Debunking Myths about Catholic History

church, reform



There are many false things that some people believe about Catholicism, especially when it comes to historical facts. Let’s examine some of these myths and hopefully explain what the truth really is.

Catholic Priests Chained Bibles in Church to Keep People from Reading Them

Yes, Catholic priests did keep Bibles chained to the podium, but not to keep people from reading them. In the days before the invention of the printing press, Bibles were very expensive. Some estimate that a Bible back then would have cost the equivalent of a year’s pay. Why? Because  they were all painstakingly handwritten by monks, taking a year or so to create one. The Bible was very necessary for each Mass, as all of the readings were read from it. If someone stole the Bible, then there could be no Mass. So the priests chained them to the podium, to keep the thieves from stealing them, and then selling them on the black market. And besides that, most of the laity were illiterate in those days, so not many people could actually read the Bible even if they had one. Instead, the Church read Scripture to the laity at each Mass, just like it does today, and beautiful stained glass windows in each church helped the people to visualize what Scripture was talking about.

The Catholic Church Burned Bibles to Keep People from Reading Them

Yes, the Catholic Church did burn Bibles, but not to prevent people from reading them. Some rogue priests decided to create their own translation of the Bible. The problem is that some of these translators changed the original meaning of the Latin text to suit their own personal beliefs about what they thought the Bible should have said. A case in point was Father Martin Luther, who added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28, so as to promote his new idea of being saved by “faith ALONE,” and who also eliminated seven books of the Old Testament is his “version” of Scripture. One adaptation of the King James Bible actually said “Thou SHALT commit Adultery.” The Catholic Church burned erroneous versions of the Bible to prevent error.

The Catholic Church Added Books to the Bible

Guilty as charged. The Catholic Church is the originator of the canon of the Bible as we currently know it. The Pharisees and the Saducees had been fighting over the canon of scripture since the time of Jesus. Finally, at the Council of Rome in 382 AD, Pope Damasus I infallibly declared that only 73 books out of hundreds of others were divinely inspired. These 73 books are the ones currently in the Catholic Bible today. The Catholic Church never added any other books to this closed canon. Conversely, Martin Luther, over 1100 years later, subtracted seven books from his Protestant Bible, because he didn’t agree with them. Those books of the Old Testament are Tobit, First Maccabees, Second Maccabees, Baruch, Judith, The Wisdom of Solomon, and Sirach. These divinely inspired books had been in the Bible since the fourth century, but Luther threw them out of his Bible because they didn’t agree with his personal theology. He also wanted to exclude James and Revelation from the New Testament, but his followers prevented him from doing so.  These discarded books are all in the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first printed Bible, published in the century before Luther’s revolution.

The Catholic Church Prevented the Translation of the Bible into Common Languages

This is patently false. Jerome, in the fourth century, under the instruction of Pope Damasus I, translated the Bible from its original Hebrew and Greek into the vernacular of the day, Latin. This translation, known as the Vulgate, was used for centuries, as most people of Europe spoke mainly Latin for a long time. As other cultures began to accept Christianity, other translations  into different languages were done. St. Cyril and Methodius, for example, in the ninth century, translated the Bible into Old Church Slavonic, using the Cyrillic alphabet invented by St. Cyril. The Mentel German translation of the Bible was done in the century before Luther’s version, in 1466.

The Catholic Church Suppressed Science and Education, So that the Laity would Remain Subservient

This amazing lie has been repeated so many times, that some people actually think that it is a fact. The Catholic Church and Charlemagne invented the education process for children. The Catholic Church invented the University for older students. Universities of that day that were created had to have a Papal seal of approval to begin teaching, such as Oxford University. The monasteries of Europe not only preserved great literary masterpieces by transcribing them and hiding them from marauding bands of pillagers, but they also invented champagne, farming techniques such as reclaiming farm land that was former marsh land, cattle breeding, and windmills to pump water. Louis Pasteur was a devout Catholic. Father George Lemaitre was the inventor of the Big Bang Theory, and not only explained it to Einstein, who formerly did not believe in it, but also convinced him of it. Father Roger Bacon invented the scientific process. Father Gregor Mendel discovered the science of genetics. Many craters on the moon are named after Jesuit astronomers, who discovered them with their telescopes. And there are many, many more examples of Catholic scientists. Yes, Galileo was called to account for his teaching of heliocentricity, but not because of the theory itself. Copernicus, in the century before, had taught heliocentricity (the belief that the earth revolves around the sun). But Copernicus only taught it as a theory, whereas Galileo taught it as a fact before it was proven. Since the Catholic Church of that day was the official arbiter of what could be taught in its schools, it warned Galileo to only teach it as a theory, like Copernicus, until it could be proven. Galileo responded by telling the Church that it had to revise its theology to accept heliocentricity. Once he stepped over the line from science into theology, the Church censored him.

