The devotional Dürer

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, MAY 24, 2005 - Albrecht Dürer, the Northern genius of the Renaissance, has been firmly associated with Martin Luther for centuries. From his engravings to his paintings, many historians have seen the works of this German artist as a sort of Protestant manifesto.

A new exhibit, "Dürer and Italy," held in the stunning exposition space of the former Quirinale stables, challenges this assumption by emphasizing Dürer's close ties to Italian art, especially devotional imagery. The show, open until June 10, features more than 100 of Dürer's paintings, drawings and engravings.

Born in Nuremberg in 1471, Albrecht Dürer began his painting career much like his other German contemporaries until his first trip to Italy in 1494 convinced him that the works of his fellow Northern painters lacked rules of proportion or composition. It would be Dürer who would bring the Italian Renaissance to Germany.

Dürer's incredible success on both sides of the Alps brought him into contact with the most renowned figures of his day, from Martin Luther to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. Dürer's brilliant artistic eye was drawn by the great innovations under way, but also recognized the importance of the past.

Dürer's initial foray into Italian art led him to the Venetian school of painting. He learned to use softer, warmer colors and atmospheric effects that infused his work with freshness and liberated him from the stiffer Northern style. But it was the painter Andrea Mantegna, working in Mantua, who most influenced Dürer.

Like Dürer, Mantegna was also an engraver, and the young German's style was transformed by the contact with the Italian's prints. Mantegna used sharp light and dark contrasts for greater dynamism and gave his engraved figures a sculptural weightiness. These studies paved the way for Dürer's first great undertaking, "The Apocalypse," also significant as the first book designed, illustrated and published by an artist.

Published in 1498, Dürer's "Apocalypse" consists of 15 full-page woodcut prints, several of which are displayed in the exhibit. The volume of the figures and the dramatic shading effects reveal their debt to Dürer's Italian sojourn, as does the tight and organized composition.

"The Apocalypse" has been often interpreted as a preview of Dürer's anti-papal sentiments even though it was published 19 years before Martin Luther's 95 Theses. But anachronisms aside, the images seem to reinforce Church authority rather than challenge it. In the "Four Angels Holding the Winds," the saved are marked by the signing of their foreheads, while in the "Adoration of the Lamb," the blood of the Lamb pours into a chalice held by a bishop [see].

As these details are not part of the text, it seems that Dürer chose to add his own conviction of the Church's authority to grant sacramental grace. The very compositions emphasize the principal concern of the Book of Revelation. Instead of reading left to right as a narrative, Dürer's "Apocalypse" images read top to bottom, underscoring the vertical line of salvation.

Unlike Lucas Cranach the Elder, who published and illustrated the first edition of Martin Luther's translation of the New Testament with inflammatory images such as the "Harlot of Babylon" with the papal tiara and the city of Babylon as contemporary Rome, Dürer's woodcuts try to mediate between Church authority and popular piety.

Personally, Dürer seems to have retained a belief in the efficacy of the sacraments throughout his life. After the death of his mother, he wrote, "My pious mother Barbara Holper Dürer, died in Christ with all the sacraments, absolved of punishment and guilt through papal authority." Writing these words in 1523, well after the criticisms of the use of indulgences, implies that Dürer was not entirely willing to ignore the spiritual authority of the pope.

The exhibit features a moving portrait of Albrecht Dürer the Elder, the painter's father. Dürer's father worked hard to instill piety in his family, and the portrait from 1490 shows a serene man whose eyes gaze slightly upward toward heaven. Dürer's consummate drawing skill shines in the representation of his father's hands, delicately fingering a rosary [see].

For all of his elevated humanism, Dürer also wrote and illustrated a great many devotional poems published with sacred images. The poetry was rough and simple and often directed to saints asking for intercession.

Dürer made a second trip to Italy from 1505 to 1507 during which he produced one of his greatest masterpieces, "The Feast of the Rosary," completed in only five months. This enormous altarpiece (152 by 192 centimeters, or about 60 by 76 inches) was commissioned by German merchants for the Church of San Bartolomeo in Venice [see].

The Madonna sits regally in the center of the work framed by a panel of green silk. Angels hover above her head holding a meticulously painted crown in the finest German tradition of oil painting. Baby Jesus lies diagonally across her lap, as the pope and Maximilian I kneel on either side. Dürer himself stands on the right, proudly proclaiming his authorship of the work.

The "Sacred Conversation" -- the Madonna and Child with saints and donors arranged and interacting in space -- was unknown in Germany until Dürer introduced this popular Italian devotional image. The exhibition had only a copy from Vienna as the original, now in Prague, is so damaged that it cannot be moved.

The artistic document that most represents Dürer's association with Luther's ideas is the "Four Apostles," given to the city of Nuremberg in 1526. Asserting the authority of Luther's Bible, these two panels represent Sts. John and Peter on one and Sts. Paul and Mark on the other [see].

And yet, the figures are arranged as in a Sacred Conversation, albeit missing the central Madonna and Child to anchor them together.

The grandeur of these apostles, called together to promote Luther's interpretation of Scripture, nonetheless represents the Catholic vision of monumental and dignified saints, in communion with Christ, actively concerned for our spiritual welfare. In the context of this exhibition, Dürer appears more as a soul teetering on the brink of a precipice, rather than a firm follower of Luther's teaching.


Polish spies in John Paul II assassination attempt

Researchers have uncovered evidence that the Polish secret service was also implicated in a series of assassination attempts that culminated in the shooting of John Pal II in 1981, following an earlier attempt to kill the Pope during a visit to the Polish Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in 1979.

The revelations are made in an article in Polish weekly Wprost by Leszek Szymowski who was assisted by Marek Lasota, a research fellow of the Polish Institute of the National Memory.

The authors detail evidence confirming that the Soviet KGB planned and led all efforts to "eliminate" the Polish Pope, from 1978 up to 1989, when the Communist regime finally collapsed in Poland, and soon after in all Eastern and Central European countries of the former Soviet Bloc.

According to the website Oracle Syndicate the new evidence delivers a crushing blow to all "conspiracy theories" invented by the Soviet disinformation experts or circulated in the West, which blamed Turkish right wing groups or even the CIA.

The new evidence, found in Berlin in the archives of the East German communist secret service, also confirms the role of the Bulgarian secret services.

The researchers say that the Kremlin allotted to East German intelligence the task of countering all reports and accusations against the Bulgarians.

However, what was not known earlier was the participation of the Polish secret services in the preparations for the plots against the Pope, the researchers say.

The researchers also say that a total of 21 or 22 attempts on the life of John Paul II were planned between 1978 and 1989.

However, the whole picture concerning these attempts remains dim.

For a long time, this code-name used by the Polish special service, was mistakenly linked to a singular provocation, led by a super-secret "Section D" of the SB in Cracow, in 1983. "Section D" was a special operations group, secretly organised in the Polish Ministry of Interior to carry out criminal operations against the Church.

This particular action aimed at compromising a Cracow priest, Andrzej Bardecki, an editor of Tygodnik Powszechny weekly paper and one of the closest friends of then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. In 1983, special SB agents Grzegorz Piotrowski, Barbara Szydlowska and Barbara Borowiec (women agents) broke into the apartment of the priest and left there provocative materials. The provocation failed.

In 2005, research by the Polish Institute of National Memory (IPN) discovered that the "Operation Triangolo" embraced a series of hostile actions against the Pope, carried out by the Polish communist secret services.

These shocking findings showed that the assassination of John Paul II had become the most important goal in the history of the communist special services in Poland. The Polish communist services worked for at least four years on a plan to kill the Polish Pope.

However, the secret files on "Operation Triangolo" disappeared from the archives on 11 April 1989 when a special delegation of the KGB officers came to Warsaw to secure and move out these documents. These documents are still kept as "top secret" in Moscow, the researchers say.

Church's 'Black Bishop' under scrutiny

In another story, a Roman Catholic seminary in Rome is opening its archives on the late Bishop Alois Hudal, who is accused of helping Nazi war criminals escape trial.

The Italian news service ANSA said researchers hope the documents at Rome's Teutonic College will shed light on the so-called Black Bishop.

Hudal, who died in 1963, was head of the Teutonic College during and immediately after World War II, ANSA asid. He was known for his pro-Nazi views and is alleged to have helped many Nazi war crimes suspects escape trail - including Franz Stangl, commander of the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland.

Much of the evidence against against Hudel has been collected by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish organization that works to find Nazi war criminals, ANSA said


Christ Unveils Meaning of History, Says Pope

Reflects on Apostle John, the "Seer of Patmos"

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 23, 2006 ( The Apostle John's objective in writing the Book of Revelation is to unveil, "from the death and resurrection of Christ, the meaning of human history," says Benedict XVI.

The Pope delivered that message today at the general audience, which he dedicated once again to the Apostle John, whom he presented on this occasion as "the seer of Patmos." The meditation is part of the series of reflections the Holy Father is offering on the Church and the apostles.

"We can also call him 'the seer of Patmos,'" the Pope said, "because his figure is linked to the name of this island of the Aegean Sea, where, according to his own autobiographical testimony, he found himself deported 'because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.'

"Precisely on Patmos, 'in the Spirit on the Lord's day,' John had grandiose visions and heard extraordinary messages, which would have no little influence on the history of the Church and on the whole of Christian culture."

Benedict XVI focused on the Book of Revelation. "The first and essential vision of John, in fact, concerns the figure of the Lamb, which, despite being slain, is standing, placed before the throne where God himself is seated.

"With this, John wants to tell us two things above all: The first is that Jesus, though he was killed with an act of violence, instead of lying fallen on the ground remains paradoxically standing firmly on his feet, because with the resurrection he has vanquished death definitively.

"The second is that Jesus himself, precisely because he died and resurrected, now participates fully in the royal and salvific power of the Father."

The Lamb

"This is the fundamental vision," the Holy Father continued. "Jesus, the Son of God, is, on this earth, a defenseless, wounded and dead Lamb. And yet, he is standing, firm, before the throne of God and participates in the divine power.

"He has in his hands the history of the world. In this way, the visionary wishes to tell us: Have confidence in Jesus, do not be afraid of opposing powers, of persecution! The wounded and dead Lamb conquers! Follow Jesus, the Lamb, trust Jesus, follow his way! Even if in this world he seems to be the weak Lamb, he is the victor!"

Benedict XVI said: "The object of one of the principal visions of Revelation is this Lamb at the moment he opens a book, which before was sealed with seven seals, which no one was able to open. John is even presented weeping, as no one could be found able to open the book and read it. History appears as undecipherable, incomprehensible. No one can read it.

