Sunday, July 22, 2007

Anti-Catholicism, Hypocrisy and Double Standards.

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 Los Angeles I was not subject to the Fundamentalist “tracts” being placed on my family car while we were at Mass as I would have been had I lived in the “Bible Belt”. My exposure to people of other faiths was frequent and always positive. The majority of my friends growing were Jewish as were the girls whom I had the honor of dating. My babysitter growing up was Mormon, as was my Paternal Grandfather. My Paternal Grandmother is a Methodist and my Father was an atheist for most of his life. My Maternal Grandfather was a Presbyterian from a family that produced many deacons. However, my Maternal Grandmother was an Irish Catholic and thus my Mother was a Catholic and therefore we were raised Catholic. None of this was seen as a conflict. None of the above people in my family ever acted as though anything was “wrong” with my siblings and I being raised Catholic.

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 Church of Ireland songs rather than pay taxes to and be persecuted by the British, I'm sure they would have gladly accepted. But why look past ones on victim-hood in order to see truth, when victim-hood is so much more of a commodity in our modern society.

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 Rome and that the Church was founded by Constantine the Great, and that Easter is really “Ishtar” and other scholarly insights that occupy the minds of Fundamentalist writers. I was told all about Catholicism and how it is really just paganism re-written. To his and most Fundamentalists credit, they literally do not know they are repeating lies. These books are sold at Protestant Book Stores and Churches. Also, he informed me of these things out of love as he believed my soul was in peril. So he could not process the refutations that I would make to him and just go on to the next attack. Most Catholics know about this tactic that Fundamentalists use. They will tell us what we believe and how stupid we are for believing it. 99% of the time they are wrong. The problem is that they have been told by Dave Hunt (his bio is from "rapture ready") or James White that the Calumnies that they are stating are Gospel truth.

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 Americas but persecute the indigenous people and massacre them. We "just know" that Priests never stood up to the Spaniards. Of course this is untrue. It is true that there were Catholic Priests who conducted themselves terribly during colonial times. However, it was Catholic Priests who sought to make life better for the indigenous people. Jesuits armed Indians against the Spanish in Paraguay, Francisco de Vittoria pleaded with the Spanish King in defense of the Indians. Most people in the Americas have never heard of Bartoleme de las Casas. Las Casas, a Spanish Dominican Priest has been called the Father of anti-imperialism and anti-racism. There is also Antonio Montesino who was the first person, in 1511, to denounce publicly in America the enslavement and oppression of the Indians as sinful and disgraceful to the Spanish nation. There of course were villains in the Spanish system but so were there in the American and English systems that were dominated by Protestants. We don’t hear about the brutality of Protestant lands in the US. We hear about those backward Spanish Catholics (who built the first Universities in the Americas) but not about the theocratic police state established in Geneva by John Calvin or the massacres carried out by Anabaptists in Munster.

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 New Republic. Goldhagen has made the absurd statement that Christianity is anti-Semitic at its core. Imagine if one were to say that Judaism is anti-Gentile to its core. They would be isolated as an anti-Semite. The message is clear. A Jewish bigot like Goldhagen gets published by Knopf and the New Republic while his mirror image would be isolated and vilified.

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 Rhine. That was “the Catholics” despite the local Bishops hiding and protecting Jews. When a Protestant barbarian like Oliver Cromwell slaughters Catholics at Drogheda and sells the women and children into sex slavery or sacks Wexford that’s not “the Protestants”. That’s just Cromwell.

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.

3 comments:

kepha said...

Great blog. I could never be an apologist, but I enjoy apologetics in forums. Over the years I've learned that anticatholicism is a Golden Calf, including Catholics on the extreme ends of a spectrum. It's very tempting to develope an attitude that is counterproductive when wading in the sewage of misinformation. You need hip boots. It's easy to win debates but that doesn't win souls. Thats why I try to model after effective apologists who can plant seeds. It's important to see through their eyes, but difficult when you have to pick from 30,000 pairs. Be orthodox or fundamentalist, ecumenism is impossible without the Catholic Church.

Dave Duringer said...

Great blog. Didn't know Jesuits helped arm Paraguayan Indians--good for them! For info on the "Catholic Roots of the American Revolution" and other religious aspects of the right to life (and defense of it) check out the "Ready.God" category of my blog at www.worldexaminer.com (username: wex, password: dial1911)

One Truth, Many Paths said...

Great! I loved it! I'll be adding you if you don't mind.