How to Answer for Church's Past Crimes

One subject that is surprisingly lacking on this forum is the discussion of dark spots in the history of the Catholic Church. There are many contradictions between modern church teaching and the actual behavior of the Church in its history. I will list a few here:

  1. The Church’s modern understanding of capital punishment as an undesirable solution for crime is undermined by its burnings and executions of heretics and other opposition in centuries past.

  2. The modern example of popes as humble shepherds of the Catholic church is undermined by the behavior of popes during the height of the Church’s power in Renaissance times, when rich families bought seats as cardinals and, once Pope, abused its power and wealth as a tool for nation building. These popes created dynasties and corrupted the purpose of the papacy by carting money to cardinals in advance of Conclave in order to insure a “desirable” transition. These were the same popes who sold indulgences for the reduction of temporal punishment. It was not until the Reformation that the higher level clergy realized that the Church was collapsing around their ears due to their decadent attitudes.

Pope Leo X said, “God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it,” to his relative after being made pope. This sums up the sad state of the chair of St. Peter during that era.

  1. The Crusades. Many will note that while Benedict XVI emphasizes strongly a stance of peace in all foreign affairs matters (this was his recent proclamation about Syria), the history of the Church seems to show that it has not always been so friendly to a mission of worldwide peace. While I personally believe there is a good case to justify the Crusades, I am looking to see if others have any good arguments in defense of them.

  2. Finally, the most recent debacle in Church history, the sex abuse scandal, where a minority priests have been revealed as child molesters, and the Church’s reaction has been woefully slow. Keep in mind that studies have shown that as little as 4% or so of priests have been accused substantially of these crimes, a percentage which is very close to the rate among ALL American men, indicating that the priesthood is no more a haven for pedophiles, than, for example, teaching or sports coaching.

Many people may recognize the beauty and greatness of the church, but when they recall what they have learned about the Church’s history it can be hard to reconcile its modern mission with its deeds of the past millennia. With that in mind, how best can a Catholic educate himself to defend the modern church for the crimes of the past?


Give me some :heart:

Consider this:
There were 463 years between Mohammed’s death in 632 AD and the calling of a Crusade to free lands that had been Christian before the Muslim invaders arrived; but to hear what passes for common “knowledge” [from self-hating Christians at that!], the whole affair was solely the fault of power-hungry popes, greedy soldiers of fortune, and Christians who were persecuting harmless, pious Muslims minding their own business. Muslims are only too happy to help Christians perpetuate this mea maxima culpa attitude.

