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Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church

Linus7

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Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, A 2,000-Year History, by H.W. Crocker III (Roseville,CA: Prima Publishing, 2001).

Triumph is an ambitious attempt to survey the history of the Roman Catholic Church from its beginnings in the early Church to the present. I found the book to be extremely partisan and shallow in its approach to history. It is apparent throughout that, although the book has an extensive bibliography, its author relied largely on Roman Catholic sources. That's okay when one is speaking solely about Roman Catholics and their Church, but unreliable when treating of the beliefs and cultures of others.

The author is Harry Crocker, a former Anglican and a frequent guest on EWTN.

He is particularly hard on the Orthodox Church, but it is apparent that Mr. Crocker knows little about her. His anti-Eastern bias is apparent early on in remarks like this one: "But especially in the East, where sophistry was rife, a faith refashioned by human intelligence was a continual threat to the faith of the Apostles" (p.32). It is also reflected in his reference to the Arians as "the Eastern bishops" (pp. 66, 77) and his statement that "Though the Eastern and Western Churches were still officially one, it was apparent that schism was virtually inevitable, the West accepting Catholic orthodoxy, the East drifting into Arian heresy" (p.66).

While it is true that the chief battleground in the Arian heresy was the East, it was also there that the battle was won for the Orthodox faith, not in the West, which was a comparative backwater. Crocker conveniently fails to mention that, implying that the East was responsible for all of the heresies that ever plagued the Church. This is illustrated, for example, in his remark on the acquittal of Pelagius:
"Two councils of Eastern bishops had exonerated him, in the tradition of Greek openness to heretical ideas" (p. 86).

The book has many such remarks. Read it yourself if you doubt me.

Crocker forgets that Pelagius was a British monk, i.e., Western, and that the West was responsible for a number of heresies of its own (Novationism, Donatism, Sabellianism, to name a few). Of course, it's difficult to read such remarks without wondering if Crocker has forgotten the mother lode of all heresies, the Protestant Reformation, and its point of origin.

One of the many things that is really irritating about Crocker's book is its treatment of the Sack of Byzantium by the Crusaders in 1204. He justifies it: "Thus, with the flick of a sword blade, the Eastern schism was over" (p. 147); and exults in it: ". . . those of us who wish the Sack of Byzantium to be a feast day of the Church" (p. 422).

There are a lot of things wrong with Crocker's very partisan account, but I don't wish to spend too much time going into detail. I would say "read it for yourself and find out," but I wouldn't want you to waste your money. Check it out at the public library if you can find it there.

 

Anastasios

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THANK YOU for posting this. Bobby and I were in the bookstore the other week and saw that book and were scandalized by his treatment of ALSO-A-CATHOLIC-Saint Photios!

anastasios
 

Asteriktos

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Crocker conveniently fails to mention that, implying that the East was responsible for all of the heresies that ever plagued the Church.
This seems to be a more and more common assertion among the new amateur Catholic theologians (most of which began their apologetical duties on the internet, where "cut and paste theology" is unfortunately all to common). One wonders if they've ever actually read any Christian history books--for if they had they would have had to have read about errors that cropped up in the west, and even in Rome herself.

The odd thing is, Catholicism seems to be splitting more and more into two camps (on this issue): those who hold to the custom/tradition of their church and attack the Greeks, making derogatory comments and shunning the East; and those who try to play theological footsies with the East and pretend like there are no differences. Of course, it's admitted that you sometimes get exceptions, such as 1) someone who mixes these, being harsh and critical of the Orthodox but then claiming that the Orthodox are the ones who are harsh and therefore do not show love and cannot be the truth Church; or 2) someone who pretends like they respect the Orthodox and love them but then attack them unjustly and misrepresent them. *head spins*

This is not to say that all Catholics have fallen into this. I've met a number of very intelligent Catholics who seemed to get the perfect balance between defending the faith strongly and being respectful and loving. And of course we Orthodox (me included) are not free from criticism.

Um, why am I writing all of this? Thank you for the post, Linus :)
 

Elisha

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Why was this even brought up? Is being (obviously erroneously, given your review) heavily promoted by RC's or other groups?
 

Asteriktos

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Is what being heavily promoted?
 

Anastasios

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Yes the book is being heavily promoted and I believe any attack on Orthodoxy in print should be cleared up by a polite but firm response. I even contemplated doing it myself and hosting in on this site but I really don't have time right now with my other projects.

anastasios
 

Linus7

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Actually, I bought the book because I like history and thought I would enjoy it.

I saw Crocker on EWTN and thought he sounded good, so I was predisposed to like it.

I was sadly disappointed.
 

Linus7

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Here's a gem from the book that I submit for your scrutiny:

"The sacking of Byzantium is often regarded as a scandal, but viewed objectively, it is hard to see why this should be so. One rarely hears about the "scandal" of the English Civil War, or the American War for Independence, or the American War Between the States, though in each of these cases the combatants shared not only Christian belief of varying sorts, but the same language, the same culture, and, before the fighting, the same political allegiance. In the Crusaders' attack on Byzantium, nearly none of this held true. The Byzantines were notorious schismatics in religion. They no longer spoke the universal Latin tongue of the West" (p.148).

There's more, but I think I'll stop there.

They no longer spoke the universal Latin tongue of the West!

Huh? ???

Since when did the people of Constantinople speak Latin?

Did Crocker say something about "viewed objectively"?

On another note, perhaps someone can tell me how an historian can treat the Spanish Civil War and not mention Francisco Franco.

???

 

Anastasios

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Latin was the language of the Roman Empire even in the East and all laws were promulgated in that language. But still, theological GREEK was the language of the Church!

sheesh!
 

Linus7

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anastasios said:
Latin was the language of the Roman Empire even in the East and all laws were promulgated in that language. But still, theological GREEK was the language of the Church!

sheesh!
Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. I was aware of that, but Crocker makes it sound as if Latin had been the common tongue in Constantinople at some time in the past (prior to 1204).

Besides that, I believe much that was done in Constantinople, even before the fall of the western half of the Roman Empire, was done in Greek and translated into Latin.
 

Tony

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How does Crocker deal with the fall of Constantinople in 1453? Thanks!

In Christ,
Tony

 

Linus7

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He seems to blame it on the Byzantines for failing to sufficiently defend the city.

Here's a quote:

"A harder man, a pope like the future Julius II, would have steeled himself with memories of Frederick Barbarossa; of the Frenchmen who had briefly, gloriously, tried to make the Byzantines French (for their own good); and every other Crusader who had looked with contempt on the Greeks. The Turk had finally crushed enfeebled Byzantium. The Catholic West would prove hardier stock" (p. 213).

Of course, the Western Roman Empire fell in the fifth century (476, officially). The Greeks held out for almost another thousand years, but Crocker seems to forget that.

He also fails to mention the providential distance between the Turks and the "hardier stock" of the West, and that helped a bit.
 

Mor Ephrem

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I have a working theory about this book. I have no evidence for it at all, so take it for what you will. I am of the opinion that this book and its particular spin on history is not interested so much in actual history as it is in morale boosting.

It is no secret that "orthodox" Roman Catholics have endured much in the days since the Second Vatican Council, from bad Masses to bizarre theology being taught, morals being "updated" to reflect current situations, etc. None of these are actually a part of Roman Catholicism or a part of the proper implementation of Vatican II, but they were done in many places anyway, and still go on, often with the support of the local hierarchy.

This book serves to boost morale for those "orthodox" Roman Catholics enduring so much. It gives them courage, it lifts their spirits, reminding them of days when they were great, and about how they will come back because "the true Church" will "Triumph". It is nothing more than a propaganda piece, in my opinion. There may have been some scholarship involved, but many, if not most, of the claims about the East are so out there that they can easily be disproven, which doesn't give me much confidence in the rest of the book.

Like I said, I have no proof for any of this. It is just my opinion (indeed, it is something of a gut feeling), based on my experiences with Roman Catholicism and Roman Catholics, particularly those I've conversed with online (as with the online Orthodox, the ones in the parishes are nicer and more balanced in my experience...maybe it just has to do with parishes being "in real life"). So far, no one has mentioned that this guy thinks the Sack of Constantinople should be a Roman Catholic liturgical feast day. I think I've read about him making that claim in this book. That one remark is enough to get me wondering about the actual purpose of this book, and enough to make me think that I might be right in my assessment.
 

surferuke

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That author sounds like real a-hole.

This is why we need a Orthodox Response similar to William Bennett and his responses for the Catholic Church. think of all the people who have read that book and are ignorant of us in the East. What will they think of us now?

Authors like this man hinder any chance of Eccumenism and Unity of Churches.

And for EWTN to promote it......

surferuke
 

Linus7

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Mor -

I think your theory is right on the money.

BTW, the book is well written, as far as style and entertainment value go. I actually enjoyed large segments of it. Crocker's approach - flinging objectivity to the four winds - can be amusing. And he is a very likeable guy; if you've seen him on EWTN you'll know what I mean.

 

Linus7

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surferuke said:
That author sounds like real a-hole.

This is why we need a Orthodox Response similar to William Bennett and his responses for the Catholic Church. think of all the people who have read that book and are ignorant of us in the East. What will they think of us now?

Authors like this man hinder any chance of Eccumenism and Unity of Churches.

And for EWTN to promote it......

surferuke
The anti-Eastern bias surprised me, especially given Pope John Paul II's stated goal of reuniting East and West and EWTN's own, in general, kindly and fraternal approach.

One of my favorite programs on EWTN, Web of Faith, features two priests, Fr. Trijillio and Fr. Levis, answering questions received via email. Those two kindly and loveable priests have fielded a number of questions about the Orthodox Church and have always answered them intelligently and fairly, but without compromising their loyalty to their own Church. I respect that.

I wish Crocker had tried a similar approach.
 
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