What's the take on the "Dark Ages"?


#1

First off, I’m not supposed to be on here because my mom and step dad have officially banned me from researching anything religious on the net unless it’s an LDS site… but, I’m at my dads for Thanksgiving break and he fully supports me in wanting to convert! So if you don’t recieve any replies from me after Sunday, you know why.

Anywho, I have totally embraced my parents decision to not let me read anything Catholic and decided to read some more Mormon books… which has surprised them, but it hasn’t swayed my decision. Plus, I fianlly got up the courage to write my seminary teacher and told him of my decision to convert. He said he would write me back some questions and I want to be able to say I’ve actually read some Mormon books instead of all Catholic books, like he probably thinks.

I’m reading a book called “Essentials in Church History” by Joseph Fielding Smith. In it it talks about the Apostasy of the Catholic church, which I don’t believe it fell into Apostasy because of the scripture thats says the Gates of Hell will never prevail against it… So basically if Christ’s church fell into apostasy like LDS doctine claims, that would mean it also claims that Jesus was a liar.

I guess my question would be, if it is impossible for the Church to fall into apostasy, what is the Church’s take on the “dark ages”? We can’t just ignore it. What about selling salvation? I understand that individuals can become corrupt, but when a Pope is pardoning people of their sins for a price isn’t that basically the church? Or what I’m trying to say is, a Pope is supposed to be infalible. Doing this would be wrong and that whould make the Pope wrong. Am I mistaking anything here? Does the Catholic Church aknowledge any corrupt Popes or deny it?


#2

Hi “Spike”! :slight_smile:

God bless you. I’ll be remembering you in all my prayers.

Reading suggestion that I got from my buddy Church Militant.
“How the Irish Saved Civilization” by Thomas Cahill.

He deals with the fall of the Roman Empire and the onset of those dark ages. It wasn’t about apostasy at all my friend, it was about the barbarians sacking everything in Europe and in so doing destroying most of the monasteries and churches where the Word of God was kept (remember that this is long before the printing press) as well as the few schools that existed so that science was affected as well. The barbarian attacks had about the same effect that being “nuked back to the stone age” would have on us today. (Ever live in an area where a hurricane has hit? Ask CM and BrotherRolf about it.) With the destruction of all that knowledge, civilization just sort of collapsed, but God preserved His church because the hordes never got accross to Ireland and it was the Irish monks and scholars who came over to re-evangelize Europe were the means that ultimately restored civilization to Europe and the western world.

Pick up that book, it’s not all that long and a very good read.
Your Friend,
Blackie


#3

Oh, almost missed all this.
They weren’t selling “salvation”, they were selling indulgences which is anything but. Moreover the practice wasn’t as widespread as some anti-Catholics like to assert. It was officially corrected at the council of Trent.

I understand that individuals can become corrupt, but when a Pope is pardoning people of their sins for a price isn’t that basically the church? Or what I’m trying to say is, a Pope is supposed to be infalible. Doing this would be wrong and that whould make the Pope wrong. Am I mistaking anything here? Does the Catholic Church aknowledge any corrupt Popes or deny it?

Of course the Catholic Church acknowledges corrupt popes and clergy, however you have to make a distinction between infallible teaching authority, (remember that selling those indulgences was never a doctrinal thing and the church still has indulgences that are attached to pious acts (like reading the Bible for instance!), but they are never sold.) and impeccability (which is the inability to fall into sin.) The church has never taught impeccability for any of us (except for the Blessed Virgin), and I’d say she is a very special case. I mean, talk about having a living relationship with Our Lord! WHEW!), so the point is that humans mess up all the time, and even some of the popes did, though if you look at it there really aren’t that many. Even those that were grossly immoral and weird never made an attempt to mess with the infallibly correct doctrines of the faith. They were apparently too busy being bad.

But again, weren’t the dark ages before the time of Luther? I think so. So then, it’s not connected the way that your Mormon source seems to be saying it is, is it?
God bless!
** Blackie**


#4

You remain in my prayers, Bump.

So what does the LDS book say about the dark ages? Does it just talk about a general apostacy, like many others, and just use the dark ages as proof? The answers you’ve received so far about the dark ages and infallibility are very good. Please let us know if you need more clarification.