"Perhaps this weeping of John before the very dark mystery of history expresses the disconcertment of the Asian Churches because of God's silence in the face of the persecutions to which they were exposed at that time. It is a disconcertment which might well reflect our surprise in the face of the grave difficulties, misunderstandings and hostilities that the Church also suffers today in several parts of the world."

The Woman

"At the center of the vision that Revelation presents," the Pope said, "is the extremely significant image of the Woman, who gives birth to a male Child, and the complementary vision of the Dragon, which has fallen from the heavens, but is still very powerful.

"This Woman represents Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer, but she represents at the same time the whole Church, the People of God of all times, the Church that at all times, with great pain, again gives birth to Christ. And she is always threatened by the power of the Dragon. She seems defenseless, weak."

"But, while she is threatened, pursued by the Dragon, she is also protected by God's consolation," Benedict XVI said. "And this Woman, at the end, is victorious. The Dragon does not conquer. This is the great prophecy of this book, which gives us confidence!

"The Woman who suffers in history, the Church which is persecuted, at the end is presented as the splendid Bride, image of the new Jerusalem, in which there is no more tears or weeping, image of the world transformed, of the new world whose light is God himself, whose lamp is the Lamb."


 Charitable Hatred: tolerance and intolerance in England, 1500-1700
Alexandra Walsham
Manchester University Press, £60
Tablet bookshop price £54 Tel 01420 592974

In the reign of Henry VIII about 50 Protestants, proto-Protestants, Anabaptists and oddities were burned for heresy; two suffered under Edward VI, perhaps 290 under Mary, six under Elizabeth and two under James I in 1612. In Henry's reign, around 60 Catholics were executed as papists; 187 Catholics suffered under Elizabeth, 25 under James, two between 1625 and 1640 (under Charles I), 26 between 1641 and 1660, and another 24 as a result of the "Popish Plot" of 1678. The denominational tally is pretty even: whoever was in charge, religion was a bloody business. Why did the state persecute and local officials and parish neighbours cooperate? There were three broad reasons for the slaughter. The first was pastoral: to drive misbelievers to repentance and save Christ's people from contamination. The second was propitiatory: God must not be mocked and he would punish those who allowed error to flourish. And the third was panic: persecution came in waves, often associated with plots and invasion  scares.

But look at the problem another way: fewer than 700 people died for their beliefs in a century and a half; fewer than five a year. If sectarian hatred and fear were so strong, why so few? Why didn't Catholics burn more Protestants as heretics, and why didn't Protestants hang more Catholics as traitors? Why weren't even more Protestants killed when they had been encouraged to overthrow Queen Mary? Why weren't more Catholics executed when the Armada was coming, and why didn't more die when the Irish were thought to be coming in the 1640s?

England was a confessional state, expecting unity in religion - but the religion kept changing, and the persecuted became the persecutors. In a divided society there were plenty of opportunities for bloodbaths, but they rarely came. One explanation is concern that they would threaten public order, and another is bureaucratic inefficiency: a consistent and determined campaign against deviants was beyond any regime's power. So there were attempts to distinguish "loyal" Catholics from the disloyal, notably by the Oath of Allegiance in 1606, and Treasury officials argued it made more sense to fine papists than to execute them or drive them into exile. There were diplomatic calculations too - especially when royal marriages were being made and the best candidates were Catholics.

And what of the persecuted? Well, for both Catholics and Protestants, there was certainly a cult of martyrdom and some wanted to suffer in the witness for Christ. It is astonishing how many faced the prospect of torment, and went through with it - when avoidance was usually possible. Some did recant, and found there was still the torment of a guilty conscience. But for most, Catholics and Protestants, it never came to that: they made the compromises and concessions that saved them from fines, fires and the gallows. Their leaders wrote of The Hurt of Hearing Mass (John Bradford, 1554) and Reasons Why Catholics Refuse to go to Church (Robert Persons, 1581), but Protestants went to Mass under Mary, and Catholics went to matins under Elizabeth. Well, you would, wouldn't you? Protestants looked down at the elevation of the Host, Catholics stuffed wool in their ears and read from a primer or a book of hours. There were lots of excuses for not being at the parish church: a sick child; a visiting friend; a lame horse. And the system usually didn't check.

It is not surprising that the persecuted minorities had strategies of evasion and mostly chose not to die (or pay fines) on behalf of their religion. More telling is that the persecuting majority had strategies of coexistence and mostly chose not to oppress on behalf of their religion. Dissenters, Lollards, Protestants, papists, Nonconformists, Baptists and Quakers were recognised in their communities, known for their differences. But usually they were not turned in: if they would just go to church sometimes, behave like good neighbours and not be too stiff-necked, they were safe; until the Armada or the Irish were coming, and then it could be different.

Religious division in England both made persecution and contained it. Uniformity of belief could not be achieved so uniformity of conduct would have to do. There would be no prying into consciences (except the political consciences of priests), only an insistence on church attendance - so occasional conformity might be enough to avoid fines or worse. There was space for dissent, Catholic and Protestant, at a price - and the price was compromise.

Alexandra Walsham tackles all these compromises and confusions in a realistic study of persecutors, victims and the many who muddled through. For those who know their Church history, she labours the obvious; for those who do not, it is a demanding read.

Most of the material is culled from secondary works, but arranged in interesting themes. Walsham argues that there was no liberating progress from persecuting barbarity to tolerant civilisation. Rather, there was a constant interaction between the urge to crush the ideological enemy and the imperative to coexist with the fellow-citizen - and another interaction between the urge to separate from the godless and the imperative to get along with everybody else. Religious belief was not the only treasured value, and neighbourliness mattered too. When a rioting crowd was called to attack a recusant household in 1780, some cried "What are Catholics to us? We are only against popery!" It wasn't tolerance, but it was a start.


Kerala: Asia's Cradle of Christianity
appeared in "Today", a leading daily of Manila, Philippines

Christianity took root on the Malabar coast (now Kerala) in the first century AD around the seven churches that St. Thomas established there. Christian faith has since flourished across the land, coexisting with other religions. Now 11 of the 23 dioceses in India are in Kerala.

Kerala is a narrow stretch of lush green territory that lies on the southwest coast of the Indian subcontinent. Hindu legends claim that Kerala rose from the sea as a gift of God. The name Kerala means "the land of coconuts". The scenic beauty of Kerala is one of the most outstanding in India. The entire land is interlaced with rivers, placid lagoons, paddy fields and coconut palms. Plantations of rubber, tea, coffee, pepper, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and other spices cover the highlands in the east, earning Kerala the nickname of "the spice coast of India".

The lure of spices attracted traders from the Middle East and Europe to the many trading ports - Calicut, Cranganore, Cochin, Alleppey and Quilon - long before the time of Christ. And it was on a trading vessel plying between Alexandria and the Malabar coast that St. Thomas the Apostle arrived in Cranganore in 52 AD.

There he began preaching the Gospel. His teachings were accepted not only by those who chose to become Christians but also by those who chose to remain Hindus. The teachings eventually got integrated into the beliefs and traditions of the local communities, into their family history, into their songs and dances. St. Thomas established seven Christian communities or churches in Kerala. They are in Cranganore, Paravur(Kottakavu), Palayoor, Kokkamangalam, Malayattoor, Niranam, Chayal (Nilackal) and Kollam (Quilon). Throughout Kerala, one can find Christian families that are proud to claim descent from ancestors who were baptized by Apostle Thomas. Sankarapuri, Pakalomattom and Maliekal are the prominent ones. Some details of this combined tradition may be found in songs - the "Rabban Pattu", the "Veeradyan Pattu", the "Margam Kali Pattu" and others that now exist in written records.

The Church in Kerala had a high missionary spirit. Christians from Malabar spread their faith as far as Maldives and Indonesia.

St. Thomas Christians were considered high caste, along the Hindu tradition, with special privileges granted by the kings. The archdeacon was the head of the Church, and Palliyogams (Parish Councils) were in charge of temporal affairs. There were women deacons. They had a liturgy-centered life with days of fasting and abstinence. Their devotion to the St. Thomas Cross was absolute. Their churches were modelled after Hindu temples. In short, the St. Thomas Christians of Kerala had blended well the ecclesiastical world of the East Syrian Church with the socio-cultural environment of their homeland. Thus, the East Syrian Church was Hindu in culture, Christian in religion and Syro-Oriental in worship.

In 1498, when the Portugese navigator Vasco da Gama landed on the Malabar coast, there were an estimated two million Christian souls across the land, and they had 1,500 churches under the jurisdiction of a single Metropolitan who lived in Angamale. Besides, the Church had, by then, expanded to the neighbouring Mylapore and Nilgiris as well as northward along the Arabian Sea coast to Goa, Saimur (Chual), Thana, Sopara, Gujarat and as far as Sind, now a part of Pakistan. This, indeed, was the Golden Age of the East Syrian Church.

The arrival of Vasco da Gama, however, marked the start of a turning point and heralded a new struggle for the East Syrian Church. Because the Portugese, who later established trading posts in Goa, Daman and Diu north of Kerala, moved against the East Syrian Church leading to tragic, ecclesiastical incidents.

According to Joas de Castro, the Portugese Viceroy in Goa in 1548, the sword of the Portugese was wielded "mainly against the centuries-old Christians of Kerala". This was because only in Kerala did the laity stand steadfast against Western colonization, and maybe the Portugese, who were under the Roman Church, considered everything outside Roman as heretic.

The move against the Syrian Church was followed by Western Church establishing a European diocese in Goa in 1534. In 1557, Pope Paul IV declared Goa an archdiocese with its supremacy extending from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa to China, and all Christians, including the East Syrian Church, brought under its jurisdiction. The East Syrian Archdiocese of Angamali then became a dependent of Goa.

This Europeanization process led to divisions in the Church, as there was considerable resistance against Western domination. The Christian communities then split into many groups - East Syrian Catholics, West Syrian Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Jacobite Syrian Orthodox, Marthoma (those who accepted the Anglican Church but with the Eastern Liturgy), Church of the East (those who accepted the Nestorian Patriarch), and the Latin Church.

In 1887 Pope Leo XIII issued the bull of "Quod Jam Pridem", which liberated the Syrians from the jurisdiction of the Latin prelate of Verapoly and placed them under two Eparchies - one in Trichur and the other in Kottayam (both in Kerala). More recently, on January 23, 1993, a papal declaration again upgraded Ernakulam to major Arch Episcopal Church with the title of Ernakulam Angamaly.

Today, there are 23 dioceses in India. Eleven of them are in Kerala with a number of priests from Kerala working in many parts of the world. Kerala has one vocation (priest brother, sister) for every 70 Catholics. No other community in the world has so many vocations. Most of the Syrian families have a priest, a religious guide and mentor.


