The Catholic Church - Builder of Civilization, Episode 1: Introduction

Uploaded by PerHedetun on 12.10.2011

Thomas: We've heard it all
before, haven't we... the
Catholic Church is the enemy
of science, progress and
Well, it's all nonsense
and we're going to debunk it
Join me right now for
The Catholic Church:
Builder of Civilization.
Thomas: Welcome to
The Catholic Church:
Builder of Civilization.
I'm your host, Thomas Woods.
I'd like to begin this
13-program series with a
fact that's fairly obvious
to most of us.
There's a bit of a double
standard in the world when
it comes to the Catholic
You can say anything you
like about the Catholic
Your career won't be
over, no one will care,
ther e'll be no candlelight
vigils or hunger strikes.
You say anything you like
about it and that's just
If anything, you'll be even
mor e welcome in fashionable
cir cles than before.
So what's the result of
The result is that you can
get away with saying the
most absurd, ludicrous
things about the Catholic
Church and people
believe it.
People are inclined to
believe every ridiculous
calumny against the
Catholic Church.
But worse, still, some
Catholics themselves I think
have begun to interiorize
some of these criticisms and
deep down I think they
themselves wonder, "Has the
Church r eally been a
positive influence in
history after all?
"Hasn't She been responsible
only for repression and
"And hasn't She been an
opponent of the sciences?"
We've all been taught to
believe this.
It would be a miracle if
people didn't believe it.
But it's not true.
And in this series we're
going to show why it's not
true and we're going to show
the true glory of the
Catholic Church.
Now, the attacks on the
Catholic Church and on
religious belief in general
have accelerated just over
the past five years or so.
We've already seen in recent
years best-selling books by
Richard Dawkins and Daniel
Dennett, Sam Harris,
condemning religious belief
in general as irrational and
foolish and in effect
they're saying to children
in this country, "Your
par ents are stupid for
teaching you the faith."
Worse than that is that
after the July 7, 2005
bombings in London, what we
began to see is this tr end...
that Islamic terrorism is
now giving intellectuals
an excuse to oppose
all religion, the argument
being that, "All religion
is irrational, all r eligion
can give rise to violence, so
it should all be condemned."
So, for example, in
Scotland's Sunday Herald
we r ead Muriel Gray saying,
"The cause of all this
misery, mayhem, violence,
terror and ignorance is of
course religion itself,"
and she called religion,
"Dark Ages nonsense."
"For the government of a
secular country such as
ours,"she said,"to tr eat
religion as if it had real
merit instead of regarding
it as a ridiculous
anachronism, which
education, wisdom and
experience can hopefully
overcome in time, is one of
the most depressing elements
of the 21 st century."
Now, I'll leave aside the
fact that she doesn't
know how to use the word
hopefully corr ectly.
That's another matter.
The point is, this is
our critic.
Another critic, Polly
Toynbee, in the London
Guardian said, "It is now
time to get serious about
all religion and draw a firm
line between the real world
and the world of dreams."
In the London Spectator,
Matthew Parris said, "What
unites an 'extremist' mullah
with a Catholic priest or
evangelical Pr otestant
minister is actually much
mor e significant and
inter esting than what
divides him from them."
Well, these criticisms
have become routine.
Day in and day out we hear
then, "All religion is the
enemy of progress."
But the Catholic Church in
particular is consistently
viewed as the enemy of
science and progress and
knowledge, consistently.
Now, why is that?
How did that happen?
In part, it began 200 years
ago or more in the so-called
Enlightenment, which was a
period in 18th-century
European history in which
the intellectual classes
became extraordinarily
hostile to the Church.
They disparaged the
Midd le Ages consistently.
In fact, that's why they
had the, the word
"enlightenment", because
the idea was that before the
enlightenment, before the
wonderful 18th century,
all we had was misery and
backwardness and ignorance
fostered by the Catholic
Church, but now, thankfully,
we have secular intellectuals
to bring us enlightenment.
I sometimes think that the
most depressing job on earth
must be to be a history
pr ofessor who teaches about
the Middle Ages.
It must be the most
depressing job on earth.
All day long you lectur e
about the Middle Age and
you say, "The Middle Ages
weren't so bad.
"In fact, a lot of great
things happened in the
Midd le Ages, the Catholic
Church made a lot of great
things possible."
