How would this hypothetical affect one's view of Catholic history?

Ideally, when it comes to disagreement and dissent, the Catholic Church is supposed to act with love and charity toward those who disagree with it. A more modern perspective also brings the expectation of non-coercion, although this was not always the expectation. But that has been a discussion for a couple of different threads.

At any rate, here is the hypothetical. Suppose that the Catholic Church has, in fact, not acted with love and charity toward dissenting parties, whether they are heretics otherwise known as Protestants or earlier heretics that are lesser-known on account of dying out. Mysteriously. If necessary, you may treat this as a counter-factual. If you like, you may assert that of course the Church has always acted with love and charity toward heretics and dissenters, but this is a question of what would be at stake if it had not done so.

Suppose, instead of acting with love and charity, the Church actually acted with wrath, coercion, violence, and hateful enmity toward the sorts of people that it was supposed to show love and charity toward, at least on some level. In this hypothetical, we are assuming that the Church should have done a certain type of thing by acting with love and charity toward a certain type of people, but instead of doing that it did the wrong thing on a pretty consistent basis.

If this were so, and I ask that you at least imagine it is so for the sake of the hypothetical, what would that mean for a historical perspective on Catholic history? I will go ahead and assume that it does not have anything to do with doctrine or dogma or with the Church’s teaching authority, so let us agree to leave that untouched. But what would this do to one’s historical perspective on the history of Catholicism, if it were true that the Church should have acted in a certain way and it very often acted in a completely wrong way while failing to display any form of love or charity toward certain people that it should have? What would it mean from a perspective of historical inquiry, and what would it mean for your interactions with Protestants that you might speak to on matters pertaining to our Christian past?

I expect to find sinful acts both inside and outside of the OHAC. Peter denied Christ - Paul has some sort of persistant “thorn” that made him do that which he didn’t want to do. Since we are not fully united to Christ on this earth, we’re going to keep making His Bride look disheveled. It’s not the Bride’s fault that she lives in a troubled world and is home to a collection of sinners.

I really don’t see what this hypothetical is supposed to prove…

I could say that, hypothetically,what if Hitler had become an artist instead of massacring a nation? While it might be an interesting point of conjecture, it wouldn’t accomplish anything, nor would it have an affect on the reality of what happened.

Anyways, to answer your question, it would mean that certain individual had made bad decisions when it came to how to react to an occurrence… just like the rest of us. It would mean that our history is a little bit bloodier, but wouldn’t impact the correctness of Catholic Dogma, or the fact that Christ founded the Catholic Church.

Nothing. It would mean (and does mean) nothing.

People are subject to original sin, and accordingly often act as they should not.

The Church is made up of people.

So what?

To me, this seems like a poor comparison because you’re describing an alternate history, one that very plainly did not happen. What I’m proposing is a perspective on Catholic history that very well can be convincingly portrayed by serious historians as being rooted in reality, certainly moreso than the strictly hagiographic approach taken by less serious people, historian or otherwise. I invite some people to treat it as a counterfactual in the conditional sense, meaning that I leave you with the freedom to inquire after historical truth for yourself and if it looks nothing like this to you that is fine- but for me personally, I don’t treat this as an untrue hypothetical as much as I treat it as a conclusion that really serious historians are more likely to put forward, while acknowledging that a certain type of Catholic will not trust it.

Anyways, to answer your question, it would mean that certain individual had made bad decisions when it came to how to react to an occurrence… just like the rest of us. It would mean that our history is a little bit bloodier, but wouldn’t impact the correctness of Catholic Dogma, or the fact that Christ founded the Catholic Church.

I’m really hoping that people will try hard to answer the question in a positive sense and not in the negative. For example, “it would not impact this” and “it would not affect that” is something that regularly appears in a bit of a standard formula, and I already acknowledged this in the OP. It’s a drumbeat that I’m more than sufficiently familiar with, and I’m likely to read past these sorts of comments as if they don’t really contribute to any sort of answer that I don’t already have. Which they don’t, actually. So as far as what that did contribute to answering…
It would mean that certain people made bad decisions and acted wrongly, like anyone can and sometimes does. It would mean that Catholic history is a bit bloodier than what might otherwise be addressed by a hagiophile. And it wouldn’t do this and that and the other thing.

