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A Catholic Liberal Education? Eh? Say that Again

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The London Catholic Herald explains to us in the words of one Marc Sidwell, an Anglo Catholic, that California has its own “College of Light”. Would you believe it, it is called Thomas Aquinas College? It seems that this rather plainly Catholic College offers “a liberal education as if truth mattered”, and “an escape from skepticism”.

The author sees no contradiction in all this. What I mean is that liberal inquiry has found that truth can only be approached through skepticism, that Catholicism is the trunk of Christianity, and Christianity not only requires belief to be credulously accepted, it is far from being liberal in any sense close to any truth.

Sidwell, seemingly a master of liberal education himself, considers TAC as a “Great Books school” whose students “engage” with thinkers that define Western civilization like St Thomas Aquinas, Dante, Euclid, Plato and Shakespeare, and whose teachers use the Socratic method. Certain that truth exists, and unsaid but obviously true itself, that they have it, TAC rejects the relativism denounced by no less than the pope himself! It all defies analysis unless one is ready to admit that it is bollocks.

The TAC scholars have obviously never heard of begging the question, and cannot comprehend that believing one knows the truth is not the same as knowing it. But that’s Christianity for you. They assure each other that it is so, and take heart that all these clever people cannot be wrong.

Dr Sidwell assures his Catholic readers that liberal education even precedes Catholicism, thus proving he is not bigoted. It began in fifth century Athens as the right of a free man. It did not, then have anything to do with the God of the Hebrews who at that time was too busy helping the Jews to build a “temple, God, for the adoration of…” The church became involved only when Greek tradition and Jewish tradition met and mingled in the creative maelstrom of Pagan Rome. The Romans, culturally influenced by these Greeks, though they considered them effeminate, began to make tentative moves away from the slavery that engulfed them all, towards freedom, but then were engulfed instead by the backwards, conservative, massive intolerance of the religion of the Hebrew God in its new manifestation of Christianity.

Preserved in the Benedictine orders, transmitted by schoolmaster-priests, it was the Christian liberal educators who kept the life of the mind alive through centuries of uncertainty and civil strife.

Eh? Is this sleight of word and history, the liberal education these Catholics mean? Who were responsible for the centuries of uncertainty and civil strife? The Christians destroyed classical civilization after little more than a century of power in Rome, launching Europe into a ten century long dark age. The original sixth century formation of the Benedictine order had no influence on the collapse of civilization. The monks were as corrupt and ignorant as clerics generally. It was the reaction against the wealth and corruption of traditional monastic orders like the Benedictines that signified the beginning of the end of the Christian hegemony called Christendom, and the start of the Renaissance, with the twelfth century foundation of orders like the Franciscans. As for schoolmaster priests, even a rough military prince, Charlemagne, at the height of Christian power was appalled by the ignorance of the supposedly educated clergy.

Anyone who has had a liberal education will see Sidwell’s travesty of an account as an unmitigated lie, but that is what Christians are truly good at. They have had a lot of practice over the centuries. But Dr Sidwell takes as his evidence of the educational calling of the church, the doctor angelicus, Thomas Aquinas himself.

St Thomas Aquinas, is proof of the high value Catholicism has always placed upon reasoned enquiry into creation. Yet the sceptics like Richard Dawkins continue to sneer at Christianity as an intellectual vacancy. They misquote Tertullian as “I believe because it is absurd” and do not know St Anselm of Canterbury’s Credo ut intelligam. (“I believe so as to understand”).

Our guru of the modern Catholic liberal education says critics of Christianity misquote Tertullian when Catholics have long accepted “I believe because it is absurd” as a summary of Tertullian’s:

Born is the Son of God, shamelessly, because it is shameful. And dead is the Son of God, believably, because it is absurd. And, buried, He rose again, assuredly, because impossible.

De Carne Christi

A Christian educator is lying to make a feeble case against his critics, but Anselm’s (1033-1109) citation goes completely against any sort of liberal education, notably because it harks back to the middle of the Christian dark age when belief was compulsory. To base understanding on belief with no evidence that it is well founded other than the belief that it is so is utterly illiberal. It is the teaching of confidence tricksters and mountebanks, but still fools billions of naïve and ignorant Catholics, and not a few intelligent ones.

Anyway, to return to Aquinas (1225-1274), son of a wealthy nobleman, a corpulent monk at a time when peasants were dropping dead in the fields, sick and malnourished, Aquinas was less liberal a thinker than his teacher Albertus Magnus, and the Schoolmen that he founded became increasingly less liberal and increasingly bogged down in irrelevant dogma over the next couple of centuries. Though Aquinas was a great thinker for his time, he was an early Rennaissance Man, his thought triggered by the newly discovered Aristotle, but channelled into nothing productive, just as all thought for the previous eight Christian centuries had been drained away.

If “the human mind is ordered to truth”, as Sidwell quotes college president, Dr Thomas E Dillon, as saying, then the whole Christian endeavour has been set against truth not for it, and this eulogy of TAC is part of the continuing scam, given a modicum of truth by the shocking neglect of education in the public sector.

Sidwell perpetuates the transparent lie that Christianity has tried to perpetuate learning. It is sophistry, true in a minor sense only. Christianity did maintain some clever men and some education throughout the dark ages, but purely for devotional reasons. Rudimentary Latin was taught so that priests could theoretically know what the mass meant. Many did not, and never got to understand the Latin either. For this reason, some Latin books were preserved, but far more were allowed to decay, and have been lost forever. Greek was worse off. Greek and Greek books were effectively lost, and only rediscovered by contact with the eastern Church and the Moslems during the crusades making Aquinas possible. Art and architecture, science and engineering, perfected in classical times were lost for over half a millennium. Towns decayed, trade collapsed, slavery was maintained under the guise of serfdom. The world regressed into little short of barbarity, yet the argument persists that Christianity preserved classical culture. Christianity destroyed it almost completely, and the sophistry is not an outright lie only because a tiny fraction was preserved in an utterly haphazard way for the education of clergymen.

Sidwell is either self deluded or a typical Christian sociopath. He fantasizes about what wonders the Catholic Church might have come up with, had it not been for the puritan revolution, but seems incapable of thinking about what it did come up with when left to its own devices. Maybe it is because it is too horrible to think about. Nevertheless, Catholicism deliberately hounded and murdered millions, and mostly cruelly and unjustly. Today, it is fashionable for popes to apologise for matters that cannot be apologized for. Only Catholics are impressed. What can any apology mean to someone you have slowly roasted to death? The record of the Churches, and of patriarchal religion as a whole is disgusting, and no odour of sanctity is miraculous enough to cover the smell of it.

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Written by mikemagee

1 January, 2009 at 3:41 pm

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  1. […] A Catholic Liberal Education? Eh? Say that Again « Magi Mike’s Blog […]


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