Catholics Should Know Their Own History

  • From Fr. George W. Rutler’s Weekly Column 

This past Thursday was the feast of Saint Francis de Sales, whose intercession we need because he is the patron of journalists and there are those who say, with some claim to cogency, that journalism is dead because it is biased and predictable. Ironically, since he was a journalist himself, G.K. Chesterton said that writing badly is the definition of journalism.

That was a century ago, but in the thirteenth century B.C., long before we had moveable type, Ramesses the Great used hieroglyphics to tout his heroic victory at the Battle of Kadesh, even though he had been defeated. In 1475 A.D., Pope Sixtus IV tried unsuccessfully to expose the “blood libel” fake news of the people of Trent against Jews. Benjamin Franklin misused his printing press to accuse King George III of inciting the “Indian Savages” against the white colonists. Samuel Adams falsely claimed in print that Thomas Hutchinson supported the Stamp Tax, with the result that the beleaguered man’s house was burned to the ground in 1765. George Washington quit public life because of “a disinclination to be longer buffitted in the public prints by a set of infamous scribblers.”

The other day, intemperate journalists accused youths from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky, of making racial threats against an elderly Native American during the March for Life. Videos proved that there was no truth to it, but a flurry of “virtue signaling” berated the boys without giving them a chance to testify. One might expect that from secular bigots, but not from their own diocese with its knee-jerk condemnation of the youths. Apologies have been coming in, but probably the last to correct themselves will be the epicene Church bureaucrats.

Chief Tatanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”) with his Crucifix

Quickly, The Washington Post published a screed against “the shameful exploitation” of Native Americans by the Catholic Church. No mention was made of the Jesuit Martyrs who endured torture and death to bring the Gospel to the native peoples, or of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha who was exiled by her own Mohawks for her love of Christ, or Saint Junipero Serra who transformed the fortunes of the indigenous California “gatherer” culture, or Saint Katherine Drexel who donated her vast inheritance to establish fifty missions among the native peoples, or heroic Bishop Martin Marty of the Dakota Territory, or Father Pierre De Smet who enabled the Fort Laramie Sioux Treaty of 1868 and so befriended Chief Tatanka Iyotake (“Sitting Bull”) that the chief wore a crucifix to his dying day and encouraged his friend Buffalo Bill Cody to be baptized the day before he died. Defamation by journalists is sinful, but to detract from saints is blasphemous.

The mental image of Pope Leo XIII applauding the Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill and Chief Sitting Bull on tour in Rome would confound The Washington Post. But that is a fact, and Catholics who do not know their history are accountable for letting it be maligned.

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3 Responses to Catholics Should Know Their Own History

  1. Crow says:

    Our schools fail us in teaching Catholic history and the establishment is hardly going to publish historical facts that show them in a bad light. Therefore we get books published every few years that reinvent history and cast ambitious characters into the roles of great statesmen and flawed men who were servants of the State – such as Cromwell or Francis Walsingham. The Catholic version of history remains silent or is available in histories written in a different generation where ‘ecumenism ‘ did not completely disembowel the historical presentation. The facts set out by Father Rutler were unknown to me and it is fascinating to think of Sitting Bull being Catholic (if that is what he is saying). However, the Washington Post and the always self-righteous would simply claim his historical facts as further examples of the dreadful Catholic cultural imperialism.
    Another mispresentation of history is the Jesuits in South America with the native Indians there. Many of the misrepresentations are the result of British propaganda (including the Spanish Inquisition). The irony is that the very people who were quick to use these propagandist misrepresentations of history are now complaining that ‘western civilisation ‘ is denigrated by the left and in the teaching institutions. It is, however, just another instance of misrepresenting history to create a legitimate past or to justify unjustifiable actions. Protestants were quick to accuse Catholics of ‘inquisition ‘ but never mentioned ‘Star Chamber’ or Elizabeth’s totalitarian State control, together with torture by Topcliffe which was every bit as gruesome as Torquemada. Now, however, these very same people see that our culture has been taken away from us. Those who would never credit the Catholic Church with building our civilisation, are dismayed to find that civilisation denigrated.
    It is the Catholic Church that built western civilisation- It is up to us to take it back – it is all there, we must simply stand up and teach it. Teachers should teach it, writers should write about it, perhaps groups of Catholics can form where they can lecture on topics. It is not confined to history – our treasures of music and art are there to be claimed, together with literature and history, philosophy and intellectual discipline. We can take it back and teach it – we need schools that will do it and universities that teach the real classics (& not a cannibalised version of them). I think it will happen – but Catholics will have to stand up and take action. They will have to present the study of letters without being timorous about offending either the strident identity politics or the Protestants who wish to gloss over realities in order to preserve their claims to an authentic religion.
    This week’s Catholic Herald had an article on Anthony Burgess in which there is a quote from the Devil’s Mode, where the Pope said to Attila the Hun:’You can’t instil evil into Christian souls. You can’t even make those souls suffer. All you can do is take the work of their hands and the fruit of their fields and topple down what you are not clever enough to build.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Excellent article and response by Crow. The pen is mightier than the sword.


  3. John says:

    Hear hear Crow. How about the “dark ages” where modern science, mass literacy and Universities were founded.

    Or those terrible crusades that were just about persecuting Muslims after Mohammed’s men slaughtered their way across continents.


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