Catholics killed millions of Christians during the Dark Ages?

Sorry for the provocative title but in fact I heard the statement at a Baptist church last night that “During the Dark Ages millions of Christians who were caught reading the Bible were killed by the Catholic Church or Catholic-run countries”. He referenced Foxes Book of Martyrs primarily although I strongly suspect it was not his only source . Any help and/or good references to rebutt his statement because to me it sounds off on several levels? And what is the story on Foxes Book of Martyrs?

Methinks the pastor doesn’t have a firm grasp of history. He needs to look up the population stats of Europe in the Middle Ages. Apparently we killed more people than were alive in Europe.

Secondly, he has a bad grasp of the life of people before the last century. He assumes that most people could even read. Literacy has only surged in the last few hundred years.

Third, prior to the printing press (which includes the Middle Ages), Bibles were EXTREMELY expensive. Very few private homes even owned one. Only the wealthiest could afford one. The Bible was the most valuable item in a whole town or village, and was kept secure in the Church.

His whole position isn’t even strong enough to be considered a house of cards.

Not much truth to it. First of all, in the so called Dark Ages (which weren’t really so dark as all that) a bible had to be copied by hand and needed to be made from parchment or velum. This required a flock of sheep (for example) to be killed and skinned. As a result a typical bible might cost as much or more than a man could earn in a life time … so you can be sure they weren’t laying around for protestant bible studies. Plus, very few people could read … if you killed millions of them, education would have disappeared entirely. Common sense rebuts the argument as laid out in your post. During the “Dark Ages” all Christians were Catholic ( or a bit later Catholic or Orthodox) as this was many years before the protestant revolt.

Fox’s book of martyrs is not as egregious as the Trail of Blood mythology. But it is clearly a political work. In that time period, religion and politics were utterly inseparable. Trying to claim that a person was killed for religious and not political reasons is risky at best.

It was not the “Dark Ages” but the times were brutal and bloody: secular authorities strove to control the Church or be rid of the only authority capable of reigning in the power of the state.

I find it amusing that secular history blithely uses the moniker “Bloody Mary” when Elizabeth had a body count to make Satan proud. This is not to defend the excesses of Mary.

I found this quite helpful :slight_smile:

quasimodo is right about the killings for political reasons rather than religious. For example, St. Thomas a Becket was killed by the king of England (I think it was Henry II) for siding with the Pope during a quarrel between the king and the Pope. Thus, Thomas was beatified.

bingo :thumbsup:

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a Protestant Reformation propaganda manifest. It was written in Queen Elizabeth’s I time after Roman Catholic Queen Mary I of England was demonized, calumized and executed by her political and anti-Catholic enemies. The history contained therein is a highly biased “revisionist history” if it is not an outright fiction. The proponents of Protestantism had to create a myth ever since King Henry VIII broke from Rome to claim by a a naked abuse of kingly authority that he was the new head of the Anglican Catholic branch of the Catholic Church. King Henry was a staunch Catholic up to the point it got in his personal way and when he realized he did not have the political clout of an emperor. This book was an attempt to assert a historical justification to establish the Church of England as a continuation of the true Christian church rather than the modern innovation that it really was and is.

If anyone knows the true history they know just how ironic and outrageous these lies are. Catholics were in fact the ones brutalized during this period by the Protestants in England - monasteries burned to the ground, churches looted and vandalized. precious art and artifacts stolen and sold, lands confiscated and given to nobles for political favor. Catholics were forced to attend Church of England/Protestant services or pay fines or face imprisonment and confiscation of property. Priests and monks and religious who refused to obey the kings secular appointed bishops faced hideous tortures and executions (lift-hung to near strangulation, drawn on carts around town while barely alive to be mocked publicly then publicly disemboweled with entrails burned on a spit, castrated and quartered to have body parts displayed in hanging cages etc.). It was a brutal time to be Catholic and most went underground and others pretended to comply by going to Protestant services then to private masses from smuggled in continental European priests.

The Protestants lacking any legacy or self identity outside of the Catholic Church had to reinvent a new history to make it look like they were the original Christian Church and that “true Christians” had been persecuted and held down secretly by the evil Romansh loyal Catholics ever since Constantine. It’s all utter nonsence and demagoguery. To be called a “Papist” was to demonize English Catholics as not loyal to their king but to a foreign ruler. This was an attempt to incite the populate to not tolerate Catholics and to turn in any who refused to comply with the King’s new religion. English Catholics in particular were very loyal to the king except for his usurping the church and over a few centuries of persecution most caved into the absurdity started by King Henry VIII. It of course all unravels now even to this day as Anglicans mass convert back to Catholicism in response to the latent ultra-liberalism now emergent showing its head.

