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Moczar: Seven Lies About Catholic History

Editorial notice: the subject line above I usually use for books I have read myself; today I am using it for a book I would like to read but haven’t and instead have settled for reading sympathetic reviews and summaries.

Dedicated readers of this blog (all both of you) know that while I come from a fundamentalist Baptist background by way of a stint in Calvary Chapel, I’m more or less a little-em mere Christian. That gets defined as “least common denominator” Christianity, but that’s not how I think of it. I tend to see in different traditions things that are desirable and things that are not desirable, things that reflect defensible values and things that don’t. I read and listen to people from different traditions within Christianity (more conservative than liberal), and I’m always surprised how poorly they understand each other and how badly they misrepresent each other when they are in conversation.

I’m always interested to hear various Protestants answer the question “Why are you not a Catholic?” not least because some people have either thought about the question themselves and have a personal answer, while others have a canned answer they’ve received from someone else. The former tend to be more complicated than the latter; I don’t know if either tends to be better than the other.

There seems to be within every significant branch of conservative Protestant American Christianity an industry of providing canned answers to complicated problems. I don’t know if this is  good or bad; a lot of the products from this industry tend to be pretty poor, but better than nothing.

And apparently Catholics have their own folk apologetics industry too. And as someone who is not (or as some Catholics would say, “not yet”) reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church I’m always interested to see what questions they address and how they address them. Which brings me to Diane Moczar’s 2010 book Seven Lies About Catholic History [link]. Here they are, from the publisher’s page [link]:

  • The Inquisition: how it was not a bloodthirsty institution but a merciful (and necessary) one
  •  Galileo s trial : why moderns invented a myth around it to make science appear incompatible with the Catholic faith (it’s not)
  • The Reformation: why the 16th-century Church was not totally corrupt (as even some Catholics wrongly believe), and how the reformers made things worse for everybody and other lies that the world uses to attack and discredit the Faith

By my count that’s three. This review [link] mentions something about Cortez mistreating Montezuma. This one [link] mentions claims that Pius XII was personally responsible for the deaths of Jews during the Holocaust. That’s five; the title says there are seven so there must be two more.

The latter link summarizes the lies about the Reformation as follows:

Moczar explains that “nearly all the lies discussed in this book, which are truly lies about history, lead back to basic questions about the Catholic faith” and that “most of the lies were originally told by people who opposed the Church,” rather than people who had a legitimate misunderstanding of a particular event.

One of the most obvious examples of this is the set of lies emanating from the so-called Protestant Reformation, the foundational one being that the Catholic Church was so corrupt that its complete overhaul was necessary. This overhaul was carried out by disgruntled men inventing their own religions.

Moczar explains that the Church, made up of human beings, will always have its share of problems and that before the Reformation some of them were schisms and clashes with domineering secular rulers. The “Reformers” exploited these problems in their attempt to discredit the Church and to construct replacements of their own making.

The false doctrines and practices associated with the Reformation brought about not only loss of souls, but civic disunity, poverty and ugliness. The sacking of monasteries and hospitals in England left the poor and sick without the help they had previously received, and an appalling iconoclasm reigned. Works of sacred art that had adorned churches for centuries were destroyed in the name of “reform.” Such actions reveal themselves to be unnecessary and injurious not only on doctrinal grounds, but also on sociological ones.

I don’t know where to start with this; at one level it reminds me of the kind of cut-rate apologetics I hear in within evangelicalism: there’s a bait and switch at the top, suggesting that people who disagree with Moczar’s line on Catholic history aren’t just mistaken, they’re heterodox. And then there’s a portrayal of the Reformation from the Roman Catholic perspective that if I read correctly portrays disestablishment as a net negative and ignores the issue most important to me: the vernacular Scriptures.

I really can’t imagine what it’s like to be a true believer in Roman Catholicism; but I have to admit that when I read evangelicals and other Protestants engaging in this sort of argumentation I’m embarrassed for them, so I have to imagine that Catholics find this sort of thing embarrassing too. Then again, maybe not.

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