Catholic History? Why Not Catholic Mathematics?
The General Editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, Christopher Zehnder, is often asked this question. Its gist is simply this — like mathematics, history is about facts that we can verify, apart from religion. Why then talk about “Catholic” history?
While true, that history, like mathematics, can be verified apart from religion, the Catholic Church has been involved in history in a way she can never be involved in mathematics. With or without the Church, mathematics would be the same. Without the Church, history would not be the same.
We can call a history “Catholic” when it proceeds from an insight, given by the Faith but verified by historical science — that history has been transformed by Christ and his Church. To deny this, or to diminish it, is to distort history. And many secular textbooks do just that — they distort history by misrepresenting the Church’s role in history.
Yes and no. If by “bias” you mean “point of view,” then Catholic history is history told from a Catholic “bias.” But this is not a weakness. It is a strength.
Secular history has a secular, often anti-supernatural, bent. It will, for instance, deny the historicity of miracles, not necessarily because historical instances of miracles lack documentary evidence, but because it assumes miracles cannot happen. Secular history views history from a single dimension — materialism.
A Catholic historian sees history in all its fullness. He does not reject a supernatural dimension to life. He is free to entertain the possibility of miraculous events in history. He is not so narrow as to reject them out of hand. Catholic history is truly “catholic” — it is universal, embracing the fullness of reality and all its possibilities.
It is this full-bodied, catholic history our Catholic Textbook Project textbooks tell.