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Reviewed by Parishioners
Book Report by Cecile Sandwen
"How the Catholic Church Built Civilization"
By Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
This book, available in the St. Irene Library, counters the popular view of the Catholic Church as an enemy to science, education, and progress. The author traces the birth of the university system in the Catholic cathedral schools of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Cambridge, and notes the academic freedoms protected by the papacy. He documents church support for scientific research and Jesuit contributions to scientific progress. Other chapters concern Catholic Church contributions in the areas of art, law, and morality. The effect of Catholic charity on a world that had never before valued self-sacrifice is also a theme.
One of the most interesting chapters counters the idea that the medieval era was bereft of progress. The Benedictine monks of that time were innovators in agriculture, metallurgy, and other industries. Through the establishment of 37,000 monasteries they revitalized the economies of many towns by bringing these skills, along with cattle raising, beer brewing, wine making, and beekeeping. The monasteries provided some of the first charitable institutions, with their open door policy of bread for all visitors.
An interesting book, with plenty of useful support for why we are Catholics.