Pope to Venerate Holy Grail
Chalice Kept in Valencia Is Sacred Icon

MADRID, Spain, JULY 7, 2006 ( When Benedict XVI is in Valencia on Saturday, he will stop to venerate the chalice that is traditionally considered the one Christ used at the Last Supper.

According to author and professor Salvador Antuñano Alea, the Last Supper's holy chalice, kept in the cathedral of Valencia, bases its probability on tradition and "very reasonable archaeological and historical evidence" but for Christians what is most important is "its condition as a sacred icon."

The Christian people venerate it because it "represents for them and takes them back to the sublime moment in which the Son of God left us his Blood as drink before shedding it on the cross," explained Antuñano to ZENIT.

A doctor in philosophy and professor at the University of Francisco de Vitoria in Madrid, Antuñano became interested in the holy grail given the conjectures, its alleged magical powers and the confusion between history and reality.

He wrote "The Mystery of the Holy Grail: Tradition and Legend of the Holy Chalice," published by EDICEP in1999.


From the archaeological point of view, the ensemble of the holy chalice "is composed of three parts: two stone cups and a gold mount." The latter "can be dated, according to its artistic style, between the 13th and early 14th centuries," while "the cup which serves as a setting for the chalice" "may be dated in the Azahara Medina of Almanzoor, in the 10th century, or, if it came from another workshop, between that century and the 12th.

The cup itself, however, is much older," said Antuñano, following the studies of Antonio Beltran, professor of archaeology at the University of Zaragoza.

His scientific precision, the comparison he made with similar objects and the critical analysis of the documents "point to an original workshop -- Egypt or Palestine -- and to the last moments of Hellenistic art (2nd century B.C. to 1st century A.D.). It corresponds to the type of vases used for solemnities or belonging to wealthy homes," commented Antuñano.

Following his studies, Beltran concluded that science confirms the historical probability of the holy chalice, as well as that of "the mount as an Egyptian or caliphal cup of the 10th or 11th century which was added, with rich gold work, to the cup, toward the 14th century, because it was firmly believed then that it was an exceptional piece," Antuñano explained.

History and tradition

"The oldest written historical document which speaks with great clarity of the holy chalice is the writing for the donation of the chalice, done by the monks of Saint John of the Rock for the King of Aragon, Don Martin I the Human," dated "September 26, 1399," Antuñano continued.

The text describes "faithfully the stone chalice that is kept today in Valencia. Since then its trajectory is completely documented," although "before that date we have no document that speaks of it," he said.

Therefore, to "the very material reality of the chalice" is added "an ancient tradition based on vestiges and reasonable evidence," he clarified.

Thus it is that an ancient tradition, which corroborates the archaeological foundation, points out that the chalice went from Jerusalem to Rome with Saint Peter, and with it the first Popes celebrated the Eucharist. It arrived in Spain around 258, in the region of Huesca, sent by St. Lawrence after the martyrdom of Pope Sixtus and before his own, with the intention of preserving it from the pillaging of the persecution against the Church decreed by Valerian.

"It remained there until the Muslim invasion, when the faithful saved it by hiding it in different points of the mountain. In the measure that the reconquest of Spain advanced, a discreet veneration was also consolidated in different churches," and "it is very possible that in the mid 11th century it was in Jaca, kept by the bishops and that, on the establishment of the Roman rite in the Kingdom of Aragon in the year 1071, it went to the Monastery of Saint John of the Rock," in whose silence "it was kept for more than three centuries."

New Testament evidence

"Evidence that is sufficiently probable" is deduced for its part from the New Testament: "it is possible that Christ celebrated the Last Supper in St. Mark's house"; the latter was like a "secretary of St. Paul and St. Peter, with whom it seems he went to Rome," so that it "would not be strange that the Evangelist would have kept the cup -- a cup of his crockery -- in which the Master consecrated the Eucharist," nor would it be odd "that he gave it to Peter and the latter to Linus," and from one to the other to Cletus, Clement and so forth.

It cannot be forgotten that "the Roman canon of the Mass is elaborated on the rite used by the Popes of the first centuries," and "in one of its most ancient parts, the formula of the consecration, presents a slight variation with other liturgies," as it establishes the words: "'in the same way, the supper being over, he took this glorious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, giving thanks he blessed it and gave it to his disciples saying …' in such a way that it seems to insist on a particular and concrete chalice: the same one the Lord used in his Supper," noted Antuñano.

The historical itinerary, well documented since 1399, leads us to the city of Valencia, where in 1915 the cathedral chapter decided to transform the former chapter hall of the cathedral into the Chapel of the Holy Chalice, where the latter was installed on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of 1916.

It had to be taken out of there in great haste twenty years later with the outbreak of the Civil War, three hours before the cathedral was set on fire. "When the fire of the war was extinguished, the chalice was solemnly given to the chapter on Holy Thursday, April 9, 1939, and was installed in its reconstructed chapel on May 23, 1943," recalled Antuñano.

Since then, worship and devotion to the holy chalice has intensified. And "the present archbishop, Agustin García-Gasco, has succeeded in spreading the veneration beyond the limits of the Valentian community," he said.

True mysticism

"For the Christian, a sacred icon is not only a pious image," not even a "representation of a religious motive; it is much more: it is a means for spiritual contemplation, for meditation and for prayer," noted the scholar.

Far from harboring any "magical property," "the icon is sacred because its image evokes a salvific mystery and, in a spiritual but real way, has as its end to place the one who contemplates it in communion with that mystery, making him a participant in it," he underlined.

And as "the data of tradition and history indicate seriously the possibility that it is the same chalice that the Lord used the night he was betrayed," Christians venerate it because "it carries one to the sublime moment when the Son of God left us his Blood as drink before shedding it on the cross" for our salvation, he specified.

"That is why, the core and foundation of veneration of the holy chalice is in the Eucharistic Mystery," he summarized.

For Professor Antuñano, one of the most important moments of the holy chalice's history was the visit of Pope John Paul II to Valencia on November 8, 1982. "After venerating the relic in his chapel, the Pope celebrated Mass with it.

"The history of the holy chalice will continue, as does the history of the Church herself," Antuñano concluded, "but the gesture of John Paul II on consecrating in it the Blood of the Lord may be considered as the landmark that introduces the relic in the third millennium."


Urban II: The Pope of the First Crusade
Régine Pernoud | Excerpt from The Crusaders: The Struggle for the Holy Land

In the Middle Ages our Lady of Le Puy was revered as much as our Lady of Lourdes is today. People of all classes were drawn on pilgrimage to her shrine in its strange setting of volcanic rocks at the heart of France. Serfs, monks, lords, and prelates mingled in an endless succession, barefoot and carrying candles. Here, in the fervor of this throng, in the new cathedral with its great porch, its cloister, and its annexes where the pilgrims were given shelter, the Salve Regina, long known as the hymn of Le Puy, was first heard, and here it is still intoned by the priest at the conclusion of the Mass.

One day in August 1095, the ever-present crowd watched some unusual preparations. A hole was being made with picks in one of the walls of the building. It was gradually enlarged and finally became a new entrance to the cathedral, magnificently draped with heavy curtains of scarlet wool. The reason for this unusual activity was not far to seek–the Pope, the head of Christendom, was expected at Le Puy. He had recently crossed the Alps–probably by the usual route through the Col de Genèvre, Pavia, Turin, the Col de Suse, Briançon, and Grenoble–then had gone to Valence and consecrated the newly built cathedral there on August 5. Now he was traveling toward Le Puy by way of Romans-sur-Isère and Tournon, where he had crossed the Rhône, and the hills of Vivarais. In honor of this important pilgrim Adhémar of Monteil, bishop of Le Puy, had caused the new doorway to be made. It would be sealed again immediately after the Pope had entered, for it was felt that no lesser person should tread where the Vicar of Christ had passed through.

On August 15 Pope Urban II celebrated a solemn Mass at Le Puy before a crowd even greater than usual. This was on the Feast of the Assumption, the principal feastday of the year at this shrine dedicated to the Virgin.

In the eleventh century the Pope, the head of Christendom, certainly did not enjoy the somewhat remote prestige that is accorded to the Sovereign Pontiff in our day. It was not at all out of the ordinary for him to travel, particularly to France, and everyone then could experience in his own district a little of that feeling approaching familiarity that is today [1959] the privilege of the Romans alone. For people of those days, seeing the Sovereign Pontiff did not mean seeing him in all the circumstance of pomp, crowned with the tiara and raised upon the Sedia. When they gathered on the roads, after his approach had been announced, they saw him on horseback or carried on a litter, in a procession of prelates and lay lords. His journeys made him known to Christians everywhere.

The fact that Urban II was a man of France enhanced his popularity. His speech and the fine features of a man of Champagne endeared him to the crowds on that Feast of the Assumption, and the tales told about him were all to his credit. He had been one of those monks whom a recent predecessor, the energetic Gregory VII, had withdrawn from the cloister to bring new life to the clergy and to revive the somewhat corrupt episcopate. They were to cooperate in the Pope's vigorous program of reform, standing firm against both lay and ecclesiastical powers, even against the Emperor himself, in the fight against the traffic in benefices, against simoniac clergy, and against the nepotism indulged in by the rulers of the time, who set their favorites at the head of abbeys or ecclesiastical provinces.

As a young man, Urban had been known as Odo of Châtillon. He had been trained by Saint Bruno himself, founder of the Carthusian order. Almost immediately after his election as Pope he was obliged to enter the lists against the Emperor Henry IV and the antipope, Guibert, his nominee, against the King of England, William Rufus, son of the Conqueror, and against the King of France. The situation was almost hopeless; he was forced to flee from Rome and could rely on only five loyal bishops in the whole of Germany. Then gradually he began to recover his rights. He was even able to return to Rome. The antipope had retreated to Ravenna, and his followers, under imperial protection, now held only the castle of Sant' Angelo and the actual sanctuary of Saint Peter. In May 1095 the Pope had been able to hold a council at Piacenza, where he effectively demonstrated that he was, in fact, the head of Christendom. It was a surprising thing that this man who had found his vocation in the peace and renunciation of the cloister should have developed there the fighting qualities of a successful leader.

While the crowd slowly scattered after the day's final ceremonies, Urban II held a long discussion with the bishop of Le Puy, Adhémar of Monteil, the son of that count of Valentinois who held the castle of Montélimar. He had been a knight before taking holy orders and was a man of fine character, respected and trusted by the Pope. In the days that followed, monks or clerics were sent off in all directions as messengers in the service of the bishop. They carried pontifical letters calling every abbot and bishop loyal to Urban to a general council to be held at Clermont on the day of the second Feast of Saint Martin, Sunday, November 18. Lay barons as well as members of the clergy were invited to its closing ceremony.

