieval ages the normal form of government was a monarchy, the reality is that the Catholic Church has always aloud various forms of governmental systems, so long as people recognize that the source of authority always comes from God. Michael Davis states:
The Church is not committed to any particular form of government, and despite the tendency of Popes to refer to princes in their encyclicals, they were in no way opposed to democracy, if all that is meant by this term is that those who govern are chosen by a vote (based on either limited or universal suffrage). What the Popes maintain, logically and uncompromisingly, is that the source of authority is precisely the same in 18-century France, as in a country where the government is chosen in a democratic election in which every citizen has the right to vote, such as the United States today. In either situation papal teaching on the source of authority is clear and has already been stated: All authority comes from God 28
Similarly Saint Robert Bellarmine a Catholic cardinal and theologian often spoke about the negative side effects of an absolute monarchy in the hands of man, and stated that a mixed government with some democracy in it was the most balanced:
Monarchy theoretically and in the abstract, monarchy in the hands of God who combines in Himself all the qualifications of an ideal ruler, is indeed a perfect system of government; in the hands of imperfect man, however, it is exposed to many defects and abuses. A government tempered, therefore, by all three basic forms (i.e., monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy), a mixed government, is, on account of the corruption of human nature more useful than simple monarchy29
This then leads us to the Declaration of Independence itself. Many people dont realize that this important document has a lot of root in the thought of both Saint Thomas Aquinas and more specifically Saint Robert Bellarmine. It is true that some enlightenment thought made up the declaration of Independence but not as much as people think. The fact is that in terms of the Declaration of Independence for most part the principles enunciated in it are identically the political thought and theory predominant and traditional among representative Catholic churchmen, and not the political thought and inspiration of the politico-religious revolt of the sixteenth century, nor of the later social-contract or compact theories30
If you study the documents regarding the Declaration of Independence side by side with the statements of people such as Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Robert Bellarmine you will see a lot of similarities. Some of the most common examples are:
Equality of man
Declaration of Independence: All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
Bellarmine: All men are equal, not in wisdom or grace, but in the essence and nature of mankind (De Laicis, c.7) There is no reason why among equals one should rule rather than another (ibid.). Let rulers remember that they preside over men who are of the same nature as they themselves. (De Officus Princ. c. 22). Political right is immediately from God and necessarily inherent in the nature of man (De Laicis, c. 6, note 1).
St. Thomas: Nature made all men equal in liberty, though not in their natural perfections (II Sent., d. xliv, q. 1, a. 3. ad 1).
The function of government
Declaration of Independence: To secure these rights governments are instituted among men.
Bellarmine: It is impossible for men to live together without someone to care for the common good. Men must be governed by someone lest they be willing to perish (De Laicis, c. 6).
St. Thomas: To ordain anything for the common good belongs either to the whole people, or to someone who is the viceregent of the whole people (Summa, la llae, q. 90, a. 3).
The source of power
Declaration of Independence: Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Bellarmine: It depends upon the consent of the multitude to constitute over itself a king, consul, or other magistrate. This power is, indeed, from God, but vested in a particular ruler by the counsel and election of men (De Laicis, c. 6, notes 4 and 5). The people themselves immediately and directly hold the political power (De Clericis, c. 7).
St. Thomas: Therefore the making of a law belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who has care of the whole people (Summa, la llae, q. 90, a. 3). The ruler has power and eminence from the subjects, and, in the event of his despising them, he sometimes loses both his power and position (De Erudit. Princ. Bk. I, c. 6).
The right to change the government
Declaration of Independence: Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government...Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient reasons.
Bellarmine: For legitimate reasons the people can change the government to an aristocracy or a democracy or vice versa (De Laicis, c. 6). The people never transfers its powers to a king so completely but that it reserves to itself the right of receiving back this power (Recognitio de Laicis, c. 6).
St Thomas: If any society of people have a right of choosing a king, then the king so established can be deposed by them without injustice, or his power can be curbed, when by tyranny he abuses his regal power (De Rege et Regno, Bk. I, c. 6).
The Protestant Reformation and the Divine Rights of kings
I have already pointed out the fact that ever since ancient times various civilizations already believe in some way or another in the divine rights of kings. This is true regarding the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and most other pagan civilizations. I also pointed that Catholic thought rejected this axiom. However this is not to say that no one in the middle ages abused their power, or that there were not individual monarchs who actually believed this. During the late Middle Ages this is specifically what was going on. Many monarchs did in fact start abusing their power because of their lust for power and greed. However as Hilaire Belloc points out, it was not until the Protestant Reformation that the notion of the divine rights of kings came back into society. Hilaire Belloc states:
A Claim to absolute monarchy is one of the commonest and most enduring of historical things. Countless centuries of the old Empires of the East were passed under such a claim, the Roman Empire was based upon it, the old Russian State was made by it, French society luxuriated in it for one magnificent century, from the accession of Louis XIV till Fontenoy. It is the easiest and (when it works) the most prompt of all instruments. But the sense of an absolute civil government at the moment of the Reformation was something very different. It was a demand, and appetite, proceeding from the whole community, a worship of civil authority. It was deification of the State and of law, it was the adoration of the Executive 31
Furthermore one should not look any further for a clearer example of the practice of the divine rights of kings during the Reformation than the cases of Martin Luther and the reign of King Henry the VIII. Starting off with Martin Luther, Luther denied any limitation of political power either by Pope or people, nor can it be said that he showed any sympathy for representative institutions; he upheld the inalienable and Divine authority of kings in order to hew down the Upas tree of Rome32 Lord Action in page 42 of his book History of Freedom stated that Lutheran writers constantly condemn the democratic literate that arose in the second age of the Reformation and Calvin judged that people were unfit to govern themselves, and declared the popular assembly an abuse.
