Five Anti-Catholic Myths, by Gerard M. Verschuuren
It is telling what an author considers to be a myth worth countering. As a reader of this book, I find myself in a bit of a strange position. On the one hand, I have no particular interest in supporting or endorsing myths that people confuse for historical truths. This author has an obvious pro-Catholic perspective and that can create some problems for readers who do not share the author’s presuppositions. Among the biggest handicaps this writer faces is a commitment to a progressive view of theology that is not bound to what the Bible says, which leads him to try to be more righteous than the Bible when it comes to slavery, for example, and prevents him from stating the obvious point that there is nothing inherently wrong with slavery, but that the Bible clearly provides rights to all people, even slaves, and that the contemporary contempt for slaveowners as a class is itself unrighteous and unjust, as it prevents us from having a proper understanding of our relationship to God. The author’s commitment to an ethic that is not limited to the Bible’s contents prevents him from making a firm biblical appeal in any of the subjects that he discusses, which is a great shame.
This book is a short one at less than 200 pages and it is divided into five chapters that deal with the author’s view of five anti-Catholic myths that are held with more or less frequency among society as a whole. A short preface begins the work before the author talks about the myth of slavery with a lot of discussion of the tension between Catholic efforts to ameliorate the conditions of slavery while slavery was popular with Catholic regimes (1). After that the author discusses the Crusades and seeks to counter an understanding of Catholic aggression, making the point (an often forgotten one) that the Crusades were a defensive act against Muslim aggression that is not often realized (2). This is followed by a discussion of the Catholic inquisition, where the author engages in some tu quoque reasoning by talking about Protestant witch hunting efforts (3). The fourth chapter is among the most academic, where the author gives a detailed discussion of Galileo’s scientific views as well as his writings and the nature of his theological speculations that caused a great deal of frustration and irritation within the Catholic hierarchy, and understandably so (4). Finally, the author discusses the truth about Pope Pius XII and how it contrasts with the the way that he is viewed. The book ends with a conclusion, suggested further reading and an index.
Nevertheless, the author’s problematic arguments are not necessarily decisive in understanding this book. This book is still of some worth, despite its flaws, at least because the author presents the Catholic case in areas where the Catholic church is viewed with considerable condemnation. The author argues for a relative superiority of the Catholic Church when it comes to matters of witch hunts and claims that the Inquisition was superior to lynch mobs and preserved a strong sense of jurisprudence. This is a hard case to make. The weakness of the author’s case on slavery has already been noted. The author is on stronger ground when defending himself in the matter of Galileo, where Galileo was dinged for entering into theological matters, rather than for his scientific thoughts, which were not quite as accurate as is often viewed to be the case, it must be admitted (since he was hostile to the idea of elliptical orbits). The author is on even more sure ground when he points out that Pope Pius XII was not Hitler’s pope but was hostile to Nazism and makes a strong candidate for being among the righteous among the gentiles.