Stenhouse[1] lists only some of the events that took place in those 463 years, among them, [INDENT] 633 – Mesopotamia falls to Muslim invasion, followed by the entire Persian Empire
635 – Damascus falls
638 – Jerusalem capitulates
643 – Alexandria falls, ending 1,000 years of Hellenic civilization
648-49 – Cyprus falls
653 – Rhodes falls
673 – Constantinople attacked
698 – All of North Africa lost
711 – Spain invaded
717 – Muslims attack Constantinople again; repelled by Emperor Leo the Isaurian
721 – Saragossa falls, Muslims sights on southern France
720 – Narbonne falls.
732 – Bordeaux was stormed and its churches burnt down
732 – Charles Martel and his Frankish army defeat Muslims, turning back the Muslim tide
732 – Attacks on France continued
734 – Avignon captured by an Muslim force
743 – Lyons sacked
759 – Arabs driven out of Narbonne.
838 – Marseilles plundered
800 – Muslims incursions into Italy begin, Islands of Ponza and Ischia plundered
813 – Civitavecchia, the port of Rome sacked
826 – Crete falls to Muslim forces
827 – Muslim forces begin to attack Sicily.
837 – Naples repels a Muslim attack
838 – Marseilles taken
840 – Bari falls
842 – Messina captured and Strait of Messina controlled
846 – Muslims squadrons arrived at Ostia, at the Tiber’s mouth, sack Rome and St. Peter’s Basilica
846 – Taranto in Apulia conquered by Muslim forces
849 – Papal forces repel Muslim fleet at the mouth of the Tiber
853 – 871 – Italian coast from Bari down to Reggio Calabria controlled, Muslims terrorize Southern Italy.
859 – Muslims take control of all Messina
870 – Malta captured by the Muslims.
870 – Bari recaptured from the Muslims by Emperor Louis II
872 – Emperor Louis II defeats a Saracen fleet off Capua
872 – Muslim forces devastate Calabria
878 – Syracuse falls after a nine-month siege
879 – Pope John VIII forced to pay tribute of 25,000 mancuses (AUD$625,000) annually to the Muslims
880 – Byzantine Commanders gain victory over Saracen forces at Naples
881 – Muslims capture fortress near Anzio, plunder surrounding countryside with impunity for forty [40] years.
887 – Muslim armies take Hysela and Amasia, in Asia Minor.
889 – Toulon captured
902 – Muslim fleets sacked and destroyed Demetrias in Thessaly, Central Greece,
904 – Thessalonica falls to Muslim forces
915 – After three months of blockade, Christian forces victorious against Saracens holed-up in their fortresses north of Naples
921 – English pilgrims to Rome crushed to death under rocks rolled down on them by Saracens in the passes of the Alps
934 – Genoa attacked by Muslim forces
935 – Genoa taken
972 – Saracens finally driven from Faxineto
976 – Caliphs of Egypt send fresh Muslim expeditions into southern Italy. Initially the German Emperor Otho II , who had set up his headquarters in Rome, successfully defeated these Saracen forces
977 – Sergius, Archbishop of Damascus, expelled from his See by Muslims
982 – Emperor Otho’s forces ambushed and his army defeated
1003 – Muslims from Spain sack Antibes
1003-09 – Marauding bands of Saracens plunder Italian coast from Pisa to Rome from bases on Sardinia
1005 – Muslims from Spain sack Pisa
1009 – Caliph of Egypt orders destruction of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Tomb of Jesus
1010 – Saracens seize Cosenza in southern Italy.
1015 – All Sardinia falls
1016 – Muslims from Spain again sack Pisa
1017 – Fleets of Pisa and Genoa sail for Sardinia, find Saracens crucifying Christians, drive Saracen leader out. Saracens try to re-take Sardinia until 1050
1020 – Muslims from Spain sack Narbonne
1095 – The First Crusade.
While the pope has apologized for the Crusades, Muslims have never so much as acknowledged any responsibility, and why should they when there are billions of Christians around to self-flagellate over the issue?

For additional reading, see “The Real History of the Crusades” by Medieval historian Thomas F. Madden


[1] “The Crusades In Context” by Dr Paul Stenhouse
Andrew Bostom [Two parts]
[3] “The Legacy of Jihad in Historical Palestine”
Andrew Bostom [Two parts][/INDENT]

Many people may recognize the beauty and greatness of the church, but when they recall what they have learned about the Church’s history it can be hard to reconcile its modern mission with its deeds of the past millennia. With that in mind, how best can a Catholic educate himself to defend the modern church for the crimes of the past?

First off, stop judging the past by today’s standards. I’m not a moral relativist, but people in the past just didn’t have the ability to look forward hundreds of years, see what we were going to judge by, and live accordingly.

Second, “It is just not possible to rectify a wrong committed by A against B by taking from C and giving to D,” as Thomas Sowell says.

I think a Catholic can best educate himself/herself to defend the modern church for the crimes of the past in the same manner that a person can educate himself/herself to defend modern nations for the crimes of the past.

Also, with regard to #4, one can see how the modern church is handling instances of abuse. There are now prompt news reports, dioceses are cooperating with authorities, priests ARE being removed from parishes, and there is accountability. These are vast improvements over past actions/inactions.

