Western Civilization read for my friend, Charles.
From the Amazon description, followed by an article from ALIVE! (Ireland)…
Ask a college student today what he knows about the Catholic Church and his answer might come down to one word: “corruption.” But that one word should be “civilization.” Western civilization has given us the miracles of modern science, the wealth of free-market economics, the security of the rule of law, a unique sense of human rights and freedom, charity as a virtue, splendid art and music, a philosophy grounded in reason, and innumerable other gifts that we take for granted as the wealthiest and most powerful civilization in history. But what is the ultimate source of these gifts? Bestselling author and professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. provides the long neglected answer: the Catholic Church. Woods’s story goes far beyond the familiar tale of monks copying manuscripts and preserving the wisdom of classical antiquity. In How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, you’ll learn: · Why modern science was born in the Catholic Church · How Catholic priests developed the idea of free-market economics five hundred years before Adam Smith · How the Catholic Church invented the university · Why what you know about the Galileo affair is wrong · How Western law grew out of Church canon law · How the Church humanized the West by insisting on the sacredness of all human life No institution has done more to shape Western civilization than the two-thousand-year-old Catholic Church—and in ways that many of us have forgotten or never known. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization is essential reading for recovering this lost truth.
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization:
Before reading this book, many people will consider its general argument, stated in the title, to be completely over the top.
They would expect a more modest claim for the role of the Church in shaping the West. They will recall the contribution of ancient Greek philosophy, of Roman law, of modern science, of Enlightenment morality, and so on. Besides, what can be said on such a huge topic in a mere 225 pages?
Just how much can be said will come as a surprise and as a big revelation to many readers of the book. And Professor Thomas Woods opens further large vistas by the range of works he uses.
Certainly the reader will begin to understand why Pope Benedict keeps insisting that the West, for the sake of its own survival, must recognise and nourish its Catholic roots, the Catholic vision and principles on which it is founded.
A common anti-Catholic prejudice today, based on blissful ignorance, is that the Church always has been and still is obscurantist, opposed to knowledge and scientific research.
Yet “for the last fify years, virtually all historians of science have concluded that the Scientific Revolution was indebted to the Church,” writes Woods.
It is not just that many priests were leading scientists-some 35 moon craters, for example, are named after Jesuits alone-but it was the Christian doctrine of God that opened the possibility of scientific research.
Science did not develop in China, says Marxist historian Joseph Needham, “because the conception of a divine celestial lawgiver imposing ordinances on non-human Nature never developed.”
In this regard, it is interesting that the leading UK scientist Stephen Hawking, an atheist who sees no need for a personal God, has put science in danger once again with his absurd notion of “spontaneous creation”.
With the fall of the Roman Empire Europe was, for several centuries, over-run by marauding barbarian tribes, looting, burning, destroying. It became a virtual economic, social and intellectual wilderness.
At this time it was, in large part, the monks who preserved the great literature of the past. It was they also, who “saved agriculture when nobody else could save it,” says a former president of Massachusetts Agricultural College.
Wherever they went they introduced crops, industries and production methods which the people until then had not known. In a series of short chapters Woods explores the role of the Church in the development of the university, “an utterly new phenomenon” in history, in economic theory, in the origins of international law, in morality, in art and architecture.
One chapter is entitled, “How Catholic charity changed the world.” Even Voltaire, in the 1700s, was struck by “the sacrifice of youth and beauty, often of high birth, made by the gentle sex in order to work in hospitals for the relief of revolting human suffering.”
The famous anti-Catholic propagandist had to admit: “People separated from the Roman religion have imitated but imperfectly so generous a charity.”
Woods only touches on a few of the key points in the remarkable story of the Catholic Church’s massive role in creating Western civilisation. But his overview is a good place for any student or enquirer to begin.