You lecture on this all
day long.
You write books and
articles on it.
You even appear on
You appear on radio and you
talk about it... and what
You get home at night,
you turn on the TV, nothing
you've done has made
any affect.
Everybody still believes the
Midd le Ages were the time of
ignorance and repr ession and
it was all the fault of the
Catholic Church.
All of that stuff in effect
cannot be dislodged.
It must be extremely
Now, why, why is it so?
Why are these falsehoods
so resistant to the truth?
Why is it so hard to get
people to change their minds
on this?
Well, ever since the
Enlightenment, what has
taken root in our cultur e
and in our way of thinking
is that the Catholic Church
is assumed to be wr ong and
that secularism... that is
the idea of organizing
society and all of life
without r efer ence to God...
that is said to be the
sour ce of pr ogress.
So by definition, anything
the Church is connected to
involves r etr ogression,
whereas anything that a
secular intellectual brings
us, well, that brings us
pr ogress.
And that has been the lens
through which history has
been viewed over the past
200 years.
That's why it's only over
the past, maybe 50 years
that we've begun to see
historians finally cracking
through this nonsense and
finally saying, "Wait a
"Not only did the Catholic
Church not obstruct the
sciences, She may have
helped to foster them.
"Not only did secularists
not invent the science of
economics, for example, but
in fact, it turns out it
was Catholic priests and
pr ofessors who developed the
ideas of economics centuries
earlier," and on and on
and on.
But it's taken a long time
to crack through this
accepted idea that the
Church is r esponsible for
retrogr ession and ignorance.
It's taken for ever.
Now, let's think about some
of these ar eas in which the
Catholic Church has really
built our civilization.
I mean, I choose that word
Why is it that the Catholic
Church can be said to be
Her builder?
Well, for example, consider
how we think about charity,
charitable work.
We think that you're engaged
in charity when you help
somebody without any
expectation of a reward,
when you do it because it's
good and it's right to do
it, you do it because you
know that in the grand
scheme of things that
unfortunate person is in
some sense your equal
having been made in the
image and likeness of God.
So you help that person.
You don't help that person
because you expect three
years down the r oad to
revisit him and say, "Remember
that 15 bucks I gave you?
Why don't you cough it up?"
Or to r evisit him and say,
"I need votes.
"I need some political
Why don't you come help me?"
We don't do it so we can
tell the whole world,
"Hey, look at what a
great guy I am.
"I just gave that guy
10 bucks."
We don't do it for those
We do it for the reasons
that I gave... purely
disinterested motives.
Well, where do we get
that idea?
That idea comes from
the Catholic Chur ch.
Because in ancient Greece or
Rome, if you had said,
"Oh, I'm going to go help
somebody, with no expectation
of any reciprocity, I'm just
going to go do it out of the
goodness of my heart," they
would have thought you were
"What are you talking
about, man?"
Much less the idea that I
would pray for and even try
to help my own enemies...
"What are you, insane?"
But yet today we take this
for granted as the ideal,
that the good man tries to
observe these principles.
But again, where do they
come from?
They come from the Catholic
The Catholic Church teaches
this about charity...
the ancient world didn't.
So her e's an ar ea in which
things that we take for
granted, this is the way
we think, we take it
for granted.
Where does that come from?
It comes from the Catholic
We'll have more to say about
that in a futur e episode.
How about the idea of
rights... that I have a
right to own pr operty or
a right not to be killed,
for example?
Where does that idea of
rights come from?
Well, we've always been told
that secularists in the
Enlightenment or just before
the Enlightenment came up
with this idea in the
17 th century.
All of a sudden, boom,
rights just developed.
Well, that's not true
And once again, modern
research is coming to the
rescue of Catholicism.
I know that sounds odd.
You think "modern
researchers" and you want
to run the other way.
But in fact, honest
pr ofessors, Catholic and
non-Catholic alike, are now
saying that the idea of
rights goes all the way back
to the 12th century and
Catholic canon lawyers who
gave the idea its birth.
And the idea of a right
simply means that I have a
certain immunity to invasion
by you.
You can't just arbitrarily
kill me or deprive me of
my property, things of
this nature.
That's all a right is...
that it would be wrong
for you to interfere with me
in these areas.
And where does this, this
liberating idea come from?
