As a young Catholic I was unaware of the amount of irrational hatred that was directed toward the Catholic Church and Catholics themselves. Growing up in
In my college years I essentially fell away from the faith. I still called myself a “Catholic” but had no particular belief in any of the dogmas that makes one a Catholic. I just knew that I was of Irish ancestry and thus was “Catholic”. My beliefs were for the most part agnostic. I thought that true believers were absurd (I included both theist and atheist true believers as absurd).
While in college I heard all about how the Catholic Church was responsible for the Dark Ages, the destruction of the Native Peoples of the Americas, the Holocaust, the Inquisition, pimples on teenagers, Milli-Vanilli and just about everything else that negatively effected anyone anywhere at anytime everywhere. I learned how peaceful and wonderful Muslim societies were and how Christians lived very well under Islamic rule. And how the Crusades were an evil move by a corrupt Pope to throw off that wonderful balance and have a huge land grab for greedy Churchman and Nobles. I heard how nothing good happened in the Christian world and no good men were produced in the Christian world until Marin Luther and later "the Enlightenment". I look back now and marvel at how I remained a Catholic even if it was in name only. All my history professors with their fancy PhDs thought Catholicism was a force for evil in the Western World who was I to disagree? Of course I just went along and got good grades and degrees not really challenging the idiocy that I was being taught.
There I was just a young guy going through life not contemplating the great issues of life and certainly not contemplating being a Catholic when I had the misfortune to meet a Rabbi that was a friend of my wife’s family. During our discussion, the rabbi told me about things that Christians “buy into” like the Trinity and the fact that Jesus was God. I was told that I could never understand Jews and their suffering at the hands of Catholics. I was told that I “would never know what it is to be a Jew or how it feels to have your children forced to sing Christmas carols (oh the horror! the horror!)”. I would never know what it is like to look at someone like me and see the Inquisition and the Crusades. Now, anyone who is not a self absorbed bigot would know that talking to a person who is half Irish and Catholic knows a little something of prejudice and persecution. My ancestors could not own land in their own country. They had to pay taxes to a foreign English master and support his foreign Church that was a parasite on their own land. They had real persecution. If they could have gotten off with simply singing
At that point I made a commitment to understand my faith. I would never let someone attack the beliefs of my ancestors as this rabbi did without making a strong defense. My ancestors were willing to be persecuted (the real kind of persecution not the Christmas Carol kind) rather than abandon their faith. The least I could do is understand what they found so important as to endure what they did. Thus starting my journey toward becoming a passionate believer. The irony of a anti-Catholic bigoted rabbi bringing me closer to the truth of Christ is absolutely wonderful.
I started reading books by the usual authors that are sold at Borders and Barnes & Noble like George Weigel. While informative they were, upon reflection, very superficial. However, I happened upon a book called “Catholicism verses Fundamentalism” by Karl Keating. I thought it was simply going to be an analysis of Catholic beliefs versus Fundamentalist beliefs. What I had purchased was a wonderful combination of satire and apologetics. It has become the definitive apologetics book produced in the last 30 years. The title of the book itself mocks Jimmy Swaggarts silly book “Catholicism and Christianity”. Throughout the book I was baptized by fire into the world of anti-Catholicism. I learned about such Fundamentalist writers and “thinkers” as Lorraine Boettner, Alexander Hislop, Jimmy Swaggart, Jack Chick and others. Keating dismantled their arguments so thoroughly that one wonders how these people are not all routinely dismissed even by honest Fundamentalists. Sadly, low rent bigots like Hislop, Boettner and Dave Hunt are still widely read in Fundamentalist circles. Swaggart has fallen out of favor as we all know. Keating opened up a new door to me. I now was ready for the next step and started buying every book by Chesterton and Belloc I could find as they are the greatest apologists for the Catholic faith in the last 100 years.
