Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)

Democracy and the Churches.

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

The suppression of ugly pages of history, which is now so common in our historical literature, although it clearly falsifies our valuation of religious institutions, does not merely relate to early Christian times and the Middle Ages. There is just as scandalous a suppression or perversion of the truth, and for the same purpose of protecting ecclesiastical claims, in the record of modern times, especially the period from about 1790 to 1860. During that period the struggle for what are now regarded as elementary rights of man-freedom of discussion, liberty of conscience, and self-government at least on a limited franchise - was crushed with a barbarity worthy of the Middle Ages. Apart from armed revolts and civil wars, at least 400,000 unarmed men, women, and children were put to death in massacres, on the scaffold, or died in jails or exile in revolting conditions. Of these victims all but a few score perished in Catholic countries (Spain, Portugal, France, Naples, the Papal States, North Italy, and Austria), where the Church co-operated intimately and enthusiastically with the feudal monarchies. There was much brutality in England and Prussia, but there were, apart from armed encounters, few deaths; and in the Catholic countries revolt against the Church was put on the same level as resentment of political feudalism as a ground for the savage reaction. Yet these facts are now so generally suppressed in popular historical literature - indeed, in much that professes to be academic - that we find even liberals sometimes declaiming that the Protestant Churches are as inimical to progress as the Roman, and often entertaining with respect the assurances of recent Popes and Catholic apologists that the Church blesses the fundamental principles of the modern State, condemns coercion and exploitation, and never interferes in politics. It was in view of these historical facts that the Catholic historian Lord Acton pronounced the Papal authorities worse than the worst murderers known in history, the Assassins, and, although he did not live to edit the third part of the great work which he drafted, the Cambridge History, the most authoritative work of history in the English (if not any other) language, it tells the facts with the candour which he desired (Cambridge Modern History, Vol. V). It deepens the irony of the present situation that, while accommodating lesser historians and literary men sustain the audacious claim that religion restrains and condemns violence while its enemies employ it, precisely the opposite, and on a revolting scale, is shown in this standard work of reference. The chapters on Portugal, Spain, the Kingdom of Naples, and the Papal States are deadly, and are based upon the highest contemporary authorities in each field. In the case of Naples, where the savagery lasted from 1793 to 1860 and sank to such depths as cooking and eating the bodies of Liberals under the windows of the royal palace, we have the contemporary account of General Colletta (History of the Kingdom of Naples, Engl. trans., 2 vols., 1858), a royalist and Catholic, who tells us that in thirty years, Church and State killed 100,000 unarmed victims, under the most horrible conditions, and Prof. B. Croce has closely examined Colletta's history and found it reliable (Scritti, 1912, II, p. 188). The Neapolitan continuer of Colletta's history estimates that there were a further 150,000 victims between 1825 and 1855. These are deaths, leaving out hundreds of thousands who suffered short of death. In Portugal, where we have the facts in the Historia de la Libertad (1869) of J. G. de Barros e Cunha, the Cambridge History again describes the clerical-royalist savagery. Portuguese authorities estimate that in five years, out of a total population of 2,000,000, about 17,000 were executed (often barbarously), 17,000 sent to the deadly penal-colonies, and 30,000 packed in horrible jails and dungeons.
      For Spain the Cambridge History is even more candid about the brutality. Between 1814 and 1860 at least 150,000 Spaniards, chiefly of the middle and upper classes and including large numbers of women, girls, and boys, suffered atrociously, and fully a third of them were executed or died in jails. The Church took a most active part in the massacre, while the rebels (who peacefully demanded a constitutional government and the suppression of certain grave abuses in the Church) did not retaliate when they gained power. Some idea of the evil of the suppression of these facts in education and literature to-day can be gathered from the quite general belief, encouraged by nine-tenths of our Press and periodical literature during the recent Civil War in Spain, that the people were very apt to turn to atrocities, and the clerical-royalists were not. The historical truth is that there have been nine revolutions in Spain since 1812. In three of these the clerical-royalists recovered power, and committed the above atrocities; in six the people won, and apart from local mob outrages, with a few casualties, there were no reprisals. The Cambridge History is equally candid about the brutality of the Pope's officials in the Papal States (Central Italy), where the Government was so foul and oppressive that in 1831 the four leading European Powers sent a rebuke to the Pope and required him to civilize his rule. The Austrian Empire then included North Italy and Hungary, and in these provinces the brutality was almost as bad as in Spain.
