Church Fact vs. Fiction

Book review of Christopher Kaczor’s new book, The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church.


The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church

Distinguishing Fact From Fiction About Catholicism

By Christopher Kaczor

Ignatius Press, 2012

164 pages, $17.95

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"There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church."

This observation from Archbishop Fulton Sheen fittingly appears at the beginning of Christopher Kaczor’s new book, The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church. While there are certainly more than seven, Kaczor answers some of the most common myths, in the hope that readers come closer to God and his Church. Among the misconceptions candidly dealt with: the Church’s supposed opposition to science and women’s rights.

The most overarching myth presented is that the Church opposes freedom and happiness. If you’re against freedom and happiness, anything else you have to offer is tainted and meaningless. Yet those who believe the Church is a great purveyor of oppression and misery hold to a false conception of freedom and happiness that leads, quite ironically, to less freedom and less happiness. The more earnestly we attempt to draw contentment from things, the more aggravating the disappointment becomes.

What’s the solution? Kaczor convincingly shows that it is simply a right ordering of priorities, the most important of which is eternal life.

Contentment is found in loving God first and then loving our neighbor for the sake of God. "Happiness ultimately consists in rightly ordered love — love primarily for God and love for our neighbor," he writes. Love of neighbor is demonstrated by the Church in many ways — a number of which are explored. The Church’s long and unparallel history of supporting education and research and its unique respect for the dignity of women are used to counter myths such as the Church’s opposition to science (Chapter 1) and women’s rights (Chapter 4).

One minor criticism can be made in the treatment of same-sex "marriage" when the term is introduced in Chapter 6 without any qualifications, whether quotation marks or "so-called" preceding it. This makes it seem as if there were such a thing as same-sex "marriage" and that the Church happens to be against it (although the book presents good reason for the Church’s opposition).

In reality, it’s not simply that the Church will not redefine marriage, but that the Church cannot redefine it — because marriage is instituted by God as a lifelong, self-giving bond between a man and a woman. Despite the implications of the unqualified use of the term same-sex "marriage," the rest of the chapter contains solid reasoning on why same-sex "marriage" is not a good idea.

In Seven Big Myths, bad ideas are refuted with clarity and charity, which makes Kaczor’s goal of bringing people closer to God and his Church more likely to occur. Those who believe any of the myths before reading the book will be hard-pressed to believe them after reading it, and for those who already believe the truths of the Church, the book’s arguments become a helpful tool for evangelization.

Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.