In the various Protestant circles I used to run in, I invariably ran into people who had strong and quite negative opinions about the Catholic Church. This is understandable. I don’t begrudge anyone their opinions. Fair enough, yes? I never had any opinion, whether positive or negative. I believe that I was impartial. I had no desire to hate the Church, nor to join her. I simply didn’t know anything about her.

But as I was exposed to these various (and oft-times contradictory) opinions, it slowly began to occur to me that maybe these people were wrong. Out of a desire to be fair (and maybe a little bit of a fly in the ointment), I decided to check out some of these wild claims people were making about Catholics. “They re-sacrifice Jesus at every Mass.” But surely that can’t be so, I reasoned, for it is one of the plainer things of Scripture that Christ was sacrificed “once” for sins, as the book of Hebrews states. And surely they ain’t so dumb as to come right out and say, hell no, Hebrews is wrong. After a modicum of investigation, it turned out they didn’t claim to re-sacrifice Jesus at all. They just presented the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ to the Father at each Mass.

Huh. So the anti-Catholics were wrong on that. What else were they wrong about, I wondered?

Turns out, quite a lot. Another early one was that “baptism erases Original Sin.” After a little more investigation, it turns out that the phrase itself does semi-adequately describe an aspect of the Catholic position on Original Sin. However, it wasn’t as ridiculous as it initially sounded because Catholics understand Original Sin differently than Protestants. So, even though Original Sin is canceled out by baptism, Catholics didn’t thereby mean that they were spotless, or didn’t struggle with sin, or weren’t sinners.

Huh. So the anti-Catholics weren’t specifically wrong, but the two groups used language differently, contributing to misunderstandings. Where else might that be occurring? In not a few places, it turned out.  And mind you, the mindset wasn’t one of coming to agree with what Catholics believed.  It was just a coming to realize that Protestants often misconstrued or misrepresented what Catholics believed.

All of this happened quite early in the process, and produced in me no desire to be Catholic, but a little curiosity about why people seemed to be perpetually in a knot about Catholicism, while knowing so little about it.


~ by Rob on May 15, 2008.

2 Responses to “Anti-Catholicism”

  1. […] Anti-Catholicism […]

  2. “I could not understand why these romancers never took the trouble to find out a few elementary facts about the thing they denounced. The facts might easily have helped the denunciation, where the fictions discredited it. There were any number of real Catholic doctrines I should then have thought disgraceful to the Church . . . But the enemies of the Church never found these real rocks of offence. They never looked for them. They never looked for anything . . . Boundless freedom reigned; it was not treated as if it were a question of fact at all . . . It puzzled me very much, even at that early stage, to imagine why people bringing controversial charges against a powerful and prominent institution should thus neglect to test their own case, and should draw in this random way on their own imagination . . . I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously inaccurate.”
    (GK, Chesterton, The Catholic Church and Conversion, NY: Macmillan, 1926, 36-38)

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