Catholicism and history

(I’m not 100% whether this topic belongs to apologetics or not. I sincerely hope I haven’t stepped on anyone’s toes by posting this here!).

I’m a college student of history, and I’ve always loved and adored history. As well as that, I have begun the journey to deepen my faith by questioning it and to learn more about it. I can safely say at this point, that I’m ‘in love’ with Catholicism. However, I find my biggest stumbling block isn’t Mary, the saints, the Pope, or even purgatory. It’s the actual history of the Catholic church.

I’ve attending lectures in the past where the lecturer has made out the blessed Eucharist to be some sort of nonsense that the Popes imposed in response to protestantism. Also, I’ve been reading in a book about the Avignon Papacy where the author of the book basically makes out that Catholicism is a joke. I know and realise that I could respond to this by thinking that this is simply anti-Catholic sentiment, but I still have to wonder why did the Church receive such a bad name in history?

I also realise that while some of the people belonging to the Church are sinners, that by no means reflects the Church itself. But why are some Popes seen as such villains in history? - I mean, some Popes are depicted as interfering with secular politics, corrupting, and lusting for power. Is this just all an exaggeration of actual history, or is it fact? If it is fact, I’m at a loss why God would allow such people as the head of His appointed Church.

Please don’t think I myself am anti-Catholic, because I am certainly not. I’m just looking for answers on how to reconcile history with faith.

History is awesome!
I found the greatest course that covers the history of the Catholic church:

Now, don’t get it from that site. They want $200 just for the downloadable audio course.

If you go to Audible, you can get it for only 1 credit (which is the equivalent of like $15) and if you don’t have an Audible account yet, you can actually get it free because they give you a free credit when you sign up for a trial.

Anyway, I found it to be a great and impartial course. The professor who does it also has a great course on Augustine’s Confessions. Check it out! :smiley:

Hi, I’m also a college student studying History, it’s my major in fact. There are lots of good tracts and articles in this website that could really answer your questions, but I’ll also try to answer you to the best of my ability.

For the most part, antagonism toward the Catholic Church arose during the Protestant Reformation. It all began (more or less) when a German monk, Martin Luther, wrote down a list of his grievances against the Church. These were known as the 95 Theses.

The Blessed Eucharist was not imposed on anyone, since it was celebrated (albeit, with a different, less fancy name) since Jesus first said the words of consecration. Martin Luther, to my knowledge, didn’t quite believe that Jesus was present in the Blessed Eucharist. There is some debate on his opinion. But the important thing is, is that the Eucharist has been around since the beginning of the Church. :slight_smile:

As for some Popes being viewed as villains or bad people, that’s more complicated. Some is exaggeration, some, unfortunately, not. I’m no expert, but I believe that the Church became involved in politics and such over time, most likely out of necessity. At some point, however, some clergy and even Popes became quite power hungry. Pope Alexander the 6th comes to mind. That being said, just because some Catholics behaved scandalously, does not mean the Church itself was evil and without moral authority. Let’s remember that St. Peter, the first Pope, abandoned Jesus when he was first captured. Yet Jesus chose him as the first Pope, even after he had died and was resurrected.

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions. Feel free to look up some of this information in this website, there’s lots of great stuff here. If you have any more questions, feel free to post them. God Bless! :slight_smile:

You shouldn’t be attending lectures and reading books contrary to the Catholic faith unless there is a very good reason. It is considered a violation of the first commandment to do so unless there is a good reason. If college courses with this material are imposed on you then you have little choice but you shouldn’t be participating if you have a choice.

The fact of the matter is that some Popes were wicked and others were saints. It is easy to look up.


Some historians leave out critically important facts and distort the ones they do report. For a balanced and interesting account of history I recommend the following.

by Anne Carroll, published by Tan Books, Phone #

800* 437* 5876

This book is written by the principal of an all girls Catholic high school. It is one of the most interesting book that I have ever read. It shows how God has worked through history in His Church and it has a lot of apologetically useful information as well. History is not just about one country advancing because of some new technological weapon that it uses to subdue its enemies. History is about people. In this book you really get to know some important people in Church history. Often she will give quotations from them at turning points in history that lets you see right into their character, good or bad. History is about how God’s divine providence prevails.


I highly recommend that as a student of history you look to the following authors:

Hilaire Belloc
Regine Pernoud
Warren Carroll

Sorry for the repeat posts - the board was acting funny and didn’t seem to be taking my response. Michael, please feel free to delete.

PoeticCondition #1
I also realise that while some of the people belonging to the Church are sinners, that by no means reflects the Church itself. But why are some Popes seen as such villains in history? - I mean, some Popes are depicted as interfering with secular politics, corrupting, and lusting for power. Is this just all an exaggeration of actual history, or is it fact? If it is fact, I’m at a loss why God would allow such people as the head of His appointed Church.

It is salutary to remember that Christ’s chosen Judas, one of the Twelve, betrayed Him.

The reality is that Popes do not possess impeccability (freedom from sin) but infallibility from teaching error when definitively teaching the whole Church on faith and morals. The fact of some evidently bad popes, none of whom taught error in defining faith or morals to the whole Church, exemplifies Christ’s protection. The failure of some is used as an excuse to vilify the Church.