Urban II left Le Puy two days later for La Chaise-Dieu, where he was received by Durand, bishop of Clermont. On August 18 he dedicated the church there. It must, have been a happy day for this former monk to meet on this occasion three of his Cluniac friends–Hugh, bishop of Grenoble; Audebert of Montmorillon, bishop of Bourges; and Durand himself. Hugh was later canonized as Saint Hugh of Châteaunetif. He was the man who helped Saint Bruno to establish his new order in the valley of La Grande Chartreuse. These four men had all been members of the order of Cluny, which had raised to its highest pitch Catholicism's inherent feeling for splendor. The phrase "a man of perfect beauty" was the greatest commendation that the succeeding abbot could find when he wished to praise Saint Mayeul.

On the following October 25, before going to Clermont, Pope Urban II consecrated the high altar of the immense basilica at Cluny. This church was the largest in Christendom, bigger even than Saint Peter's in Rome, and it was embellished with all the glories of Romanesque art. The Pope held frequent discussions there with high-ranking clergy–including Géraud of Cardhaillac, bishop of Cahors, who will be encountered again later in Cyprus and Jerusalem–in order to settle the agenda to be followed at the Council. One of these men, Durand, bishop of Clermont, died on November 18, the very day the Council assembled, and its first business was the solemnization of his funeral.

Urban went on from La Chaise-Dieu to Saint-Gilles du Gard. He arrived on September 1, the feastday of the abbey's patron saint, when crowds of pilgrims were attracted there by the ceremonies. It is very likely that the count of Toulouse, Raymond of Saint Giles, was among them. He was one of the most powerful vassals of the King of France, overlord of vast and wealthy lands in the south. If he was indeed present during the ten days of the Pope's stay, he probably had many talks with him while the ceremonies and processions outside followed their ordered course.

"More than two hundred and fifty episcopal crosses", wrote Bernold the chronicler with a journalistic touch when he described the scene in the cathedral at Clermont on Saint Martin's Day in 1095. Two hundred and fifty high dignitaries of the Church–bishops and mitred abbots–were among those who walked in procession to the chant of the Veni Creator. A huge crowd of onlookers had been attracted to Clermont, far too many to be easily accommodated even in that great cathedral, in spite of its size, its narthex, and its choir, which had an ambulatory with chapels radiating from it–this cathedral was one of the first buildings designed in this manner. The building in which the Council was held was not the present cathedral. It was replaced by one of Gothic design, further adorned, centuries later, by the towers and spires of Viollet-le-Duc. By way of contrast, the church of Notre-Dame du Port, the foundations of which had then just been laid, still stands today. There were no less than fifty-four churches in eleventh-century Clermont.

This assembly was both impressive and significant, for it was a gathering of the faithful flock around their shepherd. For many, their attendance there implied considerable courage. Pibo, bishop of Toul, now very old and infirm, had journeyed halfway across France to be there. He was a Saxon by birth and had previously been chancellor to the Emperor Henry IV. His mere presence at the Council was a protest against his powerful master and the latter's nominee, the antipope. Many bishops from the north of France had come, as if to demonstrate their loyalty to the See of Saint Peter in defiance of the Holy Empire. Among them were Lambert of Arras, Gerard of Thérouanne, and Gervin of Amiens, and the abbots of Saint Waast, Anchin, and Saint Bertin. From dioceses and abbeys within the Holy Roman Empire had come Poppo, bishop of Metz; Abbot Martin of Saint Denis du Mont; Richer, bishop of Verdun (represented by his legate); and many more.

John of Orleans and Hugh of Senlis were two bishops who came from the royal domain of France, although their King had quarrelled with the Pope. From Normandy ventured Gilbert, bishop of Evreux; Serlon, bishop of Séez; and Abbot Goutard of Jumièges, who died from old age and sickness during the course of the Council. These came from territories administered by Odo of Conteville, full brother of William the Conqueror, a man who had fought thirty years before at the Battle of Hastings and has his place on the Bayeux tapestry. He had acted as a viceroy for his brother and had been given the title of earl of Kent.

Another important group were the representatives from Spain: Berengar of Rosanes, bishop of Tarragon; Peter of Audouque, bishop of Pampeluna (Pamplona); Bernard of Sédirac, a former Cluniac monk who had been sent by Saint Hugh to Spain to become abbot of Sahugun, the "Spanish Cluny", and afterward archbishop of Toledo; also Dalmace, bishop of Compostella, another former monk of Cluny. The name of each of these bishoprics was a reminder of victories over the Moors. It was exactly ten years since Alphonse, VI of Castille had retaken Toledo, and in 1092 the hero of the Reconquista, Roderigo Diaz the Cid Campeador, had established a new Christian state around Valencia. The great enterprise undertaken in Spain against Islam, and so strongly supported by Cluny, was now beginning to bear fruit. Finally, the clergy of Auvergne, Aquitaine, and Languedoc were, naturally, well represented behind Adhémar of Monteil.

The atmosphere of the Council was stirring. Exciting ideas were at work like leaven, and ardent discussions were inspired by Gregory VII's reforms. Robert of Molesmes was there, the man who, in living illustration of Saint Bernard's work, was to found the Cistercian order, the spread and influence of which were to become enormous within the Church.

Meetings took place with full solemnity. Ecclesiastical justice was the first matter dealt with; quarrels were settled–such as that between the great canonist, Yvo, bishop of Chartres, and Geoffrey, abbot of La Trinité de Vendôme; previous sanctions against the sale of sacraments by simoniac clerics were renewed; decrees were issued on the taking of Communion in the two kinds which was usual at the time; tile dates of Ember Days were determined; and, incidentally, men in holy orders were forbidden to frequent taverns.

In particular the Pope gave the full weight of his authority to the renewal of the right of sanctuary. This was the right which granted safety from pursuit to any criminal who could reach a monastery, a church, or indeed any holy place; even the wayside crosses were to become places of sanctuary, and a person clinging to one of them was not to be harmed. Another important decision was made that strengthened the idea of the truce of God and widened its scope. Every Christian over the age of twelve had to vow to observe its ordinances–it was forbidden to carry on private warfare during the whole of Lent, from Advent until the octave of the Epiphany; on each feastday of our Lord, of the Virgin Mary, and of the apostles; and finally during the whole time between Wednesday night and Monday morning.

It is with astonishment that one records another decree of this Council, one completely at odds with the most elementary rules of diplomacy. In the very heart of the realm of France this Pope, so long harried and not yet able to make himself master of all his own domains, dared to summon the King himself to appear before him like a common criminal. Philip I was publicly found guilty of adultery, having put aside his lawful wife and taken the wife of one of his vassals, Fulk le Réchin. When he was summoned by the spiritual power to renounce this illicit union, he refused to come before the Council and was solemnly excommunicated.

When one considers that the Pope had in mind a great project for which he intended to seek support among the vassals of that same King, this excommunication is in itself enough to indicate the mental climate of the time. It is obvious that political considerations were not the dominating factor.

The Council ended on November 27. Laymen were admitted to the closing ceremony, so the crowds which gathered in the morning were even greater than on previous days. The meeting was held in the open air at the Champ-Herm (probably the Place Champet), where a raised platform had been erected for the Pope and important churchmen. Only a few people there had any idea of the startling appeal that would be made before the Council closed. Adhémar of Monteil, quiet and self-assured, was one of them, while Raymond of Saint Giles, now many miles away, had in his usual hotheaded and excitable fashion already dispatched messengers to announce his support of the Holy Father's proposals.

Urban's speech has been reported by several chroniclers, but probably Fulcher of Chartres was the only one of them who heard it in person. His account is likely to be the most accurate impression of what was said. He writes:
Well-beloved brothers,

The heavy demands of the times have forced me, Urban, by the grace of God the wearer of the pontifical tiara and Pontiff of the whole earth, to come before you, the servants of God, as a messenger to reveal the divine will....

Although, children of God, you have made a solemn promise to keep peace among yourselves and faithfully uphold the rights of the Church, you must now, fortified anew by the grace of our Lord, show the strength of your zeal in the performance of a precious task which concerns all of you no less than it concerns the Lord. It is imperative that you bring to your brothers in the East the help so often promised and so urgently needed. They have been attacked, as many of you know, by Turks and Arabs, who have spread into imperial territories as far as that part of the Mediterranean which is known as the Arm of Saint George [1] and who are penetrating ever farther into the lands of these Christians, whom they have defeated seven times in battle, killing or capturing many of them. Churches have been destroyed and the countryside laid waste. If you do not make a stand against the enemy now, the tide of their advance will overwhelm many more faithful servants of God.

Therefore, I beg and beseech you–and not I alone, but our Lord begs and beseeches you as heralds of Christ–rich and poor alike make haste to drive this evil race from the places where our brothers live and bring a very present help to the worshippers of Christ. I speak in my own person to you who stand here. I will send the news to those who are far off, but it is the voice of Christ which commands your obedience.
It was at this point in the Pope's speech that there appeared for the first time in the Church's history the promise of an "indulgence". The word, like the thing it stood for, has since played so important a role that it is as well to consider its meaning.

It often happens, even today, that a phrase such as "three hundred days" or "seven years and seven times forty days" of indulgence is found at the end of a prayer or invocation. Some people understand by this that the mere fact of saying that prayer or invocation will earn for them the remission of so much time in Purgatory. In fact, the sort of tariff mentioned is a clear reminder of those medieval customs that flourished in Urban's time. A believer who made his confession, expressed regret for his fault, and obtained pardon for it undertook at the same time to do the penance given him by the priest. The punishment was proportionate to the crime, and it is still one of the conditions–called satisfaction by theologians–of absolution, but it has now become much less spectacular. In the Middle Ages such penances consisted generally of long periods of fasting, and sometimes even, as in the case of Fulk Nerra, pilgrimage to the Holy Land was imposed.

In proclaiming the indulgence Urban II offered remission of all penances for their sins to those who "took the cross":
If anyone who sets out should lose his life either on the way, by land or by sea, or in battle against the infidels, his sins shall be pardoned from that moment. This I grant by right of the gift of God's power to me.
The Pope declared that everything belonging to the Crusaders would be put under his own protection during their absence and would be as safe from harm as the property of the Church. Then he ended his speech with this exhortation:
May those men who have been occupied in the wicked struggle of private warfare against their fellow Christians now take up arms against the infidel and help to bring this long delayed campaign to a victorious end. May those who have been brigands now become soldiers, and those who have fought against their own families now fight as they should–against barbarians. Let those who have served for mercenaries' pay now earn an everlasting reward, and let those who have dissipated their body and soul now gather their strength to win a double prize. What more is there to say? On the one hand, there are people in great distress–on the other, there are those who live in plenty; over there are the enemies of God–here are his friends. join us without delay! Let those who are going settle up their affairs and collect what they will need to pay their expenses, so that when the winter is over and the spring comes they may set off joyfully under the guidance of our Lord.