      It is important to understand that in all these cases the Liberals, as they were called, demanded only rights which are now considered elementary; that the Church, particularly in the Syllabus , solemnly denounced their demands; and that the monarchs of Portugal, Spain, and Naples whom it supported were of depraved character and tricked their people by revolting perjury. On a moderate estimate, allowing for exaggeration in the figures quoted above, at least 400,000-this figure is the result of a very careful analysis by the writer-unarmed men, women, and children were horribly done to death, in more than 99 per cent. of the cases with the full approval of the Roman authorities, and the extinction of so large a proportion of their finest stocks led to the modern degeneration of the Latin countries. France was never so Catholic as these, and it recovered more quickly; but after the death of Robespierre, and again after the fall of Napoleon, there was a White Terror as brutal as the Red Terror, though scarcely any historian now mentions it; and there was a very large amount of cruel persecution under the Catholic kings of the nineteenth century. The tragedy almost turned to comedy when, at the close of the nineteenth century, the Popes, concluding that the age of absolutism was over, began to pose before an admiring world as the unique and disinterested guardians of social justice, and when, seeing in our own time the rise of a new type of absolutist rulers, they entered into, or sought to enter into, alliance with them everywhere (see McCabe's Papacy in Politics To-day, cheap ed., 1940). No work on this profoundly important chapter of modern history is available. (The present writer has had one in manuscript since 1936 and could find no publisher.) But the chapter on each country, with the relevant literature, in the Cambridge Modern History (Vol. V) is generally satisfactory; and see the articles French Revolution; Naples; Papal States; Spain; White Terror.
      Democracy In the Middle Ages. It is commonly urged in defence of the feudal and Papal tyranny of the Middle Ages that the people were deeply attached to their institutions and yielded a willing docility. On the contrary, a democratic movement against both forms of tyranny began in Rome itself before the "Dark Age" was over (says the Cambridge Mediaeval History), and this had, like the Rationalist school - movement initiated by Abelard, and the vast heretical movement which manifested itself in the Albigensians, Cathari, Lollards, Hussites, etc., to be destroyed by Papal violence. In the eleventh century, when a middle or burgher class had not yet developed, it was the "nobles" - vicious and generally illiterate body - who tried to wrest the government of Rome from the Popes. But while this squalid struggle proceeded in the degenerate city of the Popes, a genuine democratic movement arose in the cities of Northern Italy, especially Milan, which was then the richest city in Europe. The power of the anti-Papal Lombard kings had been broken by the Popes, but their superior culture lingered and "had never entirely failed among Italian laymen even when it had sunk to the lowest point among the clergy" (Camb. Med. Hist., V, 361). The democratic party in Milan, which was so largely made up of the people that it was known as "the Patarenes" (rag-dealers), was captured by Pope Gregory VII and his agents and turned into a mob for attacking married priests; but the genuine democratic demand continued, and spread to the other cities of North Italy - movement favoured by the remoteness of the lawful ruler, the German Emperor. The monk Arnold of Brescia led a similar movement in Rome, and, although he was hanged and his body burnt to oblige the Pope, and the Republic of Rome was suppressed, the Popes had to sustain the struggle - being often driven from the city - for more than a century. The most deadly enemy of the democrats was the strongest and most religious of the Popes, Innocent III; but the movement lasted until the fall of Rienzi in 1354. It had threatened the rule of the Popes for over two centuries; and in the north it had led to the development of the prosperous Republics which, unfortunately, fell under the control of corrupt nobles or rich families. (For the long struggle in Rome see F. Gregorovius, History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ages, Engl. trans., 8 vols., 1905, chiefly Vol. V.)


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