Father John McCloskey, reviewing *How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization *by Thomas E. Woods Jr. - published by Regnery Publishing, 2005, writes:
“Woods notes, ‘Western civilization stands indebted to the Church for the university system, charitable work, international law, the sciences, and, important legal principles. … Western civilization owes far more to the Catholic Church than most people — Catholic included — often realize. … The Church, in fact, built Western civilization.’ ”

**Unbroken Apostolic Succession (EWTN)
Question from Steve on 06-30-2003: **
I don’t understand the catholic position on the following: if Peter was the first pope, and there is an unbroken Apostolic Succession between him and the current pope, how is it that the Borgias (and any other of the obviously corrupt, sinful, and wordly popes) don’t interrupt or “break” the God ordained line of church fathers?
Answer by Catholic Answers on 07-01-2003:
That some popes were less than holy, as in the case of the Borgias, does not interrupt the line of succession. They were valid popes. That men of such low morals headed Christ’s Church without doing damage to her teachings simply testifies to the presence of the Holy Spirit protecting her from error – as Jesus promised.
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

In First Things (November 1997), Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon wrote that “the Pope himself has acknowledged the mistakes and sins of Christians in connection with, among other things, the Crusades, the Inquisition, persecution of the Jews, religious wars, Galileo, and the treatment of women. Thus, though the Pope himself is careful to speak of sin or error on the part of the Church’s members or representatives, rather than the Church in its fullness, that important theological distinction is almost always lost in the transmission.”

It is vital to understand that the Pope never apologises for the Church which is “held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy.” [Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium, art 39].

To demonstrate clearly that no one else has any authority against His Supreme Vicar and His Church, Christ gave His Supreme Vicars Sole authority:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

That is why the bad popes, among the vast majority who have been good popes, have never taught falsehood in dogma or doctrine to the whole Church. That is precisely why designating himself as the servant of the servants of God, Pope Gregory the Great devoted his life in the service of God and things good and peaceful.

There are some great books out there on the history of Catholicism. You should ask for recommendations and do your own investigating.
It doesn’t sound like you are learning about history and Catholicism from the right source.

It’s called Orignal Sin; no human is immune from it, which just serves to prove the Church all the more right, BTW. And that’s the point; the Church is perfect in her teachings on faith and morals, and one teaching is that her people-all of them-will always be in need of conversion and renewal; none of them are impeccable. The Church’s people fall short when they fail to heed her own teachings.

Thank you so much for the replies. They were very much appreciated.

I suppose the miracle of the Church is that it survived the ups and downs. I haven’t considered that before. The reason why I so concerned about the history of the Catholic Church is because it’s constantly thrown in my face how bad the Catholic Church was (and is to a certain extent today). I hail from Ireland, and a lot of Irish people are stick licking their wounds from the time when Catholic clergy were practically ruling the Irish system. But I never considered that another miracle lies in the fact that throughout the bad times, Church teaching never changed.

Anyway, I thank all you answered again. I also really like the articles that were linked to me.

The professor is merely regurgitating the post-Christian liberal secular agenda that powers University level courses. Even some Catholic Universities are its victims.

My wish, is that students would study the questions on their own, assuming they know the rudiments of research and the importance of primary documents, and challenge these bigots. Otherwise, I fear they (the post-Christian liberal secular establishment) will rest on their laurels of vapid and shallow understanding and induce the younger generation to accept their ignorance as learning. :mad:

Hmmm, I posted last night and not sure why my post did not show up… so here’s a repeat…

If you love history, here are some authors for you to read that can give you a better perspective on Catholic history:

Hilaire Belloc
Regine Pernoud
William Carroll

What David Filmer wrote was so correct it was worth saying three times! :wink:

If you live in the western world, it is due to the Protestant Deformation/Reformation. Much of the history, especially for those in the US, since the country was begun by mostly Protestants, was written by those who wished to show the Church in a bad light, and justify Christians being separated from her.

It really is as simple as that.

Sure, there were sinful and bad things that those in the Church did, but much of what was claimed never happened. And for events that could be spun negatively about the Church, were spun in the worst possible light.

Take for example the Crusades. This was used to show the horrible, awful, terrible Church as killing and destroying the peaceful citizens of Jerusalem without any provocation at all. And the numbers killed were inflated to astronomically silly heights. The actual truth is that the Crusades were a defensive response to four centuries of attacks and conquests by Muslims. So you see how these events in history were intentionally distorted to paint the Church in the worst possible light.

Re popes:
You know of course, the first pope Peter denied Christ. Now to be FAIR Jesus told Peter in advance that he would do that. He was told Satan was allowed to sift all the apostles like wheat, including Peter. I have to think, that had to come as a total shock to Peter but obviously not to Jesus. And we know Peter did deny knowing Jesus just as Jesus said he would do. After Peter did that, Did it stop Jesus from moving forward with Peter? No. Also to be fair, Jesus would send the Holy Spirit that would change them from intrepid to powerhouses. Does Satan EVER stop sifting? No. And that includes sifting all of us and imagine how he loves sifting all the anti Catholics

As an aside there have only been a handful of corrupt popes out of the 267 successors to St Peter.

here’s a quick history of the 1st 400 years of the Catholic Church #[FONT=Arial]34[/FONT]

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