Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

The Splendor of a Catholic Education

February 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Fr. Tom Wheeland, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, and Ms. Kathleen Dougherty, current principal at the Cathedral School at Holy Rosary and future principal at the soon-to-be-reopened Holy Cross School, published an Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s Democrat and Chronicle in which they offered their answers to the questions, “Why ‘Catholic’ schools? Why now?”

The short answer is that a Catholic faith-based education continues to meet important needs.

For Catholic families, school is a natural extension of a church community joined together to live the message of God’s love as taught by His Son Jesus. Catholic schools integrate important spiritual and moral components with the New York state curriculum, which is a great attraction for non-Catholic families as well. From preschool classes through college, lessons are lived that model how to be a responsible, contributing member of society.

This spiritual element also enhances the learning experience. While the best teachers everywhere teach with a sense of mission, what makes Catholic schools different is what anchors our mission — Christ’s teachings. Our teachers accept traditionally lower compensation levels for equal professional qualifications because of their willingness to assume the role of Jesus’ present-day disciples.

What this means is that even as Catholic faculties challenge students to achieve their full academic excellence, we lift them up with God’s love made visible by their teachers’ caring for the individual and passion for teaching.

This combination of spiritual and secular energy makes an attractive package.

While there is nothing wrong with these answers there are those who would say they just do not go deep enough. One of these would be Fr. Phillip De Vous, pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY (Diocese of Covington).

Fr. De Vous sees Catholic schools as part of the answer to a society steeped in the Kool-Aid of secularism.

As we celebrate Catholic Schools’ Week in the Diocese of Covington, and here at St. Joseph’s, during the first week of February, we are mindful of what is the splendor of a Catholic education. The splendor of a Catholic education shows itself all the more shining and necessary in a culture where the secularist elites in law, government education, mass media, academia, advertising, and others — who act as self-appointed gatekeepers in order to control the official definitions of reality — want put our Catholic Faith and the demands of the Catholic way of life in a box. Our Catholic schools exist to teach our children to think, act, and live in an authentically, evangelically Catholic way so they can be formed as whole persons in Jesus Christ, who is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”

The witness and work of Catholic education is all the more important when we recognize the diabolical power and persuasion of the culture of death — aptly described by Blessed John Paul II — which suffocates the souls and suffuses the lives of so many, leaving in its wake a great spiritual, moral, psychological and personal poverty. The idea that fuels the hateful, anti-human and atheistic worldview is that of secularism.

Secularism has become the regnant ideology in our time. Secularism, both as a philosophical idea and an uncritical ideology, artificially separates truth into two domains. The image of a two-story house is instructive to understanding the secularist worldview: The first “floor” of the house is the realm of “facts,” generally narrowly defined in an empiricist and totally materialist way. So only the truths of science, as secularists define and understand them, are admitted to the first floor. It is only on this “floor” that “facts” are to be known and where “real truths” about the world — truths that are objective and verifiable — are found. Note the narrowness of this view and how far from actual human experience and reality it is.

Secularists confine “values” such as statements about beauty, morality, and God, to the second “floor” of the house. These are considered by secularists to be expressions of mere personal preference only, which have no basis in objective reality and thus are unverifiable. And since they have no foundation in objective reality and are unverifiable, according to secularist renderings, they cannot form the basis for public discussion or actions, personal or communal. So religion, which is the lived-life of the Faith, is treated like an eccentric aunt shut up in the attic.

The practical conclusion that one reaches if they buy or breathe in this worldview is that the Christian life, which the Faith gives us and forms in us and among us, is not really true and, if it happens to be true, then it doesn’t really matter. Given the low rates of Mass attendance and participation in the whole life of the parish by those who have received and are in the midst of receiving a Catholic education, it is clear this pernicious and humanly-unfulfilling idea has been breathed in and bought by many in our day.

Catholic education in our time is a witness to a fuller, authentically human, and true way of life. In this our Faith forms the foundation, the first “floor” and second “floor” of the “house,” as well as providing all the furnishings, as the human spirit is lifted to God on the twin wings of faith and reason. Authentic Catholic education stands over and against the materialist and secularist worldview that would define us as nothing more than the sum total of our possessions and earning power. The work of Catholic education in our Catholic schools is about teaching the next generation of Christ’s disciples how to be men and women in full, not “folks full of stuff.” In that regard our schools seek to educate the whole person, not just in the technical skills of living in the world, but in the truths that are indispensable in reaching their eternal destiny: life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The challenges of carrying out the work of Catholic education are faced by every generation who would apply themselves to this holy and necessary vocation. And it is often the case that at precisely the moment when something becomes the most challenging and difficult to accomplish is when the work is most necessary and urgent. I believe that to be the situation as it pertains to the work of Catholic schools. Catholic schools are more necessary, and their survival more urgent, than ever, especially as we recognize the debilitating and toxic moral, spiritual, intellectual, and spiritual environment our children and their families are exposed to on a daily basis.

It is a fact that the challenges involved and the sacrifices required in achieving and maintaining a Catholic school that provides an authentically Catholic education are formidable. The consequences, however, of not meeting those challenges and making those sacrifices in order to succeed in keeping the holy and necessary work of Catholic schools alive in our parishes and in the world are even more daunting and devastating, given the alienation and toxicity of contemporary lifestyles.

Catholic schools are islands of moral, spiritual, intellectual, and spiritual sanity in world that has been turned upside down. Catholic schools, and the work of Catholic education, provide the witness to hope and truth that our world needs to see in action, to which we all need to contribute, and that our children must receive. As our Bishop, the Most Reverend Roger J. Foys, D.D., has taught us on many occasions, “[W]hen it comes to Catholic education, there are many alternatives, but no substitute.”

Blessed John Paul II was fond of saying that “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human person.” Catholic schools, in carrying out the work of Catholic education, are foundational and necessary in helping our children answer that question for their own sake and for the life of the world, now, and that yet to come — but already in our midst in the gift and mystery of the Church. All the sacrifices it takes to accomplish the work of St. Joseph School are nothing compared to the blessings we shall reap for our fidelity to this Godly task. That is the splendor of a Catholic education!

As I read through Fr. De Vous’ essay I could not help but think of the now 19 year-old U.S. Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the court reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion it set forth in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

A part of this reaffirmation was this stunning example of secular-individualism-run-rampant penned for the majority by Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Should anyone still question the need for authentic Catholic education I invite them to prayfully ponder the full ramifications of  this one sentence, now enshrined in the law of our land.

H/T: Matt C. Abbott



14 Responses to “The Splendor of a Catholic Education”

  1. Jim R says:

    Sadly, I don’t see any difference. Perhaps I have just no experience with Catholic schools that are fundamentally different. I see Catholic schools that are simply church affiliated private schools where the faith is not taught. I see no real difference in philosophy, morality, world view or theology than one gets in public or secular private schools. There must be some out there, but mostly claims of a difference are marketing hype with no basis in reality. That’s my experience in any event.

    The good thing is Catholic schools are usually cheaper than secular private schools. That’s about the best I can come up with, though.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous (10:12) is right. Bosco is the real deal! Check it out if you have children or grandchildren or are looking for a local Catholic institution to support.

  3. Nerina says:


    I share your skepticism about Catholic schools in our diocese. HOWEVER, from everything I’ve read, seen and heard about St. John Bosco school, it does seem to be an authentically Catholic school which is growing quickly. My four oldest are in public school, but had SJBS been around earlier, I would have seriously considered sending them there. I still have a four year old at home so it remains an option for him. The price is extremely reasonable and every parent I have spoken with is more than satisfied with what the school offers.