Please do remember during your time of exile from all things Catholic to read everything about the LDS church that you can. Many former LDS found that it can be proven wrong by using nothing other than LDS sources. The contradictory doctrines that flip-flop are a good place to start. The stuff by the early church leaders is completely diferent than many current ideas. In the Fielding Smith book, note what he says about the LDS version of history, then cross check that with other, and more current, LDS sources.


#5

Yes. That is the big problem for those who claim the Church went Apostate for x Centuries.

I guess my question would be, if it is impossible for the Church to fall into apostasy, what is the Church’s take on the “dark ages”? We can’t just ignore it. What about selling salvation? I understand that individuals can become corrupt, but when a Pope is pardoning people of their sins for a price isn’t that basically the church?

Books like yours, and even some other people, often claim that the Medieval Church “sold” salvation or forgiveness of sins. This is untrue, and based either on a misunderstanding, or often deliberate misrepresentation. Pardon for sins was never sold, and always required confession and true penitence. Indulgences were never pardon for sins, they were a benefit for souls in purgatory who had already had their sins forgiven through penitence and confession. Even indulgences were not meant to be sold, one could receive indulgences as a reward for doing good works, helping others, going on pilgrimages etc. The selling of them was an new innovation introduced by Tetzel, and condemned as an abuse .

Or what I’m trying to say is, a Pope is supposed to be infalible. Doing this would be wrong and that whould make the Pope wrong. Am I mistaking anything here? Does the Catholic Church aknowledge any corrupt Popes or deny it?

The Pope is infallible only in official ex-cathedra pronouncements on Faith and Morals. Other than in this role the Pope is just a normal person. A few historic Popes have been personally corrupt in money and other ways, and this has been acknowledged. Though not nearly as many as anti-Catholics would like to believe.


#6

The LDS has some nice people in it, but sadly it has almost zero intellectual credibility. There is no lost Jewish tribe in North America.

Anywho, I have totally embraced my parents decision to not let me read anything Catholic and decided to read some more Mormon books… which has surprised them, but it hasn’t swayed my decision. Plus, I fianlly got up the courage to write my seminary teacher and told him of my decision to convert. He said he would write me back some questions and I want to be able to say I’ve actually read some Mormon books instead of all Catholic books, like he probably thinks.

I’m reading a book called “Essentials in Church History” by Joseph Fielding Smith. In it it talks about the Apostasy of the Catholic church, which I don’t believe it fell into Apostasy because of the scripture thats says the Gates of Hell will never prevail against it… So basically if Christ’s church fell into apostasy like LDS doctine claims, that would mean it also claims that Jesus was a liar.

The problem is that, if you put the apostacy too far back, then that leaves a huge gap of years with no true Christians between the apostacy in late antiquity and the emergence of the real church in 1850 or whenever. If you bring the apostacy too far forwards, say to the Council of Trent, then you’ve got to ask why the true church is so different from the medieval Catholic church.

I guess my question would be, if it is impossible for the Church to fall into apostasy, what is the Church’s take on the “dark ages”? We can’t just ignore it. What about selling salvation? I understand that individuals can become corrupt, but when a Pope is pardoning people of their sins for a price isn’t that basically the church? Or what I’m trying to say is, a Pope is supposed to be infalible. Doing this would be wrong and that whould make the Pope wrong. Am I mistaking anything here? Does the Catholic Church aknowledge any corrupt Popes or deny it?

The Dark Ages were that period of history between 410 and 1066. The Roman Empire collapsed for many complex reasons, some maybe to do with Christianity, but there isn’t time to go into them here. The church kept the flame of learning alive throughout this time, and eventually re-Christianised and recivilised the areas of Britian which had been lost to barbarian invasions. Civilisation dosen’t always progress in an uniterrupted line. There are also regressions. The physics department at Reading University is to close, for example, a straw in the wind telling us that we may be near to the end of the age of science.

Indulgences do not sell salvation. They are a formalisation of the idea of doing good works to improve one’s spiritual state. A mortal sinner must confess to have his sin forgiven, whilst someone with many serious venial sins will still enter heaven eventually. However if the latter takes action by doing good works, his entry to heaven may be faster. Buying an indulgence is a way of doing good works - the money is used for the spirtual benefit of others.

