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“As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:16

Protestantism is inherently progressive and egalitarian, and this is particularly true for low-church denominations. After all, they reject the traditional hierarchy of the Church, and virtually all go so far as to not only reject the history of the Church but to set themselves in opposition to it. Every tradition and historical event is recast with the Church in the role of The Ancient Evil. This is no different than political progressives dismissing the Founding Fathers of the United States as those “racist, white slave owners.”

And therein lies the difference between schismatics and protestants. For example, the Great Schism of 1054 resulted in a split between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Catholic churches. Latin and Greek Christians have certainly had conflicts since that time, but the churches have not really tried to declare the other to be satanic, or deny their history altogether. Schismatics disagree on some doctrinal point, and they go their own way while remaining roughly the same. Latin and Greek clerics may dress a little differently and such, but the Roman and Orthodox churches are not that far removed.

Now, let’s compare that to some of the ahistorical claims put forth by many protestants that make cooperation impossible let alone reconciliation.

I. The Church tried to keep Christians from reading the Bible: The basis for this argument is that the language of the Church is Latin, and most people at the time of the Reformation could not read Latin. Thus, many protestants have asserted that the Church’s use thereof was a shadowy tactic meant to keep the masses from reading the Bible for themselves. This is nonsensical at best and only serves to demonstrate a fundamental lack of historical understanding. Latin is the language of the Church because it was the language of the Roman Empire during the earliest days of Christianity. The Vulgate was commissioned approximately one century before the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Since it became the commonly used version (what Vulgate actually means), it continued to be used by the Church.

In much of Europe, however, the people did not speak Latin, so they were not capable of reading the Vulgate for themselves, or anything else really since most people were not literate at the time. That latter fact makes sense when we consider that books were still printed by hand using expensive materials, so literacy was limited to the wealthy and the Church. This also explains why it was not possible for every nation to have their own vulgar translations. There was no grand conspiracy to prevent people from reading the Bible, and, indeed, those who could afford a fine education often learned Latin as well as any cleric. To return to the hand-printed books, we must also wonder why the Church would preserve texts that, according to protestants, proves that The Ancient Evil was up to something nefarious. Why not simply modify the texts in the early centuries when no one outside of the Church would have known any better? What sort of grand conspiracy fails to actually engage in its own conspiracy?

This brings us to 2 Peter 3:16 quoted above. The Church may not have been trying to prevent the masses from reading the Bible, but we have seen what happens when those who are “unlearned and unstable” have access to vulgar translations. Translations, mind you, that often have their own flaws to which the “unlearned and unstable” are oblivious. Protestantism encourages divisions that serve to breed ever growing chasms as the masses constantly interpret and reinterpret the Bible to further their own ends. There is no tradition or history to keep Christendom tethered and nailed down, which makes it easy for the false teachers to rob good people blind. Every time you see someone argue that “homosexuality isn’t really a sin,” that is only possible because Protestantism decided that the “unlearned and unstable” should read the Bible themselves.

II. The Church killed 50 million “real Christians” for reading the Bible: This myth is intertwined with that above. As the story goes, the Inquisitions and Crusades in Europe were all motivated by the Church’s desire to prevent the masses from reading the Bible themselves. Some go so far as to claim that every heretical sect throughout history was a link in a chain leading from the earliest Christians to the modern protestants, who would actually not be protestant at all but rather the “real Christians.” This “theory” is known as successionism. There are some obvious problems with this tale of Catholic persecution of “real Christians.”

First, we need to be more specific than “the Inquisitions and Crusades.” The Medieval Inquisition began in 1184 and lasted into the 1230s, and a number of crusades were launched in Europe from approximately 1200-1300. The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 with royal decrees in 1492 and 1502 focusing on Jews and Muslims in Spain, and, while it lasted for a few centuries, the total death toll is estimated to have only been 3,000-5,000 over the entire course of the Spanish Inquisition.

Second, from 1200-1300 AD, the total population of Europe increased from an estimated 68 million to 79 million. That is despite the vast majority of the Medieval Inquisition and European crusades falling within that century. If the myth of the Church killing 50 million “real Christians” in “the Inquisitions and Crusades” is to be believed, we have to accept that the population naturally grew by 11 million, or 16.2%, in addition to tens of millions of people dying. Is it plausible that Europe had a massive, unprecedented population boom that was entirely masked by the Church committing genocide on a record scale? In a word, no.

III. The Church created Islam to kill “real Christians” and Jews: Another part of the Church’s supposed plan to kill “real Christians and Jews” apparently involved training an Arab from western Arabia to create a new religion, form an army, and invade Christendom on behalf of the Pope. That Arab was none other than Muhammad, father of Islam and also apparently secret agent of the Vatican. We should note the inherent “Christian Zionist” element here, pitting both Protestantism and Judaism against the Church.

The first problem with this “theory” is that it comes from Alberto Rivera, a conman who made a career out of anti-Catholic conspiracy theories until his death in 1997. Rivera being the source is important because he only had a tenuous relationship with reality at best. For example, he claimed to have been a Jesuit priest, trained by the Vatican as an infiltrator and assassin, and virtually all of his claims were evidence-free and relied entirely on telling him at some point. Rivera knew that the Jesuits were behind the Medieval Inquisition of the 13th century despite the Jesuits not existing until the 16th century. He also knew that Pentecostalism was really a plot by the Vatican to infiltrate Protestantism somehow. Rivera was a conman turned protestant fundamentalist.