The reign of King Henry the VIII used the axiom of the divine rights of kings as much as the other reformers mentioned used it. We could actually say that during the reign of King Henry VIII this notion was used even more. The University of Dallas Gerald Wegemer argues very convincingly that the divine right of kings is a Protestant construct and not a Catholic one in the modern world. Gerald Wegemer states:
In 1528 Anne Boleyn (King Henry VIIIs illegitimate wife) exacerbated Henrys lust for imperial power by giving him a book that justified everything he would ever want to do. That book was William Tyndales The Obedience of a Christian Man. More called this book a book of disobedience and diplomatically cautioned Henry about its content. Henry was already highly cautious about the author; he had, in fact banned Tyndale from England for advocating Luthers revolutionary ideas. Nonetheless, he was soon educed by the claims of Tyndales book. This book is famous in the history of political thought because it gives the first jurisdiction in the English language for the divine right of kings. 33
The last well known example of the notion of the divine rights of kings comes from Robert Filmer who was the private theologian of James I of England. In his theory regarding the divine rights, he proclaimed that the king can do no wrong. All these notions presented above regarding the divine rights of king were not a Catholic concept. Rather it was a concept which for most part existed in the ancient world, and which the Protestant Reformation helped bring back. Now this does not mean that monarchs prior in the Middle Ages prior to the reformation did not abuse their power, but it simply shows that the notion itself was never accepted in Catholic thought.
Section 4) Conclusion
I hope that this information helps refute some false notions and objections against the Catholic Church in regards to the monopolization of knowledge, as well as help refute notions such as that the Catholic Church ever accepted the divine right of kings, or that it was ever really hostile towards democratic thought.
1) Thomas E Woods How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (Regnery Publishing 2005) pg. 16
2) Woods How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization pg. 18
3) Woods How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization pg.48
4) Woods How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization pg.51
5) Lowrie J. Daly The Medieval University 1200-1400) (New York: Sheed and Ward 1961) pgs. 213-214
6) Lowerie J. Daly The Medieval University pg.202
7) Woods How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization op.cit pg.48
8) Thomas E Woods A Gift From the Middle Ages
11) L.D Reynolds and N.G Wilson Scribes and Scholars: A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature 3rd Ed (Oxford: Clarenton Press, 1991) pgs. 109-110
12) Thomas E Woods (What We Owe the Monks)
13) Woods What We Owe the Monks op. cit
14) Woods Howe the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization op. cit pgs. 76-77
15) Stanley L. Jaki Medieval creativity in science and technology in patterns or principles and other essays (Bryan Mawr, Pa.: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1995), pg. 80
16) William J Broad How the Church aided Heretical Astronomy New York Times, October 19, 1999
17) Benjamin M. Vallejo Jr. PhD There was nothing dark about the Dark Ages. The Medieval Origins of Science (Essays in science, Technology and society college of science, University of the Philippines) pg.5
18) Vallejo There was nothing dark about the Dark Ages pg.7
19) Thomas E Woods Catholic Church Builder of Civilization Episode 49
20) Woods How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization op. cit pg.69
22) Woods How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization pg.70
23) Jerome Langford Galileo, Science, and the Church pg.68
24) James Brodrick The Life and work of Blessed Robert Francis Cardinal Bellarmine pgs. 267-97
25) Joseph Rickaby Civil Authority (The Catholic Encyclopedia 1907)
26) Boniface Political Authoritys Divine Origin
27) Joseph Rickaby Civil Authority op. cit
28) Michael Davis The Reign of Christ the King (TAN Publishers, 1992) pg.12
29) REV. John C. Rager Catholic Sources and the Declaration of Independence
31) Hilaire Belloc Europe and the Faith (TAN Publishers, 1920) pg.162
32) John C. Rager Catholic Sources op. cit
Arturo: If your professor ever said anything nice or truthful about Catholicism, he would be denied tenure and probably lose his pathetic job. However if you want to hear him speak positively and never say anything negative, wait until he discusses Islam.
You basic premise is faulty. What your professor said is indeed correct and is recorded in history books as well as religious history books.
You can be offended all you wish that does not change facts. In the US the roman ‘mass’ is not typically celebrated in Latin. Your lack of understanding of what Vatican II was all about or the changes in the church in the last forty years. Sorry to burst your bubble. Feelings are not facts. Being offended is not about dealing with history
Then please share with us your understanding of Vatican II and the Novus Ordo Nifster.
You lack comprehension as defined in Liberal Academia. You took the Prof’s statement at face value and formulated a very reasonable and truthful response to correct his errors. Trouble is what the Prof really meant was,
“I don’t like what the Catholic Church teaches about sex.” Every argument against the Church by a progressive is really about that. In their view the Church is repressive regarding all things sexual. To illustrate the truth of this they must demonstrate how the Church has been repressive throughout history. No doubt to them a Church that suppresses sexual freedom by holding to the standard of sex within marriage must have suppressed other freedoms as well.
Your professor has no interest in the truth. He is only interested in showing how the Church has stymied human progress age after age after age. Oh to these people human progress is measured by how much religion has been silenced in the public square.
Couldn’t the same be said of the medical profession, the legal profession? The universities at the time taught everything in Latin. You seem pretty smart. Ever study Philosophy? Even today, it’s written so most people can’t understand any of it.
Even later on -- until relatively recent times, in fact --all educated people in the West were educated in Latin anyway. It wasn't like it was some secret code available only to a few.
Psst! For the low price of just $59, you can buy this book:
... in which all of the secrets of the dark Papist rituals are spelled out in clear English right next to the highly-mysterious Latin! Don't tell anyone I told you!
Wow; great essay, great research, well assembled; a splendid work.
Wonderfully done Arturo! May God bless you for your witness!
Did you get an A? ;-)
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