Defending the Medieval Church in School?



I’m currently reading about the medieval Church in my world literature course. The text paints a not-so-pretty picture of the Church–take the following excerpt, for example:

A sign that this might be true in the minds of some of the people can be seen in some of the carvings in the high arches of cathedrals. Where they can be seen by the priests and bishops watching from below, we see lives of saints and scenes from the Bible. In some of the hidden corners, though, where the priests could not see them, the stone carvers depicted the ancient pagan gods instead. We must look for clues like that to supplement the written record and try to gain an idea of what those times were really like.

I have the opportunity to write a paper that the entire class will see, along with a separate section just for the teacher. Any idea on how to approach this? I’m not sure how to disprove this other than by saying “prove it.”

The course also mentions the selling of indulgences, and how the profits were used to build St. Peter’s Basilica. After reading Catholic Answers’ page on the myths of indulgences ( I understand that Pope Pius V voided all indulgences that had been gained via monetary means in 1567 during the Council of Trent. Does anyone have any historical information they might be able to provide me with? This topic seems to be one of the largest misconceptions of the general public on the Church.

If anyone would like to see additional information on this literature unit (also the source of the above quote), this particular medieval unit can be found here:



I can suggest the following books, perhaps you can obtain them through inter-library loan:

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking the Myths by Regine Pernoud

Women in the time of the Cathedrals by Regine Pernoud

How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas Woods

Europe and the Faith by Hilaire Belloc

The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature by Elizabeth Kantor (sounds like this one could be particularly useful in this class)

The Crusades by Hilaire Belloc

How the Reformation Happened by Hilaire Belloc


And add to the above (excellent) list, “The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries” by Walsh.


Thanks for the titles :cool:

My local library has both The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature and How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (they’re both checked in, too!).



You can never go wrong with Chesterton :thumbsup:

So it described the momentary delay in this place as a relic of medievalism. I fear the future will look at that sentence, somewhat sadly and a little contemptuously, as a very typical relic of modernism. I mean it will be a melancholy relic of the only period in all human history when people were proud of being modern. For though to-day is always to-day and the moment is always modern, we are the only men in all history who fell back upon bragging about the mere fact that to-day is not yesterday. I fear that some in the future will explain it by saying that we had precious little else to brag about. For, whatever the medieval faults, they went with one merit. Medieval people never worried about being medieval; and modern people do worry horribly about being modern.

Who would have thought that you could get so much out of an article about turnpikes?

God bless


More from Chesterton

I take in order the next instance offered: the idea that Christianity belongs to the Dark Ages. Here I did not satisfy myself with reading modern generalizations; I read a little history. And in history I found that Christianity, so far from belonging to the Dark Ages, was the one path across the Dark Ages that was not dark. It was a shining bridge connecting two shining civilizations.
If any one says that the faith arose in ignorance and savagery
the answer is simple: it didn’t. It arose in the Mediterranean
civilization in the full summer of the Roman Empire. The world was swarming with skeptics, and pantheism was as plain as the sun, when Constantine nailed the cross to the mast. It is perfectly true that afterwards the ship sank; but it is far more extraordinary
that the ship came up again: repainted and glittering, with the cross still at the top. This is the amazing thing the religion did:
it turned a sunken ship into a submarine. The ark lived
under the load of waters; after being buried under the debris of
dynasties and clans, we arose and remembered Rome. If our faith
had been a mere fad of the fading empire, fad would have followed fad in the twilight, and if the civilization ever re-emerged (and many such have never re-emerged) it would have been under some new barbaric flag. But the Christian Church was the last life of the old society and was also the first life of the new. She took the people who were forgetting how to make an arch and she taught them to invent the Gothic arch. In a word, the most absurd thing that could be said of the Church is the thing we have all heard said of it. How can we say that the Church wishes to bring us back into the Dark Ages? The Church was the only thing that ever brought us out of them. G.K. Chesterton Orthodoxy

God bless


Chesterton’s the man.

ORTHODOXY is one of my favorite books, and written while he was still formally an Anglo-Catholic.


Anglicanus Catholicus


ORTHODOXY is one of my favorite books, and written while he was still formally an Anglo-Catholic.

Interesting, I didn’t know this. I won’t hold it against him and he is still the man. :wink:

I kid, I kid.

God bless


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