The second problem is that Christendom was synonymous with the Catholic Church in 600 AD, and it would still be another few centuries before the northern and eastern parts of Europe would convert to Christianity. While Europe was already the focal point of Christendom, Christian lands still spread into North Africa, the Levant, and Asia Minor. This is important because Rivera claimed that Islam was meant to be a great, conquering army to take North Africa and the Levant for the Vatican. Why would the Church want to create a false religion, turn foreigners into fanatics of that religion, and then have them invade lands that were already in the hands of Christians under the Church? How does any of that make sense?

Also, despite Rivera’s claims, Arabia was not a hotbed of Christian activity at the time, and there certainly were no Arab nuns being trained to seduce Muhammad so as to convince him to start a new religion. Indeed, Muhammad was born in Mecca among a merchant tribe that was in control of the region, and there is absolutely no evidence that his first wife was a secret agent of the Vatican, sent to use the skills she learned as a nun to win Muhammad over.

By Muhammad’s death in 632, Muslims were in control of the entirety of Arabia. By 661, they had taken Persia, the Levant, Afghanistan, and spread into North Africa. By 750, they had taken all of North Africa and spread into Spain and South Asia. At no point during that expansion did any non-Christian lands go to the Vatican despite Rivera claiming that was the plan, but many Eastern Catholics found themselves under Muslim control. The Battle of Tours in 732 was the only thing that kept Islam from spreading further into Europe. Rivera claimed that the Pope was actively giving the Muslims permission to invade those lands and that the Muslims only later turned on the Vatican, but there is no evidence for any of that. We are left with a ridiculously and comically complex plan that makes zero sense on the part of the Church.

IV. The Church is satanic. Just look at the hats: This claim is based on the shape of the hats worn by bishops. As the theory goes, the silhouette of the mitre resembles ancient reliefs of the Canaanite deity, Dagon, who was depicted wearing a hat in the shape of a fish’s mouth. Apparently, every Catholic bishop is—knowingly or not—really a high priest of the shadowy cult of Dagon.

The most obvious problem with this theory is that the mitre was first attested in the 11th century, several hundred years after any sign of Dagon had died out. Additionally, the earliest mitres were of a different form than those seen today and do not fit with the conspiracy theory at all. This can be seen with the mitres worn by Orthodox bishops, which share a common ancestor with their Roman counterparts.

If Roman Catholic mitres were developed as an outward sign of Dagon worship, it would need to be shown that the current design was introduced without being related to previous incarnations. That is obviously not the case, however, as depictions of Pope Innocent III in the early 13th century show an early mitre with elements that are still seen today. Are we supposed to believe that the Church decided in the 11th century to dress bishops as priests of Dagon as part of a secret cult and then took centuries to slowly implement that plan?

V. The Church is satanic. They call priests “father”:This one begins with Matthew 23:9: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” The argument is that Jesus said, “call no man your father,” yet Catholics refer to priests as “father,” which is evidence of the Church subverting God.

There is no denying the text of Matthew 23:9, but it must be placed within its proper context. Jesus is not making a random statement, but he is rather criticizing the Pharisees for using their positions to accumulate power and titles without actually helping people. Jesus also used the words διδάσκαλος (teacher) and καθηγητὴς (instructor) in Matthew 23:8-10, but we obviously know that he did not literally mean that Christians should never refer to anyone as “father,” “teacher,” or “instructor.” After all, most people refer to their own fathers as such, and we still have teachers, professors, and so on.

It is important to note here that Matthew 23 does not carve out exceptions for such uses. If we are to take Jesus’s words literally here, they apply equally to any use of such titles, which is obviously absurd. This is why context is so important. Jesus was criticizing the Pharisees for getting the best spots during feasts, the best seats in temple, and the like without actually serving their people. This is a specific criticism aimed at a particular group of people for a specific wrongdoing. Further context is found in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) where Jesus himself uses “Father Abraham” in the story, which suggests that there is both a proper and improper use of the title.

For Catholics, use of the title “father” goes back to the early Church. Indeed, even St. Paul discussed himself having begotten his “beloved sons” who were his “followers” (1 Corinthians 4:14-17). We must then understand that referring to priests as “father” is not some newfangled subversion of the faith, but it is rather as old as the Church itself. A priest is the head of the local congregation, a spiritual head of household as it were. He has the responsibility of shepherding his flock and being there for them in times of need. Just as St. Paul referred to his “beloved sons” whom he had “begotten … through the gospel,” a priest must see his flock in the same light.

Now, think about the importance of Christendom standing united against Islam. According to Pew in 2011, 62.3% of Europeans were Roman or Orthodox Catholic compared to just 13.6% who belonged to a Protestant denomination. According to the American Religion Identification Survey in 2008, 25.1% of Americans were Roman Catholic compared to 50.3% were some sort of Protestant. All told, there are approximately 519.3 million Roman and Orthodox Catholics in Europe and the US compared to 213.7 million Protestants.

Christendom does not need a minority population attacking the majority as “satanic,” “murderous,” or whatever else. Christendom does not need an egalitarian movement that promotes the “unlearned and unstable” such as Alberto Rivera to positions of authority. Christendom does not need a progressive movement that attacks 2,000-year-old traditions while ordaining women in direct contravention of 1 Timothy 2:12—”But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

What Christendom needs is a united front against those who would destroy Western civilization and the European people just as Christians fought against Muslim invaders for centuries.