Forgiveness is key IMHO

That’s unethical, if rape, murder, killing the infidels, and wars were ok at past times, that doesn’t make them ethical, of course it’s ok to judge these actions even if they were from history. There were people in past times who did ethical things, behaved good and avoided doing any harm even that it was acceptable in their societies to do the opposite, anyone can be ethical in whatever period of time and whatever the laws and the societies they’re living in were bad.
Imagine anyone saying "don’t judge the crimes against humanity in other corners of earth because their standards are different to ours. "

Let’s also remember that all of the people involved in these crimes are human: capable of sinning just like anyone else even if they are members of clergy. The important part is that the Church has since then apologized for these crimes you have listed and have sought ways to make amends for the actions of those before.

As the poster above me said, forgiveness is key.

This comes up less often than other issues, but there are posts. That said, there’s no reason to answer for past crimes - real or imagined. No one who committed these is still alive today, and the systems and institutions that perpetrated them (ie, the Inquisition) have changed in form and substance or been utterly done away with.

When such things are brought up in conversation, my response is generally:
"I am a Christian in the Catholic Tradition. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, who was born of a Virgin, taught the Word of God, performed miracles, took my sins upon the Cross, and opened the door to Heaven those who follow Him. This is my faith and the faith that I share with around one billion Catholics around the world.

You cannot hold me responsible for the actions of people long dead. Every history is colored with brutality, and I’m not surprised by atrocious things done by medieval men facing medieval problems and using medieval mindsets and medieval methods during medieval times. These have nothing to do with my faith nor the faith that we teach. If we see Rome raising an army of Crusaders to invade the Holy Land, or constructing stakes to burn witches, we can talk about past crimes, but for me and my faith, they’re irrelevant."

I do not let the sins of others keep me from the truth fully contained in the Catholic Church, nor will I judge the sins of others and hold them against the Catholic Church. I have enough problems with my own sins. :o

Give me some too!:popcorn::popcorn:

I am a recent convert to Catholicism. I do not shy away or attempt to forget blights on the history of the church. But I also recognize that each of these failings is a failing of man and not God. Fr. Tom Allender says that he believes that the Catholic Church is just coming out of its adolescence. I think he is correct.

How do we deal with past pains? With love and service and asking and seeking forgiveness. As with our own personal sin, we need to be willing to accept God’s forgiveness and forgive ourselves. We accept both the good and the bad and keep moving forward.

I am not responsible for the past, even the recent past. I am responsible to help make sure that certain things never happen again and to spread the Gospel and live the Word as best I can.

I love the Catholic Church. It is beautiful and full of rich tradition and incredible people of faith. In 2000 years, I think it has done pretty well.

Yes yes, some of the actions were absolutely wrong. However, despite the fact that an action is certainly wrong, living in a time when it is common practice and generally thought to be ok lessens the culpability of the person doing it (that full knowledge thing).

Which is not to say that we should say “well I guess that was ok then.” It wasn’t. I am only saying that it is beyond dishonest to point a finger at the Christian Crusaders and yell “look what you terrible people did hundreds of years ago” while ignoring the fact that everyone else was doing it hundreds of years ago as well. It gives the extremely false impression that Christians were somehow worse than everyone else - which is simply not true.

So if you want to go on and on about how terrible the crusades were, then honesty demands that you at least acknowledge how terrible everything else was, and that the crusaders were for the most part just normal people doing what normal people did back then when they had to go to war. Which was terrible. But normal at the time.

The crusades were a necessary response to Muslim aggression, and the fact that some of the crusaders conducted themselves (extremely) poorly does not change that and is more understandable when seen in the context of the times.

It is my experience that much of what is used to attack the church in this way is taken way out of context and is at time unhistorical. For example, I have read that the reason that Galileo was censored by the church was because he had begun proclaiming bad theology. As far as his scientific beliefs, I have heard that the church decided to wait on making a judgement until there was evidence (as is common in the field of science). But Galileo wanted to go on without that and actually began making inferences on theology because of his discovery. What’s more, Galileo is just one instance in 2000 years. So why is he sited so much? Can they not think of more instances where the church ‘suppressed’ science? No, because the church never has. The idea that the church is opposed to science is a complete fabrication.