The Holy Spirit has a funny way of working. I became friends with a wonderful guy who happens to be a Fundamentalist Christian. As we would talk he would mention some of the things that Keating talked about in his book. I was informed that Peter never went to
After a while I began to pick up more and more apologetics material to refute my friends claims. I also decided that I would no longer play defense with him. I would attack his belief in sola scriptura (scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone). When I would press him and ask about where those teachings are found in the Bible he would have no answer. This lead to his anger that I was asking too much to show me where the Bible taught either one of those Protestant Traditions (Traditions of men, not of God I might add). I would also repeat what he would say to me but re-phrase it to see if he really was willing to stand by it. For instance, he once told me that he was passionately anti-Catholic. I responded “Really? So if I were Jewish would it be okay for you to tell me that you are passionately anti-Jew?” He was taken aback and responded “Of course not!” I then responded “I guess some hatred is acceptable while others is not”. His response….silence. And then move on to the next attack. That is generally the tactic of the anti-Catholic. Never acknowledge that they are wrong, just move on to the next attack until they find something that the Catholic cannot answer. Usually it ends with some obscure Pope from the 7th century that no one knows about.
Anti-Catholicism rots the mind. It blinds people and they become obsessed with the destruction of something that they cannot destroy. People have been trying for 2000 years. Churchmen like Roger Mahoney have done their best. But the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. So this leads to desperation. Which then leads to all kinds of ridiculous theories and outright lies about what Catholics believe and do. It does not stop with Fundamentalist Christians though. Before we think “well that’s just those weird bible-thumpers” let’s examine some things that people just “know”.
People "just know" that the Catholic Church did nothing in the
In some cases anti-Catholicism is not only profitable it can allow for common bullies to slander and desecrate the memory of men finer than themselves without repercussions. Take the case of Daniel Goldhagen. He has made a career out of slandering the Catholic Church. Commenting on Mr. Goldhagens slanderous book A Moral Reckoning, Rabbi David Dalin, described Goldhagens work as "failing to meet even the minimum standards of scholarship.” He went on to say “That the book has found its readership out in the fever swamps of anti-Catholicism isn't surprising. But that a mainstream publisher like Knopf would print the thing is an intellectual and publishing scandal." This statement is absolutely correct. Let us be honest though, Goldhagen simply represents the double-standard that exists in our society. He is a left wing Jew who attacks the only group that it is acceptable to attack in modern American society, the evil Catholics. If a right wing Catholic were to make his living by attacking Judaism and slandering a prominent rabbi while blaming Judaism for the Marxist massacres under the NKVD he would be an out of work “conspiracy kook” and a anti-Semite. He would certainly not be published in the
I would like to wrap up with some other observations. All Catholics are told endless stories about Catholics persecuting people. Generally it starts with a Catholic King who orders the persecution of a group and despite the Bishops or Pope condemning it, "the Catholics" are to blame. An example of his would be during the Crusades when Crusaders massacred Jews along the
Much is made about Hitler being a baptized Catholic by ignoramuses like Dave Hunt. Other bigots like Goldhagen argue that Nazism was an extension of Catholic bigotry through the ages. Yet these people do not mention that Karl Marx was a Jew and that the ranks of the NKVD, some of the greatest murderers of all time, were filled with Jews. By using Goldhagens logic should we not attack Judaism and Jews? If we Catholics are and our faith are responsible for a former Catholic who later went so far as to persecute the Church, should not Jews be held responsible for Karl Marx and Genrikh Yagoda and the fact that some of greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish. The answer is of course not. Your Jewish neighbor has likely not heard of the NKVD, Yagoda let alone support what he and they did.
As I wrap up my thoughts on this I should say thank you to all of the people that I mention above. Especially the Rabbi who started my journey. Had he not been a self absorbed bigot, he would not have angered me and I would not have explored my own faith. I would have continued in my ignorance and would not have understood the faith that built Western Civilization and sustained my ancestors. I would not have understood the faith that Christ taught to the Apostles, that was passed on to their successors, our Bishops. I would not truly know the joy of being a Catholic. His ignorant statements brought about my reversion back to the true faith and my wife’s conversion to it. For that, I will literally be eternally indebted to him.