Church History

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Today we visited the Aztec Temple in Mexico City. The cathedral of Mexico City was built right next to the 500-year temple.

I did a lot of study on the Aztecs and their massive human sacrifices and cannibalism.

I realized there was a great tie-in with the Catholic faith, the sacrifice of Christ and abortion which is also human sacrifice. I share the history and my discoveries in this short video on location.

You can learn more about the Tilma of Guadalupe in my new talk: Holy Shroud of Turin and Tilma of Guadalupe: Love Letters from Heaven.Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 7.27.51 AM

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Did the Church Ever Support Slavery?

by Steve Ray on October 20, 2019

By Steve Weidenkopf   September 18, 2017

Many years ago I attended a conference organized by a national Catholic organization on the topics of marriage and human sexuality. One of the speakers was a professor from Creighton University who, in the middle of his talk on contraception, launched into a long tangent about how the Church had never condemned slavery in the past, which “proved” that the Church had made a mistake, and so perhaps it’s teaching on contraception would be viewed as incorrect in the future (a viewpoint he agreed with).

I did not get the opportunity at the conference to talk with this professor about his erroneous statements about the Church and slavery, so I emailed him and we engaged in a courteous exchange in which I pointed him in the direction of several papal condemnations of slavery, which he dismissed out of hand. He ignored the historical record because it did not fit with his agenda of changing Church teaching on contraception.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon tactic by those with an animus against the Church. Many believe, as this professor did, that the Church approved or at least tolerated slavery, especially of Africans and Native Americans in the New World. Scholars argued that the Church was either late in condemning slavery or actively supported it. But like many other historical myths about the Catholic Church, this one does not withstand scrutiny of the historical record.

The myth persists because there were individual Catholics who supported slavery or owned slaves. Scholars with an ax to grind use these examples as “proof” of the Church’s malfeasance without drawing the necessary distinction that what individual Catholics may do does not necessarily reflect the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium.

Moreover, scholars have routinely failed to distinguish between different types of slavery. The Church has consistently and constantly condemned the practice of “unjust servitude,” which usually entailed the enslavement of a certain race or for economic gain. But Western society since ancient times permitted just title servitude; that is, the involuntary servitude imposed on criminals or prisoners of war. Just title servitude was considered permissible as recently as 1949 when the Geneva Convention allowed nations at war to conscript prisoners of war for labor. In this case, the Church has always demanded humane treatment of slaves by their masters and even encouraged their emancipation. The failure to recognize these distinctions between types of servitude has led many scholars to declare falsely that the Church failed to condemn slavery.

The Church was born into a world where slavery was a lynchpin of society. Imperial Rome was built and sustained on the backs of slaves; the complete abolition of slavery in Rome was unthinkable and impractical. Despite societal acceptance of slavery, the Church made no distinction between slaves and freedmen in its membership. The equality of believers in a highly class-stratified society was one of the attractions that the Church held for the people of Rome.

Once Emperor Constantine legalized the Church in A.D. 313, its teachings influenced Roman laws and policies. Church funds were used by Christians to redeem slaves, especially prisoners of war. One former slave even rose to become pope (Callistus I) in the early third century! Still, slavery continued in Europe even after the collapse of imperial rule in the late fifth century, but as the Church’s influence increased the institution of slavery decreased until it was completely eradicated in Christendom.

Unfortunately, slavery returned to European society in the fifteenth century, with the conquest of the Canary Islands and the discovery of the New World. But from 1435 to 1890, a succession of popes condemned the slave trade and slavery in no uncertain terms. The first pope to do so was Eugenius IV (r. 1431-1447), who in his 1435 bull Sicut Dudum demanded that Christians free all enslaved natives of the Canary Islands within fifteen days; failure to do so would incur automatic excommunication. Thus, fifty-seven years before Columbus’s first voyage, the Roman pontiff unequivocally prohibited the enslavement of native peoples.

In 1537, Pope Paul III (r. 1534-1549) issued a bull, Sublimus Dei, which taught that native peoples were not to be enslaved. In 1591, Gregory XIV (r. 1590-1591) promulgated Cum Sicuti, which was addressed to the bishop of Manila in the Philippines and reiterated his predecessors’ prohibitions against enslaving native peoples. In the seventeenth century, Urban VIII (r. 1623-1644) promulgated Commissum Nobis (1639) in support of the Spanish king’s (Philip IV) edict prohibiting enslavement of the Indians in the New World.

The need for cheap and abundant labor in the colonies is what led to the African slave trade. This new form of bondage was also condemned by the popes, beginning with Innocent XI (r. 1676-1689). In 1741, Benedict XIV (r. 1740-1758) issued Immensa Pastorum, which reiterated that the penalty for enslaving Indians was excommunication. In 1839, Gregory XVI (r. 1831-1846) issued In Supremo to condemn the enslavement of Africans. Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) promulgated two bulls condemning slavery in 1888 and 1890.

Yet despite the many papal condemnations of slavery, European colonists continued to enslave Africans and New World natives until the nineteenth century. Papal denunciations of slavery were so harsh and so frequent that the colonial Spanish instituted a law forbidding the publication of papal documents in the colonies without prior royal approval.

