Dark and Light

This is my reaction to a column in the Inquirer.

In his August 23, 2012 column entitled “Dark Ages” Mr. Conrado de Quiros painted a picture of the Dark Ages and of the present, which he claims to be similar, but both of which are inaccurate from the realistic point of view.

He claims that in the Dark Ages the Church was obscurantist and opposed to learning. His example was the case of Galileo. This is the stock argument given by the secular press about the Church being against science and learning. But this example is already outdated. Pope John Paul II already clarified in 1992 that the Church did not condemn the heliocentric theory. That issue had been settled when the Church gave its imprimatur to the complete works of Galileo in 1741. Galileo got into trouble when he started arguing with the Church tribunal about interpretations of passages of the Bible and not about science.

De Quiros’ idea of the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages is itself in the dark ages. Modern scholarship has shown that it was the Catholic Church that was responsible for transmitting the classical culture of the Greeks and the Roman to the modern times, for setting up schools that gave culture to the Germanic tribes, for putting up hospitals and orphanages to serve the poor and needy, for establishing the first universities for higher learning, and for promoting the beginning of modern science. That’s not dark at all.

Now for a depiction of the present situation De Quiros is painting for us. These are his words: “This is about the Church saying divorce is a sin, women priests are an abomination, contraception is corruption, you don’t believe that, get out of Catholic schools, get out of the Church, get out of our sight. It’s a throwback to the days when to own a Bible was a crime deserving of torture and death, both of which were liberally meted out in Henry VIII’s time until he put a stop to it. It’s a throwback to the days when the faithful were forbidden to have a personal relationship with God, or indeed to presume to interpret the word of God, only the Church could do it, which was why it outlawed the owning—and reading—of the Bible to begin with. It’s a throwback to the time when Martin Luther, seeing the corruption and ignorance and despotism of the Church, led a monumental protest against it to get Christians to know Christ’s teachings directly, for most of them for the first time in their lives.”

His assertions are out of touch with reality. Or I don’t get the logic. He seems to assert that when the Church at present denounces certain actions as evil, for example, divorce and contraception, we are going back to those days in the past whose features are described by his broad strokes. But that description is inaccurate. The Church at present is not saying to own a Bible is a crime and neither has it ever said so. The Church has not and does not forbid one to have a personal relationship with God. The Church has not and does not forbid one to interpret the Bible (just do it correctly). The Church has not and does not forbid one to own a Bible; on the contrary it encourages everyone to have a copy.

Obviously, De Quiros does not agree with the teaching of the Church that divorce is evil or that contraception is evil. I would like to invite him to study the reasons why, because there are reasons and they are plausible ones. They are not obscure.  But if he does not agree, that would be his choice. But it is not right for him to start labeling the Church with so many negative adjectives. In the end these qualifications are a just reflection of his very same mind.


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