Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History
In this stunning, powerful, and ultimately persuasive book, Rodney Stark, one of the world's most highly regarded sociologists of religion, argues that some of our most firmly held ideas about history, ideas that paint the Catholic Church in the least positive light are, in fact, fiction. Why have we held these wrongheaded ideas so strongly and for so long? And if our beliefs are wrong, what, in fact, is the truth?
In each chapter, Stark takes on a well-established anti-Catholic myth, gives a fascinating history of how each myth became the conventional wisdom, and presents a startling picture of the real truth. For example,
- Instead of the Spanish Inquisition being an anomaly of torture and murder of innocent people persecuted for “imaginary” crimes such as witchcraft and blasphemy, Stark argues that not only did the Spanish Inquisition spill very little blood, but it was a major force in support of moderation and justice.
- Instead of Pope Pius XII being apathetic or even helpful to the Nazi movement, such as to merit the title, “Hitler’s Pope,” Stark shows that the campaign to link Pope Pius XII to Hitler was initiated by the Soviet Union, presumably in hopes of neutralizing the Vatican in post-World War II affairs. Pope Pius XII was widely praised for his vigorous and devoted efforts to saving Jewish lives during the war.
- Instead of the Dark Ages being understood as a millennium of ignorance and backwardness inspired by the Catholic Church’s power, Stark argues that the whole notion of the “Dark Ages” was an act of pride perpetuated by anti-religious intellectuals who were determined to claim that theirs was the era of “Enlightenment.”
In the end, readers will not only have a more accurate history of the Catholic Church, they will come to understand why it became unfairly maligned for so long. Bearing False Witness is a compelling and sobering account of how egotism and ideology often work together to give us a false truth.
Softcover, 280 pages
I could not put down this book. It is more highlighted than I would like to admit because there are so many interesting points being made. It is superly well written and edited, not written from a tediously academic perspective but meant for everyday people who want to depend their history knowledge. I should note, this author is not Catholic but a fact-driven history professor.
As a history major in college, I'm embarrassed that I used to believe some of these anti-Catholic historical myths. So entrenched are some of them, that my Catholic affiliated college (we had a convent on campus) history department never even once addressed them. Rodney Stark sets the record straight on the myths of the Dark Ages, the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition, "Hitler's Pope", and that the Church still thought the earth was flat during the Columbus expedition, as well and many more. Book was so excellent I read it twice in the past two years and now that I'm writing this review, I think I might read it again.