Robert the Monk, in his version, suggests that the Pope drew a comparison between the wealth of the Orient and the poverty of the Western world, but Fulcher of Chartres, who, let us remember, provides the best source for what happened at the Council, makes no allusion to this. According to him, the Pope promised only heavenly riches. In fact, at that time the Western world displayed evident signs of prosperity. New buildings, churches, and even whole towns were rising; fairs and markets were being organized, and the movement for the freeing of towns from feudal control had begun at least thirty years before.

What the Pope was seeking at this meeting of important representatives of Christianity was nothing less than an expeditionary force against Islam. His astounding request was greeted with immense enthusiasm. The shout of "Deus lo volt!" (God wills it!) that rang out over the meadow at Clermont echoed across the Christian world. The sound was heard from Sicily to distant Scandinavia and aroused a strength of feeling that was beyond even the Pope's expectation, and that lasted for more than two centuries before it finally died away.

This drive against the Turks was a project that had no real precedent, and so the necessary organization had to be worked out from the beginning. Urban II had probably considered this in his conversations with Adhémar of Monteil; he may also have been able to draw upon Raymond of Saint Giles' experience as a knight. Possibly ideas for the planning of the enterprise were taken from the Spanish Reconquista or the Norman seizure of Sicily. Some years earlier, in 1063, an "international" force composed of men from Italy, Provence, Languedoc, Burgundy, and Aquitaine had attacked and taken the stronghold of Barbastro in Spain, and many people saw in this force a forerunner of the Crusades. But no one at the time missed the essential significance of the appeal made at the Council of Clermont and its release of a whole series of actions unparalleled in their far-reaching effect.

The pilgrimages to the Holy Land form the only true precedent to the Crusades. The historian Paul Rousset has firmly established the link between these pilgrim journeys and the armed pilgrimage that the crusading movement was to become. The words "crusade" and "crusader", which seem so natural to us, were not in use at the time. When they used the phrase "take the cross", they were merely making a literal application of the words of the Gospel. The application consisted, at Clermont and at later gatherings, of cutting a small cross out of cloth and applying it then to one's shoulder. This was an outward sign of the taking of the vow to go to Jerusalem "for the sake of true religion; not for honor or riches but in order to free the Church of God", as Urban II had said. The name "crusader", crucesignatus, is used only occasionally and then only as an epithet.

Words such as "pilgrimage", "the expedition to Jerusalem", "the road to Jerusalem", "the way to the Sepulchre", or "to our Lord"[2] were used to describe the journey. Those who set out were known as "la gent Notre Seigneur" (our Lord's men), or "Hierosolymitani" (Jerusalem farers), the term for pilgrims to Jerusalem. They were distinguished by the cross, symbol of forgiveness, of suffering that atones, and reminder of the One that was raised on the hill of Golgotha in the land they intended to recapture; They were "armed with the sign of the cross", and after its recapture the True Cross was carried as a standard before the armies going into battle. The Crusaders' war song was a liturgical chant, the Vexilla Regis prodeunt, composed four centuries earlier by Fortunatus, a bishop who was also a poet, and normally sung at Vespers on Good Friday and on feastdays of the Cross.

By a strange transposition of modern thought into a bygone age some historians of our day have suggested that the root causes of the crusading movement were economic and similar to those of colonialism. In fact it was precisely because the Latin kingdoms had no impulse toward colonization, and no colonists, that they had such a precarious existence The overwhelming majority of those who went on crusade had no other idea than to return home once their vow was accomplished.

Jean Richard, a present-day authority on the history of the Crusades, writes, "A Crusade is often thought of as an expedition of landless knights and broken peasantry. Some people have wished to link this exodus with an economic crisis resulting from the introduction of a perfected method of harnessing, which caused widespread unemployment. It was unfortunate for the kingdom of Jerusalem that these adventurers were not numerous enough!" [3]

Adhémar of Monteil was the first to rise. He moved toward the Pope and "with a radiant face", as Baudry of Bourgueil describes him, begged permission to take the cross. To an uproar of applause, Urban II blessed the little crosses snipped out of some cloth that had been brought. Soon he was hemmed in by a crowd of spectators, all demanding to be marked with the cross of Christ. Some reporters of the scene, their judgment overcome by their enthusiasm, have suggested that the cardinals present cut up their red robes to supply crosses, forgetting that in those days the cardinals did not wear scarlet. [4]

Messengers arrived the next day, November 28, from Raymond of Saint Giles, announcing his intention of joining the Crusade. A final meeting of the Council was held to appoint a spiritual head of the expedition, and it was felt that the bishop of Le Puy, Adhémar of Monteil, the first man to take the cross, was the only possible choice. Various details of organization remained to be settled. The date of departure was fixed for August 15 in the following year, 1096, and certain qualifications were laid down regarding those who wished to take the cross. Since the taking of a vow was involved, recruits must first seek the advice of their priests; monks had to have permission from their bishop or abbot, while minors and married women needed the consent of those who were responsible for them. The armies were to assemble at Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Empire, a mighty citadel which stood firm against the rising tide of Islamic conquest.

Urban II left Clermont on December 2 and continued his journey. He visited various towns in southern France, preaching the Crusade and dedicating the host of churches that were springing up in this most fruitful period of the life of France, when both its romanesque art and the chansons de geste began to blossom. On December 7 the church of Saint Flour was dedicated; this was followed by the consecration of the abbey church of Saint Geraud at Aurillac. The Pope solemnly consecrated the cathedral of Saint Stephen at Limoges on December 29, and the abbey church of Saint Savior in the same town on the next day; then came the consecration of the high altar in the abbey of Saint Savior at Charroux on January 10 and of another altar in the monastery of Saint Hilary at Poitiers on its feastday, January 13. He made almost a grand tour of the district, moving from Angers to Marmoutiers, then to Bordeaux and Toulouse. Here on May 28, 1096, he consecrated the collegiate church of Saint Sernin in the presence of Raymond of Saint Giles. Then he dedicated the cathedrals of Maguelonne and Nimes, and on July 15 the altar of the new church of Saint Giles du Gard. Urban went on to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Apt, and Forcalquier before he crossed the Alps to reach Milan in August 1096.

By this time, the Crusaders had already begun to move along their various paths toward the meeting places appointed by the Pope.


[1] The Hellespont.

[2] Hierosolymitana expeditio, peregrinatio, iter Hierosolymitanum, via sepulchri Domini.

[3] Le Royaume latin de Jérusalem (Paris, 1953) p. 29.

[4] The wearing of the scarlet robe was instituted by Pope Paul II in 1464. The Pope in earlier times is often shown dressed in a red cloak. The white soutane was not worn until the sixteenth century (Saint Pius V).

Related Articles:

• Crusade Myths | Thomas F. Madden
• Mistakes, Yes. Conspiracies, No. | Vince Ryan
• Saint Martin and the Search Holiness | Régine Pernoud

Régine Pernoud, a renowned French archivist and historian, is among the greatest medievalists of recent times, and the success of her books has helped to bring the Middle Ages closer to modern readers. Among her numerous works are Those Terrible Middle Ages!, Martin of Tours, and Women in the Days of the Cathedrals.


What the Crusades Were Really Like

Thomas Madden Dispels Myths

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, OCT. 10, 2004 ( The Crusaders were not unprovoked aggressors, greedy marauders or medieval colonialists, as portrayed in some history books.

In fact, Thomas Madden, chair of St. Louis University's history department and author of "A Concise History of the Crusades," contests that the Crusaders were a defensive force that did not profit from their ventures by earthly riches or land.

In fact, Thomas Madden, chair of St. Louis University's history department and author of "A Concise History of the Crusades," contests that the Crusaders were defensive wars, not wars of conquest.

Madden shared with ZENIT the most popular myths about the Crusades and the modern findings that prove them wrong.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.

Q: What are some common misconceptions about the Crusades? the Crusaders?

Madden: The following are some of the most common myths and why they are wrong.

Myth 1: The Crusades were wars of unprovoked aggression against a peaceful Muslim world.

This is as wrong as wrong can be. From the time of Mohammed, Muslims had sought to conquer the Christian world. They did a pretty good job of it, too. After a few centuries of steady conquests, Muslim armies had taken all of North Africa, the Middle East, Asia Minor and most of Spain.

In other words, by the end of the 11th century the forces of Islam had captured two-thirds of the Christian world. Palestine, the home of Jesus Christ; Egypt, the birthplace of Christian monasticism; Asia Minor, where St. Paul planted the seeds of the first Christian communities -- these were not the periphery of Christianity but its very core.

And the Muslim empires were not finished yet. They continued to press westward toward Constantinople, ultimately passing it and entering Europe itself. As far as unprovoked aggression goes, it was all on the Muslim side. At some point what was left of the Christian world would have to defend itself or simply succumb to Islamic conquest.

Myth 2: The Crusaders wore crosses, but they were really only interested in capturing booty and land. Their pious platitudes were just a cover for rapacious greed.

Historians used to believe that a rise in Europe's population led to a crisis of too many noble "second sons," those who were trained in chivalric warfare but who had no feudal lands to inherit. The Crusades, therefore, were seen as a safety valve, sending these belligerent men far from Europe where they could carve out lands for themselves at someone else's expense.

Modern scholarship, assisted by the advent of computer databases, has exploded this myth. We now know that it was the "first sons" of Europe that answered the Pope's call in 1095, as well as in subsequent Crusades.

Crusading was an enormously expensive operation. Lords were forced to sell off or mortgage their lands to gather the necessary funds. Most were also not interested in an overseas kingdom. Much like a soldier today, the medieval Crusader was proud to do his duty but longed to return home.

After the spectacular successes of the First Crusade, with Jerusalem and much of Palestine in Crusader hands, virtually all of the Crusaders went home. Only a tiny handful remained behind to consolidate and govern the newly won territories.

Booty was also scarce. In fact, although Crusaders no doubt dreamed of vast wealth in opulent Eastern cities, virtually none of them ever even recouped their expenses. But money and land were not the reasons that they went on Crusade in the first place. They went to atone for their sins and to win salvation by doing good works in a faraway land.

