Anglican convert to Roman Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890), is often quoted as saying, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant,” but I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. The longer a person studies history objectively, the more they will be convinced of the untenableness of Roman Catholicism. I’d like to use this post to present just one rebuttal to Newman’s claim, but it’s a very revealing one.
Recently, I was reading a book which mentioned an ancient manuscript; the “Donation of Constantine.” I’ve seen many references to this notorious document in my studies of Roman Catholicism, but I will briefly summarize it here for those who may not be familiar with it.
When Constantine transferred the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD, it created a political vacuum in the West. As the bishops of Rome consolidated their power, they became the de facto emperors in the West, however there was no legal document granting them the administrative and political powers that they had gradually usurped over time. That embarrassing situation would soon be remedied.
An ancient document, the “Donation of Constantine,” mysteriously appeared in the chambers of the Vatican in the 8th century. The Donation was the missing legal document by which Emperor Constantine supposedly ceded to the bishop of Rome, Sylvester I, and his successors political control of Western Christendom. Pope Stephen II and pope Hadrian I both cited the document in their political negotiations with Pepin (King of the Franks) and his son, Charlemagne (the eventual Holy Roman Emperor), respectively. The Vatican would continue to use the document to justify its political authority for the next 800 years.
By the mid-15th century, church scholars began questioning the authenticity of the “Donation,” with many concluding it was a forgery. By the early 1600s, it was universally accepted that the document was an absolute fake.
So we know that the “Donation of Constantine” was created in the 8th century to justify the papacy’s political ambitions and was the basis of its claim to supreme temporal authority in Europe for 800 years. What might an objective person conclude about the “Vicar of Christ” in regards to the creation and use of such a fraudulent document? Rather than supporting its claims as Newman boasts, we see in this example and hundreds of others that history is the enemy of Roman Catholicism.
Catholics like to use the antiquity of their institutional church as a proof of its authenticity and authority. However, Protestants needn’t be intimidated by these claims. As the early church became increasingly institutionalized, it wandered from its Biblical foundation and substituted man-made traditions.
For more information on the bogus, “Donation of Constantine,” see the Wikipedia article below:
For information on additional RCC forgeries, see below: