In Seven Lies About Catholic History, historian Diane Moczar leads us through a lively survey of some of the worst distortions of Church history. Fabrications about the Inquisition, Galileo affair and Crusades are corrected, along with those regarding the “Dark Ages” and other topics. Many readers — Catholics among them — will be surprised to learn that what they think they know about Church history just isn’t so.
For example, Moczar explains that physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was never harassed in a hall loaded with his enemies, nor was he tortured or even threatened with torture. In fact, the Church acted cautiously in the matter, unlike the bombastic Galileo, who, though he was on the correct side of the issue in question, was unable to back up his claims and was wrong on other important matters of science. He thought comets were optical illusions, to cite one notable error.
Curiously, misrepresentations of the Galileo case originated over a century after his death. This was due to the desire of deists in the 1700s to paint the Church as an enemy of science and progress, an audacious lie indeed. The Church has been the greatest friend of science, which Moczar hints at, and which is explained at more length in How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization by Thomas E. Woods Jr.
Why would anyone adhere to or promote the idea that the Church is the enemy of science? Moczar explains that “nearly all the lies discussed in this book, which are truly lies about history, lead back to basic questions about the Catholic faith” and that “most of the lies were originally told by people who opposed the Church,” rather than people who had a legitimate misunderstanding of a particular event.
One of the most obvious examples of this is the set of lies emanating from the so-called Protestant Reformation, the foundational one being that the Catholic Church was so corrupt that its complete overhaul was necessary. This overhaul was carried out by disgruntled men inventing their own religions.
Moczar explains that the Church, made up of human beings, will always have its share of problems and that before the Reformation some of them were schisms and clashes with domineering secular rulers. The “Reformers” exploited these problems in their attempt to discredit the Church and to construct replacements of their own making.
The false doctrines and practices associated with the Reformation brought about not only loss of souls, but civic disunity, poverty and ugliness. The sacking of monasteries and hospitals in England left the poor and sick without the help they had previously received, and an appalling iconoclasm reigned. Works of sacred art that had adorned churches for centuries were destroyed in the name of “reform.” Such actions reveal themselves to be unnecessary and injurious not only on doctrinal grounds, but also on sociological ones.
The Church is also on the side of what is best for the temporal order when it comes to World War II. Moczar mentions in the last chapter the totally unsubstantiated whopper from that time — that Pope Pius XII helped the Nazis exterminate Jews. In reality, the exact opposite is true: The saintly Pope helped save many thousands of Jews from the Nazis. Moczar mentions some books attesting to the fact that the Jews had no better friend than Pius XII. Among them is Rabbi David Dalin’s The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, a concise and coherent work that sets the record straight.
Moczar straightens out many other matters in Seven Lies, which serves as a solid start for those who want to get to the truth in matters of Church history. Once the smoke of error is dispersed and the truth revealed on selected issues, six brief tips on how to communicate this knowledge to others are set out in an appendix.
This is followed by a second appendix, which names additional resources delving further into specific topics. There is only so much space to go around, making a comprehensive review of any given subject impossible.
Seven Lies About Catholic History contains forceful but fair defenses of the Church, along with admissions of guilt when necessary. Getting past the guilt (which in most cases is actually due to misconceptions about what actually took place) opens the way for appreciation of the countless benefits the Church has bestowed on mankind, not only in the spiritual order, but also on the natural plane as well.
The Church’s enemies would do themselves and everyone else a great service by heeding the words of Pope Pius XII from Sertum Laetitiae: “It is indeed true that religion has its laws and institutions for eternal happiness, but it is undeniable that it endows life here below with so many benefits that it could do no more even if the principle reason for its existence was to make men happy during the brief span of their earthly [lives].”
True indeed, and Diane Moczar has helped to pave the way for more people to understand this.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
SEVEN LIES ABOUT CATHOLIC HISTORY
Infamous Myths About the Church’s Past — and How to Answer Them
By Diane Moczar
TAN Books, 2010
189 pages, $12.95
To order: tanbooks.com