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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

tonerWhat we think is the right road
Everybody knows that:

1. The Catholic Church invented and perpetuates anti-Semitism.

2. The Catholic Church has suppressed scriptures (such as the “Secret Gospel of Thomas”) which authoritatively contradict Church teaching.

3. The Catholic Church persecuted the pagans.

4. The Catholic Church developed the Dark Ages, perpetuating ignorance, superstition and hatred of learning.

5. The Crusades are an example of Catholic “imperialism” and attacks on innocent Muslims.

6. The Inquisition was a monstrous and murderous Catholic court system.

7. As an example of the Church’s enduring hatred of reason and science, we may cite Pope Leo XII who, in 1829, prohibited vaccination for smallpox, contending that the disease was a divine judgment with which we should not interfere.

8. The Church strongly supported slavery – until 1965.

9. The Catholic Church ordinarily supports tyrants and dictators.

10. Protestantism ushered in an age of freedom and economic growth which Catholicism impeded for centuries.

But it’s the wrong road

“Lying consists in saying what is false with the intention of deceiving one’s neighbor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2508). The 10 statements above are false; they may be lies. Here is the difference: If someone knows that one or more of these statements is false, yet deliberately perpetuates that falsehood, he becomes a liar. Certain non-Catholics have spoken these lies, and their corollaries, for centuries.

We Catholics have the duty to inform ourselves and then to speak the truth about the Catholic faith. We have the duty of self-education.

Dr. Rodney Stark, whose book repudiates the listed lies, is not even Catholic. He does not teach at a Catholic institution. He wrote “Bearing False Witness” not to defend the Church, but “in defense of history.”

Lest there be any confusion, let me plainly write again: each of the 10 propositions above is false. They are examples of what we think we know “that ain’t so.” As the Proverb used by this column tells us, “what you think is the right road may lead to death.” Thousands of people lethally buy into the falsehoods and lies cited, and rejected, by Stark.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.” Anti-Catholics’ terribly warped lies about the Church were, are, and will be part of our lives.

There is, though, something even worse. There is a warning in the Gospel: “A man’s worst enemies will be members of his own family” (Mt 10:36; cf. Psalm 55:12-15). Have you heard the 10 statements above from Catholic family, friends, teachers, professors or priests? A few years ago, I sat, stunned, in a Connecticut Catholic church while a deacon, delivering a homily, seemed to draw upon dozens of anti-Catholic slogans while “apologizing” for Catholic errors throughout the centuries (cf. Acts 20:29-30).

In listening to him, I was not sure whether I was more disturbed as a fellow deacon or as a political scientist. As a fellow Catholic, I was incensed that he was traducing the faith. As an academic, I was angered at his ignorant perpetuation of bitterly anti-Catholic rallying cries. He did not know that he did not know.

Not long after that, I listened to another homily, this one by a priest, who explained completely in error, that Catholics – as recently as the 1950s in the United States, he said – were forbidden to read the Bible. After Mass, I caught him and said: “Father, that simply isn’t correct. Catholics in all ages may too rarely read the Bible, but we were not forbidden to read it. The 1950s? I was there! You should research your claims, and then publicly correct your homily.”

So many times, in so many places, we hear or read things that “ain’t so.” Stark’s book helps to correct many historical errors. There are, however, so many more anti-Catholic errors in current bioethics, politics and theology. Many of these errors are camouflaged in false or fraudulent language: “marriage equality” instead of marriage sanctity; “right to choose,” instead of “desire to kill the life in the womb”; “loving any way we decide,” instead of repenting one of the “sins that cry to Heaven” (CCC 1867; Jude 7).

The falsehoods or lies told by anti-Catholics are bad enough. Worse, though, are the anti-Catholic falsehoods or lies told by self-identified Catholics in places and at times we think we will hear, read or watch what is true. Perhaps more than at any other time in history, we Catholics have a profound duty to read, study and learn the faith.

Go to www.holyspiritinteractive.net; then go to Father John McCloskey; then go to “A Catholic Lifetime Reading Program.” That reading program is for all Catholics. We cannot (and will not) serve Our Lord and His Church well and wisely unless we love Our Lord and His Church, and we will not love Our Lord and His Church until we know the Truth. Wise spiritual reading inoculates against deception, whatever its source.

Deacon James H. Toner serves at Our Lady of Grace Church in Greensboro.