Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pagan Origins of the Catholic Church?

Q - Thank you for your wonderful bog. Would you be able to help me out with a question? Someone I know insists the Christian/Catholic faith started with pagan practices. They recently wrote to me:
"the Catholic religion practiced anywhere, paganisn is very much infiltrated within the religion. Eveything about Caltholism is pagan in organ. Also some Christian practices are also. Christmas and Easter...."

I realize pagan beliefs and practices do go on in Haiti as well as some other traditionally Catholic areas of the world, but I don't know how the bishops put up with this or what they can do to stop it. It seems to be really embedded in these places and I also would add many Christians/Catholics are into experiences with New Age, crystals, et al. which, of course, is superstition.

Thanks for your help!

A -
Thanks for the questions.  The first thing you ought to do, if you haven't already, is ask where the person is coming from.  What kind of belief system do they hold to?  What sources of information did they use to come to the conclusion that all of Catholicism is pagan in origin?  Was it good history?  Why do they trust it?

These kind of vapid accusations get thrown around, but without any bite to them.  Let us examine just a little bit of it.

First of all they condemn all Catholicism because there are some who take the name of Catholic and then pervert or twist it to mean mostly anything.  But, this is a false premise.  We should never throw the baby out with the bathwater.  For instance, if I said that all people in Houston are crooks because I got robbed there, then I am dealing in a false argument.

Next they sometimes find a similar practice to Catholicism and then make the conjecture that the pagan practice must be the origin of the Catholic practice.  But, again, this isn't always the case.  If I can find that ancient Romans worshiped statues, it doesn't mean that Catholics do now or that our practice of having statues in our churches makes us pagan idol worshipers.

Ultimately the persons making such claims are usually dealing in bad arguments and even worse history (if we even call it history).  One Protestant pastor who wrote a very popular book with just these kind of accusations recanted them in 2005, took the book out of print and apologized for his errors.  You can read an article he wrote for Catholic Answers here.  Note that he never became Catholic or gave up his ministry, in fact his ministry suffered from taking the book out of print, but he did it anyway.

For some more details on the origins of such accusations, read this article.

As for what the Bishops could do about it, I am sure they do all they can to put a stop to it.  I know New Orleans has some history of voodoo and I know Archbishop Aymond would never want it practiced by any Catholics in his archdiocese, but he can't force someone to stop (and he would never want to force them to - though he might ask them to).  Pray for our bishops and those that twist the faith with pagan practices.

On the other side of the equation, there are some inaccuracies that even some Catholics buy into.  For instance, it is a common mistake to think that Christmas finds it's origin in a Pagan holiday.  This isn't true.  In fact, the Church fixed the date as Dec 25th to battle against paganism, which celebrated a pagan festival this time of year.  So, rather than being pagan, Christmas is anti-pagan!  Scripture even speaks of other instances of "baptizing" certain practices to bring them to a Godly practices.  For instance, the feast of Tabernacles that was celebrated by the Jews (which Jesus celebrates as a Jew) was set on the Jewish calendar to oppose a pagan feast day.

I hope this helps.


James H said...

" I know New Orleans has some history of voodoo and I know Archbishop Aymond would never want it practiced by any Catholics in his archdiocese, but he can't force someone to stop (and he would never want to force them to - though he might ask them to)."

Just for the record I think there are not many Catholic that really practive Voodoo. ALso as to the general population I have huge doubts there is really any serious practive of it. There are a few odd bird but this is not 1840 down here :)

Rose said...

I was told that the Christmas celebration was placed there to help newly baptized former Pagans feel more comfortable with their new faith.

Does this have some truth or is it false?

rox said...

well the romans were pagans , many gentiles were pagns culture & religion are two very different things .
The whole of issue relics came from the roman pagan influence of keeps the bones of thier ancestors and the church in fact had to change the practice of relic collecting etc. because there once was the belief a church was not officially a church unless it held a relic within it . This led to the practice of churches looting other churches , even grave robbing etc. . once policy was changed that a church being a church was not based on containing relics of holy people the issue of looting for that purpose stopped .
people are narrow minded some even beleive all native american tribes were or are pagan . Hindus in fact do not beleive they are pagan .
that catholic culture brought and learned pagan practices with them of course they did . both good and bad . The abusive torture of burning witches was a learned technique from thier roman ancestors who used to torture Christians by literally bbq them alive .
The first catholics Christians in fact were never European or Roman thier culture would have had middle eastern ,jewish , greek , pagan influences . Women in the first Christian churches were indeed even bishops. It was in fact a pagan roman practice that women stayed at home .
One truely needs to know the difference between the two topics of religion & culture and also the sometimes intertwining of the both .
Our church is also and never has actually officially been the roman catholic church it is actually officially just the catholic church . I personnaly do not like the influence roman pagan culture had on rome . I much prefer celtic / aboriginal culture . the church we chose to attend the catholic aboriginal church because it culturally suits us better then a more european culturaly influenced parish .
Thier are Christians / catholics all over the world . Jesus by sending his missionaries out ( I am a missionary ) did not tell us to make people become european . He asked us to share Him . He was not european nor north american etc. He is God . He did not ask me to impose my culture on anyone merely share what He gave me which is Him . I am not to tell people in the amazon to wear clothing like me or build a KFC or a golden church for that matter . to bring the eucharist to others does not mean I need bring the golden temple of europe along .
I love catholic culture and it is different and unique all over this world .