Why do non-Catholics distort history to prove their point?


#1

It seems to me that there are some non-Catholics who will make statements to prove the Catholic church wrong, which are not entirely truthful.

Here is an example of what I am talking about.
I have a quote from a non-Catholic, and then one by Jimmy Akins in response to that claim.

My question is why would a non-Catholic distort the history to prove their point?

Here is a quote from a non-Catholic site on praying to Mary:

The Immaculate Conception is a Roman Catholic doctrine asserting that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved from the effects of original sin from the first moment of her conception. The doctrine was defined as a dogma binding on Catholics by Pope Pius IX in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus (1854). The doctrine as defined was debated by theologians during the Middle Ages and was rejected by Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Here is a quote from Jimmy Akins:

The fact is that Aquinas did hold to Mary’s entire personal sinlessness, which is what Protestants really object to. They are not concerned about what Aquinas was looking at–whether she was free from each and every stain of original sin during a window of time prior to her birth. That is a trivial matter to them compared to the question of whether Mary committed actual, personal sin during her life. That is what they are obsessed about and which will get them hopping up and down issuing charges of heresy, claiming that a sinless life makes Mary out to be God (as if it would make us God when we have been entirely sactified and are leading totally sinless lives). When Protestants say that Aquinas didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception but fail to say that he believed in her sinless life, they are picking at something that is from their position a nit and omitting the fact that Aquinas is not on their in the thing which really concerns them.


#2

Before accusing someone of distorting history, perhaps it would be best to look at what the people involved actually said and not what someone else claims.

Pope Pius IX’s definition in Ineffabilis Deus

Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P9INEFF.HTM

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theolgica

If the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never incurred the stain of original sin, this would be derogatory to the dignity of Christ, by reason of His being the universal Saviour of all….But the Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin, but was cleansed therefrom before her birth from the womb.

Third Part, Question 27, Article 2

newadvent.org/summa/4027.htm

Now Aquinas did hold that Mary was born without sin but he states that she did contract original sin which is contrary to the defined dogma. My understanding is that being close is not enough in matters of doctrine.

Aquinas was not alone. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote:

Wherefore I cannot but wonder that there should have been among you at this time some who wished to sully this splendid fame of your Church by introducing a new Festival, a rite which the Church knows nothing of, and which reason does not prove, nor ancient tradition hand down to us. Have we the pretension to be more learned or more devoted than the Fathers? It is a dangerous presumption to establish in such a matter what their prudence left unestablished. And the matter in question is of such a nature that it could not possibly have escaped the diligence of the Fathers if they had not thought that they ought not to occupy themselves with it….For how does the consequence follow that since the conception has preceded the birth, and the birth is holy, the conception should be considered holy also? Did it make the birth holy because it preceded it? Although the one came first that the other might be, yet not that it might be holy. From whence came that holiness to the conception which was to be transmitted to the birth which followed? Was it not rather because the conception preceded without holiness that it was needful for the being conceived to be sanctified, that a holy birth might then follow? Or shall we say that the birth which was later than the conception shared with it its holiness? It might be, indeed, that the sanctification which was worked in her when conceived passed over to the birth which followed; but it could not be possible that it should have a retrospective effect upon the conception which had preceded it….If, therefore, before her conception she could not possibly be sanctified, since she did not exist, nor in the conception itself, because of the sin which inhered in it, it remains to be believed that she received sanctification when existing in the womb after conception, which, by excluding sin, made her birth holy, but not her conception….Willingly the glorious Virgin will be without this honour, by which either a sin seems to be honoured or a sanctity supposed which is not a fact. And, besides, she will by no means be pleased by a presumptuous novelty against the custom of the Church, a novelty which is the mother of rashness, the sister of superstition, the daughter of levity.

LETTER XLV (circa A.D. 1140),To the Canons of Lyons, on the Conception of S. Mary.

ccel.org/ccel/bernard/letters.lxviii.html?highlight=mary#highlight

Now if it had been church doctrine Bernard says he would have gone along with it, but he denies that there was such a doctrine at the time. I find his comments about its absence in ancient tradition as particulairly interesting as well as his comments on the novelty of such an idea. Again he held Mary was born without sin but not conceived without sin. Maybe close, but still not in agreement with Pius IX’s definition.


#3

I’m not too sure that Non-Catholics hold a monopoly on distorting history to prove their points.


#4

I do agree with savesdinner. Just look at some of the noncatholic websites. It’s almost laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

They must know that they are misquoting and changing history but these are put out as fact. The gullible read this. I have noncatholics come up to me and ask and it breaks my heart.


#5

I too have wondered why some non -Catholics fiddle with the facts in order to prove their points. Of course maybe their research is shallow, maybe they research only from non-Catholic texts and not from the primary documents of the Church, maybe they realise that most people won’t be bothered to check what they say if what they claim confirms an already existing prejudice.

Both Aquinas and Bernard speculated about the Immaculate Conception before it was proclaimed a doctrine; when discussion was permitted. Cardinal Newman had reservations about the exact nature of papal infallibility before the doctrine was proclaimed but after it was proclaimed he accepted it.


#6

This is a very good point. Of course one is free to talk about the issue before it is made a doctrine of faith. It is even better that faithfull people talk to be able to cover all the points of the future doctrine.


#7

Eberyone distorts it. It’s only when you really delve into history that you will realize that.


#8

But Mr. Aquinas never claimed papal infallability did he?

Perhaps we should remind everyone, especially our Protestant friends, that it is bearing false witness to proclaim by fiat that Mary sinned without having any personal proof of it.

James


#9

Dear Latin Catholic brethren,

Before I came into communion with the Catholic Church from Coptic Orthodoxy, I felt it necessary to REALLY know what I was getting into. This entailed a three-year study into the largest portion of the Catholic Church - the Latin Church, trying to figure out the reasons for her beliefs.

It still surprises me that many Catholics really don’t know what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is. St. Thomas Aquinas is not considered a heretic NOT because the dogma had not yet been defined. Rather, he did not believe in the Immaculate Conception AS defined because:

During the time of St. Thomas Aquinas, it was a very popular belief that the PHYSICAL conception of a person occurs AT A DIFFERENT TIME than the SPIRITUAL conception of a person. I believe the most prevalent view was that spiritual conception occured up to 40 days after the physical conception.

St. Thomas, possessing this popular belief, understood that the physical conception of Mary was NOT free from original sin. HOWEVER, St. Thomas DID believe that Mary;s SPIRITUAL conception was completely pure, or immaculate - free from all the effects of original sin. Further, St. Thomas believed that AT THE MOMENT of her SPIRITUAL conception, Mary’s physical form was AT THAT POINT cleansed of original sin. In effect, her body was sanctified by her pure and immaculate spirit.

What the Catholic Church ACTUALLY teaches is that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception refers to her SPIRITUAL conception, NOT her physical conception. The only difference between St. Thomas’ belief on the one hand, and the dogma on the other, is that the Church now understands (and understood as well at the time the dogma of the IC was promulgated) that the physical conception and the spiritual conception OCCURS SIMULTANEOUSLY. Since the physical and spiritual conceptions occur simultaneously, it is thus maintained that the immaculate spiritual conception was able to sanctify the physical conception instantaneously. Hence, the dogma as it is worded

THAT is the reason why the Church can proclaim that St, Thomas cannot be considered a heretic opposed to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The Church has never made the relative moments of physical and spiritual conception a matter of dogma. And it is this latter concept that is the only difference between St. Thomas belief and the dogma of the IC.

So indeed, the Protestant polemicist is engaged in a bit of dishonesty by failing to qualify his statements. He is attempting to bring one of the greatest Doctors of the Church on his side of the debate. But a true understanding of St. Thomas’ belief could never cause a person to interpret that if St. Thomas was alive today, he would actually reject the dogma of the IC.

I hope that helps.