Fr om the heart of the
Or again, economic science...
did Adam Smith just think
of economics in the
18th century, it all just
came out of his head?
He had this gigantic head
and all of economics just
pour ed out of it?
No, in fact, for the past
50 years, what have
historians been saying?
They've been saying that
it was the Catholic
scholastics, professors who
taught in, particularly
Spanish universities and
specifically the University
of Salamanca, that gave
birth to modern economics.
They were the founders of
economics, not secularists
of the Enlightenment.
This is now being
On the wall of my office, I
have a framed picture of the
University of Salamanca.
Now, most people would come
in and say, "What's the
matter with you man?
"Why would you, of all
universities, pick this one?"
It's because I know that
this is where economics was
given birth and if you're a
geek like me, you're very
inter ested in and you love
But then finally for right
now, befor e our br eak, what
about our commitment to
Don't we always pride
ourselves in Western
civilization on our
commitment to the use of
reason, that we use human
reason to resolve disputes
and to settle debates?
Well, of course, but where
does that come from?
Where does that come from?
That also comes from the
Catholic Church.
Because the university
system that the Catholic
Church foster ed encouraged
debate, rigor ous debate and
human r eason was held up as
the great arbiter to decide
all these matters that ar e
up for debate.
Isn't that the opposite of
what you'r e told?
What we'r e told is that the
Catholic Church is an enemy
of reason.
To the contrary, ther e has
been no greater champion of
But it's not just reason,
it's more specific
applications of reason,
for example, the sciences
in particular... the sciences,
mor e than we realize...
owe themselves to the
Catholic Church.
Now, why is that?
It's the opposite of
what we're told.
But believe it or not,
historians of the past
50 years have begun to say
the Catholic Chur ch is more
and more r esponsible
for the sciences.
Come on back and we'll talk
about this after the break.
Welcome back to
The Catholic Church:
Builder of Civilization.
I'm Thomas Woods.
Before the br eak, we were
talking about all these
areas in which the Catholic
contribution to our
civilization has been
indispensable but in which
it's largely neglected.
How many of the facts that
we've uncovered even up to
now are covered in schools
on a regular basis?
Do I even have to ask
that question?
But I teased you a little
bit with the idea of the
Catholic Church as having
helped to give birth to
science in Western
Civilization just befor e
our break here.
What did I mean by that?
Well, I'm going to tease you
a little bit again, because
by next time we're going to
get into the sciences in
real depth... in the next thr ee
episodes, in fact... because
here I think we have the
aspect of Catholic history
that is most often mangled
and distorted and most often
used, I think, as a bludgeon
with which to beat the
Church over the head... and I
want to show that this is
largely without merit.
What I at least want to
tell you for now is that it
really is true, that over
the past 50 years scientists
who write the history of
science have begun
rethinking the old arguments
against the Chur ch and said,
"Do you know what?
"On second thought the Chur ch
actually did very important
There's a reason that
science took root and then
was sustained for so long in
Western civilization wher eas
it wasn't in others, and
as it turns out, it is not
in spite of the Catholic
Church but in some ways
because of it.
Now, 100 years ago, it's
true, you would have read a
book by Andr ew Dickson White
that refers to the alleged
warfar e between religion
and science in Western
Today White's book is
consider ed almost laughable
among professors, it's so
out of date and so
ludicr ous.
Today you have professors
like Edward Grant writing,
Cambridge University Press
Books, you've got Thomas
Goldstein, A.C. Cromby,
David Lind bergh and
many besides.
And what they all agree on
is that you can't just say
the Church was an opponent
of the sciences.
To the contrary, ther e were
aspects of Catholic thinking
ther e were indispensable for
the development of science.
And we'r e going to get into
specifically what were
But right now I want you to
know that this old myth
is being overturned by
pr ofessors.
Unfortunately, the findings
of these pr ofessors have not
managed to trickle down to
the general public yet.
This is what we're going
to try to do on our series.
Let me give you, by the way,
an example of a typical
story that people have been
taught to believe about the
Catholic Church and then
consider why it is they so
readily believed it when
ther e isn't even a stitch of
evidence for it.
And here's an example that I
think even many people in
the viewing audience might
have believed and I myself
I had no other r eason, no
reason to believe otherwise
and that's the idea that
Christopher Columbus, when
he engaged in his famous
voyages was actually seeking
in part to prove that the
earth was not flat but
rather spherical.
