Everyone showed up last Wednesday for a discussion of Seven Lies About Catholic History by Diane Moczar. We had an amazing display of potluck dishes including Salmon with a Sour Cream sauce, Marinated Chicken with Mushrooms and Leeks topped with cheese. Amy treated us to a delicious Ice Wine. Ice Wine is a very sweet wine made with grapes that have been frozen on the vine. The grapes must be picked on a certain morning that is just the correct temperature.
After a great deal of eating, sampling the Ice Wine, nibbling chocolates and settling down with coffee we made time to discuss the book. Believe me there are nights when we barely have time left to get around to that. Some of the ladies had read the entire book whereas at least one of us didn’t read it and a few had read half or more.
It’s a short book wherein each chapter covers a part of Catholic history that has been misrepresented or mythologized by historians and authors through the centuries. Chapters cover the so-called Dark Ages, the Inquisition, Galileo, the Reformation, Spanish Exploration and the Conquistadors, the Crusades, and the Church and Progress. Moczar outlines each legend or myth as it has been handed on and distorted and then she exposes the falsehoods. One thing I most appreciated about her layout was the fact that she pointed out who the detractors were and how their writings became so widely known and accepted. For me that was more than half the proof of a falsehood. When the person writing your history hates you and all you stand for, the resulting book may not be all that credible!
However among the ladies there was a pretty strong consensus that it just wasn’t that strong as a work of apologetics. For instance Dianne said: “I found the book interesting in some ways, though I’m not sure it would be helpful to someone who really believed the “lies” as I didn’t feel the information was presented as clearly and fully as it could have been. The most important thought I took from this is that the life of the soul is much more important than the life of the body, since the life of the soul is eternity, and the life of the body is temporal. So it makes sense that the Church would consider it a serious crime if the soul were led into the sin of heresy.”
Comments around the theme that the author was somewhat “sarcastic” were common and some believed that it didn’t speak to the non-Catholic reader who might be searching for a little more substance. I think the word I would use to describe the tone of the complaints is that it was pat or cavalier. For instance the author used some reliable sources and recent publications to prove that during the Inquisition the number of deaths was far less than commonly believed. Her resulting claim that only a few deaths occurred sounded to some like an admission that she felt it was okay. On the other hand I (and maybe one other) thought that she was just matter-of-factly stating that yes, it happened and it was all in the context of the times.
Celeste articulated the general feeling “that the author was too sarcastic, rather than dispassionate, when relating the lies, which took away from her credibility and would turn off those who might be marginally hostile to the Faith.” Like Dianne, Celeste was also impressed by how historically the Catholic Culture took the Faith so seriously as to value people’s souls more highly than is typical today.
Laurence (pronounced Lawrawnce) believed it “Adequately addresses the black spots and blemishes left by history on the face of holy church, arguing that their propagation benefitted enemies of the Church.”
I liked the book and didn’t mind the sarcasm (or perhaps it was just a sense of irony or just plain pleasure at exposing a liar), nor did I think it was really written for anyone who might already be anti-Catholic and hates the Church. I got the impression that it was written for the average Catholic layperson who had an average secular university history class and was exposed to all of these lies and falsehoods. The title is a plain offering of what to expect and a book as short as this should entice many busy readers who might pick it up for a chapter now and then. I think they’ll learn what they came for.