Blessings,
Marduk


#10

The issue, as Jimmy Akins pointed out, is not wether Thomas Aquinas believed in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as defined by the church, but the writer of the first article is trying to show that Thomas Aquinas didn’t believe that Mary was born without sin.
That person is using a truth, to mislead his readers.
It is true that St. Thomas didn’t hold to Mary being cleansed of original sin at the moment of her conception, but it is not true that he didn’t believe she was born without sin. And that is the point the author is trying to make, that the church invented that belief in the middle ages, and St. Thomas who is considered on of the greatest theologians didn’t believe it.
And I guess, I should have not just blamed non-catholics on this, because sometimes I see Catholics also do the same.


#11

I was responding to the original post that stated it was distorting history to say that there was a debate about the Immaculate Conception and Thomas Aquinas’ position on it. I didn’t say that Aquinas claimed infallibility. I said nothing about whether Mary sinned or not. She may or may not have. Please do not distort what I say simply because you cannot refute what I actually said.


#12

That may be what Mr. Akins may want the issue to be but from what you posted it was not what the first author said, From your post he refers to the point of her conception, not to her birth or life.


#13

Agreed, you did not say that Aquinas did not claim infallability. But you attempted either through naivety or disingenuous rhetoric, whichever the case may be, to use a highly regarded Catholic Church saint’s theological opinion out of temporal context in a manner that he himself would never have permitted if alive. Does rhetorical manipulation of a man’s words out of historical period to force him into apparent contradiction with modern revelation that goes against The Church he loved somehow make you immune from hypocrisy and your own same charge of distortion?

No again, you did not say that St. Aquinas never claimed infallability; but nor did you say that St. Aquinas never would contradict the pope nor the official dogma of the Church he loved. So why raise our saint from the grave in modern times to try to make him re-speak his words out of temporal context to contradict the teachings of the church he loved, served and enlightened? St. Aquinas has already been judged and found worthy of heaven - you can’t make him speak heresy and sin. Rather than manipulate our saints into theological contests that they, where they alive, would never permit themselves to be manipulated into please kindly let our saints rest in peace and learn from their life’s example.

As to your final objection to my exhortation for Protestants to be careful about bearing false witness about Mary sinning without having personal knowledge: Unless you imagine yourself to be a spokesperson for all Protestant denominations, whatever that large number of sects is now, why take the comment personally? Feeling guilty or infallible? :wink:

James


#14

It’s not inaccurate. Aquinas did reject the Immaculate Conception. You are right that the Immaculate Conception and the freedom of Mary from actual sin are two different issues, and that the Protestant polemicist probably confuses them. But the Protestant site nowhere claims that Aquinas thought Mary sinned. And Akin is the one being inaccurate, or at least overly speculative, in his statement that Protestants don’t care about the IC strictly speaking. As a former Calvinist, he should know better. Historically, mainstream Protestantism has emphasized original sin to the point of making actual sin almost a trivial consequence. He’s right that many, even most Protestants object to the idea of anyone other than Jesus never having committed actual sin. But freedom from original sin is a far more problematic idea for most Protestants.

So sure, the website ought to have noted that Aquinas believed that Mary was cleansed from all sin before birth. But it’s still significant that he rejected the IC itself. Only the IC makes it untrue to say that Christ is the only human being after the Fall who had no sin. And that is the most basic objection Protestants have to the IC. It’s an objection we share with Aquinas, so it’s perfectly fair to cite Aquinas as being on our side. (I myself have no problem with the idea that Mary never committed actual sin–certainly not mortal sin at any rate. But I’m not a typical Protestant, to say the least!)

As for why non-Catholics distort history, they do it for the same reasons Catholics do it:D They do it first of all because, whatever is the case for the Blessed Virgin, the rest of us *do *have this pesky thing called original sin! And in the second place, because they are not only sinful but also fallible, and even the most honest and intelligent person tends to notice those things that confirm his or her assumptions about the nature of reality, and pay less attention to others!

Edwin


#15

I do not deny that some Protestants may distort history or Catholic teaching. However in the case the original poster was accusing a specific article as doing this. I have read the article and it does nothing of the kind. It is true that there was debate in Aquinas’ day about the Immaculate Conception. Aquinas and the Dominicans generally took a position contrary to that of Fransiscans and their most prominent advocate, Duns Scotus. So history was not being distorted in the article being criticize.