  4. Gordon Barnes says:

    Wow. This piece could have been written by the leader of a cult. There is no openness to reason, and no willingness to listen to anyone outside of one’s own sect. Pieces like this one make it very clear that conservative Catholics really have no respect for the use of reason at all. You have no respect for your own intellect or it’s ability to discover the truth. It’s no wonder that you accept whatever you’re told in a servile, subservient way. That’s just very sad. Why would God bother to give you a brain of your own if he didn’t expect you to use it? Why give you the capacity to think for yourself if he just wanted you to listen to someone else and obey without question? At least liberal Catholics continue to respect their own capacity to reason, and the power of their own consciences to discern right and wrong. That is why they were able to discern that slavery was wrong, even when the hierarchy of the Catholic Church endorsed it. Liberal Catholics continue to use their own reason and their own consciences, and that is a good thing.

  5. Abaccio says:


    You’re going to have to be a little bit more reasonable in your criticisms than you have been. If you’d like to pick individual passages to critique, feel free. Right now, you’re acting like an ape slinging feces at the wall.

    There is nothing more pompous than the belief that you know better than God Himself. Tell me, Gord, how that is laudable? Furthermore, accepting one’s place in the world and making the most of it is touched upon in St Paul’s letter to Philemon (Onesimus was a slave…)

    ‘Liberal’ so-called “Catholics” *discernment* of right and wrong, is hardly discernment in a lot of cases. Properly-oriented discernment is rooted in prayer and trying to figure out what GOD wants. Pro-abortion healthcare, moral relativism, protestantized liturgy, and twisting scripture around is HARDLY the result of properly-oriented discernment.

    The Church NEVER ever said slavery was a GOOD thing. It never ‘endorsed’ it. Again, you’re throwing feces at the wall, Gord. Furthermore, these terms of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ are no good when discussing the Faith. Either you believe what the Church teaches, or you do not. If you believe what the Church teaches, you are “Catholic.” If you don’t, you’re a “heretic” or an “apostate.” Not a conservative. Not a liberal. A Catholic, or a heretic. Those are your choices.

  6. Rita says:

    It’s tempting to pass judgement on the state of Catholic schools in our Diocese. If the perception exists that these institutions aren’t ‘authentic’ that must be the case, right?

    I could share with you numerous anecdotal stories about Catholic schools in our area, including St. John Bosco. Frankly, they wouldn’t do justice to what really goes on there. In most cases they would represent what others have told me, not what I have witnessed first hand.

    Conversely, I can say the education my children receive at St. Joseph School in Penfield meets with my approval. As a proponent of faith based education (and as a conservative Catholic) I’m closely involved in day to day activities at St. Joe’s. Would it be the right fit for everyone? Probably not. Are my children achieving high academic success and learning about Jesus on a daily basis? Yes. Do I think this mirrors what they would have access to within our public school system? No.

    Everyone has opinions and we are entitled to them. I try (not always successfully) to avoid judgement unless I speak from personal experience. Catholic education is important. I choose to support it with the hope that it grows. Not everyone can do that and that is understandable. Valid criticism is one thing. Every institution, public or private, has the potential for improvement. Working to make things better serves everyone, especially our children.

  7. Gordon Barnes says:

    Abbacio says that the Church never endorsed slavery. Unfortunately, that is false. Here are the facts. From 340 AD until at least 1500 AD (for over 1,000 years), the magisterium officially endorsed human slavery. It started with the council of Gangra in 340 AD, and it lasted right up until after 1500. Here are just two representative statements to illustrate the point. First, here is Pope Nicholas V, in “Dum Diversas,” in 1454:

    “We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property … and to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery.”

    And now here is Pope Paul III, from Motu Proprio, in 1548:

    “Each and every person of either sex, whether Roman or non-Roman, whether secular or clerical…may freely and lawfully buy and sell publicly any slaves whatsoever of either sex…and publicly hold them as slaves and make use of their work, and compel them to do the work assigned to them. …Slaves who flee to the Capitol and appeal for their liberty shall in no wise be freed from the bondage of their servitude, but…shall be returned in slavery to their owners and if it seems proper … punished as runaways.”

