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By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

7/28/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

See how many of these historical tidbits surprise you!

There are some things that everybody knows about the Catholic Church, even if you aren't a Christian. For example, most people know that Catholic priests wear roman collars, and remain celibate (with some notable exceptions). Everyone knows who the pope is and that he lives in Vatican City, ensconced in Rome. But there are some surprising things even faithful Catholics don't know. Read these six things Catholics don't know about their church and see how many surprise you. 

Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar regarded as the father of modern genetics.

Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar regarded as the father of modern genetics.


By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

Catholic Online (

7/28/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Catholic Church, history, facts, law, astronomy,

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - There are some things that everybody knows about the Catholic Church, even if you aren't a Christian. For example, most people know that Roman Catholic priests wear roman collars, and remain celibate. There are notable exceptions; such as former Anglican Ministers becoming Catholic priests after being received into full communion and Eastern Catholic priests who, like the Orthodox Clergy, can be chosen from among both celibate and married men. Everyone knows who the Pope is and that he lives in Vatican City, ensconced in Rome. But there are some surprising things even faithful Catholics don't know. Read these six things Catholics don't know about their church and see how many surprise you.

The Catholic Church once 'killed' the Olympics! With the summer Olympics coming to London, the entire world is atwitter with excitement. Many of those athletes will be Catholic and the Catholic Church in London will be celebrating a special opening mass for the games. But few, outside of church scholars and historians, may know that the Catholic Church once killed the Olympics. It's true!

The downfall of the ancient Olympics games began largely with Emperor Theodosius I, who passed a series of laws banning the degrading and dehumanizing practices of Roman paganism. While he did not specifically ban the games, he did ban many of the rituals associated with the games and their pagan origins. With the attendant rituals banned, including rites of worship to Zeus, to whom the games were dedicated, the games lost much of their perceived "religious" motivation. The last official games were held in 394 AD, although some historians claim the games persisted into the fifth century. 

In any case, the decline and end of the ancient games was a direct result of the influence of the Catholic Church in the political and daily realm of the late Roman Empire and its culture. In an effort to stamp out dehumanizing and degrading practices of paganism and to unify the people under the one true religion, the ancient Olympics had to go. 

Many modern hospitals are named for saints and are closely associated with the Church and religious orders.  However, fewer people understand that the first modern hospitals were industries of the Catholic Church. The Church has always viewed the provision of care to the sick as a part of the continuing admonisition of Jesus to heal the sick and the charge found in the 25th chapter of Matthew's Gospel to care for Jesus who is revealed in the poor whom He so loves.  

The Catholic Church was the original healthcare provider, establishing the first hospitals for the care of the sick and the poor in ancient Rome after the legalization of Christianity. The homes of early bishops and wealthy Christians were popular places for treatment of the sick. Later, special places were built to house patients as well as pilgrims. Health care was made available to all.

Just who built the first dedicated hospital and when remains under dispute, but by the start of the fifth century they were being referenced by the early Church fathers in their writings. Between the fall of the Roman Empire and the ascendance of Charlemagne, (476 - 800 AD), a period often (incorrectly) referred to as "the dark ages" more than a dozen hospitals were founded across Europe. By the medieval period, numerous religious and military orders sprang up to care for the sick and it was in these institutions that the best care of the age could be found. 

To this day, the Catholic Church is a leading provider of health services around the world, still providing care to young and old alike, regardless of their station or means. This is at the heart of her mission and her service to the common good. It is also at risk in the currently charged environment occasioned by the HHS Mandate.

Innocent until proven guilty
Catholic scholars should know this, but the average layperson does not. Many of the legal concepts that form the basis of law in western society are direct descendants of the efforts of Pope Gregory VII (d 1085) and the influence of great Catholic theologians and philosophers such as the "angelic doctor," St. Thomas Aquinas. Gregory's efforts resulted in a widespread effort to combine philosophy with law. The results were generally very positive and fair. Concepts such as presumption of innocence, equality before the law, and reasonable doubt are all direct products of the Catholic Church. Along with one that isn't so popular today in some circles -- the understanding of corporate personhood. 

Accountants should know that they owe much of their discipline to Friar Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli (1445 - 1517). While accounting has been in use since earliest civilization (and in fact it is widely believed that writing itself was invented to keep records for merchants) Pacioli made significant contributions to the discipline.

Pacioli produced several books on mathematics including several sections on mathematics for merchants. He also described methods of bookkeeping including double entry accounting. His work included the entire accounting cycle and formed the basis of virtually all subsequent accounting practices. He also laid out methods to check the accuracy of one's work and warned that a person should not go to sleep at night until their credits balanced with their debits. 

One reason his methods proved popular, aside from the fact they worked, was that the Catholic Church was a major landowner across Europe. Churches and monasteries held lands that were rented and farmed or otherwise turned to profitable use, and those assets had to be managed. Pacioli's methods became the standard for monks and church officials across Europe and later around the world. 

Science, Astronomy and the "Big Bang" theory
About 35 craters on the moon have been named in honor of mostly Jesuit scientists and mathematicians who distinguished themselves by their work. And the Big Bang theory of creation was conceived and developed by Father Georges Lemaitre, a priest and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain. 

Many secularists, and even some Catholics think the Church is hostile to science. It is a popular misconception. Believers in this error point to the purported persecution of Galileo, among other claims, to portray the church as opposed to scientific knowledge. 

Much of this is detailed in the book by Thomas E. Woods, Jr., How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

However, insofar as science is used to discern the truth, the Church has no qualms since the Church is an embodiment of Truth. Many may be surprised to know the Catholic Church maintains and operates an observatory and that Catholic researchers around the world continue to contribute to our knowledge of astronomy, cosmology, and physics, while keeping steadfast in their faith. 

In fact, according to Woods, it was Jesuit missionaries that delivered the scientific method to Asia, contributed to the development of pendulum clock, barometers, telescopes, microscopes, and more. 

Jesuit astronomers also made a wide range of astronomical observations, being the first to note colored bands on Jupiter, rings around Saturn, and connecting the moon to the tides. 

The early study of earthquakes was in fact so closely related to the Jesuits, that seismology has been referred to as "the Jesuit science." 

Human rights and the dignity of every person
Okay, this one shouldn't be a surprise at all, but it will be to some, especially non-believers. Until the advent of Christianity, inequality among people was regarded as a fact of life and not as something to be addressed. The teachings of Jesus Christ were radical precisely because they stressed the brotherhood and equality of all men and women before God, because we are all created in His Image. 

And while this should not be interpreted as an invitation to undermine God-given differences and distinctives given to men and women, it does indeed form the first basis for the foundational western understanding of equal rights. In fact, the Church professes the existence of a Natural Law, which can be known by all through the exercise of reason, upon which all truly just human laws must be based.

Out of this vision of the equality and dignity of all human persons grew movements such as women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery, and modern movements aimed at protecting human rights by securing them in the civil law. The Church insists upon the dignity of all people, from the moment of conception until natural death.  This Christian vision of the dignity of the human person has influenced what is considered a very secular document, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And while the UNUDHR is considered an important declaration, it does not fully protect the first and most fundamental of all human rights, the right to life from the moment of conception. Church teaching does recognize this fundamental human right. In fact, the Catholic Church insists that without the recognition of this fundamental human right to life, the entire infrastructure of human rights is placed in jeopardy. 

Without the influence of the Catholic Church, it is easy to imagine a world that is much different, much less enlightened, and much less advanced and truly free than the one we have today. 



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