Ban the impact of Catholicism?

1Secularists have always taken delight in suppressing as many visible traces of religious expression as possible. Proof is the recent order by the European Court of Human Rights to ban crucifixes from the walls of Italy’s classrooms. According to the court, the practice of hanging crucifixes on classrooms walls violates the right of parents to educate their children as they see fit. In addition, the practice contravenes children’s right to freedom of religion.

But traces of the Catholic Church’s presence in our culture are so deeply embedded that if every Catholic aspect were to be removed from Western civilization (1) doing so would take 500 years or more, and (2) there would be nothing left! There are myriad ways in which the Catholic faith has made its way into the daily lives of everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. I will leave out the obvious, like art and architecture, holidays and festivities, food and drink, manners and dining etiquette, etc., and just mention a few of the countless lesser ways in which  Catholicism – unbeknownst to just about everyone today – has influenced so many familiar things.

2For example, why do we refer to levels of a building as ‘stories’? In Romanesque and Gothic archi-tecture (both of which developed in a Catholic milieu) it was not uncommon for allegorical reliefs and sculptures to adorn the facades of churches or municipal buildings. Each of them told a story. Since by extension several strata of allegorical represen-tations told several stories, it became custom to indicate the height of a building by how many stories it had.

Also, it’s just amazing how deeply the Catholic influence has penetrated into the various nooks and crannies of Western legal practice. Law students, for example, often ‘clerk’ for a judge in the years following their graduation from law school. Law clerks and court clerks populate the legal system. It turns out, to many a secularists’ dismay, that the use of ‘clerk’ to designate such functions can be traced back centuries, to a time when practically everyone associated with the law had taken at least minor orders. Such clerics, being educated and literate, were especially suited to such work. The minor clergy eventually grew so closely associated with administrative and other bureaucratic duties that it became common to call these ‘clerical’ tasks and the people who carried them out ‘clerks’.

3How about the origins of sign language? It was the French priest and abbot Charles-Michel d’Epeè who made a most profound contribution in developing the natural sign language of the deaf into a systematic and conven-tional language to be used as a medium of instruction.

Various forms of games and recreation are also directly related to Catholicism. The Schutzenfeste – the shooting festivals that constitute one of Switzerland’s most popular sports – what were they originally? They were training exercises for marksmen whose job it was to protect the Blessed Sacrament in Corpus Christi processions against attack by violent Protestants. Chess, too, has its Catholic origin. It was embraced and enjoyed by a great many clergy and laity, including even St. Teresa of Avila, who possessed extensive knowledge of the game. The piñata is likewise of Catholic origin. What we currently associate as meaningless birthday-party fun from Mexico began as good old-fashioned Italian sin-bashing during the holy season of Lent. The seven-coned piñata was said to represent the Seven Deadly Sins, all of which appear attractive and beguiling. 4Since sin is difficult to overcome, the piñata danced on a rope in order to elude being hit, and since sin is difficult to recognize for what it is, the piñata hitter would be blind-folded. Evil, however, can be defeated by good, and so the hitter had several aids at his disposal. The first was Virtue, symbolized by his stick or bat. The hitter also had the three theological virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Faith helped him trust the directions shouted out by the crowd, Hope kept him persevering and directed his actions heavenward, while Charity materialized once he broke the piñata and the treats, representing divine gifts and blessings, cascaded out.

The word ‘dumbbell’ comes from a special contraption used to train people to ring the large and difficult bells that adorned churches. Using the real bells for training purposes was impractical since they would have disturbed everyone in the area. Silent ‘dumbbells’ were therefore employed instead. 6The healthy physique that came from practicing on these dumbbells proved so popular that even men who were not bell-ringers began to use them. Eventually the term was applied to exercise weights.

On and on: from ‘knock on wood’ to ‘something blue’ for the bride-to-be, from ‘tying the knot’ to our musical notation, traces of the Catholic faith, and of God himself, are evident everywhere in our world – even in places where Catholics themselves may never have thought to look. We should expect nothing less, of course, from a religion founded upon the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, for that extraordinary event was the ultimate meeting of the divine and the earthly.


27 Responses to “Ban the impact of Catholicism?”

  1. 1 Raman Chakravorthy November 16, 2009 at 21:23

    Another post full of interesting info — didn’t know any of what you write!!!
    Knew about the EU ruling on the crucifix!!! AWFUL!!!
    Poor old Europe!!!

    Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini introduced legislation in Italy in 1924 ordering all classrooms to display crucifixes.