    If you had followed the magisterium uncritically at that time, then you would have endorsed slavery, and even helped to enforce it, and that would have been a horribly unjust affront to human dignity. A liberal Catholic will not sacrifice his conscience to an institution that has proven that it is capable of such a grotesque violation of human dignity. That is why some people are liberal Catholics.

  8. Matt says:

    Gordon, you ‘forgot’ to note:
    441 A.D. (censuring slavers)
    549 A.D. (church buildings as refuges for escaping slaves)
    566 A.D. (excommunication-of-slavers proviso)
    583 A.D. (church issuance of freedom papers)
    585 A.D. (use church property to free slaves)
    595 A.D. (freeing entrants to monastic life)
    616 A.D. (liberty restoration proviso)
    625 A.D. (ban new slaves, use church property to free current slaves)
    666 A.D. (ban shaving slaves)
    844 A.D. (use church property to free slaves)
    922 A.D. (defines slave-trade as homicide)
    1102 A.D. (ban slave trade)

  9. Gordon Barnes says:

    Yes, the magisterium has contradicted itself throughout its history. Thanks for demonstrating that point for me. I appreciate it. Just to be sure that this is clear, let’s add some more fuel to this cleansing fire.

    1. Pope Gregory I, Pastoral Rule, circa 600 AD : “Slaves should be told … not to despise their masters and recognize that they are only slaves.”

    2. According to the Ninth Council of Toledo, in 655 AD, the children of clerics were to be enslaved.

    3. In a Decretum of 1140 AD, we get this statement: “If anyone, on the pretext of religion, teaches another man’s slave to despise his master, and to withdraw from his service and not to service his master with goodwill and all respect, let him be anathema.”

    4. The Third and Fourth Lateran Councils permitted the enslavement of Christians who had helped Saracens during the Crusades.

    5. And then, even in 1866, the Holy Office said this: “Slavery itself … is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law … For the sort of ownership which a slave owner has over a slave is understood as nothing other than the perpetual right of disposing of the work of a slave for one’s own benefit.” The statement does go on to say that the owner should consider whether the slave has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, but in 1866 how many people did the holy Office think had been justly made into slaves? How ignorant of the way things really happened in the world did you have to be to think that some people in 1866 justly slaves? This kind of ignorance of what was really happening in the world at the time was pernicious.

  10. Mike says:

    Matt and Gordon,

    You both might be interested in the following from Mark Brumley, published in This Rock, July/August 1999.

    After an interesting introduction describing the browbeating he had witnessed a friend receive at the hands of a European History professor over the issue of the Church’s record vis-a-vis slavery, Brumley begins the core of his argument by defining “slavery” as “the condition of involuntary servitude in which a human being is regarded as no more than the property of another, as being without basic human rights; in other words, as a thing rather than a person.” He then distinguishes slavery from other forms of involuntary servitude experienced, for example, by prisoners of war or criminals.

    Brumley then writes,

    The essential anti-Catholic argument is this: “Catholicism must be false because it once endorsed slavery. The early Church approved slavery, as seen by St. Paul’s command for slaves to obey their masters (Col 3:22-25; Eph 6:5-8). Furthermore, the Catholic Church didn’t get around to repudiating slavery until the 1890s and prior to that actually supported it. That the Church no longer does is fine. But this only proves the maleability of Catholic doctrine. Furthermore, if Catholicism can flip-flop on such an important moral issue as slavery, why not on others of its supposedly unchangeable doctrines, such as as the immortality of contraception or abortion?”


    But did the early Church endorse slavery? Certainly, the early Christians more or less tolerated the slavery of their day, as seen from the New Testament itself and the fact that after Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, slavery was not immediately outlawed. Even so, this doesn’t mean Christianity was compatible with Roman slavery or that the early Church did not contribute to its demise. In that regard, there are a number of important points to be kept in mind.

