Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic Faith In Historical Perspective
They Are Not Necessarily the Role
Models to Follow
Jesus Christ and Mary Are the Ones to
The purpose of this brief document is to further de-devinize men who,
like the Successors of Peter, have been used to
dethrone God and His Holy Word by becoming the reference that should be
invoked to prove a point and/or close an
As you read this document, keep very
much in mind our position regarding the Catholic
The Catholic Faith is the one Faith
which provides the means for the faithful to
benefit from the greatest concentration of Divinely Revealed Truths. No
other Faith has as many and effective means to benefit from those
Truths in its Spiritual Treasury as the Catholic Faith does. Be it the
reality and validity of the Seven Sacraments; be it the validity and
practice of Indulgences; be it the reality of Purgatory; be it the
truth about the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, the
Mother of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man; be it the Petrine
Ministry; etc. (1)
Many faithful Catholics (East and West) greatly revere those whom the
Church has named "Doctor of the
Church" or "Church Father." Often, their works are quoted to
prove a point or to close an argument, as if the
Fathers and Doctors were authors of Scripture. However, the words and
deeds of some of these Catholic leaders sometimes
were in direct, grievous violation of Divine Law; these men were
neither infallible nor impeccable nor examples to
Here are some little-remembered, but easily verified, facts about the
deeds of some of these all-too-fallible
The era of the
In the "Christian" Roman Empire, during the late 300s and early
400s, the Church went from being persecuted to being a persecutor. Paul
Johnson, a historian of the Church, said that
"The late empire was a totalitarian state, in some ways an oriental
despotism. ... State torture, supposedly used only
in serious cases such as treason, was in fact employed whenever the
State willed." (2)
Pope Damasus I
Pope Damasus I (305-384; "Saint", "Church Father", and
Pope from 366-384): This alleged defender of the
faith began his reign with riot and massacre. As Richard McBrien's Lives
of the Popes summarizes the bloody
“...a faction that had been
consistently loyal to Liberius [the
Pope] met immediately in the Julian basilica of Santa Maria in
Trastavere, elected the deacon Ursinus, and had him
consecrated Bishop of Rome ... Another, larger faction loyal to Felix
[an antipope who had opposed Liberius, and who was
Damasus' former employer] met in the church of San Lorenzo in Lucina
and elected the deacon Damasus,
who hired a gang of
thugs to storm the Julian basilica, routing the Ursinians in a
three-day massacre. Damasus was consecrated by the bishop
of Ostia in the Lateran Basilica on October 1, after his supporters had
seized the church. Following his consecration,
however, bloody fighting continued in the streets of Rome. ...
But the violence continued, and
Damasus dispatched his own forces
to attack Ursinus's supporters, who had taken refuge in the Liberian
Basilica (now St. Mary Major). A contemporary historian reported that
some 137 died in the battle
[which occurred on October 27, 366]. ...
Although Damasus had badly blotted his ecclesiastical copybook, he
enjoyed much favor with the court and the aristocracy, especially women
of wealth. Roman gossips nicknamed him 'the matrons' ear-tickler.' His
grand lifestyle and lavish hospitality endeared him to the upper-class
pagan families. At the same time, he was relentless in opposing
heresies and other dissident movements in the Church. ...
Damasus was tireless, in fact,
in promoting the primacy of Rome,
referring to it frequently as 'the Apostolic See,' and insisting that
the test of a creed's orthodoxy is papal approval.” (3)
Another historian of the Papacy described Damasus as "a
ruthless power-broker" who "did not hesitate to
mobilise both the city police and the Christian mob to back up his rule."
A pagan historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, commented on the zeal
with which churchmen sought the Papacy:
do not deny that men who covet
this office in order to fulfill their ambitions may
well struggle for it with every resource at their disposal. For once
they have obtained it they are ever after secure,
enriched with offerings from the ladies, riding about seated in their
carriages, splendidly arrayed, giving banquets so
lavish they surpass the tables of royalty.” (5)
Augustine (354-430; "Saint", "Church Father" and "Doctor
of the Church"): The late Roman Empire used
violence against the Donatist heretics, and St. Augustine:
the theorist of
persecution; and his defences were later to be those on
which all defences of the Inquisition rested. ... He insisted that the
use of force in the pursuit of Christian unity,
and indeed total religious conformity, was necessary, efficacious, and
In addition to developing the theology of Inquisition, Augustine
developed "just war" theology, leading to the
punishment of pacifist conscious objectors, and leading to “the anomaly
of two Christian states each fighting a "just"
war against each other.” (7)
Cyril of Alexandria
Cyril of Alexandria (370-444; "Saint", "Church Father",
and "Doctor of the Church") was the Patriarch of
Alexandria from 412 to 444. (8) Gruesome events
occurred in Alexandria during his reign of the
local Church, and the perpetrators went unpunished.
