Catholic ‘Myth’ Buster
New book is perfect resource for Year of Faith
Early Christians were accused of cannibalism because they claimed to eat the Body and Blood of Jesus. Today the accusations against orthodox believers are more subtle but still must be rebutted.
Scholar and evangelizer Christopher Kaczor has drafted a defense of Catholicism in his new book, “The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church.” From any number of scurrilous charges, false accusations and misunderstandings, Kaczor settled on seven, what may be called the whoppers of the day regarding some of the hot-button issues of sex, marriage and the dignity of human life.
Kaczor, 43 years old, is a philosophy professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He holds a doctorate from Notre Dame and specializes in ethics, Aquinas, and the relationship between faith and reason. He and his wife, Jennifer, have seven children, ages 20, 18, 16, 14, 12 10 and 7.
Fathers for Good contacted him about his myth-busting mission.
Fathers for Good: Some people might ask, why just seven?
Kaczor: I picked these seven myths because they are the misunderstandings that I think are most common among secular people, inactive Catholics, and even among some active Catholics. These are the most hot-button topics that many people wonder about but perhaps have never explored. I think that each one of the chapters presents in an understandable way why the Church holds what it does and how the myth and the reality are often miles apart.
FFG: A number of these myths have been around a long time. Is it simply education we need to dispel them, or are there social, cultural, emotional barriers that must be addressed?
Kaczor: You are right that many of these myths have been around for a long time. Many people, even people who are otherwise well-educated, think that they are true. I hope my book can contribute to dispelling these myths. But social, cultural, and particularly emotional barriers from negative experiences also play important roles. As I point out in the book, negative experiences with Catholics, especially those in positions of authority, have been an occasion for people to reject the Church and embrace the myths.
But consider any other group of people. Recall your past interactions with physicians in the doctor’s office or hospital. I’ve had many doctors who were uncaring, inattentive, and lacking in compassion, but it would be absurd for me to reason, “That’s it. I’m not seeking medical attention ever again.” Or consider students getting their education. I certainly had teachers who were unfair, unkind, and impatient. But it would have been ridiculous for me as a sophomore to conclude, “I’ve had enough. I’m dropping out of school.” How many people have had negative interactions with people at the grocery store? But no one thereby declares that they no longer will buy food.
Indeed, if we think about any group with whom we have regular interactions, it would be impossible to go long in the group without conflicts, misunderstandings, and bad experiences with some fellow members. Despite these difficulties, it is good for us to belong, for we are not meant to live in utter isolation. If we still seek medical care despite bad doctors; if we still seek to learn despite bad teachers; if we still shop despite rude clerks; we should still belong to the Church despite the bad members of the Church. After all, if the Church were to admit to its ranks only perfect and sinless members, we ourselves would not be allowed to join. The Church is a hospital for sinners — people just like us and even worse — with faults and foibles, who are called, with the help of God, to better love God and neighbor.
FFG: What can the average family man do to help dispel these myths?
Kaczor: First, we can grow in the understanding of our faith. With a little bit of study of our Catholic faith on a regular basis, a good book here, an online article there, perhaps a subscription to a good Catholic magazine, we can deepen our understanding so that when people have questions we are ready to answer them. Oftentimes, the answer may not be on the tip of our tongue. In such cases, we can say, “Great question. I'm going to look into this and discover the answer.” When we find the answer, it is a real act of service to share what we have learned.
Secondly, we can grow in the practice of our faith. To be Catholic is not merely to know certain truths, but is to be in an ongoing relationship with God. Just as we can deepen a human friendship, so too we can deepen a friendship with God through making time, even if only five minutes, each day to be with God, to listen for his call, and to pray. It is absolutely essential for us to make time each Sunday to worship God at Mass, but our relationship to God can also extend into the regular week. If possible, we could say the Rosary once a week or attend a daily Mass once a week or spend 10 minutes a day reading Scripture slowly.
Third, we can exhibit Christian kindness, patience, and compassion to everyone that we encounter in our lives. In terms of helping others overcome their misunderstanding and ignorance, it is essential to treat people in our daily interactions with dignity and respect. When we do this, other people will be more open to talking to us about important things and will be more likely to receive what we share with them. They’ll know some of these myths are myths because they know us.
FFG: Talk about the Year of Faith and New Evangelization, and what opportunities there are in modern world to spread the faith.
Kaczor: The Year of Faith is a chance to make the New Evangelization more vigorous and effective. There are many opportunities to spread the faith through modern methods of communication, like social media. By far the most important ways to spread the faith are centuries old. People are most influenced by those who are immediately around them, rather than by distant celebrities and politicians. So, we should begin to spread the faith by our interactions with whomever it is that God has placed in our own lives — our kids, spouses, co-workers, friends, and acquaintances. Often, a kind invitation can help someone, like saying, “Have you ever thought of becoming Catholic?” or “I’m going to Confession right now, would you like to come with me?” or “Why don’t you join our family for Mass on Sunday, and then we can have lunch afterwards?”
“The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church” is published by Ignatius Press.