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)


J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

The sale of sacred things, particularly ecclesiastical offices, so called from the legend (Acts viii) of Simon Magus offering apostles money to endow him with their powers. In Catholic theology it is as grave a sin as sexual misconduct; yet Catholic writers, in their discussion of their "few bad Popes," blandly ignore the fact that for more than a thousand years, under "good" Popes and bad, it was one of the chief sources of Papal revenue and an officially organized system. It began by bribery to get the position of Pope in the fifth century. In 530 Boniface II proposed, as it had become common, to prevent it by having a Pope nominate his successor, but the angry priests and people, who profited by it in electing the Pope, forced him publicly to withdraw his decree. At his death the Senate passed a severe censure on bribery, and the King (in Ravenna) issued a decree (in Mansi's Collection of Councils, 532) in which he describes the sordid prevalence of simony in the Roman Church, candidates selling the altar-vessels and seizing the funds to help the poor for the purpose of bribery. It was worse than ever ten years later. See Milman's History of Latin Christianity for this period. Simony of this type continued until the sixteenth century, and assumed monstrous proportions when the Roman See became rich, hundreds of thousands of pounds in gifts and lucrative offices changing hands at a single election as the Orsini, Borgia, Colonna, Rovere, etc., fought for the tiara. See Petrucelli della Gattina's Histoire des conclaves (4 vols., 1864-6), or even Pastor's Catholic History of the Popes Engl. trans., 14 vols., 1891-1924). Long before this the sale of offices had spread throughout the Church. Gregory I (590-604) bitterly complains in his letters that it is rife everywhere. The poverty to which Europe had sunk at this time is made the excuse for the failure to restore schools, hospitals, etc., but the abbeys and bishoprics were rich, the Papacy itself having an income of about £400,000 a year. The sale continued to be habitual, and the Avignon Popes of the fourteenth century organized it, to their own profit, on a scandalous scale; yet John XXIII , whose crimes and vices run to several pages in the records of the Council of Constance, further extended it. In these centuries (the "Ages of Faith") the Papacy would not merely sell the "expectation" of a rich benefice (and keep scouts all over Europe reporting on the chances of death of the actual holders), but sold the same benefice several times over, as one cleric overbid another. The sale of indulgences also was now organized, and the system reached its height under Leo X . The pretence that the Council of Trent and the Counter-Reformation put an end to it is, however, totally false. Even the "reform Popes" did little to check it, and it flourished amazingly in the seventeenth century, especially under Innocent X (1644-55), who permitted his sister Olimpia (for financial favours received) to turn her palace into a sort of bourse at which queues of ecclesiastics waited with their money-bags for their turn to buy lucrative offices. See the extraordinary documents in the second volume of L. von Ranke's Popes of Rome (2 vols., 1846-7) for the pontificate of Innocent and of Clement IX (1667-9).


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