  2. 2 Cinzia November 16, 2009 at 22:32

    Hi Raman

    Fascist dictator Mussolini actually did a lot of good for Italy (no, I am not a fascist and never will be) but a fact is a fact. These things are almost all forgotten because of his big egocentrical mistake in allying himself with Hitler. How many politicians today still do that? Join forces with the biggest powers for their own personal gains?

    Anyhow, back to the post … great information Gabriella. We should write to the idiots of these European courts and tell them these things. Should Italy demolish all of its thousands of beautiful churches all over Italy – and burn all the works of art because they might “disturb” the minds of some poor ignorant fool from Finland or her children?

    Of all the stupid and unfounded rules and regulations of today’s world, this ridiculous political and religious correctness is by far the most idiotic, bordering on criminal.

    Why, I have to ask, by the same token, is it okay for a huge Muslim mosque to be built right in the heart of Rome – the very centre of Catholicism and Christianity? Did any Catholic go to Mecca and demand that a massive Cathedral be built right alongside their sacred meeting place and mosques?

    Gabriella, as we have similar rubbish going on here, I hope you don’t mind me quoting from your post as I respond to these people who are these days shouting that they don’t want to see cribs anywhere and hear Christmas Carols that have the word “Jesus” in them etc. so as not to offend anybody’s poor, sensitive, stupid, pagan feelings.


  3. 3 Karin November 16, 2009 at 23:58

    Great post! I didn’t know any of this. I like the one about the stories and the bells the best. Thanks for another informative and fun post.
    God Bless!

  4. 4 Kieran November 17, 2009 at 00:45

    Sorry to hear about your grandpa, Karin. Will say a prayer for him. Couldn’t leave a message on your blog as you have stopped the comments – just wanted to say what a beautiful blog you have.

    Cinzia, how right you are!
    Political and religious correctness nowadays is ridiculous.
    People don’t want cribs or Xmas carols with the name of ‘Jesus’ in them and yet we’re celebrating His birth!

    Great post Gabriella, informative as always 🙂

  5. 5 Katherine Jane November 17, 2009 at 01:10

    I just got this video from Booklady’s blog
    Please please promote this film

    Sorry for the OT, Gabriella, but I just had to spread the news

    What a horrendous crime against humanity!

  6. 6 Mary Nicewarner November 17, 2009 at 02:21

    I had heard about the ruling on the crucifixes, this must have saddened the hearts of many Italians, especially because it is the seat of Catholicism. America isn’t even allowed to have the ten commandments on the walls of the public schools and Obama is calling the Christmas tree, a holiday tree. So much for freedom, America is losing it’s freedom, anti-Catholicism is rampant here.

    Thanks for your post, I always learn something new here and thank you for your comment, I will pray for your country, too:)

  7. 7 anne bender November 17, 2009 at 02:52

    My heart is breaking over this ridiculous ruling in Italy! Why is it that the secularist world just won’t leave Christianity alone? Are they so fearful of God that they have to try to push Him out of everything? All the more reason for us to ban together and pray. If crucifixes aren’t allowed in classrooms, then let’s put them everywhere else we can. Let’s leave a trail of crucifixes everywhere we go to remind the world of the great love that our Savior has for each and every one of us.

    Thank you for this wonderful post Gabriella.

  8. 8 michael November 17, 2009 at 04:42

    What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

    It really breaks my heart to think of Italy with no crucifixes in the classrooms though …

  9. 9 churchmouse November 17, 2009 at 08:26

    Excellent post, Gabriella! Most informative and answers several questions I’ve had throughout the years on etymology.

  10. 10 Asmarina November 17, 2009 at 09:58

    Wonder what the Vatican is going to do about the ban of crucifixes from classrooms walls……….will be interesting to see if they voice an opinion !!!

  11. 11 African Observer November 17, 2009 at 13:08

    The most effective way to annihilate a tribe, a nation, or system of faith is not through weapons, bombings or systematic murder (gas chambers) but through a focused attack on its ROOTS, customs and traditions, which includes, like in this case, the removal of all its symbols and heritage.
    Churches are next to go, presumably because they too are in the ‘public eye’ and occupy ‘public spaces’.

    The ruling by the European court is none other than a new and continuing trial and judgement of Jesus himself, started by the Sanhedrin over two thousand years ago.

