The BBC and other textbook providers are repeating baseless “anti-Catholic myths”, an academic has said.
David Paton, who holds the chair of Industrial Economics at Nottingham University Business School, made the claim in an article for the Catholic Herald website.
Prof Paton said that a “young acquaintance” had told him that “the Catholic Church held up medical progress in the Middle Ages because they banned the dissection of bodies”. This is false, and has been debunked by historians including Harvard professor Katharine Park. Prof Park has said that “there was no religious prohibition against dissection”, and that the idea the Church banned dissection “was a 19th-century myth, like that before Christopher Columbus everyone thought the world was flat. People are absolutely wedded to a view that says: ‘We are modern, and they were stupid.’”
Nevertheless, Prof Paton wrote, the myth is repeated in current GCSE textbooks – the BBC Bitesize website just “reflects the consensus”.
The popular revision site says that the Church “discouraged progress by … forbidding dissection of human corpses”, and further claimed that “The Church played a big part in medical stagnation in the Middle Ages.” This was partly by encouraging “superstition”.
There was no mention, Prof Paton said, of “the contribution of monks to preserving Greek and Roman learning during the dark ages, the Catholic insistence on the use of reason in academic study, the Church’s sponsorship of universities, the developments in surgery in the 13th century under the patronage of Pope Innocent IV, or the contributions of Grosseteste, Bacon, Magnus and countless other Catholic scientists”.
How to continue reading…
This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week
The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection