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Pope Leo I, Attila the Hun, Genseric
October 8, 2023
by William P. Meyers

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Miracles and the Fall of Rome

When I was a child I started living through what is now history (or, less glamorously, the past). At the same time I started learning history. Mainly I learned at school and church, but I also learned some things by watching television. Later I would read books that were not assigned in school. Since I went to Catholic schools until ninth grade, I mainly learned the Catholic version of history. Like most groups' versions, Catholic history was carefully edited to make the Church look good. And to make its enemies (anyone who was not Catholic) look bad.

Right now I am reading Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I am reminded of how history can be twisted to meet the needs of its purveyors. When the Roman Empire went into decline it split into an eastern portion led from Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and a western portion governed from Ravenna, but with Rome itself remaining its greatest city. By 400 A.D. the Romans, both east and west, had long sparred both with each other, and with various tribes descending from the north. Many of these tribes settled within the old empire and sometimes allied with one Roman emperor or would-be usurper or another. The Huns played this game better than most, and then made a bid for supreme power under their leader Attila. He had allied with various factions over time and built up a large coalition. Unable to conquer Gaul (modern France), he invaded Italy in 452. At that time Valentinian III was the western Emperor and Leo I was the Catholic Pope.

As I learned it in Catholic School, a miracle occurred and saved Rome. Pope Leo went out from the City to have a talk with Attila. Impressed by the holiness of Leo, and perhaps a miracle or two, Attila relented. According to Gibbon "The apparition of the two apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, who menaced the barbarian with instant death" helped persuade the Hun. In fact the king of the Huns hoped to gain possession of the empire by marriage to Princess Honoria. The Romans paid him her substantial dowry, though they did not deliver the actual bride.

We, Catholic School children, were not told that just a few years later, in 455, Leo was not able to produce the Apostles or a miracle. Perhaps that was because whereas Attila had never accepted Christianity, the king of the Vandals was a Christian, though he had a different view of the nature of the Trinity than the Roman Catholics. The Vandals had started in the far north but eventually conquered north Africa. Their military was smaller but more sophisticated than Atilla's. Their navy landed their army near Rome and their king, Genseric (or Gaiseric) promised Leo not to burn down the church known as Saint Peter's. The Vandal army took everything valuable they found, but left the church alone. And that was, essentially, the end of the Western Roman empire.

The reason Pope Leo I tried to save the western Roman Empire was simple. There was no theological reason for the bishop of Rome to be King of the Christians. The story of the Apostle Peter moving to Rome is certainly make-believe, since it does not appear in the New Testament, which was written down in the form we know it long after the deaths of the (alleged) original 12 Apostles. The Roman Catholics that would seem so supreme in say, 1700, were in danger of losing power over other Christian sects in the fifth century. By the time the Islamic jihad ran out of steam, they would be confined to part of Italy, France, and southwestern Germany. The theology of the Catholics was always nonsense, which was proven by Genseric's conquest.

Sadly, the evil that inspired the Roman Catholic Church lives on today. Yesterday in Kansas a judge had to cancel the permits taken out by the Catholic Church for an event that would have shut down a Wichita abortion clinic. If Catholics do not want to have abortions or birth control, that is bad enough, given the world's overpopulation and rapidly dying ecosystem. But the Church still wants to order around non-Catholics, and in Catholic-majority nations it often does. But if it was good enough for Adolf Hitler, I guess it is good enough of a religion for Pope Francis and his idiotic followers.

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