They underwent such expense and hardship because they believed that by coming to the aid of their Christian brothers and sisters in the East they were storing up treasure where rust and moth cannot corrupt.

They were very mindful of Christ's exhortation that he who will not take up his cross is not worthy of Christ. They also remembered that "Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends."

Myth 3: When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 they massacred every man, woman and child in the city until the streets ran ankle deep with the blood.

This is a favorite used to demonstrate the evil nature of the Crusades.

It is certainly true that many people in Jerusalem were killed after the Crusaders captured the city. But this must be understood in historical context.

The accepted moral standard in all pre-modern European and Asian civilizations was that a city that resisted capture and was taken by force belonged to the victorious forces. That included not just the buildings and goods, but the people as well. That is why every city or fortress had to weigh carefully whether it could hold out against besiegers. If not, it was wise to negotiate terms of surrender.

In the case of Jerusalem, the defenders had resisted right up to the end. They calculated that the formidable walls of the city would keep the Crusaders at bay until a relief force from Egypt could arrive. They were wrong. When the city fell, therefore, it was put to the sack. Many were killed, yet many others were ransomed or allowed to go free.

By modern standards this may seem brutal. Yet a medieval knight would point out that many more innocent men, women and children are killed in modern bombing warfare than could possibly be put to the sword in one or two days. It is worth noting that in those Muslim cities that surrendered to the Crusaders the people were left unmolested, retained their property and were allowed to worship freely.

As for those streets of blood, no historian accepts them as anything other than a literary convention. Jerusalem is a big town. The amount of blood necessary to fill the streets to a continuous and running three-inch depth would require many more people than lived in the region, let alone the city.

Myth 4: The Crusades were just medieval colonialism dressed up in religious finery.

It is important to remember that in the Middle Ages the West was not a powerful, dominant culture venturing into a primitive or backward region. It was the Muslim East that was powerful, wealthy and opulent. Europe was the Third World.

The Crusader States, founded in the wake of the First Crusade, were not new plantations of Catholics in a Muslim world akin to the British colonization of America. Catholic presence in the Crusader states was always tiny, easily less than 10% of the population. These were the rulers and magistrates, as well as Italian merchants and members of the military orders. The overwhelming majority of the population in the Crusader states was Muslim.

They were not colonies, therefore, in the sense of plantations or even factories, as in the case of India. They were outposts. The ultimate purpose of the Crusader states was to defend the holy places in Palestine, especially Jerusalem, and to provide a safe environment for Christian pilgrims to visit those places.

There was no mother country with which the Crusader states had an economic relationship, nor did Europeans economically benefit from them. Quite the contrary, the expense of Crusades to maintain the Latin East was a serious drain on European resources. As an outpost, the Crusader states kept a military focus.

While the Muslims warred against each other the Crusader states were safe, but once the Muslims united, they were able to dismantle the strongholds, capture the cities, and in 1291 expel the Christians completely.

Myth 5: The Crusades were also waged against the Jews.

No pope ever called a Crusade against Jews. During the First Crusade a large band of riffraff, not associated with the main army, descended on the towns of the Rhineland and decided to rob and kill the Jews they found there. In part this was pure greed. In part it also stemmed from the incorrect belief that the Jews, as the crucifiers of Christ, were legitimate targets of the war.

Pope Urban II and subsequent popes strongly condemned these attacks on Jews. Local bishops and other clergy and laity attempted to defend the Jews, although with limited success. Similarly, during the opening phase of the Second Crusade a group of renegades killed many Jews in Germany before St. Bernard was able to catch up to them and put a stop to it.

These misfires of the movement were an unfortunate byproduct of Crusade enthusiasm, but they were not the purpose of the Crusades. To use a modern analogy, during the Second World War some American soldiers committed crimes while overseas. They were arrested and punished for those crimes. But the purpose of the Second World War was not to commit crimes

Q: Do you think the struggle between the West and the Muslim world is in any way a reaction to the Crusades?

Madden: No. That may seem a strange answer when you consider that Osama bin Laden and other Islamists often refer to Americans as "Crusaders."

It's important to remember, though, that during the Middle Ages -- really up until the late 16th century -- the superpower of the Western world was Islam. Muslim civilizations were wealthy, sophisticated and immensely powerful. The West was backward and relatively weak.

It is noteworthy that with the exception of the First Crusade virtually every other Crusade launched by the West -- and there were hundreds -- was unsuccessful.

The Crusades may have slowed Muslim expansionism, but they in no way stopped it. Muslim empires would continue to expand into Christian territories, conquering the Balkans, much of Eastern Europe and even the greatest Christian city in the world, Constantinople.

From the Muslim perspective the Crusades were not worth noticing. If you had asked someone in the Muslim world about the Crusades in the 18th century he or she would have known nothing about them. They were important to Europeans because they were massive efforts that failed.

However, during the 19th century, when Europeans began conquering and colonizing Middle Eastern countries, many historians -- in particular nationalist or royalist French writers -- began to cast the Crusades as Europe's first attempt to bring the fruits of Western civilization to the backward Muslim world. In other words, the Crusades were morphed into imperialist wars.

Those histories were taught in the colonial schools and became the accepted view in the Middle East and beyond. In the 20th century, imperialism was discredited. Islamists and some Arab nationalists then seized on the colonial construction of the Crusades, claiming that the West was responsible for their woes because they had preyed on Muslims ever since the Crusades.

It is often said that people in the Middle East have long memories; it is true. But in the case of the Crusades, they have a recovered memory: one that was manufactured for them by their European conquerors.

Q: Are there any similarities between the Crusades and the war against terror today?

Madden: Aside from the fact that soldiers in both wars want to serve something greater than themselves that they hold dear and long to return home when it is over, I see no other similarities between the medieval Crusades and the war against terror. Motivations in a post-Enlightenment secular society are very different from those in the medieval world.

Q: How are the Crusades different from Islam's jihad, or other wars of religion?

Madden: The fundamental purpose of jihad is to expand the Dar al-Islam -- the Abode of Islam -- into the Dar al-Harb -- the Abode of War. In other words, jihad is expansionistic, seeking to conquer non-Muslims and place them under Muslim rule.

Those who are then conquered are given a simple choice. For those who are not People of the Book -- in other words, those who are not Christians or Jews -- the choice is convert to Islam or die. For those who are People of the Book, the choice is submit to Muslim rule and Islamic law or die. The expansion of Islam, therefore, was directly linked to the military successes of jihad.

The Crusades were something very different. From its beginnings Christianity has always forbidden coerced conversion of any kind. Conversion by the sword, therefore, was not possible for Christianity. Unlike jihad, the purpose of the Crusades was neither to expand the Christian world nor to expand Christianity through forced conversions.

Instead, the Crusades were a direct and belated response to centuries of Muslim conquests of Christian lands. The immediate event that sparked the First Crusade was the Turkish conquest of all of Asia Minor in the 1070s through 1090s.

The First Crusade was called by Pope Urban II in 1095 in response to an urgent plea for help from the Byzantine emperor in Constantinople. Urban called the knights of Christendom to come to the aid of their Eastern brethren.

Asia Minor was Christian. Part of the Byzantine Empire, it had been first evangelized by St. Paul. St. Peter had been the first bishop of Antioch. Paul had written his famous letter to the Christians of Ephesus. The creed of the Church was penned at Nicaea. All of these were in Asia Minor.

The Byzantine emperor begged the Christians of the West for aid in recapturing these lands and expelling the Turks. The Crusades were that aid. Their purpose, though, was not only to reconquer Asia Minor but also to recapture other formerly Christian lands that had been lost due to Islamic jihads. This included the Holy Land.

In a nutshell, therefore, the major difference between Crusade and jihad is that the former was a defense against the latter. The entire history of the Eastern Crusades is one of response to Muslim aggression.

Q: Did the Crusaders have any success at converting the Muslim world?

Madden: I would note that in the 13th century some Franciscans began a mission in the Middle East to seek to convert Muslims. It was not successful, largely because Islamic law makes conversion to another religion a capital offense.

This attempt, though, was separate from the Crusades, which had nothing at all to do with conversion. And it was by peaceful persuasion.

Q: How did Christendom rationalize its defeat in the Crusades? Were the Crusaders defeated?

Madden: The same way that the Jews of the Old Testament did. God withheld victory from his people because they were sinful. This led to a large-scale piety movement in Europe, whose aim was to purify Christian society in every way.

Q: Did Pope John Paul II in fact apologize for the Crusades? Has he actually condemned them?

Madden: This is an odd myth, given that the Pope was so roundly criticized for failing to apologize directly for the Crusades when he asked forgiveness from all those that Christians had unjustly harmed.

Our Holy Father did not condemn them, nor did he apologize for them. He apologized for the sins of Catholics. More recently it was widely reported that John Paul II apologized to the patriarch of Constantinople for the Crusader conquest of Constantinople in 1204.

In truth, though, the Pope only reiterated what his predecessor Pope Innocent III [1198-1216] said. That too was a tragic misfire that Innocent had done everything he could to avoid. He apologized for the sins of Catholics who took part in the Crusades. Yet he did not apologize for the Crusades themselves or even the outcome of the Crusades.


How Charles Carroll Influenced U.S. Founding Fathers
Scott McDermott on the Catholic Signer of Declaration of Independence  (November 1, 2005)

NASHVILLE, Tennessee,  ( Charles Carroll made history as the lone Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, but his legacy is all but ignored in today's classrooms.

Scott McDermott, a circulation librarian at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, writer and convert, began studying about Carroll after he came into the Church and wrote about his findings in "Charles Carroll of Carrollton: Faithful Revolutionary" (Scepter).

Q: Why did you choose to do a biography on Charles Carroll?

McDermott: When I was an undergraduate, prior to my conversion to Catholicism, I studied the American Revolution quite a bit.

The conflict was described almost exclusively in terms of what has been called the "Whig view of history." In this view, all history is seen in terms of linear progress toward maximum personal freedom, of the sort enjoyed by Protestant Englishmen in the 19th century.

Now this is a rather antiquated point of view, which was denounced by such influential 20th-century historians as Sir Herbert Butterfield and Sir Karl Popper.

It was, however, alive and well in history departments in the 1980s, albeit in a different form: Instead of progress toward Anglo-American political institutions, history was interpreted as a gradual struggle for liberation of all peoples from oppressive "Western" truths and customs.

So, we were given the Whig school in postmodern dress, and the American Revolution was seen not as an affirmation of timeless laws of nature, but merely as an assertion of civil rights.

After my conversion, I became interested in knowing whether the Revolution could in fact be related to the older Christian -- and Catholic -- political tradition. Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, was the obvious place to start.

