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The Catholic Ogre

April 25, 2002

Nearly every day for nearly 2,000 years, Catholics have celebrated Mass, the sacrificial reenactment of the Last Supper. They have built thousands of churches, monasteries, convents, hospitals, schools, and other religious and charitable institutions. They have prayed, fasted, said rosaries, made novenas, and performed innumerable good deeds. They have developed great theologies and created towering works of religious art, literature, and music.

I mention these facts because some of my readers seem to be under the impression that the main activity of the Church throughout history has been fiendish torture — of Protestants for reading the Bible, and of scientists for contradicting the Bible. If the charges are true, it seems that the Church has a rather muddled attitude toward the Bible.

At any rate, these readers should do a little more reading. If they can bear to read something about Catholicism that isn’t anti-Catholic, I can particularly recommend the new book Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church — A 2,000-Year History (published by Forum), by H.W. Crocker III, himself a Catholic convert.

Instead of arguing with Catholic doctrine, these readers, whether Protestant or atheist, repeat the same weary myths, which no honest historian would endorse. The point of their myths is not to inform, but to insinuate what they don’t dare say: that there is some intrinsic connection between Catholicism and cruelty. If you believe in the Nicene Creed, it somehow follows that you will eventually put people on the rack.

Put this way, it’s obvious nonsense. Which is why the enemies of the Church never quite put it this way. They prefer oblique nonsense.

Reading these people, you would get the impression, by insinuation, that because Catholics sometimes tortured and killed heretics and hypocrites, the Catholic Church invented torture. Not killing, of course, because the modern state still finds it necessary to kill people; but, by insinuation, killing is not quite as bad as torture.

To take the favorite example, if you can call it that, there was “the Inquisition.” Which Inquisition? These readers seldom know the difference between the Church’s Inquisition and the notorious Spanish Inquisition, which was a government operation.

[Breaker quote: The uses 
of insinuation]Let us not whitewash the Spanish Inquisition. It killed thousands of people — perhaps as many as 5,000. But over three centuries, that comes out to an average of fewer than 20 per year, and each of them received a personal trial. Contrast that with the modern state, which may kill many thousands in a week or a day, whether by bombing cities or by herding “class” or “race” enemies into frigid concentration camps, without all the bother of individual trials and findings of personal guilt.

We are no longer horrified by the modern habit of bombing cities from airplanes. The practice has become rather dully conventional. Modern man takes it for granted and bears no grudges against the patriotic pilots who do it in obedience to their rulers; but the Catholic savages of the Middle Ages would have found it incomprehensibly cruel. Of course this may only show how primitive they were. How could they possibly understand the necessities of the modern world? We are taught to despise them both for their cruelty and for their humane scruples.

Yes, the early Protestants also dealt harshly with those they deemed heretics. They shared the ancient assumption (hardly challenged until modern times) that criminals deserved torture and death, and they agreed in principle that heresy was a terrible crime that must be snuffed out at its first appearance, even if they defined heresy differently from Catholics. But, after all, they were not Catholics, so they can be forgiven for having agreed with the Catholics in that respect; whereas the Catholics remain unforgivable for having agreed with the Protestants.

The anti-Catholic mentality defies logic. Today it blames the Church for the homosexual predators who have seduced boys in direct violation of the most basic Catholic teachings; the orthodox Catholic press, notably The Wanderer, has been complaining about these appalling betrayals long before the secular press picked up the story, distorting it with the insinuation that the Church somehow approves of the very perversions she has always condemned. (It’s usually the secular press itself that approves of them!)

What else is new? Christ promised to stay with his Church until the end of the world; but he also predicted that she would be hated, slandered, and persecuted. History continues to bear him out.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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of Griffin Internet Syndicate

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