I’ve recently had the opportunity to dust off my medieval history degree in an attempt to help some historically challenged Catholics understand some of the changes their religious organisation has been through over the centuries. Oddly enough, none of them have come round to my way of thinking. Are my facts not clear enough? Is my method of delivery confusing? Or has this organisation brain-washed its adherents to such an extent that they cannot accept that humanity evolves and change happens?
Here is one of my typical illustrations of changes in stance that the Catholic Church has undergone, sticking the three obvious areas – slavery, persecution of heretics, and suppression of scientific beliefs that contradict church teachings:
1. Corpus Iuris Canonici – official canon law of the Catholic Church enacted by Pope Gregory IX and remained official law until 1913, “There are even some who for gain act as captains or pilots in galleys or Saracen pirate vessels. Therefore we declare that such persons should be cut off from the communion of the church and be excommunicated for their wickedness, that catholic princes and civil magistrates should confiscate their possessions, and that if they are captured they should become the slaves of their captors. ”
2. Pope Pius IX in 1866: “Slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law, and there can be several just titles of slavery”
3. Ad extirpanda – papal bull issued by Pope Innocent IV in 1252 authorising the use of torture to extract confessions from heretics who were “to be coerced—as are thieves and bandits—into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb”
4. Pope Clement VI – papal bull Intra Arcana in 1529 instructing Spanish rulers to “compel and with all zeal cause the barbarian nations (of the New World) to come to the knowledge of God, the maker and founder of all things, not only by edicts and admonitions, but also by force and arms”
5. Galieo was imprisoned for life by the Inquisition for his ‘heretical’ works revealing that the Earth is not the centre of the universe, which was believed to be “distorting the Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which the holy mother Church… has held or holds”.
And here is part of a head-scratchingly odd response I’ve received to this:
The church has always been populated by sinful people. Some of the things that have been said even by people in authority down through the centuries have been in error. But the official teachings of the church have always been inerrant and official church teaching has always respected the dignity and value of the human person. It has always held the fullness of the Truth. (capital T) The gates of hell will never prevail upon this Church. It will be here until the end of time with Christ at it’s head.
I’m quite confident that if the Catholic Church still exists in 100 years’ time, there will be female priests, support for birth control and regular same sex marriages. And the adherents that remain will be convinced that the Catholic Church has never changed its official teachings.
Thanks to Quiner’s Diner for another stimulating post.