Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Intolerance is Driven to Lie

On another blog site, one individual, rather outspoken in his intolerance of religion, posted this quote in a comment (that is, he was not the author of the article, but merely responding to it) which he alleged Pope Leo XIII said [quoted verbatim from the individual's reply]:

"The death sentence is a necessary and efficacious means for the Church to attain its end when rebels act against it and disturbers of the ecclesiastical unity, especially obstinate heretics and heresiarchs, cannot be restrained by any other penalty from continuing to derange the ecclesiastical order and impelling others to all sorts of crime ... When the perversity of one or several is calculated to bring about the ruin of many of its children it is bound effectively to remove it, in such wise that if there be no other remedy for saving its people it can and must put these wicked men to death."

- Pope Leo XIII (whose papacy ended in 1903)

The intent of such a quote is to portray Catholicism (or in the case of the Atheist, religion in general) as a dangerous, violent, totalitarian entity which seeks to quash freedom.

Of course, to assess what Pope Leo XIII meant, we would have to look at the quote in context, which would mean reading the document from which it came.

See the problem here?  There is no document name, no date.  No way to establish that he ever said it or not.  All Vatican documents are identified by Latin title in a formal document, or by date and location for a less formal document.

So Who said it?

Doing a Google search, we can find six sources (all of them secondary), which cite this:

  1. A book which seems to be written with nobody of expertise [Harry Kawalarang] (uncited)
  2. (which attributes it to Lloyd M Graham's Deceptions and Myths of the Bible)
  3. A comment on PZ Myers blog (which cites the same)
  4. An article by Michael Carmichael who cites it in a bashing of Pope Benedict XVI (no source given)
  5. A textfile of The Popes and their Church written by Joseph McCabe [an anti-Catholic ex-priest who left the priesthood in 1896, and claimed to be a part of a Vatican conspiracy] who claims to translate it from a work  called "Public Church law" (or Institutiones Juris Ecclesiastici Publici) which he claims predated the 1917 Code of Canon Law (which he misidentifies as the 1918 code).
  6. A fundamentalist article about a "World Church" persecuting "real" Christians.  (it claims "canon law" as its source)

The ultimate source of the quote is Joseph McCabe, notorious for flagrant errors.  Notice though how it is cited on the internet: Some say canon law, some say Leo XIII and some can't even identify it at all.  Yet they all cite it as fact.

The truth is, it is a fraudulent quote, without basis.  There was canon law which predated the 1917 code, yes (McCabe gets the name wrong however.  It was Institutiones iuris publici ecclesiastici.  This may seem like nitpicking but it shows McCabe's ignorance of the actual work which existed during the time he was a priest)  The reform began in 1904 because there were so many conflicting things within it from additions over centuries.

Notice how the citation for this quote has been distorted, and lacks consistency.  From McCabe's claim it came from the pre-1917 code of canon Law, to the claim that it was made by Leo XIII "whose papacy ended in 1903" (they stress this in order to make it seem this is a modern view of the Church) we have an unsubstantiated claim which nobody can produce a Church document which even says what is claimed.

On the willingness to quote false sources

I doubt this individual maliciously posted something he knew was a lie.  Rather, I suspect he accepted the quote at face value on account of his hostility towards religion.  But what does this sort of tactic indicate?  People who believe any bit of scandal against a group they dislike without verifying it are really nothing more than gossips who do act out of malice.  If an accusation is made about a person and this accusation is making a quote, it requires a source which another person can independently verify the evidence.  Otherwise it is nothing but hearsay.

Still in the case of this quote, and others like it, someone was driven to lie when the statement was originally made, and this says volumes about intolerance.  I have over the years encountered several people who were willing to lie about what the Church has taught, and many others who were willing to cite these lies without checking facts.

The claim is made "The Church said THIS" but when confronted with a demand for proof, suddenly the source is "no longer available" or "was privately translated" or claims are made that "later editions removed the quote."

In other words, the only credibility for such a claim is based on the person who claims it was said.

Except if they can't give a primary source to show where it came from, there is no credibility to be given this person.

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