Now, we've all heard the
usual story that, Columbus
was warned.
"No, Columbus, no!
"Don't go sailing that far.
"You'r e going to fall off
the edge of the earth.
"Don't you know that?
"They're at this big flat
disc and you're going to fall
off the edge and get eaten
by dragons or giant
radioactive spiders are
going to eat you," something
like that, and he was warned
about all this.
"Don't do it."
Well, he did it anyway, and
this goes to show how brave
and wonderful he was.
Now, I don't dispute that
Columbus was indeed a brave
and skilled navigator.
But Columbus himself, were
he here today, would tell you
that he was not seeking to
pr ove the earth was
Because everybody already
knew it, everybody already
knew the earth was a spher e.
In effect, no educated
person in Europe believed
the earth was flat.
That is a myth.
That's an almost absurd
In fact, just try to go back
and find anybody in the
history of Christendom who
believed in a flat earth.
Just look for them.
If everybody believed it,
that shouldn't be hard.
And yet, you can't find any
Well, I correct myself.
You can find two examples of
people you've never heard of...
Lactantius, for example,
fr om the late 3rd and
early 4th centuries.
He had no influence on
anybody and in any event
he was speaking more
allegorical than anything
The other person who seems
to have believed it was the
6th century figure named
Cosmos Indicopleustes... did
you ever heard of him?
Neither have I, and neither
had anybody in Western
Cosmos wrote in Greek.
By the time you get to that
period of time, hardly
anybody in the west speaks
Pope St. Gr egory the Gr eat,
for instance, who was Pope
fr om 590-604, already he
doesn't even speak a word
of Gr eek, so hardly anybody
could have read C osmos.
He wasn't translated into
Latin till 1706.
So anybody who may have
taught a flat earth had an
audience of about one or
two people, had no influence
on anybody.
The fact is, everybody
understood the earth was
a sphere.
The reason people were
reluctant to sponsor
Columbus wasn't that they
were afraid he was going to
fall off the edge.
The reason they were afraid
to do it was that they
thought he had very much
under estimated the size
of that sphere.
Columbus was saying, "Oh,
don't worry about it.
"It's not a very big earth.
"I'll just sail right around.
"I'll be right back.
It'll be fine."
But they wer e saying to
him, "No, the earth is
several times larger than
you think it is and you're
just going to starve to
"You'r e going to sail and
you'r e going to sail and
you'r e going to sail and
you'r e not going to be on
any land."
Well, luckily for Columbus,
a couple of continents
managed to spring up, quite
contrary to his expectation
and thankfully for him and
for his cr ew.
But that was why they didn't
want him to go... it wasn't
because they thought he was
going to fall off the edge.
Now, I r ealize that is so
much the opposite of what
you've been told, you almost
think that I must be making
this up, right.
"Sure, people believed in
a flat earth."
But I promise you,
they didn't.
And ther e's actually a whole
book that was written to
answer the obvious follow up
question, if nobody believed
in a flat earth, how did
this myth ever get started?
And the answer comes in a
small book by a guy name
Jeffrey Burton Russell.
He wrote a book called,
Inventing The Flat Earth.
And what he found was that
it was a very, very tiny
group of intellectuals in
the 19th century who gave
birth to this myth and they
did it because it made the
Catholic Church look
Because in the 19th century
ther e was a lot of debate
and dispute with the Church
about Darwin and other
matters and the idea was
that if we can portray the
Church as being so
ridiculous that it used to
actually teach the earth was
flat, that we can show that
She is an utterly
contemptible opponent.
So they invented this story
to cast the Church in an
absurd, ridiculous light.
I am sure they had no idea
the longevity of this myth...
that in the 21 st century
people would still be
taught it.
I'm sure somewhere in the
world right now as I speak
somebody's being taught
"The stupid Church taught the
earth was flat and brave
heroic Columbus pr oved
them wrong."
It just won't go away.
But why won't it go away?
Why does it have such
staying power?
And the reason is that
it feeds into this
Enlightenment ster eotype,
The Catholic Church is
stupid, it inhibits
pr ogress, it forces us to
believe foolish things.
Well, that's exactly what we
see in the flat earth myth,
isn't it?
