Middle Ages

American Catholics Must Stand with Hong Kong

The autonomous territory of Hong Kong is in a fight for its life. For over two months, the citizens of Hong Kong have persisted in protesting an attempt by the Hong Kong chief executive to impose an amendment to the existing extradition laws that would allow the Chinese government to take suspects from Hong Kong [...]

The Medieval and Catholic Roots of American Democracy

Ask a typical college student today who “invented” American democracy and you’ll most likely be told “the Founding Fathers, of course.” If you’re lucky, this typical student might then go on to tell you a bit more, namely, that the historical roots of the American republic are to be found in the political traditions of [...]

Public Penance for Wayward Clerics?

My first visit to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres was in 1968. I was 15-years-old and knew little about what I was looking at—though in truth, I could hardly see anything. The magnificent stained glass windows were visible, but at that time were still wearing centuries of grime. Looking up at them was like [...]

Evangelical Admiration for the Medieval Church

Over Christmas break, the family and I found ourselves with a detailed 3-D jigsaw puzzle of Paris’s famous Notre Dame. While it did not take as long to complete the puzzle as it took to build the medieval cathedral (182 years, according to Wikipedia), it did present challenges. Our son-in-law, now completing a doctorate in [...]

A Brilliant Defense of Christendom

Many believe that Christendom was a rigid and brutal order. In medieval times, we are told that tyranny ruled, and the Church and the nascent State were constant rivals in the pursuit of dominance. So many modern historians have cynically reduced this period when Christianity prevailed to a time of cultural darkness and violent power [...]

George Will’s Puerile Tantrum over Pope Francis

In a Washington Post syndicated column published last weekend, George Will went after Pope Francis and his coreligionists with phrases that might have been drawn from nineteenth-century liberal Protestant polemics. Among the Pope’s supposed vices are that “he stands against modernity, rationality, science, and ultimately, the spontaneous creativity of open societies in which people and their [...]

Where Theology Keeps Her Crown: Thomas More College

In the Middle Ages where Western universities were invented, theology was unchallenged as the “queen of the sciences.” Philosophy, the loving pursuit of wisdom, served as theology's humble “handmaiden,” and arguments drawn from either could uncrown kings and change the fate of nations. Today, even in Catholic colleges, theology is treated more like the madwoman [...]

Why Bother Going to College?

In his famous introductory chapter to A Guide for the Perplexed, the economist E. F. Schumacher talked of his “perplexity” at going to Oxford, perhaps the most famous university in the world. The title of Schumacher’s book was the same as that of a book of the medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides. The perplexity of [...]

Catholics and “Usury”: A Tragic History

  This piece is paired with another view of usury from a distributist perspective, also running today. What makes “social teaching” different from the faith-and-morals magisterium of the Catholic Church? Most of the latter was settled early in Church history, with developments coming over time as subtle elaborations and careful applications of eternal truths. Social [...]

Life Lessons from Joseph Stalin

If you had to use just a single word to express the human condition, which would you choose? This isn't a Cosmopolitan Magazine quiz, so think for a moment before you fill in the blank. Maybe take out a pen and make a list. Weigh your options against each other, and see if you can [...]

Debt, Finance, and Catholics

Debt and deficits seem to be on everyone's minds these days. Whether it be worries about the American government's fiscal woes, Europe's fragile banking system, or the debt-as-a-way-of-life culture that disfigures so many lives, many people are seeking guidance about how to extradite ourselves from this mess with our souls intact. In this regard, Catholics [...]

The Real History of the Crusades

Many historians had been trying for some time to set the record straight on the Crusades—misconceptions are all too common. For them, current interest is an opportunity to explain the Crusades while people are actually listening. With the possible exception of Umberto Eco, medieval scholars are not used to getting much media attention. We tend to [...]

The Church and the Jews in the Middle Ages

Before examining the Catholic Church's relationship with the Jews in the Middle Ages, it would be worthwhile to state an obvious yet often overlooked fact: The Middle Ages were, well, medieval. It is a fallacy (one that historians call presentism) to judge the past by the standards of the present. In a modern, post-Enlightenment world, religious [...]

Back to the Middle Ages

Parag Khanna, senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, looks hopefully at the world stage and says we've been here before: Imagine a world with a strong China reshaping Asia; India confidently extending its reach from Africa to Indonesia; Islam spreading its influence; a Europe replete with crises of legitimacy; sovereign city-states holding wealth [...]

What Might Have Been

When asked my politics, I sometimes say, "Papal Insurrectionist." In the classic Catholic novel Dawn of All, by Robert Hugh Benson, I get my wish. Here is a future wherein the world (or at least Europe and the Americas and increasing parts of Asia and elsewhere) has come to be "really and intelligently Christian." And [...]

Shroud Skeptics Bump against Science

On Good Friday, I received this e-mail from a reader in France: Your article about the shroud of Turin makes me almost hysteric, I was almost dying of laughter. Thank you for this high piece of burlesque.Nowadays, everyone and his dog knows that the shroud was created in 1347, simply in applying the shroud about [...]

Five Myths about Christianity, Islam, and the Middle Ages

Does Islam need a Reformation? Not unless you think it would benefit from additional dollops of Puritanism; further encouragement to smash altars, stained glass, and other forms of "idolatry"; prodding to ban riotous celebrations like Christmas and Easter; and support for fundamentalist Islamic schools that insist on sola Korana and sola Sunnah. Indeed, it would [...]

Heretical Times

Meat-and-potatoes history fans, take note: The Great Medieval Heretics is good, solid, reliable history written in a no-nonsense style. Michael Frassetto teaches history at the University of Delaware and is an expert in medieval religion, heresy, and politics. His book delivers a detailed account of the heretics of the medieval period, starting with the false [...]

Why I Wrote ‘Charity vs. Dhimmitude’

Much bustle here at Inside Catholic last week, as well as on my blog. Lots of people wanted to know why I was so adamant about defending the UK bishops' suggestion that Muslim students be given a prayer room and other accommodations. To reiterate: I'm not particularly adamant about defending the bishops' dubious idea. I [...]

Down the Memory Hole

In my travels around cyberspace, I happened to run across the Web site of James Franklin, a professor of mathematics and statistics at the University of New South Wales. He has a fun page titled "Myths About the Middle Ages," which explodes various mythoids -- such as: The alleged fragments of the True Cross would [...]

Perils of the Popess

Pope Joan is one of the most tenacious myths of the Middle Ages, told and retold by Catholics and anti-Catholics alike since the 13th century. It is said that beautiful young Joan, an Englishwoman born in Mainz, Germany, disguised herself as a man to gain higher education beside her scholarly lover. Her brilliance won her [...]

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