An interesting point. If not for the Catholic Countries defending all of Christendom from the Muslims during these periods (including what becomes/was the Protestants states - who lifted not a single sword to help) there would be no “west” today. If we count the number of deaths caused by Protestantism (The peasant revolution/slaughter, French Revolution, the bloody 30 years war, Napoleonic wars, etc. and all the after effects we have even today) there are no doubt many many 10’s of millions of deaths that can legitimately counted as a direct consequence of Protestantism. So its ironic that this book still has any ear at all in this “enlightened age” ( :wink: ). Yet this book it is the genesis of much of the polemics we suffer even to this modern day from the historical ignorance being passed around as truth in some of the more “redneck”/lowbrow Protestant churches.

See it for what it is – classic propaganda, revisionist history and demagoguery that was used to create a false dichotomy. Now in modern times some are resurrecting it and trying to plagiarize the lies so they can resell a new variant-Christianity to the impressionable. It’s all snake oil and the people who push it have no pedigree nor a shred of linkage to the early church and the legacy of the apostolic Catholic Church. They are in fact impostors that the apostles warned would come in latter days.


Exactly what I was looking for, thank you so very much!

I know that the charges the Pastor stated are false and thank you for a helpful history lesson. Do you have any good history books to suggest? There are so many out there it is a little overwhelming and I’m trying very hard to learn whatever I can about The Church.

The history of the Catholic Church is very complex and there are also so many different perspectives - political, doctrinal, spiritual etc.

I have read some good reviews about this one:

Church History: A Complete History of the Catholic Church to the Present Day for High School, College and Adult Reading by Fr John Laux

There are mixed reviews of another popular one but it is loathed by some reviewers as being too focused on doctrinal development and utterly preoccupied with Vatican II changes & liberal church movements: A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Revised and Expanded Edition by Thomas Bokenkotter

Since I am most interested in pointing out the errors and fallacies made by the Protestant Reformers I pick era’s that I am most interested in and read independent works for each era. These I then fuse then into a general historical framework that is centered on the church’s response to combating heresies and God using the heresies as a means to teach the church deeper truths in our deposit of faith by using these errors to force her to dig ever deeper into the deep and wide theology we have.

Good Luck,

That’s the funny thing, if someone wants to attack the Church by individual things people, even high ranking people in the Church have done (especially politically), there are unfortunately things our history we aren’t proud of, so it seems especially silly to attack those things that aren’t close to true.

The so-called “Dark Ages” (at least in the West) correspond to the Early Middle Ages, beginning with the fall of Rome in the 5th century and continuing until approx. 1000 AD (i.e. pre-Schism).

During this time, exactly how many Christians were there who were not Catholic? And, how many of them were in western Europe? The only non-Catholic Christians I can think of are the Oriental Orthodox, and there were few of them (if any) in western Europe at the time.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is hardly a reliable source.:rolleyes:

I believe, especially in the geographical area of Germany, Arian Christians were predominant.

Amen bro. If one wants to attack a common basis in history all they have to do is open up the bible and see all the infighting and conflict in the apostolic era! Paul was a murder. Peter was a coward. Thomas was a doubter. The Sons of Thunder wanted power and recognition and to rain down fire on God’s enemies. The apostles and disciples all cowered after the crucifixation till the women went down to the guarded tomb to find the soldiers gone and the tomb open. No men save John stayed with Christ during his trial and no disciples came to his defence! Paul was chastising Peter in public and calling down curses on heretics. Peter was condeming the ignorant who self taught their own gospel to their own destruction. Factions already started with the gnostics and the non-Christians using Jesus name as a magical talisman to cast out demons etc. No one could invent this stuff. The history of Christianity is too incompetent and human to have been contrived - and we air all this dirty laundry and made it our scripture! LOL.

It’s impossible to criticize the Catholic Church’s history without also criticizing Christianity at large and also Christ’s decision to spread the good news through his appointed disciples and successors (as defective and human as they all were).


this definitely doesn’t sound accurate… for one thing, during the “dark ages”, all Christians in the West were Catholics. This was before the Reformation… so there were no other Christians. The reason the Bible wasn’t widely available is because not everyone could read, and because the printing press wasn’t invented yet :wink: it’s not true that the Catholic Church discourages people from reading the Bible. (it just teaches against personal individualistic interpretation of it).

Someone would then reply back: “But why can’t we have personal individual interpretations?”

And I’ll say: “Look at all the Protestant sub-denominations. Each claim that they are the correct path to Heaven. Kinda silly, eh?”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs…Well, I have it. It’s pretty much…How do I say this? I would describe it as “How to Suck Up :ocan I say that???] to Queen Elizabeth I By Calling All the Catholics Names You Can’t Say On CAF”.

If the Catholic Church were so opposed to the Bible being read, why does my 110 year old Douay-Rheims have a note in the front offering a special indulgence to Catholics for reading it? See, when you start looking at this things with a clean eye, you start to realize how bizarre the propaganda really is!!

Two words: Black Legend

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