In 414, the first Christian-led pogrom (*) occurred there, wiping
the Jewish community of Alexandria for a time.
(9) In 415, a monk-incited mob tortured and
murdered the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia, blaming
her for the dispute between Cyril and the local governor. (10)
The killing occurred in the
Caesareum, a former pagan site that had been converted into a church
building. (11) In Cyril's
time, fanaticism (disguised as defense of the faith) grew without
Pogrom: Massacre, accepted or promoted by the authorities, of Jews and,
by extension, of other ethnic groups.
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153; "Saint" and "Doctor of
the Church") preached the Second Crusade, at the
request of the Pope. (12) He also was the
chaplain of the Knights Templar, and wrote the following
praise of "holy war" to its members:
“But Christ's knights can fight their Lord's
fight in safety,
sin in slaughter of their adversaries and fearless of danger at their
own deaths, since death suffered or dealt out on
Christ's behalf holds no crime and merits great glory. ...
Christ's knight deals out death in
safety, as I said, and
suffers death in even greater safety. He benefits himself when he
suffers death, and benefits Christ when he deals out death. 'He does
not wear a sword without cause; he is God's agent for punishment of
evil-doers and for glorification of the good.' Clearly, when he kills
an evil-doer, he is not a homicide, but, if you will allow me the term,
a malicide, and is plainly Christ's vengeance on those who work evil
and the defense Christ provides for Christians. When such a
is himself killed, we know that he has not simply perished but has won
through to the end of this life. The death he inflicts accrues to
Christ's profit; the death he receives accrues to his own. The
Christian glories in a pagan's death, because Christ is glorified; in
the death of a Christian, the King's generosity is confirmed, by
revelation of the knight's reward. ...
Pagans would not even have to be
slaughtered, if there were some
other way to prevent them from besetting and oppressing the faithful.
But now it is better that
they be killed than that the rod of these
sinners continue to imperil the lot of the just, preventing the just
from reaching out their hands against iniquity.” (13)
Such is the theology of "Christian" jihad. With minor
changes, it could have been written by Osama bin Laden
or the leadership of today's ISIL.
It may be possible to learn some from studying the works of the
Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Nevertheless, as
these instances show, great discernment must be used in the
examination of the works of these fallible - and
sometimes brutally unholy - men.
Meditation on the Scriptures and direct interaction with God
through prayer should always take
priority over the study of the acclaimed "Fathers of the
Church". There is only one real "Father of the
- and only one real "Doctor of the Church": God Himself.
Position regarding the
(2) Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity,
Atheneum, 1976, p. 116.
(3) Richard McBrien, Lives of the Popes: The
Pontiffs from St. Peter to Benedict XVI, Harper San Francisco, 2006,
pp. 62-63, 64; see also J. N. D. Kelly, The Oxford Dictionary of the
Popes, Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 32-34.
(4) Eamon Duffy, Saints & Sinners: A History of
the Popes, Yale University Press, 2006, p. 38.
(5) Duffy, Saints & Sinners, p. 38.
(6) Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 116.
(7) Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 242.
(8) Wikipedia, "Cyril of Alexandria",
(9) James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: The Church
and the Jews, Houghton Mifflin, 2001, pp, 176, 213.
(10) Diarmaid MacCullough, Christianity: The First
Three Thousand Years, Viking, 2009, pp. 220-221.
(11) Wikipedia, "Hypatia", http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia
(12) Wikipedia,"Bernard of Clairvaux",
(13) Bernard of Clairvaux, "De Laude Novae
Militiae ad Milites Templi (in English)" ("To the Knights Templar -
In Praise of
the New Militia"), Section "III. A New Chivalry"
En Español: Los Padres y Doctores
de la Iglesia no son necesariamente modelos a seguir
Published on September 20th,
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