How would this look on a timeline? As we move from the fourth and fifth century to the eighth and ninth, then to the eleventh and twelfth- as we move on to the Reformation era and then to the modern- as we compare Rome to ancient forms of Orthodoxy that were in union with it up until a certain point- where on that timeline would you point to the most bad decisions and wrong actions, how would they compare to their contemporaries among the Orthodox and perhaps Protestants as well, and would you characterize the overall level of improvement as consistently positive or are there some times when it got a lot worse before it got better?

Also- in spite of the misguided assumptions of hagiographers who assume that Rome-aligned Catholic people have always been the best, most moral, and most interesting people in the world- who else might emerge as such people, especially at those points on the timeline where Catholics do themselves a disservice by being pretty awful?

So what indeed. Well, both here and in a few other places where Catholics congregate, discussions of history and the Reformation often converge. And there is a certain type of Catholic who characterizes the Reformers as rebels against a proper authority, it never should have happened, some of them will refuse to say “Reformation” as they prefer to say “Revolt.” Silly things like that, all geared toward a narrative in which the good and righteous Catholic Church did all these good things, the ungrateful Protestants owe so much to the Catholic Church and they still rebelled, what they did was awful and the Catholics just did everything right but the Protestants refused to see it that way.

A more honest interaction with actual history helps these types of people keep those sorts of opinions to themselves. And for you, personally, this is very helpful because it prevents non-Catholics from mistaking that sort of silliness with what you actually believe.

So what? So, basically, that.

It’s certainly true that mistakes were made in some cases, though not as frequently as the tone of your post implies. The Church has never denied these failings,and has apologized for them throughout history. To claim that this was the more common occurrence, however, is factually inaccurate. This number of times where violence was used in response to heresy are far, far outweighed by the times it was not.

I’m really hoping that people will try hard to answer the question in a positive sense and not in the negative. For example, “it would not impact this” and “it would not affect that” is something that regularly appears in a bit of a standard formula, and I already acknowledged this in the OP. It’s a drumbeat that I’m more than sufficiently familiar with, and I’m likely to read past these sorts of comments as if they don’t really contribute to any sort of answer that I don’t already have. Which they don’t, actually. So as far as what that did contribute to answering…

You can’t really answer with a positive if it wouldn’t change anything. Bad stuff happened, at times the Church was at fault. That wouldn’t cause me to rethink anyhting, so there is literally no ‘positive’ response I can give on the question.

How would this look on a timeline? As we move from the fourth and fifth century to the eighth and ninth, then to the eleventh and twelfth- as we move on to the Reformation era and then to the modern- as we compare Rome to ancient forms of Orthodoxy that were in union with it up until a certain point- where on that timeline would you point to the most bad decisions and wrong actions, how would they compare to their contemporaries among the Orthodox and perhaps Protestants as well, and would you characterize the overall level of improvement as consistently positive or are there some times when it got a lot worse before it got better?

Ah… well, this isn’t the sort of stuff your post seemed to imply with your question.

From my view, the two worst periods were probably after the Orthodox Churches splintered off and in England in the Reformation Era. In both cases, both sides of the line reacted inappropriately. In the case of the Orthodoxy split, the violence was about equal on both sides. (Admittedly, this isn’t my most familiar period of history, so I may be wrong.) During this reformation, I think it’s historically undeniable that the majorly of violence was perpetrate against Catholics by King James and his successors, with the notable exception of… was it the first Queen Elizabeth… Sorry, I can’t remember the name of the specific queen off hand, but she had an almost equally violent reaction against Protestantism during her reign. This was, of course, countered by an even worse period of anti Catholicism after she was no longer in power.

It’s also important to note that in both of these cases the actions were not perpetrated by the Church but rather by rulers of countries which identified as Catholic. There is an important distinction between hat and actually being commissioned by the Church.

Also- in spite of the misguided assumptions of hagiographers who assume that Rome-aligned Catholic people have always been the best, most moral, and most interesting people in the world- who else might emerge as such people, especially at those points on the timeline where Catholics do themselves a disservice by being pretty awful?

