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)

Gregory I ("the Great," ruled 590-604), Pope.

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

Gregory is one of the "good Popes" who, though less in number, are offered as an offset to the "bad Popes," and it is material to understand that, like his saintly colleagues, he did not use his power and virtue to promote civilization. He was a Benedictine monk of ascetic life and infinite credulity (see his Magna Moralia and Dialogues), yet a shrewd business man. He expected the speedy end of the world, which was not conducive to efforts to reform the appalling social order - the entire civilized world was then at the lowest level it had touched since the beginning of history - and the large landholders whom he persuaded of this left their estates and slaves (then almost the only form of wealth) to the Papacy. It became the richest owner of land (from 1,400 to 1,800 square miles) and slaves in Europe, and is estimated to have reached an income of about £400,000 a year (or five times that sum in modern values). He maintained in full the institution of slavery, which St. Augustine had found just, and the few cases in which Catholic writers quote him rejoicing over the manumission of slaves (not his own) are cases of men who had inherited money and promised to leave it to the Church. His use of the wealth was severely impersonal, if sometimes questionable in ethic, but in many ways he hindered the restoration of civilization. He paid fulsome compliments to the most vicious and brutal rulers of the time - Queen Brunichildis of Gaul (Epp., I, 74) and the Emperor Phocas (XIII, 31, 38, and 39) - when they promised to help the Church, and shockingly rejoiced in their murders of good men who opposed the Papacy. He reaffirmed the law of religious compulsion and the law that no slave could be allowed to enter the clergy; and he heavily rebuked a Gallic bishop for attempting to restore education (VI, 54). Against this the chief Catholic historian of the Papacy at this date, Mgr. Mann, quotes some praise of learning by Gregory in his supposed Commentary on the First Book of Kings.
      Even the Benedictine editors of his works had pointed out that this is spurious. The charge that Gregory burned the last surviving books and destroyed the statues of pagan Rome is often described as quite baseless. It is, in fact, given by the learned bishop, John of Salisbury, as a clerical tradition of Rome itself, and seems likely enough. A summary study of Gregory's character and work, based upon his extraordinarily numerous letters, will be found in McCabe's Crises in the History of the Papacy (1916, ch. IV).
     

 

Back to Joseph McCabe extracts

Home Page

Scanning, HTML Rae West. First upload 98-02-08