Thursday, July 17, 2008

Those nasty Middle Ages!

People often give books to me and I enjoy weeding through them for heresy, and either giving them a place on my shelf or else committing them to destruction. Listen to a few excerpts from this book of Church history I have been perusing recently. You try and guess to what denomination or theological school of thought the author subscribes to. First, a passage on piety in the Middle Ages (my emphases):

"If religious values were neglected by the high and mighty of the age, things were no better at the opposite end of the social spectrum. There was an appalling lack of depth in the piety of the common people. Superstition was widespread, and the sacraments were often treated as a particularly effective form of magic. Saints had multiplied, and the popular canonization of local wonder-workers was common. It looked as though much of the old pagan polytheism had lived on since the time of the mass conversions, simply donning a new guise so that it might outwardly conform to Christian theory. There was at least one saint specialized for every function or crisis in life, and this army of intercessors had replaced the one mediator, Jesus Christ. People treated these saints much as their ancestors had treated the gods...Furthermore, the piety of the age was much given to crediting pictures and statues of the saints with miraculous power, and this kind of superstitious magic infected many of the pilgrimages which were still a popular manifestation of piety."

Yawn. Okay, now let's look at this author's commentary on the Catholic Church of Pope St. Pius X, whom he says was "trained in text-book neo-scholasticism":

"Pius X's efforts to renew the interior life of the church were quite successful, but his defense of what he regarded as theological orthodoxy was nothing less than a scandal, and it delayed for more than fifty years the rapprochement of Catholic thought with that of the modern world. The "Modernist" crisis was the result of Pius' meddling in areas in which he was totally incompetent."

Okay, so with the author's labeling of the sacramental life of the Middle Ages as superstitious magic, his harping on saints being replacements for the one Mediator, his scorn for scholasticism and his derision for medieval piety, it is quite obvious that this author is a Protestant of some sort, right?

Nope. These lines were written by a Catholic. These excerpts come from Church History: Twenty Centuries of Catholic Christianity by John C. Dweyer. Dweyer holds graduate degrees from Fordham and Georgetown, and has a doctorate in theology from Tubingen. He was a long-time professor of theology as St. Mary's College in California (Moraga, I think) and professor of theology and scripture at St. Bernard's Institute in New York.

This book is going in the trash, right next to Fr. Hesburgh's autobiography.


Anonymous said...

Burn, baby, burn.

Walter said...

Its books like this that gave me 9and i assume most students) such a negative and dim view of the Middle and "Dark" Ages. It is only recently that I have found a new respect for the faithful of those times and even in many ways admire that epoch far more than our current age.

As an aside, much of my renewed study of this age and the Church of that time has to do with discovering the Gregorian Rite (aka the traditional latin Mass) after BXVI's motu proprio!