As far as the inquisitions go we should remember that there were two inquisitions. One set in motion by the pope, and one set in motion by the king of Spain. The later one, set in motion by the kings of Spain, is the one I think most people refer to when they talk about the inquisition. But these two often get confused and muddled. I haven’t read too much about them, but I have heard comments such as “the public was actually approving and even desiring of the inquisition” and “people would actually choose to be in a court of inquisition rather than one of the normal courts because the inquisitors were known for their fairness.”

As far as the crusades, another poster has made the good point that the Church endured a LOT before it began the crusades. Unfortunately we can not deny that things got out of hand. Defending ourselves and our people is a reasonable and justifiable goal. Converting people by the sword is not. At first the crusades did not try forced conversions, but we can not deny that there are some grave concerns by the end.

As far as the sex scandal goes, it is often taken out of context of society. I have never seen a report that says that there is a higher rate of child abuse in the Church than there is in normal society. True, one priest abusing a child is way too many. But the argument that is usually used is that being Catholic somehow makes one prone to being abusive. This is simply an absurd concoction of anti-Catholics. Another problem though is that the media is far more likely to publish a story about a Catholic priest then they are to publish a story about a protestant church. That gives the impression that more is going on in the Catholic sphere than in the protestant sphere and that is simply not accurate.

So my response is four fold.

One, as I have tried to show above, research the actual facts. There is a lot of ‘unhistory’ out there. A lot of things are said out of context. There are a lot of straight lies.

Two, admit the things we have done wrong and seek reconciliation with those against whom we have wronged. This does not however mean that we need to be apologizing to people who are completely unrelated to the actual event.

Three, reflect on Judas. We will always have scandal in the Church. The Church started with one of the apostles committing the greatest crime in human history. We are sinners and there is going to continue to be horrific sin in our midst. We have to learn to handle such scandal with justice and mercy.

Four, love the Church. She is our Mother after all. I have found that when people begin attacking the church uncharitably, it diffuses them quickly if I point out that they are attacking my family. They are insulting my Mother. Sometimes you will get someone who will then attack you, but that is rare and I don’t think you could have a civil discussion with such a person anyway.

It hurts my heart that so many people hate Catholics because of the Inquisition. Yet, not even us CATHOLICS know what really happened during the Inquisition…

The European Inquisition, in general, was used as a way to help reform heretics, which were people who taught against church doctrine. The method the pope used to reform these heretics was to simply bring them to a place where they could temporarily live and give them a mentor to teach them the true doctrine.

Since most of the heretics did not actually know they were teaching against the church in the first place (remember people were not as imformed as we are now), this method worked for the most part. Unfortunately, torment was used in some instances to cleanse the heretic, however this torture was very light. According to the papal bull, torture could last no longer than 15 minutes and leave no permanent damage to any limbs. Only 10% of all heretics were tortured in the Inquisition.

The third stage in the Inquisition was death. Only 2% of all heretics were killed and only because they were leaders of uprisings or leaders of new religious schisms.

Lastly, I must clarify the Spanish Inquisition. This, as we have all heard from our history classes, was one of the most aweful crimes in all of society. Lucky for us Catholics, this was NEVER our crime to bear. The Spanish Inquisition was condemed by the Holy See and was conducted only by the Kind and Queen of Spain without the aproval of the Pope.

