FORTY ANTI-CATHOLIC LIES

A Myth-Busting Apologist Sets the Record Straight

By Gerard Verschuuren

Sophia Institute Press, 2018

342 pages, $10

To order: sophiainstitute.com or (800) 888-9344

 

It’s been said anti-Catholicism remains the last socially acceptable prejudice in America. Once upon a time, it may have been driven by fundamentalist Protestants, but not anymore. If “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the anti-Catholic camp ranges from a few Bible-thumping fundamentalists to the spiritual-but-not-religious (whatever that means) to the new atheists (who aren’t really that novel) to the intolerant “tolerance” of contemporary political radicalism.

Author Gerard Verschuuren’s replies likewise run the gamut.

On the one hand, he answers Bible literalists who object to calling priests “father,” claim the Church juggled the Ten Commandments, and assert no biblical warrant for most of the sacraments or purgatory. On the other, he also speaks to the a-religious or anti-religious who brand the Church as misogynistic, call it opposed to “progress,” and insist it discriminates under the guise of religion.

The author selects 40 common canards, sketches out the usual objection (“lie”), responds to it (“truth”) and summarizes it in a “conclusion.” Many of the myths are connected with Catholic-Protestant polemics, e.g., the role of the Bible, canonicity, the scriptural basis for Catholic practices, Marian devotion, transubstantiation and papal authority. Some are bound up with larger religious issues, e.g., how can people be saved outside of visible Christianity? 

But other attacks come from a secularist mindset that sees all religion as vestigial and retrograde at best, ignorant and evil at worst. That pool includes the usual claims of science versus religion (the Church is against science, doesn’t like the Big Bang, wants to teach fundamentalist creationism, and holds double truths). It also encompasses the areas where the Church gets failing grades from modern political correctness, e.g., its faith in “the” truth (and not just “my” truth) or its refusal to go quietly into the dark night of a naked public square bereft of any religious influence.

Verschuuren writes with verve and conviction. Critics would undoubtedly say that he ignores nuance and complexity. I’ll admit he sometimes comes off as engaging in a bit of pleading: I thought that of his treatment of the Inquisition and the Index of Forbidden Books (list of literature the Church viewed as dangerous to the faith of Catholics. Publication of the list ceased in 1966).

But one has to admit that the Church’s critics also have selective relationships to the details. Verschuuren, a biologist and philosopher, gets the details, but also sees, and insists on, the bigger picture.

What I especially like is Verschuuren’s down-to-earth examples. Discussing purgatory as a transitional state in one’s final readying for heaven, he offers this comparison: “If a prostitute had a profound conversion and decided to enter Mother Angelica’s convent, a one-day transition would definitely be too short a period for such a person to make the transition — actually a massive shock — in spite of all her good intentions. Indeed, for most of us, the transition from a life on earth to a life in heaven would be equally dramatic, so shocking that we would need some extra preparation time, as nothing unclean can enter the presence of God.”

I prefer Verschuuren’s one- or two-liners. On the problem of the canon of the Old Testament, he writes: “Since the Bible did not come with an inspired table of contents, the doctrine of sola Scriptura creates its own inconsistency: We must assume we know with certainty which books belong in the Bible based on the doctrine of ‘Scripture alone.’” On Catholics and “graven images,” he pens: “The Bible wages a constant battle with ‘idols’ — not to be confused with icons.” Or, take his thoughts on the relationship between grace and human free will: “God’s grace is captivating but not irresistible.”

Catholics interested in “making a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account of the hope within you” (1 Peter 3:15) can benefit from this book. The price is a steal.

John M. Grondelski, Ph.D.,

 writes from Falls Church, Virginia.

 All views are exclusively his.