    First, while Paul told slaves to obey their masters, he made no general defense of slavery as such, anymore than he made a general defense of the pagan government of Rome, which Christians were also instructed to obey despite its injustices (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). He seems simply to have regarded slavery as an intractable part of the social order, an order which he may well have thought would pass away shortly (1 Cor 7:29-31).

    Second, Paul told masters to treat their slaves justly and kindly (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1), implying that slaves are not mere property for masters to do with as they please.

    Third, Paul implied that the brotherhood shared by Christians is ultimately incompatible with chattel slavery. In the case of the runaway slave Onesimus, Paul wrote to Philemon, the slave’s master, instructing him to receive Onesimus back “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother” (Philem. 6). With respect to salvation in Christ, Paul insisted that “there is neither slave nor free . . . you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28).

    Fourth, the Christian principles of charity (“love your neighbor as yourself”) and the Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would them to do unto you”) espoused by the New Testament writers are ultimately incompatible with chattel slavery, even if, because of its deeply established role as a social institution, this point was not clearly understood by all at the time.

    Fifth, while the Christian Empire didn’t immediately outlaw slavery, some Church fathers (such as Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom) strongly denounced it. But then, the state has often failed to enact a just social order in accordance with Church teachings.

    Sixth, some early Christians liberated their slaves, while some churches redeemed slaves using the congregation’s common means. Other Christians even sacrificially sold themselves into slavery to emancipate others.

    Seventh, even where slavery was not altogether repudiated, the slaves and freemen had equal access to the sacraments, and many clerics were from slave backgrounds, including two popes (Pius I and Callistus). This implies a fundamental equality incompatible with slavery.

    Eighth, the Church ameliorated the harsher.aspects of slavery in the Empire, even trying to protect slaves by law, until slavery all but disappeared in the West. It was, of course, to re-emerge during the Renaissance, as Europeans encountered Muslim slave traders and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.


    What about the charge that the Catholic Church did not condemn slavery until the 1890s and actually approved of it before then? In fact, the popes vigorously condemned African and Indian thralldom three and four centuries earlier-a fact amply documented by Fr. Joel Panzer in his book, The Popes and Slavery. The argument that follows is largely based on his study.

    Sixty years before Columbus “discovered” the New World, Pope Eugene IV condemned the enslavement of peoples in the newly colonized Canary Islands. His bull Sicut Dudum (1435) rebuked European enslavers and commanded that “all and each of the faithful of each sex, within the space of fifteen days of the publication of these letters in the place where they live, that they restore to their earlier liberty all and each person of either sex who were once residents of [the] Canary Islands . . . who have been made subject to slavery. These people are to be totally and perpetually free and are to be let go without the exaction or reception of any money.”

    A century later, Pope Paul III applied the same principle to the newly encountered inhabitants of the West and South Indies in the bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Therein he described the enslavers as allies of the devil and declared attempts to justify such slavery “null and void.” Accompanying the bull was another document, Pastorale Officium, which attached a latae sententiae excommunication remittable only by the pope himself for those who attempted to enslave the Indians or steal their goods.

    When Europeans began enslaving Africans as a cheap source of labor, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was asked about the morality of enslaving innocent blacks (Response of the Congregation of the Holy Office, 230, March 20, 1686). The practice was rejected, as was trading such slaves. Slaveholders, the Holy Office declared, were obliged to emancipate and even compensate blacks unjustly enslaved.

    Papal condemnation of slavery persisted throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Pope Gregory XVI’s 1839 bull, In Supremo, for instance, reiterated papal opposition to enslaving “Indians, blacks, or other such people” and forbade “any ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this trade in blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse.” In 1888 and again in 1890, Pope Leo XIII forcefully condemned slavery and sought its elimination where it persisted in parts of South America and Africa.