Who could possibly believe
the earth was flat?
The Ancient Greeks actually
measur ed the circumfer ence
of the earth.
So obviously, they knew it
was, it was r ound.
How could the foolish Church
think anything differ ent?
So there's a great example
that can easily be
But it hasn't been
overturned because it
serves a purpose.
If you tried to invent some
myth today about any famous
person you could think of
and say that so and so
believes such and such,
it would last for about
three seconds!
But people believe what they
are prepared to believe and
people are prepared to
believe the worst about
the Catholic Chur ch.
So the point of the series,
the point of the next
12 weeks in which I'll be
joining you is to go after
not simply these little
myths, but to build up an
edifice to show the glories
of the Catholic Church.
Not simply to say, "Well,
the Church didn't really do
this or the Church wasn't
really so bad over here."
We'r e not going to make
any progr ess if our message
is, "The Catholic Church,
not as bad as you thought."
We need something a little
mor e vigorous, a little mor e
vigor in our message.
We need instead to say, it's
not simply, "The Catholic
Church isn't as bad as you
thought"or"She didn't
really teach the earth
was flat."
We can't win by always
running ar ound putting out
Nobody ever built a house
by putting out fires.
Fires have to be put out,
it's true.
But we understand that we
can't build if that's what
we'r e always doing.
If we're always letting
opponents of the Chur ch
define the debate for us,
then we're always going to
be on the defensive.
And it seems to me, given
the state of our
civilization, that it's
about time that we went,
shall we say, on the
offensive and we showed
people all the glories of
the Church and we showed
them all this hidden
So we don't have to say,
"Oh, we'r e not really as bad
as you think."
We'r e far more glorious
that we ourselves even
And we ar e going to be up
against, well frankly, very,
very influential people
in this world.
I'm sure many of you
remember that the European
Union's C onstitution
excludes all mention of the
Christian influence on
Western civilization.
How willfully blind will you
have to be... surrounded by
cathedrals and r eligious
artwork and the fruits of
what the Church has give us
- how blind would you have
to be not to mention that
the Church had a little
something to do with
building this civilization?
No, instead the European
Union Constitution begins
and ends with the idea that
Western Civilization, that
comes to us from Ancient
Greece and Rome and then
fr om the Renaissance and
the Enlightenment.
And that 1000 year period
in between, well, I don't
know what was going on...
apparently, nothing much.
That's the standard view and
that was the standard view
many people had up until, as
I say, as recently as 50 or
100 years ago but today any
medieval historian worth his
salt knows this is a whole
lot on nonsense and would
reject it with a laugh.
But yet, the architect of
the European Union exclude
mention of the Chur ch or of
Christ fr om their founding
It isn't that they're
If it were just a matter of
stupidity, that would be
easily overcome.
We just come back with the
facts and that will be the
end of it.
It's that they're hostile to
the Church.
I mean, what could be more
obvious than that?
Look at what the European
Union is up to half the
Do they seem like pious
Catholics, most of these
They have no interest in
spr eading the truth about
the Church.
And that's why we as
Catholics are under a
particular obligation.
We have to learn what we can
about our faith and we have
to go and spr ead it.
And we have to go and tell
people the r eal history of
the Catholic Chur ch,
because if we don't defend
ourselves, nobody's going
to do it for us.
I actually wr ote a book
called How The Catholic
Church Built Western
Civilization because I
thought it was about time
that we told our story and
that's what I'm going to
spend the next 12 episodes
doing is telling our story.
But for next time we're
going to start three pr ograms
on the subject of the Church
and Science, and you're going
to have more ammunition than
you'r e going to know what to
do with by the time we'r e
done with the next thr ee
Because did you know, for
instance, that the Jesuits,
the Society of Jesus, did
you know that they were so
accomplished in the sciences
that right now 35 craters on
the moon are named after
Jesuit scientists?
Did you know that one out
of 20 of the gr eatest
mathematicians who ever
lived belonged to the
Society of Jesus?
Or that the Jesuits helped
to found and then became the
greatest practitioners of
the study of earthquakes,
And we can go on and on and
on... atomic theory, the study
of ancient Egypt, the study
of physics... and I can go on
and on.
There are so many ways in
which the Catholic Church
contributed to the sciences.
So join me next time for
The Catholic Church:
Builder of Civilization.