In the first essay I have stated some of the reasons for coming up with a series regarding some of the dark myths about the Catholic Church. After some reflections, I’ve decided to direct what would hopefully be a series of reflections towards two main aims, as a response to the question as to why we need to get to the bottom of things with respect to this topic. The fundamental thing is to answer the question: what really happened? The first aim is apologetic, as could almost be directly deduced. We hope that, in the process of getting down to the historical bottom of things, we would be able to unmask all of these myths and black legends, and thus be able to defend the Church.
But there is another motive for these series, which I believe is even more important, something to which we should be more attuned. It is my hope that with this series of essays, we may come in touch with the reality of the Church in the journey that she has made all throughout the two millennia of her existence. To get to know her history from the shadows that the perpetrators of these legends (either by malicious intent or through ignorance of the truth) is one important motive of this study. I would have to admit that this isn’t a normal arrangement in learning about the history of the Church, though learning it from this point of view is interesting nonetheless.
Thus getting to know what really happened, we may come to understand and learn to love the Church even more. This in my opinion are two important attitudes of any respectable Church historian: understanding and love for the Church.
Trying to understand is crucial. It is not for the student of history to judge history, because the historian is on one hand a mere student, no matter how many doctorates he may have accomplished. History, as the wise saying goes, is the teacher of life, and as the Lord himself would say, no student is greater than his master. History is best learned by trying to understand what really happened; by comprehending historical fact, always keeping in mind the historical context in which it took place. Deplorable is that easy mistake to judge an historical event from our present and modern way of thinking. to learn from the mistakes of the past is one thing; to judge the past with the present is another. And besides, to impart judgment isn’t the task of the historian; neither is it our task here. To get to know the historical context, how life was, how people thought during a particular time in history, and to see a particular issue within its proper context (for example, the Spanish Inquisition within the time of the Spanish Reconquista) form part of the methodology that I will use in these essays.
Another concerns the pursuit of the truth, an important part of which includes the acceptance of the fact that Christians have erred at one point or the other. Far from my mind is to come up with a white legend of the Church, which is a reaction to the black legends but from the opposite extreme. If the black legends try to caricaturize certain episodes in Church history, blowing things out of proportion, white legends idealize things, exaggerating facts in the bid to present a pristine and triumphalist image. One criteria that we would have to consider in the historical science is based on the fundamental doctrinal truth that while the Church is holy and immaculate, the spotless Bride of Christ, nevertheless in her bosom saints and sinners have lived together. The Church is not a mere human institution; it has its human element, otherwise there’s no sense of talking about the history of the Church. But one must not forget that she is of divine institution: she has that x-factor, so to speak, which could not have been received from this world. From this we would appreciate the fact that the Church is a mystery, living paradox: holy, yet composed of sinners; walking through history, yet escaping the clutches of time.
The study of the Church’s progress in history cannot be merely explained from a materialist, nor plainly political point of view, though they are helpful in allowing us to understand why things get to happen as they do. Without the essential element of divine providence, one could never understand the history of the Church. Reducing everything to mere politics, human interest and chance, the history of the Catholic Church would be incomprehensible, if one fact is left out: that it is part of the history of salvation, wherein God enters in conversation with man, and continually offers him salvation. It is a history of the evils men may commit, but more importantly it is also a history of grace and sanctity (which results when the offer of grace is accepted by man).
Only in getting to know the truth about the Catholic Church in its reality, deep within God’s loving plan of salvation, could one be actually led into a deeper love for the Church. It is only through this love—love is the deep appreciation of the goodness of the truth—that one can easily defend the Church. One can only defend with passion that which he loves.
With this, I would state that among the topics which I hope to discuss are the following: starting from the early Church, to the time of Constantine, the Middle Ages, the Inquisition, the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the pacification of the Philippines, Galileo, the Spanish friars during the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines, and the silence of Pius XII. There may be other matters that I could think of in the future, but for the moment the present list is already quite ambitious in itself.