    Given the nature of the attack against the Catholic Faith and Italy’s Catholic Heritage the most vocal opposers (so far) of the ruling are ironically, Vittorio Sgarbi (a well known art critic and non-believer) and Daniela Santanche’- a right wing politician. The most muted response (surprise! surprise!) has come from the politically-correct members of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

    • 12 Asmarina November 18, 2009 at 07:29

      What an insight African Observer and how true. What are our Catholic Bishops doing about it ? Always silent about so many issues not to offend or provoke people !!!!!!! Even here in South Africa, on major issues, we dont hear their voice! so sad and cowardly!

  12. 13 Benedek November 17, 2009 at 14:33

    You are right, African Observer, the whole situation here in Europe is very sad, to say the least.

    Shame on our Bishops! But at least the Greek Orthodox Bishops have risen in arms 🙂
    The Catholic ones should take the example:

    Oh dear, Christmas is just round the corner and the whole of Europe is going to be filled with public demonstrations against the nativity scenes, against Christmas music, against everything — but ‘pro’ gay marriage and abortion (particularly so in Italy) 😦

    Please stop the world, I want to get off!

  13. 14 Andrea November 17, 2009 at 16:10

    I agree with the Italian Minister of Defense!

  14. 15 Evelina November 17, 2009 at 17:17

    BRAVO La Russa! 🙂

    Almeno come Ministro della difesa in tempo di pace .. difende qualcosa! 🙂

  15. 16 Wendell November 17, 2009 at 18:15

    You’re right on! In the last couple of decades, Europe as a whole has increasingly become more secular and in many ways has been turning away from the Christian roots which helped to define its culture and freedoms in the first place. Lately even atheism has been on the rise and has become a favorite debating pastime.
    While Europeans are having less children and backing away from Christianity, immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East have been flooding into the void bringing Islam and an alternate Muslim culture with them. The current demographics suggest that at some point in the future the traditional cultures and languages of Europe could actually disappear and be replaced.
    It is ironic that the European Christian roots that produced the freedoms and religious toleration that Europeans currently enjoy could at some time be supplanted by an intolerant Muslim sharia ruled future if the present demographics hold.
    It would be ironic because freedom and toleration make it all possible but the end results would be quite the opposite.

  16. 17 Griff November 17, 2009 at 21:18

    Never lose hope, folks. This is God we’re talking out here, who always turns every evil into a greater good. The secularists will be long dead in centuries to come; but the Church, and crucifixes, will still be around. 🙂

  17. 18 Brian November 17, 2009 at 22:53

    Gabriella –

    This information is so interesting – I wish everyone knew how much the Catholic Church has done for society – and for all of us individually.

    I thank God for giving me parents who, although not church-goers, were wise enough to send me to Catholic school – where EVERY room had a big crucifix on the wall.

    Now I have crucufixes throughout my home. It doesn’t take long for a visitor to know what I am all about.

    God bless!

  18. 19 Cinzia November 18, 2009 at 05:12

    Benedek, I want to get off the world too …. can I come with you?

    Things are very similar over here at the antipodes … with atheists and pagans making songs and dances to remove anything from everywhere that is even remotely Christian or Catholic.

    Christmas – the commemoration of the birth of Christ our Saviour – in Australia is now called the “silly holiday season” because most people go silly (I would say stupid and depraved) and drink themselves to oblivion, followed by punch-ups, rapes and so on when they come round and haven’t killed themselves or someone else on the roads in the meantime. That is what Christmas has become 😦

    African Observer, you are right: Our Lord continues to be trialed and crucified every single day … thankfully there is us and many others who still love Him and believe in Him no matter what.

    And thankfully there is also the Italian Minister of Defence La Russa who is doing a great job – good on him !!!!

    Griff, you are right as well in saying the secularists will be long dead. Yes, they will be long, long, long, long dead.

  19. 20 Cinzia November 18, 2009 at 06:06

    Well folks! I have just written to the European Court for Human Rights (found them on the web). Told them in no uncertain terms what I thought of them and their ruling to ban crucifixes in Italian classrooms.
    It was quite a harsh comment (mine) but what the heck!! 🙂

    I’ve done my bit … if they want to arrest me, they will have to come and find me all the way here in the land down under … 🙂

    Anyone who wants to do the same, please feel free …. 🙂 (I mean write to them, not come and arrest me!) 🙂

    I feel better now !!
    I love you sweet Jesus, my Lord and Saviour.

