Thursday, January 02, 2014

Roman Catholicism as a misinformation campaign

Roman Catholicism: How Myth Becomes Dogma
Roman Catholicism: How Myth Becomes Dogma
Roman Catholicism as a whole is a misinformation campaign of incredible proportions. In fact, a close study of Roman Catholicism, and especially its apologetic methods since the Reformation, shows precisely how myths (many myths, in fact) become dogma and become etched in the popular belief system surrounding it.

In my last blog post, on the topic of The Roman Catholic “Eucharist”: Accretions, Equivocations, and Anachronism, I cited Paul Bradshaw, a Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, from his work “The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship” (Second Edition, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, ©1992, ©2002). Bradshaw, an Anglican professor of liturgy at Notre Dame, was very clear about the state of the evidence:

[The] patterns of worship in that primitive period [of Christianity] points towards considerable variety more often than towards rigid uniformity. Nowadays, when we talk about ‘what the early Church did’, we need to specify where the practice in question is encountered (Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Rome, or some other region) and when (first second, third, or fourth century, for each of these might be very different indeed from one another), and whether it is the only form found in that place at that time, for variant traditions could have coexisted alongside each other… (from the Preface).

The kind of historical precision that Bradshaw is talking about is in sharp contrast to what some popular Roman Catholic writers are writing. For example, Edward Sri, in his “A Biblical Walk through the Mass” (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, ©2011) writes “From the time of the apostles, the Mass has been the central act of Christian Worship. For the Mass is nothing less than the celebration of the Eucharist that Jesus instituted at the Last Supper …” And Mike Aquilina, in his “The Mass of the Early Christians” (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division ©2001, 2007) writes “Some twenty years after Pentecost, Paul gave the Church of Corinth detailed instructions about how to conduct the Mass and how to understand it (see 1 Cor 10-11)” (pg 18).

These Roman Catholic writers want us to think that “the Mass” as it is practiced today has its roots in ancient and even New Testament times. But the actual Lord’s Supper, as practiced by the early church, more closely resembled a “pot-luck luncheon” that you might find in any Protestant church, than the somber lines of sour-faced “communicants” waddling down the aisles to “receive” the “host”.

But in fact, the twin concepts of “the Mass” and the notion that there is some sort of physical change effected in the bread and wine are both late fourth-century concepts.

In the near future, I’ll look at Paul’s writings and the other New Testament writings that discuss the Lord’s Supper in more detail. But even the Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, relates that the first use of the term does not occur until the late fourth century:

The first certain use of [the term missa, from which the word “Mass” is derived] is by St. Ambrose (d. 397). He writes to his sister Marcellina describing the troubles of the Arians in the years 385 and 386, when the soldiers were sent to break up the service in his church: "The next day (it was a Sunday) after the lessons and the tract, having dismissed the catechumens, I explained the creed [symbolum tradebam] to some of the competents [people about to be baptized] in the baptistery of the basilica. There I was told suddenly that they had sent soldiers to the Portiana basilica.... But I remained at my place and began to say Mass [missam facere coepi]. While I offer [dum offero], I hear that a certain Castulus has been seized by the people" (Ep., I xx, 4-5).

As well, Edward J. Kilmartin, S.J. (“The Eucharist in the West: History and Theology,” Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, © 1998, 2004 by the Order of St. Benedict. Edited by Robert J. Daily, S.J.) has pointed out that it was Ambrose of Milan (d. 397) whose “metabolic understanding of the change of the nature of the Eucharistic elements” was “a new concept” [late 4th century!] which led to the medieval doctrine of Transubstantiation (pg. 22).

For the Roman Catholic who wants the concept of “development” to be believable in the least, there must be some interaction with, as Bradshaw relates, “where the practice in question is encountered (Syria, Egypt, North Africa, Rome, or some other region), when (first second, third, or fourth century, for each of these might be very different indeed from one another), and whether it is the only form found in that place at that time, for variant traditions could have coexisted alongside each other…”

In fact, Roman conceptions of “the Mass”, being 4th century accretions, actually have almost nothing to do with the Lord’s Supper as it was practiced by Paul or “instituted” by Christ.

By the way, Sri is “a nationally known Catholic speaker” who holds a PhD from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Aquilina, an acquaintance of mine from Pittsburgh, is now “author or editor of more than forty books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion. He is co-host, with Scott Hahn, of eight series that air on EWTN.”

[Back in the early 1990’s, I was writing op/ed articles for The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper while Mike was Editor of that publication; he and I also bumped into each other at Opus Dei “evenings of recollection”.]

So this kind of blatantly ahistorical nonsense gets spread widely among Roman Catholics. It’s not in any way based on historical study; but the fact that something is a blatantly ahistorical anachronism doesn’t matter, by and large, in Roman Catholic practice, it’s encouraged.