I don’t think any serious Catholic would -ever- claim that Catholics are always the “best, most moral, and most interesting people in the world” I certainly find Catholic theologians deeply interesting, and find many astute example of moral living within the church (far more than in Protestant and secular societies), but even the greatest Saints have a myriad of failings to repent from in their lives (with the notable exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of course.) There have been plenty of terrible, terrible Catholics, just as there have been plenty of terrible, terrible insert any classification here.

I’m not trying to be defensive here, though I realize that I am to an extent, but I still don’t get what you’re going after… Do you think that acknowledging that the Church has had failings in the past somehow undermines Her authority?

The Faith is perfect! The faithful aren’t. Christ came to call sinners so his Church is full of them. They are on a life journey of transformation with lots of rough road and stumbling. It follows that yes some of them don’t always treat others as Christ would want them to. He didn’t say the road would be easy. He said repent, pick up your cross and follow me.

  1. Having read about the time in history you call the Reformation, I have learned there were a lot of bad things done to Catholics. First of all, there was a fairly stable Catholic society and this was disrupted and overturned in many places. John Calvin went into the churches and tore stuff out and threw it in the street. There were loose federations of fiefdoms known as nations–some of the rulers of those areas went to war *in the name of *Protestantism but actually for political reasons.

There was a vast network of monasteries throughout Europe which cared for those in need. In order to do that, they were given land and other resources. These were the monasteries. In many places, they were falsely accused of being very bad and were turned out of the monasteries, which were then taken over by whichever ruler kicked the monks out. The rulers did not then do something to fill the void for taking care of the poor, possibly because their new theology told them that if people weren’t doing well materially, God wasn’t favoring them which mean God didn’t love them (they weren’t members of the elect).

There were times when Catholics behaved badly; however, much of the history of the time was propaganda against the Catholic Church and greatly exaggerated.

  1. Was what occurred a reformation or a revolt? It depends on which point of view you consider the question from. From our point if view, the small amount of reforming needed took place and was finalized at the Council of Trent, and those who went like bulls in china shops through Europe were revolting, not reforming.

Given your OP, which seemed to be trying to get us to think of the truth as being that which the Protestants present, I have done the same for you. I am not normally this stark when I discuss these matters with non-Catholics.

I’ve just scanned the OP and the responses, but I didn’t notice anyone mentioning that for centuries the Church and governments of Europe operated hand in glove from the time of Constantine, and through most of the reformation. In many cases whatever the state thought best the Church didn’t oppose because the state was trying to maintain its identity as orthodox in belief against groups that were disruptive to both Church and state. One needs to read real history to understand this.

The Church is run by men in her governing. And in that governing the Church hasn’t always done the best thing, but what was expedient at the time. Sometimes this was harmless and sometimes decidedly not. Having gone through the ravages of the reformation, she is more circumspect in that regard now. Lessons, painful lessons were learned. St. Pope John Paul II apologized for the excesses and mistakes the Church made in such instances, as has Pope Francis. History cannot be changed, so there’s really nothing more to be said or done about it.

Of course, it’s not like other Christian bodies were innocent of persecutions and unfair treatment and outright slaughter, either. As others have pointed out, all men are sinners and prone to doing all sorts of bad things, sometimes with the best intentions, but ending in disaster for many. Religion is powerful. Anyone who thinks religion is all lightness and halos isn’t in touch with reality. We are “fighting the good fight” as St. Paul put it, and sometimes that fight becomes more than spiritual, it becomes physical, as well.

We are not disimbodied spirits, but flesh and blood and apt to sin even when we very much want to do the good, as St. Paul also wrote. It means that each of us, no matter what power we have over others, be it great or small, need to be mindful of our own hearts rather than pointing fingers at sins committed long ago by people who have already answered to God for them–no matter what church, temple, synagogue or mosque they worship at.

Well said, Della! :thumbsup:

Queen Mary I, a.k.a. Bloody Mary. (Frequently confused with Mary, Queen of Scots, but a completely different person.) She was the only child of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon to survive more than a couple of months after birth. She was the only legitimate (from the Catholic standpoint) child of Henry VIII except his successor, Edward VI. (Elizabeth I, born to Henry VIII and Anne Bolyn while Catherine of Aragon was still alive would not be considered legitimate if Henry hadn't pulled England out of the Catholic Church.) Edward VI was born to Jane Seymour who married Henry VIII after Catherine of Aragon had died. Edward VI was 15 when he died. After that (and after some additional confusion), his oldest half sister, Mary, became Queen Mary I. During Mary I's five-year reign, approximately 285 people were executed. She is known forever as "Bloody Mary."

