A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On the Nature of Anti-Catholicism

Anti-Catholicism is a word used quite often in Catholic apologetic circles. I'd like to argue (briefly) that it is actually misused quite often. Some defensive Catholics like to say that opponent is "anti-Catholic" simply because he/she disagrees with Catholic doctrine or is opposed to Catholic practice. Others restrict the term "anti-Catholic" to those who disagree with Catholicism and make a point of undermining Catholicism through "sheep stealing," apologetics oriented against Catholic doctrine, critiquing the Catholic Church, etc.

I'd like to remind fellow Catholics that it is not "anti-Catholic" to disagree with Catholic teaching. People have a right to their own beliefs, after all. Nor is it anti-Catholic to try to convert Catholics or to disprove Catholicism: it is only natural for people who believe strongly to want to spread their beliefs. It may be tactless or uncharitable to proselytize in the wrong setting or in the wrong manner. It may be unecumenical to assert one's opinion in a way which unnecessarily hinders Christian unity. But these things are not (or not necessarily) anti-Catholic.

It is, however, anti-Catholic to deliberately spread false information about Catholicism. This may mean that people who spread rumors about Catholicism without adequately researching them are guilty of anti-Catholicism by default. Thus, I believe that Jack Chick is genuinely anti-Catholic, his protests to the contrary. He prints falsehoods and slanders, and he has no excuse for his ignorance. There are plenty of other "ministries" guilty of passing on misinformation of this sort, usually in less stupid forms. When one encounters them, I think the best response is not to immediately say "hey! you're anti-Catholic! you're so evil!" but to offer fraternal correction. Only if an organization demonstrates that it is not willing to listen to such correction and to rectify any errors in its materials should it be labeled anti-Catholic.

It is also anti-Catholic to mock Catholicism or Catholic beliefs out of a spirit of malice or arrogance. Sometimes people who do these things have mixed motives: that's part of life. A specific individual may believe that he is poking fun at Catholicism only for the "educational" purpose of proving its supposed fallacies, while in reality part of his motivation is a desire to humiliate or pain. In other words, people may make anti-Catholic statements "in good faith" to the extent that they aren't aware of their sinful motives. It's still the responsibility of other Christians to question those motives if there appears to be malice involved. The same thing applies to Catholic bloggers, writers, cartoons, or speakers, of course: we too should examine ourselves to make sure that when we say unflattering things about fellow Christians, we say nothing more than what the situation calls for, and we are speaking out of charity, not the desire to hurt, mock, or humiliate.

At this point, you may be wondering: where is Teresa going with this? Is she going to label someone anti-Catholic? No, I'm not. At least, not someone alive today. I wanted to bring up the issue of "doctrinal anti-Catholicism" in order to say that I think this form of anti-Catholicism, though it may be the most damaging, is also the easiest to combat. Yes, there are many Catholics whose faith has been troubled by misinformation given to them by well-meaning Protestant Christians. But there are also many people out there offering correctives to such misinformation. For example, one can hand the victim of sheep stealing attempts a copy of Alan Schreck's excellent book, Catholic and Christian. Heck, one can go better and hand such books out to the sheep stealers themselves. And there are plenty of other such resources available. (For the record: "sheep stealing," as I use it, does not refer to all attempts to encourage someone to leave one religious body and join another. It refers, rather, to unfair practices, such as making use of another persons ignorance of his or her own church.)

There are, however, fewer resources available to help people to respond to popular anti-Catholicism, which may crop up in the most unexpected places. In my next post, I'll give an example of this problem, and explain why I think it should be of concern to all Christians.


Blogger Steven P. Barrett said...


Excellent posting. A couple of observations though.
As for giving that professional bigot Chick any link, naaah. He doesn't deserve any more publicity than "Rev" Fred Phelps deserves to picket any fallen combat vet's funeral.

As for sheep stealing, our Protestant friends, especially those trolling the pens for some lonely "seeker" lambs - we know they have this tactic mastered as no one else could.

God Bless you and let's keep the wolf in a chick's feathers out reach from the original, and still the only real, Megachurch.

2:26 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home