Knowing Enough History to Defend It: Catholic History and Apologetics


Catholics should be prepared with at least a brief reply to commonly cited events and issues in the Church’s two millennia past. In the words of Blessed John Henry Newman, we need to be Catholics “who know so much of history that (we) can defend it.” We might not be able to change someone’s mind when she asks us about why the Church was so mean to Galileo, but at least we can demonstrate that we know our history. If she’s not willing to listen to a dissertation-length explanation, a few points might help her understand better. The fact that we know may impress her, open the door to more friendly conversation, and grant an opportunity to witness the reason for our joy in being Catholic. This article offers some guidelines and hints for answering these historical questions.

One advantage any Catholic starts with when discussing our history is the position of the Catholic Church as a historic, unique institution. Our Founder entered human history at a definite place and time, established his Church upon St. Peter and the Apostles, and promised to protect and guide it until the end of time, when he returns. With the Father, he sent the Holy Spirit to inspire it; yet he left imperfect humans to lead it as his representatives on earth. St. Peter had denied him thrice before his death on the cross; all but St. John had abandoned him during his Passion. Upon them, he founded the Church and gave them authority.

So the Church is distinctive among institutions in the history of mankind: it is human and yet divine; perfect, yet in need of reform; holy, yet made up of sinners; infallible, yet led by fallen, fallible humans. That’s a hard concept to express to someone outside the Church—sometimes it’s hard for us inside the Church to remember it.

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Photo selected especially for Cathy and Paul

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  1. “Knowing Enough History to Defend It”

    Making that task all the more difficult: the fact that so much of the legacy of the Church’s history was jettisoned c. 1965 AD, er, CE.

  2. Doug,
    Thanks, an excellent pic of the Obelisk. 🙂
    Wasn’t John.His beloved, present at the Cross? The Most Important Place!
    IMO, Catholic’s do a fine job, with Apologetics to Evangelicals. They Dominate the Book World and Universities. The BIG Brouhaha is Bill O’Reillys “Killing Jesus!” His claim, it is Historical, not Theological!….from Roman Documents!

    • Saint John was certainly present at the foot of the cross – and he might have been permitted there – along with the women – because he looked so young. Today’s “spin it my way” culture doesn’t want to hear the truth, so they like to dispute the authenticity and early dating of the Gospels. Unfortunately, so do the editors of the often heretical, New American (allegedly Catholic) Bible! But It should be absolutely clear to any educated, rational person that Jesus Christ is a real, historical person – even if his crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Pilate and the Romans, at the behest of the Jews is a fact of relatively ancient history – which is also memorialized in both the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed. In light of all the evidence, Jesus’ earthly existence cannot be legitimately disputed. But whether Jesus Christ is God remains a matter of faith – until he comes again!


      • Doug,
        You are so right! How could any Human, write the Words, that are presented in the Bible….without Divine Inspiration?
        Just Mind Boggling! Even the Revised, Edited version.Never are we to get away, from Christ is God, manifested in human form!
        The early prophecies came TRUE….what are the odds, Christ was born of a virgin, was crucified and died, and was resurrected? He Is The Messiah…..and that Is It! I will not read, anything that does not give him the GLORY!
        He would NOT Approve!

  3. Doug,
    Read the Comments under the Know Your History article……very condemning by Bloggers!

    • Phony Catholic Jews and other heretics were evidently very perfidious back then. Now, they’re all sweethearts! No need to burn anybody anymore. Thank God that obsession is over – as will very soon – by papal edict – the obsessions over abortion and homosexual marriage.


  4. Alas there is no substitute for proper Scholarship . . . I think my point is made!

    • Indeed, proper scholarship is key. I heartily recommend that you pursue some.

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