During the over 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition, maybe as many as 5,000 people were executed. It is a byword of brutality.

During Henry VII’s 38-year reign, an unknown number of people were executed, but I haven’t seen any estimate that was less than 35,000, and some estimates are as high as 78,000. He is not known as “Bloody Henry.”

To the actual question of the thread, as many others have said, the news that Catholics were sinful would make no difference to my beliefs. I’m 100% sure that at least one Catholic is a sinner who needs the mercy of God and the sacraments of the Church to be a reasonably decent person. (That would be me. :slight_smile: )

–Jen

I thought that reasonable and decent people generally accepted that the phrase “mistakes were made,” wherever it occurs, is a red flag indicating that something is rotten.

Apparently not.

though not as frequently as the tone of your post implies. The Church has never denied these failings,and has apologized for them throughout history. To claim that this was the more common occurrence, however, is factually inaccurate. This number of times where violence was used in response to heresy are far, far outweighed by the times it was not.

And that’s the kind of defensive tactic he’s quite cleverly forestalling.

So what if it were otherwise?

What he’s really getting at, of course, is why you guys, while steadfastly proclaiming that Nothing Bad Anyone Catholic Does Makes Any Difference to the Big Truth, actually flurry and scurry and even get downright vicious sometimes when people bring up any of the very many very bad things that Catholics have done–official Catholics acting in the name of the Church.

During this reformation, I think it’s historically undeniable that the majorly of violence was perpetrate against Catholics by King James and his successors, with the notable exception of… was it the first Queen Elizabeth… Sorry, I can’t remember the name of the specific queen off hand, but she had an almost equally violent reaction against Protestantism during her reign. This was, of course, countered by an even worse period of anti Catholicism after she was no longer in power.

Actually the number of Protestants killed under Mary (the Catholic queen) and Catholics killed under Elizabeth (the Protestant queen) was about equal. But Mary reigned five years–Elizabeth reigned more than 40. (To be fair, she didn’t really get into the Catholic-killing until the Pope excommunicated her in 1572, so more like 30 years.) So I don’t see how it’s “even worse.” Actually it was about equal in body count, but it did last a lot longer on the Protestant side, so in that sense you’re right.

England, though, was the exception in Europe.

Find me another country where Catholics were viciously persecuted in this way. I’ve heard that a couple of Catholics were executed in Scotland, and there was a massacre of Carmelites in the Netherlands. There was mob violence and war in which people died, generally on both sides. In most countries other than England, by far the greater violence was committed by the Catholics.

It’s also important to note that in both of these cases the actions were not perpetrated by the Church but rather by rulers of countries which identified as Catholic. There is an important distinction between hat and actually being commissioned by the Church.

Except that the Church authorities clearly approved of the burning of heretics.

I’m not trying to be defensive here, though I realize that I am to an extent, but I still don’t get what you’re going after… Do you think that acknowledging that the Church has had failings in the past somehow undermines Her authority?

I won’t speak for the OP. My own issue is this:

Catholics go to great lengths to seal off the sins of “Church members” (including popes and bishops acting in their official capacity, but we’re never allowed to say “the Church did” those things, which is part of the “sealing off”) from the Church’s claims to authority. Then you present this as a fact that simply must be accepted, and proceed to demand that Protestants consider the merits of Catholciism only on grounds you have pre-selected for best advantage.

That’s obviously not a fair approach.

Catholics are fond of saying, “Popes are infallible, not impeccable.”

But the obvious question is, “why not?”

Well, impeccability is a bit too much to ask for. But if God can prevent Popes from defining error as truth without violating their free will, why couldn’t God ensure that all the Popes were at least basically decent, sincere people? Why is it more unthinkable that God could keep Church leaders from sanctioning the killing of people than that God could keep them from making even a small official error in theology?

This seems to imply either that

  1. God cares more about right theology than about loving action, or that
  2. God can prevent bad doctrine without violating free will but can’t prevent bad actions.

Now to be fair, the protection afforded doctrine is really very harrow. Clearly popes and bishops have engaged in all kinds of bad theology. So I think there’s a reasonable way to restate the position. But the common line taken on this forum and in other apologetics circles, of sealing off doctrine from morality as if only the former mattered, is actually a bigger problem for Catholicism than the moral scandals themselves.

And, of course, the whole issue with persecution of heretics is doctrinal. Church leaders did not just persecute heretics because they were bad people and succumbed to their sinful passions. Often they were not bad people (St. Thomas More being one obvious example, though technically he wasn’t a “church leader”–but St. Thomas Aquinas is another). They did what they did because they thought Catholicism required them to do so.

So that whole strategy doesn’t work. Infallibility has to be understood in a more complex, messy way than most folks on this forum want to do.

Edwin

I’d like to see these estimates.

Are you counting everyone executed by Henry for any reason? Or perhaps even rebels who were massacred?

We have to compare like things with like. If we compare judicial executions for religious reasons (of people loyal to Rome–Henry killed Protestants too), then we have More, Fisher, and the Carthusians. I think there were eighteen of those. So twenty that I know of. Perhaps I’m missing someone out.

Now it’s true that Mary was much more lenient to the rebels in Northumberland’s coup than her father had been to the Pilgrimage of Grace or most other rebellions. So I think the point may be valid that counting judicial executions is unfair to Mary, who was a generally merciful ruler when the honor of either Mother Church or her mother Catherine of Aragon was not at stake.

But your criteria are, at best, extremely fuzzy here.

Edwin

I am trying to understand the question at hand here, and I imagine it has to do with Protestantism in general. Martin Luther, for example, “dissented” from the Roman Catholic Church in a time where, let us be honest, there WERE problems (selling indulgences, rich clergy, political intrigues). Even today, one could say, there still is trouble, and crime, and error inside the Church.

Is this the base of your question? “Did the Church act without love in excommunicating Martin Luther/others when the Church was, in fact, wrong?”.

If so, let me separate the wheat from the chaff, as some have already done.

One thing is to understand what the** Church teaches** and what its members do are often different things. The teachings are true, good, moral and right. Which doesn’t make it impossible for one to use them for the wrong reasons. We have people who misuse the Word of God, taken directly from the Bible, what is to stop them from misusing the teachings taken from Tradition?

Martin Luther lived in a time where people misused Catholic teachings, such as that of indulgences. While the teaching might have been taught with good intentions (example of indulgences include: giving witness to one’s faith, devoting one-self to charity which includes giving money], reading the sacred scripture - all in order to alleviate the effects of venial sin already forgiven, while still alive), some people started using the teaching in order to make money. “Donate 10% of your fortune to buy a piece of Heaven!”, “Salvation today: 30% OFF!”. Avarice at its finest!

Martin Luther saw all this and, understandably, protested against it. Nothing wrong here.

What he DID wrong was to go AGAINST the Church. See, in all this, the Church wasn’t wrong. The Church never said that it was okay to sell indulgences. Sure, maybe some priests or bishops did, and even sold them themselves, but then comes the question: were they following, faithfully, the Church’s teachings?

Had Martin Luther fought against the hypocrisy of some members of the Church, cleaning the Church of the bad influence, he might have been hailed as a Saint today. You know, just a hypothetical scenario.

However, he saw that, in his mind, that the **teachings **were wrong. He believed and propagated the belief that the Church was wrong.

And, from a pure logical point of view, he was being a dissenter. He went to a club that preaches “Cats are fluffy!” and said “No, they are not!”. He went to a Church that believes itself incapable of error, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and said “No, you are not. You are full of error!”.

He, by choice, removed himself from that club, that community, that communion.

The Church, as an institution, can never be wrong, by Catholic understanding. The Church was right when allowing indulgences, purgatory and immaculate conception, and what else outsiders may believe wrong. Its members were wrong in using these teachings for the wrong purposes.

On the other hand, Martin Luther was right in refusing all the corruption inside the Church. However, he was wrong in directing his hatred towards a Church that cannot err (by his own understanding, as a Catholic, back then), and teachings that are not wrong (again, in a Catholic point of view). By refusing Catholic teaching, by his choice, he himself choose to be excommunicated (=be out of communion. After all, if you don’t agree with everything your religion says, then why stay in that religion?)

