2000 Years of Reasons Why We Should Love the Church
Interview with Fr. Paul Mary Vota, MJ on Catholic Answers

Father Vota was born in 1951 in California, U.S.A. He joined Miles Jesu in 1974.

He made his vows in Miles Jesu in 1977. He received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Theology from the Angelicum in Rome and was ordained by Pope John Paul II in 1985.

Fr. Vota has lived and worked in Miles Jesu communities in Africa, America, Puerto Rico and throughout Central and Eastern Europe and is currently stationed in the Czech Republic. He is a noted public speaker and retreat master.

2000 years of reasons why we should love the Church.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Your excellencies, reverend fathers, and distinguished speakers and guests ...

The title of this talk is '2000 years of reasons why we should love the Church'. The first part of this talk, in reality, is about educating ourselves about the Church and her history and how an inaccurate and incomplete knowledge of the Church's history becomes an impediment for our loving her and an impediment in our desire to evangelize. Many times we do not know how to answer people when they ask about the church's past. We become somewhat like the story of the young boy, 5 years old, who begins kindergarten and his dad comes from work one day and his little boy asks him 'Daddy, where did I come from?' Dad wasn't prepared for that one. He started talking about the bird and the bees, Mother Goose, grandfather clock, anything he could think of. Afterwards he says, 'Well, does that answer your question?' and the little boy said, 'Well, I guess so daddy, but today at school at Billy said he came from New York'.

It's important that we come to the realization that most of us have received an incomplete and warped image of the Church from false histories that we have learned. To confirm this, I'm going to quote the agnostic professor of sociology from the University of Brussels, Dr. Leo Moulin, and he says, 'Pay attention to this incredulous old man who knows what he says. The masterpiece of anti-Christian propaganda is that it has succeeded in creating in Christians, above all in Catholics, a bad conscience, instilling in them embarrassment, if not shame, of their own history. There has not been a historical problem, error or suffering which has not been imputed to you, and you, almost always ignorant of your past, have ended up believing it to the point of supporting it. On the contrary, I, agnostic but also a historian who tries to be objective, tell you that you should react in the name of truth.' As Dr. Moulin put it, we are ignorant of our past and the consequences. Every year hundreds or thousand of young men and young women attend the universities and they end up loosing their faith - not through some apologetics, not through philosophical arguments, theological arguments - but most of the time because they have learned, or they have received, a vilified image of the Church through history.

The BBC Video on the Spanish Inquisition is available to educational institutions by request. Write to:
Mr. Rod Carter
BBC Worldwide Limited
Room C220
80 Wood Lane
London W12 OTT

The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition book or audio tape are available from the Miles Jesu Bookstore.

I'm going to speak of two events in particular that are critical for us to understand in an objective way. The first one I'm going to speak about is one that we always hear about and that is the Catholic Spanish Inquisition. Right now I would like everybody to take out a pen or a pencil ... anything that you have, something that can write, a pen or a pencil ... and I would like to you write down on your program book, on your sleeve, on your palm, anywhere that you can, how many people you have learned, or you think, were put to death by the Spanish Inquisition during the entire 16th century when it was at its height. How many thousands? How many millions? Whatever you have learned, whatever you think. If you don't know, take a guess. How many people were put to death by the Spanish Inquisition in the 16th century when it was at its height? Now, the facts I'm going to present are taken from a documentary that was recently produced by the BBC - not by the Vatican Radio, not by Teleponce, not by Mother Angelica - by the BBC. The title of the documentary is "The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition". It was made from first-time-ever studies of the archives that had been collected all in one place in Spain. The researchers and historians discovered that every single case that came to the Inquisition had its own file, detailed and exhaustive, and what made the files even more valuable is that they were not intended for the public - they were all for internal use. There's no whitewashing, everything was said 'as it is'. Views concerning the Inquisition, even the views of those who made the documentary, have been changed by opening up the archives. The Jewish Professor Henry Kamen from the Higher Council for Scientific Research, who was one of the ones making the documentary, stated that studying the archives of the Inquisition 'demolished the previous image that all of us had'. The documentary admits that the previous image of the Inquisition had been conjured up by Catholic Spain's enemies when it was apparent they could not defeat Spain on the battlefield. With the invention of the printing press a new type of war began but the polemic needed a focus and so the Inquisition was chosen as the focus to the propaganda campaign. According to the BBC all the different false accusations against the Catholic Church in the Inquisition came together in a document called 'A Discovery and playne Declaration of sundry and subtill practices of the Holy Inquisition of Spain' which was written in 1567 by a certain Montanous who was masquerading as a Protestant victim of the Inquisition. Within one year it was translated into English, French, German and Dutch. By identifying with the victim, it brought the supposed horrors of the Inquisition vividly alive and brought to the world an image of the Inquisition which has persisted ever since. Montanous successfully associated the Inquisition forever with the horrors of the torture chamber - something which, the BBC points out, never existed. It is important to remember at this time that torture was of common usage in all the courts and tribunals of Europe. Some of they were quite severe. As Professor Stephen Haliczer of Northern University of Illinois verifies, 'The Inquisition made use of torture very infrequently'. In the more than 7000 cases he studied, only 2% of all the cases used any torture at all and no more than for 15 minutes, only 1% used torture more than once, and there was no case of anyone having torture more than twice. There were also many stories about the horrific conditions in the Inquisition prisons. As Professor Haliczer reports, he found instances in the cases of secular criminals - criminals in the secular courts - purposely blaspheming so they could be sent to the Inquisition prisons because they were so much better than any other ones. The documentary stresses that the Catholic Spanish Inquisition was governed by very strict manuals of procedure which spelled out what could and what could not be done. Anybody breaking the rules was sacked. Professor Kamen states 'By contrast to the other tribunals of Europe, they emerge as almost enlightened'. What were some of those rules that governed the Spanish Inquisition? This is amazing. First of all, the Inquisition had the procedure that when they had received complaints from some area of abuses of teaching, they would go there and establish a one month 'grace period'. Anybody who came forward during that one month and accused themselves, said 'I was doing that', were given a very mild, private penance and nothing else was done. If, after that one month period, people who had been accused hadn't taken advantage of the 'grace period', they were called in for questioning. The first thing they were asked to do was to make a list of all their enemies. Anybody who was on that list could not be a witness against them or their accusations could not be accepted. Try to find a court in the world today that does something like that! Finally, any false accusations were severely punished. Another thing that people don't commonly know is that the Inquisition only had jurisdiction over baptized Christians. They had no jurisdiction over Muslims or over Jews. Anyone who professed those faiths could not, and did not, come under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition. The BBC also notes that from 1450-1750 there was a terrible persecution of witchcraft in all of Europe. At the merest accusation of horrible crimes, such as killing babies or sleeping with the devil, women were tortured or burned at the stake. The gravity of the alleged accusation justified the brutal response - no legal procedures. The Inquisition has a different approach. They were University lawyers and not even always priests. In the very beginning when some witch cases were brought to them, and the accuser said 'Okay, this lady killed seven babies', they would say, 'Where are the bodies? There're no bodies? Then there's no case'. And the Inquisition refused, after some time, to take any witch cases because they said it was mostly delusion. In the rest of Europe and North America during that time approximately 150,000 women were executed over this craze over witchcraft and, of course, this never happened in Spain.

Okay, now back to that question that we had earlier. How many people were put to death by the Catholic Inquisition during the entire 16th century when it was at its height? Remember, that's a hundred years. Not too long ago we had the 70 years of the Communist Revolution. In 70 years they got a lot done - 40,000,000 people killed in Ukraine and Russia, 80,000,000 in China, 2,000,000 in Cambodia, 1,000,000 in Spain - they really did a lot in 70 years. Okay. According to the study made by the BBC documentary, the number for the entire 16th century that were executed by the Catholic Spanish Inquisition was 40-50. Period. There're no numbers after that. 40-50 people. There were more people executed in 1 day during the French Revolution. In 1 day in the French Revolution, more people were executed than were executed by the Spanish Inquisition in the whole 16th century at its height. But what have we heard our whole lives? What do histories tell us? What do people say? The horrors of the Spanish Inquisition! It's all a lie! Thanks be to God for the BBC because, coming from them, its not a Catholic whitewash trying to, you know, say 'Well we did everything right'. So, this is the type of information we as Catholics need to know, that we can share with others.

The Church is made of human beings. It's Divine Element is perfect, but its human element, that's us, we are sinners. So, of course, there're going to be human beings that don't do good things and we all are sinners. But the Church, as itself, teaches perfectly and even in her history. Sure, as individuals, there've been mistakes. But the things that we've been accused of, as Dr. Moulin says, they're not true.

The next event I would like to touch on briefly is the evangelization of America. Many people protested when there was the fifth centenary of the evangelization of America and the evangelization of the world, even people in the Church. So many times Spain or what the Spanish have done, or supposedly have done, in the Americas was just the brutalization and the victimization of the natives there. But the facts do not support that. What facts am I talking about? Mexico, Spanish America, is a new race of people. That new race of people is a result of the intermarriage between the natives there and the Europeans, mostly Spaniards, because the Spaniards saw the Indians, saw the natives, as equal to them, equal enough to raise a family and intermarry with them. Now unfortunately where I'm from, the United States of America, there's not a new race there. Even today there's the shame that the Indians live on reservations dating back to the way the Indians were treated from the time the first colonists came to America. And, of course, in our history of America we did try to exterminate the Indians in different ways. So, there were abuses of the Indians in America. Not by the Spaniards. But in North America, in the United States of America, that did happen. Few people know that only 13 years after Cortez was in Mexico, Spain established its first college in America. Its first University came into being only 19 years later. In a relatively short span, Indians from Mexico were crossing the Atlantic and were teaching in the Universities of Europe.

So, in order to love the Church, we must know her - not whitewash her past, but neither blackwash her past. We must realize, however, that there is an element in the world that does seek to vilify the Church. The Church is Jesus Christ in the world. When asked about Jesus Christ, when he lived, some people called Him the devil himself. Some people said he was crazy. Who are we getting our information from? Now, if we want to educate ourselves, if we want to educate our children, if we want to educate our family and our friends so they are equipped with knowledge of the Church, this conference gives you a great opportunity to do that.

Most of the information I've put together here in this first part of the talk that is more about the obstacles of our loving the Church, I have taken from the writings of our Father General. There's a table here. Father has a whole book on the Spanish Inquisition and he gives all these non-Catholic sources. Father has the gift that he can say a lot precisely and concisely. So there's a wealth of knowledge about the Church, about her history. Take advantage during the breaks and get those books for the education of yourself and your families.

The second part of this talk is why should we love the Church. First of all, we should love the Church because she tells us the truth. She is Jesus Christ preaching, teaching, healing and forgiving in the world today. Jesus said, 'I am the truth'. Now, suppose you go to the doctor and the doctor examines you and he realizes you have diabetes or cancer or some other disease. Is he a better doctor because he doesn't tell you what that disease is? Some people want the Church to be like that doctor. When we have a spiritual cancer, they don't want the Church to tell us about it. That is not love. The Church loves us too much not to tell us what is harming us, what will eventually kill us. She's willing to endure our criticism, our anger, our hatred, because she knows, in the long run, this is for our good. It's Jesus Christ loving us. The Church tells us the truth. But the Church tells us the whole truth and nothing but the truth. From St. Luke 5:1-3, we read 'And as the people were crowding Him to hear God's message, He noticed, while standing by the lake of Gennesaret, two boats moored near the shore, but the fisherman had disembarked and were washing their nets. He stepped into one of the boats which belonged to Simon and asked him to push out a little from the shore. Then, when He had sat down, He began to teach the crowd from the boat'. He began to teach the crowd from St. Peter's boat. It is only from the bark of St. Peter where we always, and only, hear the infallible, life-giving preaching and teaching of Jesus Christ.