  20. 21 Asmarina November 18, 2009 at 07:39


    O glorious cross of the risen Lord
    O tree of my salvation!
    On it i feed, in it is my delight
    in its roots I grow,
    in its branches I expand

    Tree of eternal life
    pillar of the universe
    framework of the earth
    your head touches Heaven
    and in your open arms
    shines forth the love of God

    (Easter Homily by Ippolito Romano)

  21. 22 Davide November 18, 2009 at 14:55

    Very informative post! My favourite Catholic contribution has to be the piñata, whose usage is very common here in Arizona. As a scientist, I have always been fascinated by the contributions of the Catholic Church to Science. And, unfortunately, this is something that is often ignored and not taught in schools. Sadly, even Catholic schools! And to think that it was the Catholic Church who built the first universities (something we should remind our pagan friends who like to bash the true Church!)

    The first Catholic scientist that comes to mind is Louis Pasteur, but what is even more extraordinary is the number of priests that have distinguished themselves in the sciences. It turns out, for instance, that the first person to measure the rate of acceleration of a freely falling body was Fr. Giambattista Riccioli. The man who has been called the father of Egyptology was Fr. Athanasius Kircher (also called “master of a hundred arts” for the breadth of his knowledge). Fr. Roger Boscovich, who has been described as “the greatest genius that Yugoslavia ever produced,” has often been called the father of modern atomic theory. In the sciences it was the Jesuits in particular who distinguished themselves; some 35 craters on the moon, in fact, are named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians.

    Seismology, the study of earthquakes, has been so dominated by Jesuits that it has become known as “the Jesuit science.” It was a Jesuit, Fr. J.B. Macelwane, who wrote Introduction to Theoretical Seismology, the first seismology textbook in America, in 1936. To this day, the American Geophysical Union, which Fr. Macelwane once headed, gives an annual medal named after this brilliant priest to a promising young geophysicist.

    The Galileo case is often cited as evidence of Catholic hostility towards science. To help these idiot scientists think, I give them one little-known fact: that Catholic cathedrals in Bologna, Florence, Paris, and Rome were constructed to function as solar observatories. No more precise instruments for observing the sun’s apparent motion could be found anywhere else in the world. When Johannes Kepler posited that planetary orbits were elliptical rather than circular, Catholic astronomer Giovanni Cassini verified Kepler’s position through observations he made in the Basilica of San Petronio in the heart of the Papal States. Cassini, incidentally, was a student of Fr. Riccioli and Fr. Francesco Grimaldi, the great astronomer who also discovered the diffraction of light, and even gave the phenomenon its name. So here you go intelligent modern scientists, and let’s be grateful towards the 2000-year-old Catholic Church. Because where there is age there is wisdom, and where there is wisdom there is knowledge!

  22. 24 African Observer November 19, 2009 at 12:48

    Excellent contibution from Davide – he must be a good Catholic scientist himself!

  23. 25 Arturo C. November 19, 2009 at 14:00

    Se vogliamo evitare il severo giudizio dell’Altissimo, muniamoci noi stessi orgogliosamente del crocifisso, non vergogniamoci di portarlo al collo, di tenerlo esposto nei nostri uffici, nelle nostre case, di regalarlo ad amici e conoscenti, come più volte ci ha esortato a fare Papa Benedetto XVI con il suo Magistero chiaro ed esemplare, un dono di Dio per l’umanità di oggi. E se un giorno verranno nelle nostre case, nei nostri uffici a staccare i crocifissi anche da lì, sappiano sin d’ora, atei, massoni e integralisti di altri credi, che la Fede in Cristo, quella no, non potranno mai toglierla dai nostri cuori, perché non sono semplici chiodi a tenerla fissa, come accade con i crocifissi attaccati alla parete, ma i quattro chiodi con cui Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo si offrì vittima innocente per il riscatto dei nostri peccati. Cristo vive, Cristo regna, Cristo impera: con o senza le sentenze di Strasburgo.

  24. 26 Daily Grace November 19, 2009 at 21:33


    Bravo! You always have so much to offer! I did not know any of these things you talked about. You are a great teacher.

    However, the banning of the crucifixes is tragic. I pray that we become signs of the love of our crucified Savior to those who do not know Him and those who do not love Him as they should.


  25. 27 david pierini November 20, 2009 at 17:20

    Io credo che noi cristiani non dobbiamo difendere il crocifisso solo perché l’europa ha radici cristiane…
    Gesù non vuole stare in vetrina solo perché appartiene al passato.
    Oggi vede quanto lontani siano gli interessi del mondo dai suoi interessi…quanto lontane siano le sue vie dalle vie dei cristiani del nostro secolo che amano dire…”Signore Signore”…mentre sprofondano nel benessere.
    Oggi Gesù ci direbbe…”guai a voi ipocriti che ingoiate il cammello e filtrate il moscerino”.

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