My criteria for what? I didn’t actually call him “Bloody Henry.” I just mentioned that Henry had a lot more people killed per year than Mary did, but she got the name and he didn’t. Mary isn’t called “Religiously Bloody Mary.” I wasn’t limiting myself to religious persecution, but Henry was sometimes a bit over-ready to find treason, IMO. :slight_smile: After all, I’m pretty sure that treason was the charge against St. Thomas More. I don’t think I mentioned anything about who was killed or why, because I don’t know. It’s just a lot of people to execute. I’m pretty sure that even after Henry founded the Church of England, he had some people killed for being the wrong sort of Protestant, as well as having Catholics killed.

I do think that the fact that Mary was Catholic was the reason she got the nickname. The victors write the history. :slight_smile:

–Jen

Since Catholic history is full of unsavoury facts, like people not treating other people with respect or in instances persecuting them to one degree or another, that would in no way change my opinion over the validity of the church. We could take two or more figures from the same time as an example, Constantine and Saint Anthony. Who acted according to the teachings Christ and the church more consistently? The Politician or the ascetic? There is no question the latter followed Christ more faithfully, yet that doesn’t mean Constantine was outside of the church. Even some of the saints were not above politics, be it Basil placing his friend Gregory as Bishop over a see he didn’t want to be in or Athanasius manoeuvring for support in his efforts to confront ‘Arianism’.

That history is open for everyone to see, but the church is not invalidated because of it. The Church was not invalidated because it killed Saint Maximos (via the Emperor who dissagreed with Maximos’ theological position), but it was vindicated in having Maximos die as a Confessor for true christology.

I have this little hunch that doubts the sincerity of this thread. I am not sure it is allowed having to discuss hypothetically given issue of half-truth that disparage the Catholic Church. I would consider it a subtle attack on the Catholic Church.

Probably the contention here is the term ‘the Church’. What was it? Is it the Church belief and doctrines or the men that worked for her?

Can’t blame Catholics for separating the two because if the belief and doctrines are against that of God’s, then why bother being Catholics?

This is not to deny that there were bad patches of history. All along no one had done that. But it is important to put it in the correct perspective, namely, belief and doctrines against the people who are Catholics.

:thumbsup:

Think of it this way. You have a hospital. One that preaches “washing hands” as a way to prevent diseases.

There are some doctors that work in this hospital, but do NOT wash their hands. Because of this, some patients get ill due to bad care of their doctors.

The question is: is the policy of “washing hands” wrong?

This is why Catholics differentiate between the men of the Church and the Church itself. The policy of “washing hands” IS effective; if some people get ill, it is because they are not following the policy.

On the same note, the teachings of the Church ARE truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. If people commit excesses and are corrupt, it is because they are not following the teachings.

I believe people do that because they either cannot separate Church and people, OR they are concerned on making it clear for YOU that what the Church says and what people do are two different things.

Well. We believe the Church is preserved from error by the Holy Spirit. To ever say “the Church did atrocities” would be like saying “God ordered us to do atrocities”, and that is simply silly.

We did atrocities, because we are fallible. The infallible Church told us NOT to do, but we decided to follow our own judgement instead…

Why should He do that? What would change if God had put only good Popes there?

You yourself seem to understand why He didn’t:

He couldn’t (or could; there is a theological debate on this) prevent bad actions WITHOUT violating the free will of Popes.

Individual Popes, individual bishops, a small/medium/large group of bishops or monks, a great deal of the laity have engaged in bad theology. But none of those are considered teachings of the Magisterium, none of these theologies were accepted in Ecumenical Councils, none of those teachings were declared infallible and later were proven wrong.

So far, the protection afforded doctrine has been rather stable.

The doctrine is there to guide our morality. The teaching is true, and the action that follow such teachings will be moral.

And, back to the hospital analogy, just because some priests/bishops do not “wash their hands” (follow the teachings), doesn’t mean that the policy doesn’t work.

The moral scandals only exist because people, free will and all that, decide to do bad things, even thought they SHOULD know better.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.