In 1930 every Christian denomination taught that divorce was against God's law as was abortion, premarital sex, homosexual acts, and even artificial contraception. It is the Catholic Church which continues to pass on the teaching of Jesus Christ without change and without error. Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever. This stems from the gift of infallibility which Christ gave His Church through St. Peter. Now some people have a funny idea about infallibility. They think the Pope can wake up one morning and say, 'Gee, I feel like making a new dogma today. What shall I do?'. Infallibility, the gift of infallibility, is more a negative gift. It prevents the Holy Father from teaching anything contrary to the public revelation of Jesus Christ and the Apostles. It's as if the Pope is handed this huge blackboard with all the teachings of the faith on it with no eraser. He has to teach that and nothing else. And, of course, what does that give us? We have this great certainty. We have the great certainty that this is the way to eternal life. All of us know people in the world today that are searching, that are lost, that have a lot of internal conflict. They don't know where to go. They don't know where to turn. We know. We have certainty. But the Church does not only give us rules and laws. Above all and in all and through all, she gives us Jesus Christ, our Savior. She gives us Jesus Christ not only in word, but in reality. We encounter the living and glorified Jesus Christ in the Church's sacraments and from Him we receive the grace to carry out His command to love. Without Him we have nothing, with Him we have everything. We also have the example of so many saints, how the saints help us. When there's somebody from my country who lived like I did ... Of course, everybody has they're favorites. I always liked the saints that had terrible lives in the beginning. I say, 'Okay, I have a chance'. But there is this enormous company of people that are like signposts, ways for us to imitate Jesus Christ, to indicate this is the way to salvation.

Some people think that our faith is something that only benefits our souls at sometime later in the future like one of those time-released capsules that will help us later on. But that's not true. In a recent book called 'God - The Evidence' by Patrick Gwynn, a Catholic by birth who became an atheist by 'education' and who finally returned to the Catholic faith by the evidence of science - cosmology, medicine and psychology. In one chapter he quotes David Morrison from the National Institute of Health who catalogued research from the American Psychological Association among whose members, in 1972, only 1.1% believed in God. Dr. Morrison nevertheless states 'If a new health treatment were discovered that helped reduce the rate of teenage suicide, prevent drug and alcohol abuse, improve treatment for depression, reduce recovery time from surgery, lower divorce rates, and enhance a sense of well-being, one would think that every physician in the country would be scrambling to try it'. He was talking about what happens to us when we practice our Catholic faith - research from the atheistic American Psychological Association. The Church, the lover of mankind, has dedicated herself in many and diverse ways to the total good of man - with her 1000's of educational institutions, she cares for our minds; by her health institutions, some 21,575 worldwide, she takes care of our bodies; by her 1000's and 1000's of celibate men and women throughout the world who dedicate their whole lives to taking care of our every need.

So then we have the need to know our Church, to know her history, not whitewash it but neither accept what is a false image. And we must realize also that our Catholic faith ... in this life alone, if we only got paid in this life, such advantages we have, such peace, such joy, that other people don't have. But we have both in this life. Our Lord promised us His peace, and of course, eternal bliss with Him.

I'd like to close with a quotation from our Father General, from one of his writings, that helps us understand the situation of the Church and the world. 'Throughout the centuries many have said that the Catholic Church, at one time or another, was corrupt, either in her teachings or morals or both. Now the pressure is on the other side. Magazines, newspapers and television blame the Catholic Church for being inflexible and unadaptable to the times, for not changing her teachings on many different aspects of sex like premarital sex, artificial birth control, divorce, homosexuality, abortion, surrogate motherhood, artificial insemination. It is as though some choose to see the Church in one extreme - full of corruption while others prefer to see her in the other extreme - as inhumane and unfit for the times. But, like so many other things, the Church proves herself to be guided not by human judgement but by the Holy Spirit. There is no other religious institution that shows more mercy and compassion than the Catholic Church and precisely in one of the most attacked sacraments - confession. The Church's teaching has been throughout the centuries that God's mercy is infinite and He is willing, not only to forgive 7 times, but 70 times 7, that is, numberless. Some have used this, in the past, to say that the Catholic Church is too permissive and that the Catholics can get away with whatever they want because it is so easy to be forgiven. Now, some want the Church not only to forgive, but to condone and legalize sins, in particular sins of sex, rebellion and crime. But the official teaching of the Church, the Pope and the Councils, refuse to do so. What will the enemies of the Church say if the Church ever approves anything like that? Then they will rightly accuse the Church of being corrupt. This is the balance that those who are not guided by the Spirit of Jesus cannot understand. The Catholic Church keeps a clear teaching condemning those types of sins and, at the same time, like her founder and savior, keeps encouraging people to repent and be forgiven. After all, Jesus founded His Church for the salvation of sinners. As He Himself said, He has come for the salvation of those that are lost. The Church will keep sinners in her bosom and encourage them to repent and search for forgiveness every day, deeply aware of human weakness. Let us remember that the Church in her divine element is spotless as she was founded by Jesus Christ Himself, True God and True Man.'

Thank you.

close window