    Despite this evidence, critics still insist the Magisterium did too little too late regarding slavery. Why? One reason is the critics’ failure to distinguish between just and unjust forms of servitude. The Magisterium condemned unjust enslavement early on, but it also recognized what is known as “just title slavery.” That included forced servitude of prisoners of war and criminals, and voluntary servitude of indentured servants, forms of servitude mentioned at the outset of this article. But chattel slavery as practiced in the United States and elsewhere differed in kind, not merely degree, from just title slavery. For it made a claim on the slave as property and enslaved people who were not criminals or prisoners of war. By focusing on just title servitude, critics unfairly neglect the vigorous papal denunciations of chattel slavery.

    The matter is further muddled by certain nineteenth century American clergy-including some bishops and theologians-who tried to defend the American slave system. They contended that the long-standing papal condemnations of slavery didn’t apply to the United States. The slave trade, some argued, had been condemned by Pope Gregory XVI, but not slavery itself.

    Historians critical of the papacy on this matter often make that same argument. But papal teaching condemned both the slave trade and chattel slavery itself (leaving aside “just title” servitude, which wasn’t at issue). It was certain members of the American hierarchy of the time who “explained away” that teaching. “Thus,” according to Fr. Panzer, “we can look to the practice of non-compliance with the teachings of the papal Magisterium as a key reason why slavery was not directly opposed by the Church in the United States.”

    Another reason may have been the precarious position of the Catholic Church in America before the twentieth century. Catholics used to be a small and much-despised minority. They were subject to repeated attacks by Protestant “Nativists.” In many ways, the American hierarchy of the day was trying to protect the Catholics immigrating to the U.S. and did not regard itself as in a position to be the leader in a major social crusade.

    There is more here, including a response to the question, “Does previous Catholic practice regarding slavery amount to a change of doctrine such as would allow Catholic teaching on other subjects-such as contraception and abortion-to change as well?”

  11. Gordon Barnes says:

    Evidently we are allowed to post long excerpts from articles. So in response to Mark Brumley’s piece, I am going to cite a section of a recent article of mine, published in the journal Philo. The article is entitled “The Sins of Christian Orthodoxy,” and here is the relevant section.

    I will begin with the following passage from the book of Ephesians.

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity
    of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their
    favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of
    God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the
    Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for
    whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. Ephesians 6: 5–823

    In this passage the author instructs slaves not only to obey their masters, but
    to obey them with respect and sincerity of heart. Slaves should not obey their
    masters for merely pragmatic reasons, to make the best of their situation.
    No, slaves are instructed to serve their masters wholeheartedly. In short,
    slaves are instructed to embrace their status as slaves. The author of
    Colossians repeats the very same instruction, almost verbatim.

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when
    their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and
    reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as
    working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an
    inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
    Colossians 3: 22–24

    Here again, slaves are not only told to obey their masters, but also to have
    a certain motive in doing so. They are to obey their masters, not for pragmatic
    reasons, just to win their favor, but sincerely. The author goes on to say
    that Christ will reward slaves for their service, because it is really Christ
    whom they serve. So the reason that slaves should remain slaves, and
    embrace their station in life, is that Christ himself has ordained that they be
    slaves, and wishes them to remain in that state.

    The author of 1 Timothy adds this.

    All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy
    of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.
    Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them
    because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better,
    because those who benefit from their service are believers and dear to them.
    These are the things you are to teach and urge on them. 1 Timothy 6: 1–2

    Not only are slaves supposed to serve their masters with a sincere heart,
    they are actually supposed to judge that their masters are worthy of this
    respect. Slaves are to judge that their masters deserve to be masters. This
    passage goes on to indicate that some masters might be Christians, and that
    Christian slaves are to serve Christian masters even better, because in this
    way they will benefit someone who is a believer. There is no suggestion here
    that owning slaves is incompatible with Christian faith or practice. On the
    contrary, this passage suggests just the opposite—that the practice of owning
    slaves is perfectly compatible with being a good Christian.