However the system did fall into abuse. The Protestant Reformers weren’t entirely wrong about that.

Popes are infallible when formally promulgating dogma, which in recent times has only been done on one occasion, when the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was declared a dogma of the Church. They are not impeccable (incapable of sinning). A Pope could certainly use money raised for Church purposes on his own private pleasures, and this would be scandalous, but not entirely unexpected given human fallibility.

As for bad Popes, Alexander VI was probably the most stylish. The bad Popes tended to be doctrinally conservative - when they were not getting drunk and whoring, they offered normal judgements. Maybe cynically.

Innocent III was another Pope who was not morally dissolute, but who had enormous political power, which inevitably leads to compromises.

Very few Catholic historians would try to whitewash these Popes. However the bad Popes are few in number. A lot of liberal Catholics don’t like the present Pope - I personally wouldn’t have voted for him had I been a Cardinal. However he hasn’t, as I feared, tried to impose a very divisive policy on the church. I don’t know Bendedict XVI personally, but whatever his private character, he functions very well as Pope.


#7

Thank you all for your responses!! This makes me feel a lot better to know that the popes aren’t infallible in everything and they are not expected to be perfect.


#8

I beg to differ from you on the idea that indulgences were not widespread. How do you think the basillica of St. Peter’s got built? Indulgences my friend and many of them. It was more widespread than you let on. It was so much that Luther felt compelled to rebel against them…


#9

Actually, St. Peter’s was well along before the “indulgence selling” occurred. There is no question that the doing of some pious act in connection with receiving the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion for the remission of temporal punishment due to already forgiven sin, was a long-established practice. Making a donation was, unwisely, added to those “pious acts” for a brief period. But it was certainly not the only way to gain an indulgence. There were a good number of other ones. Indulgences were, by the way, a kind of mercy extended to those whose sins had been forgiven. From the very first days of Christianity, people did penances as a way to expiate non-eternal punishment. Some of those penances, many self-imposed, were quite harsh. Saying prayers, making a pilgrimage or, indeed, making a donation were much less severe than some of the penances of ancient times. The point was to make some kind of personal sacrifice, whether in time or, regrettably, and for a time, in money. Never was it a means of gaining salvation or forgiveness of sin.

While making a donation to the Church to complete the basilica was not greatly different in purpose and intent than, e.g., making a pilgrimage to Rome, it was obviously easy to abuse and to misinterpret. Tetzel was a crackerjack salesman with more ability than either good sense or a firm moral sense. Corruption set in rather quickly, as civil authorities and bankers decided to get into the act and demand a share, which they did.

Ordinary people were not the ones who resented it. After all, it was optional, and those who donated did so because they wanted to do so. What person does not feel a certain sense of virtue in donating to some special project of his church? Not many churches would be built if people didn’t. Since a pilgrimage to Rome was a means of gaining an indulgence, and since the old basilica had been in terrible condition, it was not a terribly illogical or unnatural thing to do from the perspective of the donors.

Luther had personal problems as well as problems with the Church in other ways. He particularly had a problem with priestly celibacy, and ultimately married. He had a very severe problem with his conscience, and felt himself almost certainly damned most of the time, until he “discovered” that one is saved by faith alone. Some of the German princes who had long resented the flow of money to Rome; not just for St. Peter’s but for any reason at all because they wanted the money in taxes for their own purposes, backed Luther almost immediately. Luther wanted a cause celebre against a Church whose strictures he did not wish to follow, or thought himself unable to follow, and found it in the indulgence selling of Tetzel. Probably the donors were quite surprised to be told they had “bought” an indulgence. They probably thought they “gained” an indulgence by performing a pious act. But the ongoing concentration of political power in northern Europe demanded a great deal of money. The princes jumped on Luther’s cause for their own reasons. It was a “perfect storm” in which the output greatly exceeded the inputs. Had the indulgence “selling” been Luther’s only complaint, he would have ultimately been satisfied when it ceased. But he went on to establish his own church with altogether different doctrines, the major one being salvation by faith alone, demonstrating fairly obviously what was really in his heart all along.


#10

Question answered. Thread closed.
Thanks to all who participated.


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.