Kurth begins with the Mission of the Church. He then considers the relation of the Church with the Jews. The next turning point is the Church and the Barbarians. This is followed by the Church and Feudalism. Neo-Caesarism follows as a turning point. Soon the Church must deal with the Renaissance. This is followed by the Church and the Revolution. The Mission of the Church opens: "In the history of mankind considered as a whole, there are two grand divisions. On the one hand, ...
Kurth begins with the Mission of the Church. He then considers the relation of the Church with the Jews. The next turning point is the Church and the Barbarians. This is followed by the Church and Feudalism. Neo-Caesarism follows as a turning point. Soon the Church must deal with the Renaissance. This is followed by the Church and the Revolution.
The Mission of the Church opens: "In the history of mankind considered as a whole, there are two grand divisions. On the one hand, there is the ancient world seated in the darkness of death; on the other hand, the modern world which advances in the light of the Gospel. This is, beyond compare, the greatest fact of history."
The Church then deals with the Jews, stepping out beyond Judaism to become a universal religion.
"This goes to show that the Christians had adopted without misgiving the common belief in the eternity of the Roman civilization. Whatever the pretensions of their persecutors, the Christians were not less patriotic than the pagans, though in another way, and their religious belief contained nothing contrary to their convictions as citizens. Nay more, they found in their sacred volumes passages which seemed to confirm this conviction in a marvelous manner. For what was that fourth and last empire foretold by Daniel, and compared to iron to symbolize its indestructible duration, but the Roman Empire. This belief in the eternity of the Roman Empire was, in away, part and parcel of their faith; in fact, it was adduced by the first apologists as an unanswerable proof of their patriotism. "How", said one of them, "could we desire the end of the Empire, since thereby we would desire the end of the world'"" And thus we consider the barbarians who had to be civilized.
Feudalism then became the danger, when the secular authority wished to interfere with the authority of the Church and to control the Church for its own ends. And this was the problem of feudalism.
On Neo-Caesarism we read: "Who then was the mysterious and terrible enemy that was about to upset Christian and change the course of civilization. It was the Lay State, a new and conquering power which preceding centuries had not known. It rose suddenly, like a giant, to face the Papacy and provoke it to mortal combat. Armed from the beginning with a theory from which it deduced its omnipotence, this Lay State claimed the adherence of its followers with the authority of an unquestionable dogma, though in reality it had no other principle than force; it began against the Church of Christ the long drawn out combat which has not yet neared its end, and whose fluctuating fortunes remained for our descendants the most solemn problem of history." Kurth comments on the evil of Neo-Caesarism: "It was, first of all, the destruction of what has been called the Christian Republic of the Middle Ages. Up to then Europe was strongly united not only by the identity of religious beliefs but also by the identity of political maxims. It connected public right with Christian morality, and recognized as the interpreter of the latter the Vicar of Jesus Christ. From the time of Philip the Fair it was so no more. There was no longer a Christian Republic, as was evidenced by the disappearance of what was its wonderful manifestation-the Crusades."
The Renaissance soon follows with its own problems, including the Protestant Revolt.
Let us consider the Revolution, which remains with us to this day: "If conditions were such, how explain this atrocious Revolution, this hideous debauch, whither sacrilegious folly and sanguinary impiety led dismayed humanity for years. ... Are they the tragical phases of that gigantic struggle between two powers which is going on forever for the possession of society-the struggle between good and evil, between truth and error, between God and Satan."
Godfrey Kurth was a leading Belgian Catholic historian, a Knight of the Order of Pius IX, and the director of the Belgian Historical Institute in Rome. He died in 1916. Patrick Foley, PhD, is a well-known Catholic historian and the author of approximately 140 published works, including three books on Catholic history. He received a papal medallion from pope John Paul II for writing the official essay on the history of the Church in Texas.