The Inquisition was invented by the Catholic Church to torture Protestants so that they would become Catholic

The Inquisition was a legal maneuver by the Church to investigate the infiltration of the Cathars (Gnostics) into the Catholic Church. In the thirteenth century in Europe, there was no such thing as “the separation of Church and State.” Rather, the opposite was true, as the Church and State were considered to be joined at the hip. In order to get good jobs, one had to be a practicing Catholic. Since Gnosticism (the belief that matter was evil and the spirit was good combined with “hidden” knowledge) was starting to creep into society, many Gnostics were claiming to be Catholic in order to get employment. In order to weed these people out, the Church AND the State instituted a judicial process to determine one’s Catholicity. The State of that day did use torture as a means to get the truth out of someone. But if someone admitted that they were only pretending to be Catholic, repented, and then confessed, then there was no torture. The Inquisition began several centuries before Martin Luther became the first Protestant. The Biblical basis for the Inquisition is 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13: “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

The Dark Ages were Created by the Catholic Church and its Hatred of Science 

The Dark Ages were caused by the overrunning of Europe by bands of barbarians, who raped and pillaged, killed intellectuals, and burned libraries. These barbarians were known as the Huns, the Vandals, the Goths, the Muslims, the Vikings, the Franks, and others. The Catholic monasteries actually hid people and books to protect knowledge from being lost forever. After the marauders had conquered, the Church re-copied the hidden books, and educated the barbarians, converting many of them to the faith. And there was also the Black Death, or plague, which killed 1/3 of the population of Europe, including many intellectuals.

Some Popes Were Evil Men

This is true. There were popes selected on the basis of family ties, like the Borgia family. There were even popes who had mistresses. There were Popes who loved parties and wealth. But none of these bad popes ever changed Catholic dogma. Rather, they preserved the sacred deposit of faith. Just as Jesus told his followers to obey everything the Pharisees said to do, but not to imitate them, just so, these bad Popes were to obeyed in matters of faith and morals, but not in personal example.

The Crusades were fought to convert Muslims and to Extend the Reach of the Catholic Church

The Crusades began in response to the Muslims of the eleventh century killing Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and destroying churches in Jerusalem. The Muslims had taken over the Middle East about 400 years earlier, but had previously allowed Christian pilgrims to peaceably visit Jerusalem and to venerate holy sites. But in 1095 AD, the situation had deteriorated considerably. Muslims had begun to kill Christians visiting Jerusalem, and had even started to destroy Christian Churches. The Byzantine Emperior, Alexious I, asked Pope Urban II to send troops to Jerusalem to protect pilgrims from marauding bands of Muslims, and to keep the Muslims from destroying any more churches.  The Crusades began as a result, with the Pope promising indulgences to Catholic warriors who would give up their livelihoods to go fight for Christ in His birthplace. Many European Crusaders paid their own way to the Middle East. There were numerous Crusades, with only the first one in 1095 AD and the last one in 1571 AD being successful. The final Crusade, in 1571 AD, kicked the Muslims out of Europe, and was led by the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope asked for everyone to pray the rosary for the success of the Battle of Lepanto, and it worked. On October 7, 1571, the Christian forces defeated the more numerous Muslim forces. This day is now remembered in the Church’s liturgical season as the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Pope Pius XII was in League with the Nazis during World War II

Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical, co-authored by Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, in 1937, called Mit Brenneder Sorge, the only Encyclical ever issued in German (instead of in Latin). It condemned the Nazis, and was smuggled into every Catholic Church in Germany, and read from the pulpit. As a result of this, thousands of Catholic priests lost their lives. When Cardinal Pacelli became Pope Pius XII, he did speak out against the Nazis publicly. For this, the Nazis rounded up even more people than normal and executed them. As a result of this increased attack, Pope Pius XII, in an attempt to save Jewish lives, decided to help the Jews in a more quiet way, saving over 800,000 of them by hiding them in the Vatican, in Castel Gondolfo, and other places in and around Rome. As a result of this, he was praised by the New York Times, Albert Einstein (a Jew), Golda Meier (future president of Israel), and the chief Rabbi of Rome. In fact, the chief Rabbi of Rome converted to Catholicism after the war and took the Chrisian name of Eugenio, the Pope’s given name. The Nazi plan all along was to kidnap Pope Pius XII and to set up their own Nazi Pope in the Vatican, but Colonel Wolf, who was in charge of this plan, refused to carry it out. In the 1960s, the Communists and Nikita Kruschev instituted a play called “The Deputy,” which smeared Pope Pius XII with Nazi collaboration. Sadly, a lot of people have fallen for this Communist propaganda over true hisorical fact.

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6 thoughts on “Debunking Myths about Catholic History”

  1. Pingback: Debunking Myths about Catholic History – Catholic Stand : Catholic Stand | Working With God

  2. Actually neither the Mentel translation, nor any other early German translation, was approved by the Church. Consequently various bishops tried to suppress them. But Germany was so fragmented that none of their prohibitions had much effect. The Bishop of Mainz suppressed the Mentel Bible, but that only succeeded in making it unavailable in Mainz.

  3. The Catholic Church Prevented the Translation of the Bible into Common Languages

    Actually, the Church did prohibit the reading of Bibles if they were translated by anyone other than Church approved scholars. You can even read actual papal documents on this subject, including Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Yes, their was a time when the Catholic Church “discouraged” translation of Sacred Scriptures into more accessible language (other than Latin) and actually discouraged the faithful from reading Scripture that was not sanctioned by the Church.

    But again, there are typically extenuating circumstances that are omitted in the retelling of these incidents. For example, in 1713, Pope Clement XI issued a condemnation of the Bible translation by French Jansenist theologian, Pasquier Quesnel. (His condemnation was issued as a edict entitled “Unigenitus”) The eloquently French translation was widely embraced by the people. However, the Pope believed that much of Quesnel’s translation was in contradiction with the Catholic Church teaching and interpretation of Scripture.

    In his Unigenitus, Pope Clement XI took except with much of what Quesnel have to say. (You can read a copy of the document in it’s entirety here.) Here are a few of Quesnel’s assertions that caused the uproar:

    It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.

    The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.

    – The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.

    – The Lord’s Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.

    -It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures and have heresies been born.

    -To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.

    -To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.

    -There are a few other Popes throughout Church history that wrote about prohibiting people from reading Scripture without a scholar/theologian to help guide them in the meaning. But again, they were few and far between.

    -It is imperative that faithful catholics read Scripture and participate in Bible studies. For Jesus said to Satan when he tempted Christ to turn rocks into bread for Satan could see that Jesus was hunger: “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)

    Just another little bit of info I thought you and your readers might appreciate.

  4. Nice read, Ray. However, I respectfully offer a couple of clarifications to your article. They are worth mentioning for accuracy.

    Under the section: The Catholic Church Burned Bibles to Keep People from Reading Them

    The erroneous Bibles were printed in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, with the obvious typo : “Thou shalt commit adultery”. Yes, a perfect example of the importance of proofreading before publishing. And remember, back then every letter of a printed document had to be hand set. The book was forever known as The Wicked Bible. The mistake so horrific that the publishers punished the printer with a monetary fine and promptly revoked his printer’s license. (ouch!) King Charles I was not a happy king, thus promoting the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, to order the printer to burn all copies of the Wicked Bible. Yet, eleven copies survived with two of them in the United State this very day; NYC Public Library and the other the Bible Museum in Branson, Missouri.

    So when people make the blanket statement that Catholics burned copies to the Bible to keep people from reading – the reference is a bit misleading. In fact, there have been several Bible-typo-incidents in printing through history, and each time the Bibles were destroyed by the publisher – not the Catholic Church.

    However, it is important to note the Catholic Church is very protective of which translation that catholics use. To this day, the Church does not encourage catholics to read anything but the Church-approved translation NABRE. (New American Bible, Revised Edition).

    From USCCB website: “Released on March 9, 2011, the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) is the culmination of nearly 20 years of work by a group of nearly 100 scholars and theologians, including bishops, revisers and editors. The NABRE includes a newly revised translation of the entire Old Testament (including the Book of Psalms) along with the 1986 edition of the New Testament.

    Thought you’d want to know.

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