I do find the question of temporal context difficult. I know that the Church says that before dogmatic definition that something is a theologoumenon. However Pius IX seems quite clear that he considered the Immaculate Conception as something that had been taught and believed all along and would have been part of the ordinary teaching of the Magisterium which is binding on Catholics.

The Catholic Church, directed by the Holy Spirit of God, is the pillar and base of truth and has ever held as divinely revealed and as contained in the deposit of heavenly revelation this doctrine concerning the original innocence of the august Virgin—a doctrine which is so perfectly in harmony with her wonderful sanctity and preeminent dignity as Mother of God—and thus has never ceased to explain, to teach and to foster this doctrine age after age in many ways and by solemn acts.

They denounced as false and absolutely foreign to the mind of the Church the opinion of those who held and affirmed that it was not the conception of the Virgin but her sanctification that was honored by the Church. They never thought that greater leniency should be extended toward those who, attempting to disprove the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, devised a distinction between the first and second instance of conception and inferred that the conception which the Church celebrates was not that of the first instance of conception but the second. In fact, they held it was their duty not only to uphold and defend with all their power the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin but also to assert that the true object of this veneration was her conception considered in its first instant.

For, not only have they in no way ever allowed this doctrine to be censured or changed, but they have gone much further and by clear statements repeatedly asserted that the doctrine by which we profess the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin is on its own merits entirely in harmony with the ecclesiastical veneration; that it is ancient and widespread, and of the same nature as that which the Roman Church has undertaken to promote and to protect, and that it is entirely worthy to be used in the Sacred Liturgy and solemn prayers. Not content with this they most strictly prohibited any opinion contrary to this doctrine to be defended in public or private in order that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin might remain inviolate.

All are aware with how much diligence this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God has been handed down, proposed and defended by the most outstanding religious orders, by the more celebrated theological academies, and by very eminent doctors in the sciences of theology.

And indeed, illustrious documents of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church, very forcibly testify that this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the most Blessed Virgin, which was daily more and more splendidly explained, stated and confirmed by the highest authority, teaching, zeal, knowledge, and wisdom of the Church, and which was disseminated among all peoples and nations of the Catholic world in a marvelous manner—**this doctrine always existed in the Church as a doctrine that has been received from our ancestors, and that has been stamped with the character of revealed doctrine. **

ewtn.com/LIBRARY/PAPALDOC/P9INEFF.htm

If Pius was correct then this doctrine is something that has always been held by the Church and, as revealed doctrine, should have been accepted by Bernard and Aquinas. Bernard specifically contradicts the Pope’s statements that it was a doctrine ever held by the Church in that Bernard says it was a innovation and not found in Tradition.

Both Bernard and Aquinas held that at conception Mary was subject to original sin but was sanctified prior to birth. Pius indicates that this was a view that had always been condemned by the Church. He also says that the doctrine had always been defended by eminent doctors of theology. Would you say that Bernard and Aquinas do not fall into this category?

So by his encyclical Pius seems to include both the time of Bernard and Aquinas within the temporal context of the doctrine.

With respect to theologoumenons I have great difficulty. It is quite clear that the truth does not change. If the Immaculate Concption is true, it always has been true whether defined or not. The question I have is how can a belief that did not have to be believed suddenly become necessary for belief? To me there would seem to be two possibilities. Either it was always necessary to believe it, in which case the Chruch failed the faithful in not defining it earlier. or it only became necessary after the definition. This latter situation would mean that the unchanging God has changed what it is necessary to beileve. Why would He require someone in 1855 to believe more than someone in 1853? Does God change His requirements because the Church now says it is required and why add more for belief at such a late date?

By the way I do read Catholic writers whether contemporary, or historic because I recognize that truth can be found in many sources, even if I do not believe everything they wrote.


#16

To my fellow Catholics -

The motives of the mostly nameless and faceless people that post here are difficult to determine. Some atheists come here to spread their disbelief and use science to support it.

The internet can be a good resource but it is subject to great manipulation and is a source of great temptation to do evil, especially through porn sites.

The spectrum of people on the internet runs the gamut of those who want to harm others to truly holy people. Fact checking becomes difficult and those who are malicious will gladly distort facts or claim falsehoods as facts.

There is no police force on the internet to stop people from confusing other people; they are too busy looking for predators and others who want to harm people.

God bless,
Ed


#17

I see this quite a bit like when the JW’s try to claim that Constantine declared that Jesus was divine.

Or like some Christians try to claim that St. Augustine didn’t believe in the real presence.

The scary thing is there are people out there who believe these things as truth, and either don’t bother to check them out for themselves or aren’t smart enough to figure it out themselves.

I think it is most blatant when others claim that Catholics invented things many hundred or thousands of years after the Apostles, and then point to the council where heresies were confronted, and the church defined what it really believes.

That link from the first post had to deal with Catholics praying to Mary, which is then switched praying into “worshipping” Mary, and they are trying to show that Catholics today somehow believe that Mary is somehow divine by being without sin, and point that even the great theologian Thomas Aquinas didn’t believe she was sinless, but fail to disclose that he felt that she was cleansed from sin shortly after her conception while still in the womb.

If people don’t see what is going on, then that probably explains why believe what they do and accept false teachings as truth.


#18

There are two camps:

  1. Those who are ignorant of history
  2. Those who are not ignorant of it but seek to distort it to their own ends

The first camp is by far the largest. They simply believe what they’ve been told by those they trust.

The second camp may be divided into at least two groups:

  1. Conspiracy theorists (e.g. “The Trail of Blood”)
  2. Partisans who read history very, very selectively; these begin with their tradition and include that portion of the historical record which favors it, rejecting that which contradicts it

#19

I think that most of the non-Catholics who are “distorting history” honestly believe their mistaken facts to be true. Some Catholics do the same thing - because they don’t know any better. For instance, how was the apocrypha removed from the Bible? Was it removed because Martin Luther took it out, or was it simply put in a separate section by Martin Luther - a section which American printers later decided to cut out of their Bibles because no one really used those books anyway?

I think nearly all of the Catholics on this website firmly believe that Martin Luther took those books out. This link: kencollins.com/bible-p1.htm#out says otherwise (scroll up a bit). Who’s right? I don’t know for sure, I haven’t researched it very much.

They may be distorting history, but they don’t know they’re doing it.


#20

Dear brother Sycarl

If Pius was correct then this doctrine is something that has always been held by the Church and, as revealed doctrine, should have been accepted by Bernard and Aquinas. Bernard specifically contradicts the Pope’s statements that it was a doctrine ever held by the Church in that Bernard says it was a innovation and not found in Tradition.

Both Bernard and Aquinas held that at conception Mary was subject to original sin but was sanctified prior to birth. Pius indicates that this was a view that had always been condemned by the Church. He also says that the doctrine had always been defended by eminent doctors of theology. Would you say that Bernard and Aquinas do not fall into this category?

So by his encyclical Pius seems to include both the time of Bernard and Aquinas within the temporal context of the doctrine.

With respect to theologoumenons I have great difficulty. It is quite clear that the truth does not change. If the Immaculate Concption is true, it always has been true whether defined or not. The question I have is how can a belief that did not have to be believed suddenly become necessary for belief? To me there would seem to be two possibilities. Either it was always necessary to believe it, in which case the Chruch failed the faithful in not defining it earlier. or it only became necessary after the definition. This latter situation would mean that the unchanging God has changed what it is necessary to beileve. Why would He require someone in 1855 to believe more than someone in 1853? Does God change His requirements because the Church now says it is required and why add more for belief at such a late date?

By the way I do read Catholic writers whether contemporary, or historic because I recognize that truth can be found in many sources, even if I do not believe everything they wrote.

What St. Bernard regarded an innovation was NOT the Immaculate Conception, but the FEAST of the Immaculate Conception IIRC.

And as stated, since the dogma of the IC refers to the SPIRITUAL conception primarily, then it cannot be stated that St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the Immaculate Conception, for St, Thomas exactly believed that Mary’s SPIRITUAL conception was immaculate.

Blessings,
Marduk


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