It is ironic that the Church is falsely accused of either supporting slavery or failing to condemn it, when the wholesale enslavement of Christians by Muslims (estimated at one million people), especially the Ottoman Turks from the sixteenth to the eighteen century, is all but ignored. Finally, it is disingenuous to equate the immoral behavior of individual Catholics with official Church teaching. The fact that some Catholics owned slaves or participated in the slave trade is not an indictment of the Church, but rather an illustration that Catholics will sometimes ignore the clear teachings of the Church.

For more information on this and may other common anti-Catholic historical charges, see Steve Weidenkopf’s new book, The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths, available late September and available now for pre-order from Catholic Answers Press.

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My EWTN Live Show on the Papacy now on YouTube

by Steve Ray on August 16, 2019

On August 14, I was in Birmingham Alabama to do the EWTN Live show with Fr. Mitch Pacwa. He’s a classy guy, by the way, and I really enjoyed my time with him again. He’s a hunter and outdoorsman and a pleasure to be with — lots of great stories. (Courtesy of EWTN Global Catholic Network).

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In 1521 “Reformers” Disagreed among themselves – was it really THAT bad?

August 8, 2019

A friend named Philip wrote and asked me this question: Christ is Risen. And we with him. I was talking to Evangelical friends who directed me to some historical websites about the Marburg meeting of the Protestant Reformers. You have just finished your Dr. Luther tour of Germany. It seems that the Protestants did agree […]

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Steve “Appearance” on Catholic Answers Live – Martyrs!

July 25, 2019

Steve Ray discusses the Catholic Church’s history of martyrs who refused to deny Christ. Questions Covered: 18:20 – How can you historically prove that the writings of the martyrs are theirs? Do most Protestants believe that these writings existed and were true?  21:55 – How can we defend the bad practices of popes in the early Church?      […]

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In response to a “Bible Christian’s“ Critique & Criticism of Catholics Reading the Bible

June 2, 2019

A man named and Alan posted a comment on my blog. He claims that he was once a Catholic and therefore he is eminently qualified to comment on Catholics reading Bibles. He said they don’t read Bibles and they “don’t even own Bibles”. His ignorant exaggerations discredit everything else he says but I still thought […]

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One of my favorite 1-minute videos about the Church! Swelling with pride again…

June 1, 2019

This short one-minute video is a few years old now, but it always makes me swell with pride. I am sharing it again to remind us that the Catholic Church is a blessed and elegant and universal Church that needs to be loved and defended. Enjoy, again! Maybe share with a friend or family that […]

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How We REALLY Got the Bible – the Facts Simply Presented (print this out, hand it out)

May 16, 2019

This is just one page of Bob Sullivan’s excellent little tri-fold handout to explain how we got the Bible. It is from the Catholic and historical perspective without all the Protestant biases and twisting of history. I think you enjoy the whole thing which you can see here. You can print this out, fold it […]

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What Happened to the Apostles after the New Testament?

May 14, 2019

 

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The Technology of Scripture Study: The Middle Ages (and a hilarious video at the end)

April 30, 2019

“I am an ecclesiastical historian by training and a Bible software guy by trade. Which, I think, puts me in the unique position to write about the history of the intersection of technology and Scripture study in a series of posts.” Written by my friend Andrew Jones PhD: “We might start with a description of […]

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How Many Churches Did Jesus Intend?

April 28, 2019

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony. My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father… so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent […]

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Wow! Sistine Chapel Explained; Now You See Why We Only Use Liz as our Guide in Rome!

April 21, 2019

We have a special Advent Pilgrimage to Italy in early December this year AND LIZ IS OUR GUIDE! Take a look at this video to see Liz’s amazing knowledge, passion for the Catholic Faith and eloquence. Enjoy this amazing video. To join our upcoming pilgrimages, visit our page here. We will spend two nights in […]

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Why You Should Read the Fathers of the Church

March 13, 2019

Written by Dr. David Tamisiea from St. Philip Institute. It is a nice introduction to the Fathers of the Church – the guys that made me Catholic. For the whole article, click here. ******************************* The terms “Fathers of the Church,” “Church Fathers,” “early Church Fathers,” or simply “the Fathers,” are used by Catholics and other […]

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Responding to an Eastern Orthodox Christian who challenged me about the Papacy on Catholic Answers Live

March 4, 2019

When I was last on Catholic Answers Live last week Constantine Regas called in to defend the Eastern Orthodox position against the Catholic Church’s teaching on Peter and the Primacy of Rome. Constantine’s words are in BLUE and my responses are in BLACK. I appreciated Constantine’s irenic tone and honest demeanor.  CONSTANTINE REGAS (CR): I called […]

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Who Chose the Books of the Bible? Are the Books “Self-authenticating”?

January 8, 2019

Are the Books of the New Testament “Self-Authenticating” or was the Catholic Church Necessary to Define the Canon of Scripture? By Steve Ray Hello Protestant Friend: I was very happy to receive your twenty-five-page letter which claimed that sola Scriptura (Bible alone) and sola fide (faith alone) were the faith and teaching of the Apostles. […]

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What to Think About Bad Popes

January 2, 2019

Written by Dave Armstrong and used with permission: BAD POPES: REPLIES TO A SINCERE INQUIRER, by Dave Armstrong God made an everlasting covenant with King David, even though he was an adulterer and murderer. Dave writes: “As this was originally private correspondence, my correspondent’s exact words will be paraphrased, not cited. Her “words” will be […]

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