Educated by Jesuits in France, Carroll was steeped in the Catholic political tradition: from St. Thomas, through St. Robert Bellarmine and Francisco Suáárez, all the way down to Montesquieu.

His thought clearly reflects Catholic political precepts such as the priority of the common good, corporatism, the liberty of the Church, popular sovereignty, the natural law, and what later came to be called subsidiarity.

But Carroll had to be careful about quoting any of the great Catholic doctors of the Church, because of the taboo against Catholicism in English political life. Carroll brought these ideas into the mix at the time of the Founding, without acknowledging their source.

I've been accused of saying that the American Revolution originated directly from Catholic political teaching. This is obviously not the case; the truth is more complex and interesting.

Catholic teaching was almost totally suppressed in the British Empire in the 18th century. The colonists thought they hated the Catholic political tradition, which they mistakenly identified with the Stuarts' doctrine of divine right. But the Founding Fathers really had no idea what the authentic tradition was.

When they began to resist the king in Parliament, they had to develop a new political science fast.

There was a radical political tradition in England coming from the Puritans, which included the idea of resistance to tyranny; but the Puritan tradition emphasized the supremacy of Parliament, the same Parliament that passed the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts and the Intolerable Acts. So the Americans had to dig deeper.

There was the common law, under which laws that violated the natural rights of Englishmen were theoretically null and void. But in spite of the lip service paid by Coke and Blackstone to this theory, the truth was that no judge in England was willing to throw out acts of Parliament, especially those relating to American colonists, on grounds of natural law.

So the colonists had to go back beyond common law, to its roots in the natural law, as proclaimed by Bracton and St. Germain and the courts of equity prior to the Reformation.

I argue that the Founding Fathers unknowingly reinvented the Catholic political tradition. If anyone had suggested to them at the time that that is what they were doing, the Founders would have been horrified. Paradoxically, they were able to revive several elements of Catholic thinking because they were totally ignorant of the authentic tradition.

They also had Charles Carroll in Congress and in the Maryland Senate, pushing them toward Catholic political practice without ever letting on what he was doing. And this is what the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore meant when it said in 1884 that the framers of the Constitution were "'building better than they knew,' the Almighty's hand guiding them."

The results were not perfect, but approximated Catholic political thought in a number of important ways.

Q: How did Carroll use natural law and natural rights in arguing that the colonies were justified in breaking from England?

McDermott: In his "First Citizen" papers of 1773, Carroll argued that it was necessary to move back beyond the common law to the "clear and fundamental" principles of the English constitution, namely the natural law.

Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence cites the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to justify the Revolution, and appeals to the natural rights that derive from the natural law.

At the same time, Carroll was writing his own "Declaration of the Delegates of Maryland" to explain Maryland's vote for independence. Carroll's natural law thinking as expressed in this document complements Jefferson's approach while correcting some of its distortions.

Carroll wrote: "We the Delegates of the People of Maryland in Convention assembled do declare that the King of Great Britain has violated his compact with this People, and that they owe no
allegiance to him."

Then he went back and crossed out "of the People." Thus, in keeping with Catholic corporatism, the "Delegates of Maryland" represent the whole body of society, and not just the majority will. Popular sovereignty is not a matter of ongoing revision of the Constitution by majorities, as Jefferson supposed.

Also, Carroll's document stays with the traditional natural rights of life, liberty and property. "Slaves, savages and foreign mercenaries have been meanly hired to rob a People of their property, liberty [and] lives, guilty of no other crime than deeming the last of no estimation without the secure enjoyment of the two former."

Jefferson, of course, substitutes a right to the "pursuit of happiness" for the right to property. By inventing this new right, Jefferson distorted the concept of natural law, with dramatic consequences for the rest of American history.

Maryland's Declaration appeals for its truth "to that Almighty Being, who is emphatically styled the Searcher of hearts, & from whose Omniscience nothing is concealed."

Jefferson's original draft described the natural law as a "sacred and undeniable" truth. Franklin insisted on suppressing even this vague reference to the divine, and so we have the phrase "we hold these truths to be self-evident."

Well, they are self-evident, but they also come from a personal Divine Lawgiver without whom natural law has no meaning.

Q: How did Carroll help convince people that Catholics could be good citizens?

McDermott: First of all, through his brilliant "First Citizen" letters of 1773, in which he argued for Catholic civil rights. Second, through the crucial role he played in setting up the government of Maryland. Lastly, by risking his huge fortune when he signed the Declaration of Independence.

There was an incredible shift in the American view of Catholics at the time of the Revolution, one which has often gone unnoticed.

Prior to the Revolution, all Catholics were viewed as potential traitors, and France was seen as a mortal enemy. A French alliance was unthinkable to the colonial mind.

Suddenly, in 1775, John Adams was describing Carroll as "a Roman Catholic, but an ardent patriot." Within a few years there was a full-fledged alliance between the United States and two Catholic powers, France and Spain.

This resulted partly from wartime necessity, but also had something to do with Carroll's commitment to the American cause.

Q: Why was Carroll -- quite an active politician -- often left out of early history accounts?

McDermott: Everything that conflicted with the Whig -- a.k.a. WASP -- view of history started to disappear from histories of the Revolution in the mid-19th century. Carroll's thought obviously did not fit this mind-set, which is still unfortunately going strong.

During the 1960s, historians rediscovered the "ideology of the American Revolution," but they saw this ideology as stemming almost exclusively from the Puritan tradition and John Locke. The influence of Montesquieu continues to be largely ignored, even though a 1984 study by Donald Lutz in the American Political Science Review shows that the Founders quoted Montesquieu more frequently than any other source except the Bible.

Montesquieu's vision of limited and mixed government was the crucial prototype for the American system of checks and balances. Locke's emphasis on Parliamentary supremacy had little to do with the government the Founders devised.
Q: Who are some other important Catholics in American history that have been all but forgotten in modern history books?

McDermott: Well, first of all, the Catholic explorers and settlers prior to the settlement of Jamestown, beginning with Ponce de Leóón in 1521.

Bernardo de Gáálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana during the Revolution, won the third-greatest victory of the war at Pensacola. Has anyone ever heard of him?

Other Catholic heroes of the Revolution include Commodore John Barry, Stephen Moylan, and of course Lafayette, Kosciuszko, Pulaski, de Kalb, Steuben.

Other Catholic patriots, not just the famous names, also need to be brought to light, including the 18th-century Irish immigrants who made up the muster rolls of the Revolution.

We tend to think Irish immigration began with the potato famine, but this is simply untrue; there was large-scale Irish immigration during the colonial period. Many of these immigrants were Scots-Irish Presbyterians, but an unknown number were Catholic.

Other Catholic soldiers of the Revolution include Gáálvez's army of Creoles, Germans, Irish, Cajuns, Mexicans, African-Americans and Spaniards.

Q: What was the significance of Americans not electing a Catholic to the presidency until 1961? Why did it take so long? Did it pave the way for other Catholics in the public square?

McDermott: Anti-Catholicism as a real force in politics was spent by the end of the 19th century.

Al Smith and John F. Kennedy were hampered in their presidential campaigns not so much by their Catholicism as by their association with urban corruption and machine politics. Most Catholic politicians prior to 1980 did, in fact, have these associations. That is no longer the case, so I would expect that stigma to disappear for the next Catholic presidential candidate.

On the other hand, he will be expected to follow in the footsteps of President Kennedy by disavowing any direct papal influence on political decisions. The candidate should perform this ritual, and should avoid quoting, say, papal encyclicals or Doctors of the Church.

But he must, of course, let his conscience be formed by the social teaching of the Church. In public he can speak in terms of natural law, which is written on the heart of all people, whether Catholic or not. Who knows, it might even work -- or the strategy could provoke another period of anti-Catholic backlash in public life. It's impossible to say at this point.

Q: America has now seen its second Catholic chief justice of the United States. In what other high-profile positions are you seeing Catholics these days?

McDermott: The career of Roger Taney, the first Catholic chief justice, should be a cautionary tale for Chief Justice John Roberts.

Taney's Dred Scott decision uses natural law thinking to proclaim an inalienable right to property in slaves. The Dred Scott decision did not bolster the cause of natural law jurisprudence. And as part of governmental centralization during Reconstruction, several states removed social contract language from their state constitutions.

What Roberts should do is try to revive natural law jurisprudence, while being careful to avoid its misuse. It is impossible to say at this point whether he will have any interest in doing this.

Many conservative jurists, upset at abuses of natural rights logic in past Supreme Court decisions, want to respect "legislative intent." But this line of thinking, without a proper respect for legitimate natural rights, could result in a tyranny of the majority.

Other jurists wish to honor the Founders' "original intent" rather than natural law -- but the mind of the Founders was saturated with natural law thinking.

Q: Have Catholics achieved greater acceptance and public influence at the cost of losing their identity as Catholics?

McDermott: Alexis de Tocqueville noticed a strange phenomenon in American Catholicism that is still operative today. He observed that Americans raised in the Church tend to fall away. But on the other hand, the Catholic Church in America tends to attract a large number of converts.

Americans are a fundamentally religious people, and the unity, order and stability that they see in the Catholic Church attracts many devout American Protestants.

I think the story of the Catholic Church in America is one of many Catholics forfeiting their identity in order to gain social acceptance -- but it is also one of vitality, as new Catholics replenish the stock.

I hope the Church will find some way to continue attracting converts, while retaining the "cradle Catholics"; we converts sometimes lack the rootedness, stability and deeply ingrained charity that faithful "cradle Catholics" possess.


Clearing the Record on Vatican II

Interview With Archbishop Agostino Marchetto

VATICAN CITY, JULY 13, 2005 ( One of the prevailing historical interpretations of the Second Vatican Council betrays the event, says the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers in a new book.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, in "Vatican Council II: Counterpoint for Its History" (Vatican Publishing House), describes as "unbalanced" and "ideological" the analysis of the event made by some schools of historians, in particular the so-called Bologna Group.

He elaborated on his view in this interview with ZENIT.

Q: Some historians, such as professor Giuseppe Alberigo and his collaborators [in the Bologna Group], have presented the Second Vatican Council as a discontinuity in the history of the Church, a conservative Curia against progressive theologians, tradition against renewal, a Paul VI who betrays John XXIII. What is your opinion?

Archbishop Marchetto: Whoever reads my book will realize that, while trying to situate myself in the historical interpretation of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, taking into account the framework of the general historiographic "tendencies," I retain my specific vision of what the Catholic Church is, also historically.

Therefore, I see Vatican II in continuity with all the ecumenical councils, not as a shooting star, but as part of a constellation, though having some of its own characteristics. Hence, it does not constitute a break, a sort of birth of a new Church.