    The book of Titus continues in the same vein.

    Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please
    them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that
    they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching
    about God our savior attractive. Titus 2: 9–10

    Slaves are not to talk back to their masters, nor steal from them. Rather,
    slaves should prove that they are worthy of their master’s trust. The point
    of this behavior is to make Christianity attractive to unbelievers. Thus,
    according to the author, the attractiveness of Christianity depends, at least
    in part, on slaves’ acceptance of the institution of slavery.

    Finally, the author of I Peter goes as far as to say that slaves should submit
    to masters who abuse them.

    Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only
    those who are kind and gentle, but also those who are harsh. For it is a
    credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering
    unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit
    is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have
    God’s approval. I Peter 2: 18–20

    Slaves are encouraged to suffer beatings willingly, even when they have
    done no wrong. When they endure such suffering, despite being innocent
    of any wrongdoing, they have God’s approval.

    In these passages, taken directly from the New Testament, slaves are
    instructed to accept their status as slaves, and to serve their masters sincerely,
    and with respect. They are not to talk back to their masters, or steal
    from them. Rather, slaves should demonstrate to their masters that they are
    completely trustworthy. Slaves should believe that their masters are worthy
    of this respectful service, and they are to serve their masters as if they were
    serving Christ himself, because in serving their masters they really are serving
    Christ himself. Slaves might have masters who are Christians, and they
    should serve Christian masters even better than they would serve non-
    Christian masters, because then they will benefit someone who is a
    Christian. In these passages there is no suggestion that slavery is incompatible
    with Christian faith, and the reference to Christian masters suggests the
    very opposite—that owning slaves is perfectly compatible with being a good
    Christian. Finally, slaves should even submit to masters who abuse them
    wrongfully, and when they submit to such abuse, they have God’s own
    approval. To anyone with a healthy conscience, this is deeply disturbing.
    Those who hold that Sacred Tradition is an additional source of authority
    might appeal to the subsequent tradition of the Church to mitigate the
    offense of these passages. However, this response faces two insurmountable
    obstacles. First of all, even Christians who accept the authority of Sacred
    Tradition maintain that this Tradition cannot contradict the teachings of the
    New Testament. So no appeal to Sacred Tradition will soften the offense of
    these passages, since these passages come right from the New Testament
    itself, which is the authoritative source for any Christian Tradition. Second,
    the subsequent tradition of the Christian Church simply continues the very
    same teaching on slavery that is contained in the New Testament. The historical
    facts here are especially striking. In the first few centuries of the
    Christian Church, the Manicheans actually instructed slaves to emancipate
    themselves from their masters. So in the early days of Christianity there
    were people openly opposing slavery as unjust. What was the response of
    the early Christian Church? In direct response to this Manichean teaching,
    the Council of Gangra made this declaration in the year 340.

    If anyone, on the pretext of religion, teaches another man’s slave to despise
    his master, and to withdraw from his service, and not to serve his master
    with good will and all respect, let him be anathema.

    One might wonder if perhaps the institution of slavery had changed significantly
    by the time of this council. However, as Alan Watson has shown, the
    status of slaves remained the same, or perhaps even deteriorated, right
    through the time of Constantine. In 329 AD, Constantine issued the following

    Whenever such chance accompanies the beatings of slaves by masters that
    they die, the masters are free from blame who, while punishing very wicked
    deeds, wished to obtain better behavior from their slaves. Nor do we wish
    an investigation to be made into facts of this kind in which it is in the interest
    of the owner that a slave who is his own property be unharmed,
    whether the punishment was simply inflicted or apparently with the intention
    of killing the slave. It is our pleasure that masters are not held guilty
    of murder by reason of the death of a slave as often as they exercise domestic
    power by simple punishment. Whenever, therefore, slaves leave the
    human scene after correction by beating, when fatal necessity hangs over
    them, the masters should fear no criminal investigations.

