Thursday, 2 August 2007

History vs Historicity

{ From an Article by Dr Paul Stenhouse]

A Lion was once invited to be the guest of a Man. The lion was well-received, and had the run of the magnificent palace in which there were a vast number of ornaments and antiques to admire. Among the sculpture and paintings which it admired, the lion noticed that the subject most frequently occurring was the lion itself. His host drew the lion's attention to the number of lions featured in the artistic representations, but tactfully was silent about something that the lion couldn't help noticing: the lion was always being beaten by the human beings.
There was Samson tearing a lion to pieces, David taking a lion by the throat and choking it; there were lion hunts, lions with knives in their hearts, or others writhing in death agonies: lions in nets, lions drawing chariots for Roman emperors, Hercules clad in a lion's skin. Even the feet of the alabaster tables ended in lions' paws; lions' mouths held the door handles; lions' faces grinned at each other across the mantlepiece.
The lion's host asked the lion what he thought of the splendours of the palace; and the lion in reply praised the owner's wealth, but added:

"Lions would have fared better if lions had been the artists!' [Cardinal Newman]

Catholics, when confronted with "facts' allegedly drawn from "history' can easily understand how the lion felt.

Looking at but a few of the current anti-Catholic cliches,

either it is true that there was a Pope Joan, or it is not;

either it is true that more wars have been fought in the name of religion, or it is not;

either it is true that (centuries before any crusades) Muslims invaded France in 738, sacked St Peter's and St Paul's (both outside the Aurelian walls) in 846, or it is not;

either it is true that the Patriarch of Constantinople has a right to be independent of the Pope of Rome, or it is not;

either it is true that Christ rose from the dead, or it is not;

either it is true that Purgatory exists, or it is not;

either it is true that Pope Pius XII did nothing to prevent the Second World War, or to help the Jews and other victims of Nazi racist policies or it is not;

either it is true that Christ founded his Church on Peter the Rock, or it is not;

either it is true that the Catholic Church has remained faithful to its divine mission, or it is not.

Truth is always one — it cannot be two contradictory things. Catholics believe that truth is to be found within Catholicism. Those who disagree have a right, in fact an obligation, to enquire as to their reasons for disagreeing.

A fine case can be made for the blackest villain in the dock to be an injured, innocent party, a victim, even a hero, if one were to believe the defence prepared by his counsel. But where does the truth lie? Any lie will seem plausible if one reads only all that can be said in its favour, and excludes all that can be said against it.

Catholics are aware that no conclusion can be trusted which, to use Newman's words, "has not been examined by enemy as well as friend; no traditions can claim our allegiance which shrink from criticism, and dare not look a rival in the face.'

It is precisely at this point that the Catholics, like the lion in the fable, should demand that their detractors be as willing to examine the truthfulness of their own positions, as they are to believe badly of their Catholic fellow-citizens.

The anti-Catholic position is daily trumpeted from the news-stands and TV antennae. The weak point in their detractors' position is precisely their unwillingness to submit themselves to rigorous and impartial judgement.

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