This is, after all, the thought of John XXIII, of Paul VI, of John Paul II and also of Benedict XVI, to only mention the Popes.

The opposition between "conservative Curia" and "progressive theologians" is also a simplification, as within the Curia there were different sensibilities and tendencies.

An example of this was Cardinal Cicognani who unblocked the stagnant situation of the first schema on the Church, giving a green light to Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens for a new writing, although in fact it was not totally new, as according to him, 60% of the earlier schema remained in the second.

The opposition between John XXIII and Paul VI, which would separate "John's Council" from Paul VI's, in December 1963, is groundless, and this is not just my opinion, but also that of professor Roger Aubert. According to him, there is only one conciliar line between the two Popes of the Council. There are other examples, but my answer is already quite lengthy.

Q: According to the "History of Vatican Council II," written by Giuseppe Alberigo and his collaborators, Pope Paul VI betrayed the progressive thrust that stemmed from the Council, on two essential topics: collegiality in regard to the primacy of Peter, and the moral judgment on the use of contraceptives. What happened and what did Paul VI do?

Archbishop Marchetto: As I have already explained, the profound sense of the debate was the image of Catholicism, an ecumenical Council, with its search for consensus, which would unite -- the word "aggiornamento" is used, updating -- the two spirits of Catholicism, fidelity to Tradition and the incarnation of what I call "the today of God."

This was the idea that united John XXIII and Paul VI, despite the diversity of their personalities. In the volume I present the ideas of one and the other, in communion. … For me, in the end, Tradition and renewal embraced in the Council.

In regard to the two topics you mentioned, the first, collegiality, was rather an ecclesial characteristic of the first millennium, which was rediscovered, so to speak, by Vatican II. It was placed, without contradiction, next to papal primacy, exercised personally, which developed especially in the second millennium.

In this case also the conjunction "and" reveals itself Catholic: collegiality and primacy, as one cannot speak of collegiality if, in the college, its head -- the Bishop of Rome -- is not there.

In regard to the use of contraceptives, without going into the ethical judgment of the magisterium, it must be admitted that Alberigo's accusation of a "conciliar silence" is not justified, as it is not right to speak, as he does, of a "trauma caused throughout the Christian world by the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae.'"

Q: You have described the analysis of Vatican II made by the Bologna Group as "unbalanced" and "ideological." What do you think are its most serious errors?

Archbishop Marchetto: From the beginning I have defined as "ideological" the interpretation made by the "Bologna Group." And where ideology exists there is a lack of balance, extremism, blurred vision.

I will limit myself to take up all that I wrote about Alberigo's conclusions in Volume V of his history of the Council, namely, the already mentioned opposition between John XXIII and Paul VI; the question of "modernity" -- what does it mean?; the tendency to consider "new" schemas which were not new; the judgment of "lack of a head" in the conciliar assembly; the partisan view on religious liberty.

Q: You say there are more exact and balanced studies and analyses that explain the meaning and history of Vatican II. Which are they?

Archbishop Marchetto: I might mention, for example, the works of Cardinal [Leo] Scheffczyk, which in Italian is entitled "The Church: Aspects of the Post-Conciliar Crisis and Correct Interpretation of Vatican II," with a presentation by Joseph Ratzinger, as well as that of Monsignor Vincenzo Carbone, entitled in Italian "Vatican Council II, Preparation of the Church for the Third Millennium."

In 1994, professor A. Zambarbieri published a small volume on "The Councils of the Vatican," which for me constitutes the best brief study published up to now on the great Vatican synod.

I would add the work of Antonio Acerbi, which is very critical of Alberigo, in his "Minutes of the Meetings Held in the Episcopal Seminary of Bergamo 1998-2001."

Lastly, I think I cannot forget the new Pope, in particular some of his reminiscences, in "La mia vita. Ricordi (1927-1977)" [in English: "Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977] which led me to ask him to write others. But now this is no longer possible.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with your book? Has the time arrived to discuss Vatican II in truth and charity?

Archbishop Marchetto: In the preface of my book I wrote: "My desire is to contribute to write, finally, a history of Vatican II, which will overcome the grave conditionings -- that is why the title mentioned 'counterpoint' -- created up to now by a vision that I describe as ideological from the start and that imposes itself as a monopoly in the publishing market."

If my hard effort and my going against the current for years has served to break a monopoly and to create freedom of research among historians, to study Vatican Council II in a wider dimension than that realized to date, I would feel profoundly happy.

In any case, dialogue is important also among historians, and my history of the historiography on Vatican II over the past 15 years is an attempt to make a contribution. Moreover, "counterpoint" also refers to music, to harmony, to overcoming one-sidedness.

In this connection, at the end of his presentation of my book in the Capitolio of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini said: "The interpretation of the Council as a rupture and a new beginning is coming to an end. Today it is an extremely weak and groundless interpretation in the body of the Church. The time has come for historiography to produce a new reconstruction of Vatican II that is finally a true history."


How the Church Helped Build the West

Book Highlights Catholic Contribution

NEW YORK, JUNE 4, 2005 ( No institution has done more to shape the West than the Church. This is the thesis of a just-published book, "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" (Regnery Publishing), by Thomas E. Woods Jr.

The Catholic Church, Woods notes, has come in for a bad press in the past few years. And many people are only aware of the darker parts of Church history. This book sets out to change that, by succinctly dealing in a series of thematic chapters with a number of areas where the Church played a crucial role.

Western civilization, Woods is careful to add, does not derive exclusively from Catholicism. Nevertheless, it is easy to forget just how much the Church contributed in such areas as art, music, architecture, science and law.

A strongly negative view still persists regarding the Middle Ages, even though Woods affirms that just about all historians have now rejected the old prejudice of this period as the "Dark Ages." While there was indeed a period of decline in the sixth and seventh centuries, this was due to barbarian invasions and constant wars. The destruction would have been worse if it had not been for the Church's efforts at maintaining some kind of order.

Modern civilization owes a particular debt to the work of countless monks during the Middle Ages, Woods points out. It was in the monasteries that the great Roman texts were copied and preserved for future generations. And even though over the centuries many monasteries were destroyed by successive waves of barbarians they would spring up again to continue their task.

The medieval monasteries were also vital in the development of agriculture. In particular, the many thousands of Benedictine establishments played a crucial role in clearing and developing land. They also introduced the local populations to important techniques, such as cattle rearing, cheese making, water management and raising bees. Cistercian monasteries also played a vital role, Woods adds, in areas such as the development of water power and metallurgy.

A time of learning

Far from being a period of ignorance the Middle Ages saw the birth of the university system. The Church was at the center of this advance, which took off in the second half of the 12th century in centers established in Paris, Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge. The papacy, Woods explains, also played a central role in establishing and encouraging the universities. By the time of the Reformation, 81 universities had received a papal charter.

Modern science also owes a large debt to the Catholic Church. Most people remember the Church's conflict with Galileo, which was not nearly so negative as popular myths would have it, Woods argues. The Church was at the center of scientific advances, with many clergymen combining their divine vocation with an interest in science.

In the 13th century, the Dominican St Albert the Great, for example, was considered one of the precursors of modern science. And Robert Grosseteste, chancellor of Oxford University and bishop of Lincoln, is described by Woods as being considered to have been one of the most knowledgeable men of the Middle Ages. He was, among other accomplishments, the first to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment.

The Church's involvement with science would continue in later centuries. In the 17th century Father Nicolaus Steno of Denmark was credited with setting down most of the principles of modern geology. And in the 17th and 18th centuries the Jesuits made many important contributions to science, particularly in areas such as mathematics and astronomy.

Art and architecture also owe a great debt to the Catholic Church. When the iconoclasts, who were opposed to images of religious figures, sought the destruction of religious art in the eighth and ninth centuries, it was the Church that resisted this heresy.

In the following centuries Catholic patronage, through the construction of the great cathedrals and the commissioning of innumerable works of art, was at the center of European art and architecture. The popes, in particular, as patrons of many great artists were behind the production of many masterpieces.

International law

The discovery and conquest of the New World presented Catholic theologians with the task of developing what should be the legal and ethical principles governing the treatment of the native peoples in the new territories. One of the best-known of these thinkers was Francisco de Vitoria, a Dominican who is credited with helping to lay the foundations of modern international law. He defended the principle that all men are equally free and have the same right to life, culture and property.

Vitoria, along with other figures such as fellow Dominican Bartolomé de las Casas, played an important role in defending the native populations against those who sought to treat them as a subhuman class, thus legitimizing slavery and other kinds of ill treatment. Injustices were committed in spite of these efforts, notes Woods, but the Spanish theologians made important contributions to concepts such as natural rights and the just war.

Many other aspects of Western legal systems also owe their origin to the Church, explains Woods. The legal code developed by the Church for its own use, canon law, was the first systematic body of law developed in medieval Europe and formed the basis for subsequent secular legal systems.

Church influence was vital in ensuring, for example, that a valid marriage required the free consent of both the man and the woman. And the Church's defense of human life meant that the Greek and Roman practice of infanticide was discontinued. Other barbaric practices such as trial by battle or blood feuds were eventually discouraged due to the Church's influence. Canon lawyers also introduced principles such as reducing legal liability due to mitigating circumstances.

Charitable works

Catholic charity is another field examined by Woods. From the first centuries the Church sought to alleviate the suffering caused by famines and diseases. Inspired by the Gospel the faithful were encouraged to donate money to the Church to be used to help those in need.

In the early Church, hospices were organized to care for pilgrims, ransomed slaves and the poor. Other groups, such as widows and orphans, also benefited from institutions set up by the Church. The establishment of hospitals on a large scale also stems from initiatives organized by the Catholic Church from the fourth century onward. And, during the Middle Ages, monasteries became the providers of medical care in many areas.

The extent of this aid was such that many who were otherwise hostile to Catholics, from pagans to Protestant reformers and Enlightenment figures such as Voltaire, all paid tribute to the Church's charitable work.

Woods also notes that when King Henry VIII suppressed the monasteries in England and confiscated their properties the subsequent loss of charitable aid led to civil uprisings in some parts. And the nationalization of Church property during the French Revolution meant that more than a half-century afterward, in 1847, France had 47% fewer hospitals than in 1789.

Woods concludes by affirming "So ingrained are the concepts that Catholicism introduced into the world that very often even movements opposing it are nevertheless imbued with Christian ideals." The Catholic Church, he continues, "did not merely contribute to Western civilization -- the Church built that civilization." Contemporary civilization has cut itself off from this foundation more and more, Woods notes, in many cases with negative consequences.