    According to Constantine, if a slave-owner beats a slave to death, then he
    need not fear any investigation, much less any punishment. That was the
    nature of slavery in the Roman Empire at the time at which the Council of
    Gangra condemned the emancipation of slaves.
    This statement from the Council of Gangra was incorporated into
    canon law and it was cited as authoritative for the next fourteen hundred
    years. Throughout this period, the leaders of the Christian Churches
    instructed slaves to accept their status as slaves. In his commentary on Paul’s
    first letter to the Corinthians, St. Theodoret (423–446 AD), the Bishop of
    Cyrrhus, said this.

    . . . you should not try to escape from your status as a slave on the grounds
    that it is degrading for the Christian faith. And even if it is possible for you
    to win manumission, you must stay and be a slave, and await the reward
    you will obtain for this.

    In his Pastoral Rule, written around the year 600, Gregory I declared that
    “Slaves should be told . . . not [to] despise their masters and recognize that
    they are only slaves.” The same attitude towards slavery was manifested, at
    least in the Catholic Church, right up to the modern period. In 1548, Pope
    Paul III declared that

    Each and every person of either sex, whether Roman or non-Roman, whether
    secular or clerical . . . may freely and lawfully buy and sell publicly any slaves
    whatsoever of either sex . . . and publicly hold them as slaves and make use of
    their work, and compel them to do the work assigned to them. . . . Slaves who
    flee to the Capitol and appeal for their liberty shall in no wise be freed from
    the bondage of their servitude, but . . . shall be returned in slavery to their
    owners and if it seems proper . . . punished as runaways.

    So for 1500 years the Christian Church accepted the institution of slavery,
    and instructed slaves to accept their status as slaves. Therefore no appeal to
    Sacred Tradition will exonerate Christian orthodoxy from the charge of
    instructing slaves to accept their status as slaves. If anything, the tradition of
    the Christian Church after the apostolic age involves an even clearer
    endorsement of slavery than that contained in the New Testament. As I noted above,
    for anyone with a healthy conscience, this is deeply disturbing.

  12. URCatholic says:

    We know, we saw your CV. Your positions are clear. They’re just incorrect. Arguing these things seems to be rather pointless. You’re convinced you’re right, the blog’s authors actually ARE correct. *shrug* I feel like no matter what you’re told, you will remain unconvinced. If I may, can I ask a few questions?

    1) What brought you to CleansingFire?
    2) What is your experience/connection with the Church?
    3) Why do you spend hours commenting these posts?

  13. Jim R says:

    “So for 1500 years the Christian Church accepted the institution of slavery,
    and instructed slaves to accept their status as slaves. Therefore no appeal to
    Sacred Tradition will exonerate Christian orthodoxy from the charge of
    instructing slaves to accept their status as slaves. If anything, the tradition of
    the Christian Church after the apostolic age involves an even clearer
    endorsement of slavery than that contained in the New Testament. As I noted above,
    for anyone with a healthy conscience, this is deeply disturbing.”

    Slavery was enshrined in the US Constitution until late 1865 when the XIII Amendment was adopted. Serfdom was abolished in Russia later than that. Slavery was abolished in most of Europe in the early 19th century. So the Catholic Church was 300 years ahead of the USA and the post-Enlightenment world. Slavery in many moslem countries was abolished in the mid 20th century. The ultimate atheistic liberalism gave us Soviet and Chinese Communism with the murder, and effective enslavement, of millions. Liberal atheism seems to be behind both the Catholic Church and the abolitionists.

    There is certainly much in history that is deeply disturbing. Hardly a new or profound insight. Got anything new?

  14. Ben Anderson says:

    I don’t know if you’re still entertaining yourself by thinking you’ve disproved orthodox Catholicism or not, but if you’re still around have a look at this link with lots of great resources showing how asinine the premise of your paper, “The Sins of Christian Orthodoxy” is.

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