I hope this clears everyone’s idea of the Spanish and European Inquisition…

For all those who want to apologize for the Crusades, I urge you to remember that the conflict was not started by Christians.
By the time Mohammad was born, all of North Africa including Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey as well as large parts of Persia were converted to Christianity. Because these areas were populated by “true believers” they were essentially pacifist.
Not so the Moslems, who, within 200 years had conquered the areas by force of arms and converted the populace by the sword. An individual had a choice: renounce Christ and adopt Islam or die! Historical fact, not propaganda.
One should bear in mind that Western society has progressed into the modern era, whereas Moslem society is today essentially what it has been for hundreds of years.
In Islamic countries, the most educated, most important people in society are the Imams-just as were the Clerics in Western countries until the 20th Century. The current conflict between the Moslem Countries and the West is fomented by the Imams because they do not want to lose their power against what they see as anti-Moslem secularization.
The most blatent example of this is the existence of Israel.
The Moslems lived in and controlled Palestine for 1300 years and did nothing with the land.
The Jews moved in and established there own country for the first time since 60 A.D. when the Romans expelled them. The economy that has been developed in the last 60 + years has exceeded that of all Moslem countries except those producing oil. Not bad, when you consider that Israel is smaller and less populated than most of them!


The inquisitions?
They’re were three “inquisitions” The medieval inquisition (1184) in southern France as a response to the catharist heresy.
The Roman Inquisition (1542) which was least active and most benign.
And the infamous Spanish Inquisition (1478) a state institution used to identify conversos.

The medieval inquisition was a response to catharists. Catharicism is a bounce off of gnosticism which both claimed there were two gods. The Evil God of the Old Testament and the Good God of the New Testament. They scorned marriage because it legitimized sexual relations, which catharists identified as the original sin. But fornication was permitted because it was temporary, secret, and not generally approved of. While marriage was permanent, open, and public sanction. Catharists also believed in ritual suicide, and those who didn’t kill themselves were generally helped a lone the way. They also refused to take oaths. They represented a moral and political danger. Even Henry Charles Lea, who was so opposed to the church said:

The cause of orthodoxy was the cause of progress in civilization. Had catharcism become dominant, or even if it had been allowed to exist on equal terms it’s influenced could not have failed to become disastrous.

I am not saying the inquisitions were completely justified. But the inquisitions did not in any way prove that the Catholic Church was not the Church of Christ.

And what’s your point? That the Popes weren’t perfect? We have know this from the beginning of time. Popes were not just head of church they were also head of state. (Papal States) so when the cardinals chose Popes they had to choose someone with religious and political smarts.
Pope Leo X meant let us enjoy and be thankful for the leadership Christ gave us.

The crusades were justified after years of moselm conquests. The moselms were attacking and trying to take over the Byzantine empire. In response Europe sent troops to take back the land that the moslems plundered. It would be like the U.S. helping Israel if Iran attacked them. Some soldiers took sought in plunder and loot, but am I saying everything they did was justified? No. i find that the first crusades were a miracle of Christ. Like the siege of Antioch. the Christians took the city just a day before moslems got their reinforcements. A DAY. That’s a miracle.

Then while on their way to Israel they grew tired and weary so they started to give up and head back. But northern lights in the sky were guiding them towards Israel.

Here watch this video:

The sex abuse scandal what does it mean when protestants bring this up? Do they think because some of the clergy were sinners means that the church isn’t the church of christ?

Then they would be hypocrites!

All protestants have had ministers who sexual abused children. So before they look at us they should look at themselves.

Old (insert favorite ethnicity) proverb: Those who look back while walking forward will soon fall into a pit.

Heresy is to the soul what murder is to the body. The Church did not put anyone to death. Catholic princes did, and such was not only their right but their duty as well. Likewise, the Crusades were all about foreign governments waging war against one another. If you’re going to say that Abraham Lincoln was a bad President, fine; but if the unity of a political state is worth fighting, dying, and executing for, how much more so is the unity of a divine kingdom worth fighting, dying, and executing for.

What do you mean, “reconcile”? Reconcile the fact that we sin and God doesn’t?

To have something to reconcile, there would have to be a Church teaching that says “Catholics don’t sin” but the Church teaches the opposite, long and loud. Or a teaching that says “Catholics always follow Church teaching.” Same answer.

Perhaps I don’t understand the question. What would the Church look like if there was no contradictions as you call them?

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