Not only do these contemporary writers engage in gross anachronism and make a mockery of the actual historical record, but they “dumb-down” large segments of the more devout Roman Catholic population.

Some of us who get into discussions with Roman Catholics wonder sometimes how these kinds of discussions are never resolved. But historical research now gives us the ability to speak in common terms without equivocation.

What I’d like to do in coming blog posts is to talk about the following things:

(a) I’ll discuss “why history matters in matters of faith”. That is, to discuss what that history meant and how it inter-related as a to talk about some of the things that we DO know about ancient Christianity that were characteristic of first, second, and third century belief and practice (especially as it relates to the belief and practice of the Lord’s Supper.

(b) Show how Christianity (and the Christian Gospel – the “Apostolic” message, which made the “one holy catholic and apostolic church” to be truly “Apostolic”) was, in its earliest days, its earliest decades and centuries, primarily a historical reporting of the historical events of surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And that all of this occurred within the context of the history of Israel primarily as we know it from the Old Testament.

(c) Show what we know about the actual patterns of worship, (especially in conjunction with beliefs about the “development” of the concept of the “sacrament” of the Lord’s Supper), and apply the type of historical accuracy that Bradshaw talks about to things like “the Mass”, the development of “the priesthood”, the concept of “sacrifice” as it became applied to “the Mass”, “transubstantiation”, and other past and current Roman Catholic teachings.

In fact, the late “development” of these concepts is in contrast to a number of staples of earliest Christianity.

Just as many Roman Catholics are shocked by, and even refuse to believe contemporary research into the late dating of the monarchical episcopacy and the nonexistent early papacy, so too, I expect many will seek to discredit this research into the early Lord’s Supper and related beliefs and practices.

But as I started this blog post, I’ll continue by saying that Roman Catholicism as a whole is a misinformation campaign of incredible proportions, denying its own historical roots while claiming that through the unstable process of “development” that relies on anachronism to “prove” that Roman “authority” over the church has always been present just as it is today. When, in fact, their methods have nothing to do with history.


  1. What do you think of this article?

    1. Sure, I suppose Jesus would recognize several of the items Longenecker lists. He'd recognize them as idolatrous.

      At the least, Jesus would recognize them as entirely insufficient. That's what's taught in Hebrews for starters. The redemption Jesus bought and brought on the cross and in his resurrection in the New Covenant stands in marked contrast to the Old Covenant's temple cult and animal sacrifices. Longenecker's list about what Jesus would recognize is closer to the OT temple cult.

      Although that's not to say the two are a close match by any means. It's not as if raw meat was (or will be) magically conjured up in the Holy of Holies to be served to cannibals like occurs in the Catholic Mass.

  2. I'm glad that you're doing a series on the many misinformation campaigns that many Roman Catholics bring into discussions. A little while ago I was explaining to a Roman Catholic that one of my many problems with Roman Catholicism is that in order to hook people in they are given misrepresentations of facts.

    Just a few "facts" given to me by Roman Catholics are that the early church never believed that the Scriptures are to be held higher then what the ECF's taught, which is how the Roman Catholic Church opperates today in regards to it's papal system. But if you take an honest look at the ECF's, you find that many of them conceded that their words meant nothing if the Scriptures disagreed with them.

    Another misinformation campaign aimed at me was that the 95 thesis was a strange and hard to understand document, one that demonstrates how crazy Martin Luther was for leaving "The Church©". Yet once again, instead of just buying what they were saying, it became obvious that not only did the 95 thesis make sense, but Luther had no desire at that time to leave the Roman Catholic Church. And related to the 95 thesis, I've also been asked 'what kind of person would nail any kind of document to a church door?' This implied that Luther had no respect for "The Church©" to begin with. Yet when I looked into it, it was common place for that church door to be used as a bulletin board.

    The last one that I will mention (though the misinformation campaign isn't limited to), is the meaning behind the song The 12 Days of Christmas. I was recently told that it was developed by Jesuits during a time where Roman Catholics were persecuted to inform children the beliefs of Roman Catholicism. I had recalled hearing something about that, but something inside me told me to look into it. That's when I found out that this was a lie developed in1979 by Hugh D. mcKellar who would later admit that he made up the story in order to tell people what the song meant to him as a Roman Catholic.

    Is it any wonder why we don't believe (let alone trust) Roman Catholicism? When we find that unique Roman Catholic doctrines are based on lies and myths, it just makes sense to avoid it.

    Also, if I had typos, it's because I'm using my phone.

    1. Hi Zipper, thanks for writing -- especially keying all that in on a phone!

      If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me. My email address is given in my Blogger profile.