12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer (Part 2)
by Deal Hudson
Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at an unavoidable price: When citizens are free to say what they want, they’ll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things.
And that’s the case with the 12 claims we’re about to cover. Some of them are made over and over, others are rare (though worth addressing).
Either way, while the proponents of these errors are free to promote them, we as Catholics have a duty to respond. Hopefully, this special CRISIS Magazine e-Report will help you do just that.
Please feel free to forward this to your friends and family. These errors are widespread, and it’s our responsibility to correct them.
So, at long last, I present to you 12 claims EVERY Catholic should be able to answer.
12 MYTHS EVERY CATHOLIC SHOULD BE ABLE TO ANSWER – Part 2
7. “Dissent is actually a positive thing, since we should all keep our minds open to new ideas.”
You might hear this argument a lot today, especially in the wake of the abuse scandal in the Church. Everyone wants to find a solution to the problem, and in doing so some people are advocating ideas that are outside the pale of our Catholic faith (i.e., women priests, being open to homosexuality, etc). A lot of people blame the Church for being too rigid in its beliefs and not wanting to try anything new.
The truth is, a lot of the ideas for reform that are floating around today aren’t new. They’ve been around for a while, and the Church has already considered them. In fact, the Church has spent its entire life carefully examining ideas and determining which ones are in line with God’s law and which aren’t. It has discarded heresy after heresy while carefully building up the tenets of the Faith. It should come as no surprise that there are thousands of other Christian churches in existence today – all of them had “new ideas” at one point that the Church had decided were outside the deposit of faith.
The Church has an important responsibility in protecting the integrity of our Faith. It never rejects ideas out of hand, as some dissenters would claim, but has two thousand years of prayer and study behind the beliefs it holds to be true.
This doesn’t mean that we can never disagree on anything. There’s always room to discuss how best to deepen our understanding of the truth – for example, how we can improve our seminaries or clergy/lay interactions – all within the guidelines of our Faith.
8. “Properly interpreted, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. Rather, it weighs against promiscuity – whether homosexual or heterosexual. Therefore, we have no reason to oppose loving homosexual relationships. “
As homosexual activity gains greater acceptance in our culture, there’ll be more pressure among Christians to explain away the Bible’s clear prohibition against it. It’s now the standard liberal party line to claim that the Bible – when understood correctly – doesn’t disallow homosexual activity.
But this claim flies in the face of clear passages in both the Old and New Testaments. The first, of course, is the famous story of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you recall, two angels were sent by God to Sodom to visit Lot:
“But before [the angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’ Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ But they said, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door.. (Genesis 19:4-10)
The message of this passage is pretty clear. The men of Sodom were homosexuals who wanted to have relations with the men inside the house. Lot offered them his daughters, but they weren’t interested. Shortly thereafter, Sodom was destroyed by God in payment for the sins of its people – namely, their homosexual acts. This fact is confirmed in the New Testament:
“Just as Sodom and Gomor’rah and the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.. (Jude 7)
But these certainly aren’t the only passages in the Bible that condemn gay activity.. The Old Testament contains another unambiguous condemnation: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. ” (Leviticus 18:22).
And these statements aren’t reserved to the Old Testament alone.
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.. (Romans 1:26-27)
It’s awfully hard for a liberal Christian to explain this away. There’s simply no mention here merely of gay promiscuity or rape; rather, Paul is weighing against ANY homosexual relations (which he describes as “unnatural,” “shameless” and “dishonorable” ).
Liberal Christians are in a bind. How, after all, does one harmonize homosexuality with the Bible? Their solution, it appears, is to strip the Bible of its moral power, and run in rhetorical circles trying to escape its clear message.
9. “Catholics should follow their conscience in all things… whether it’s abortion, birth control, or women’s ordination.”
It’s true – the Catechism says quite plainly, “Man has the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. ‘He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters'” (1782). This teaching is at the heart of what it means to have free will.
But that doesn’t mean that our conscience is free from all responsibility or can be ignorant of God’s law. This is what the Catechism refers to as having a “well-formed conscience.”
The Catechism assigns great responsibility to a person’s conscience: “Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil…. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking” (1777).
In other words, our conscience isn’t just “what we feel is right” – it’s what we judge to be right based on what we know of the teachings of God and the Church. And in order to make that judgment, we have a responsibility to study and pray over these teachings very carefully. The Catechism has a section dedicated entirely to the careful formation of our conscience – that’s how important it is in making right decisions.
And in the end, whether right or wrong, we’re still held accountable for our actions: “Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed” (1781). When properly formed, it helps us to see when we’ve done wrong and require forgiveness of our sins.
By seeking a fully-formed conscience, we actually experience great freedom, because we’re drawing closer to God’s infinite Truth. It’s not a burden or something that keeps us from doing what we want; it’s a guide to help us do what is right. “The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart” (1784).
10. “Natural Family Planning is just the Catholic version of birth control.”
Natural Family Planning (NFP) has enemies on all sides. Some believe that it’s an unrealistic alternative to birth control (which they don’t think is sinful anyway) while others think that it’s just as bad as birth control. NFP has had to walk a fine line between both extremes.
First of all, the main problem with birth control is that it works against the nature of our bodies – and nature in general. It aims to sever the act (sex) from its consequence (pregnancy), basically reducing the sacredness of sex to the mere pursuit of pleasure.
NFP, when used for the right reason, is more of a tool used for discerning whether a couple has the means (whether financially, physically, or emotionally) to accept a child into their lives. It involves understanding your own body, taking careful stock of your situation in life, discussing the issue with your spouse, and, above all, prayer. Rather than cutting yourself off from the full reality of sex, you are entering into it with a better understanding of all aspects involved.
People who favor birth control point to those people who can’t afford more children, or whose health might be at risk from further pregnancies. But these are perfectly legitimate reasons to use NFP – situations where it would be perfectly effective – and the Church allows its use.
Other people think that taking any sort of control over the size of your family is like playing God, rather than letting Him provide for us as He sees fit. It’s true that we must trust God and always accept the lives He sends us, but we don’t need to be completely hands-off in that regard.
For example, rather than throwing money around and saying that “God will provide,” families carefully budget their finances and try not to overextend their means. NFP is like that budget, helping us prayerfully consider our situation in life and act accordingly. It’s part of our nature as humans to understand ourselves and use our intellect and free will, rather than passively expecting God to take care of everything. We’re called to be good stewards of the gifts we’re given; we must be careful never to treat those gifts carelessly.
11. “Someone can be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time.”
While this may be one of the most common myths Catholics hold regarding their faith, it’s also one of the most easily dispelled. The Catechism minces no words when talking about abortion: It’s listed with homicide under crimes against the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”
The following passages make this clear: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (2270). “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable” (2271). “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life” (2272).
It can’t be stated more plainly than that. Some people might argue, however, that being “pro-choice” doesn’t mean being in favor of abortion; lots of people think abortion is wrong but don’t want to force that opinion on others.
There’s that “what’s true for you might not be true for me” argument again. The Church has an answer to that, too: “‘The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority.. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin'” (2273).
The sanctity of life is a universal truth that can never be ignored. Advising someone to get an abortion, or even voting for a politician who would advance the cause of abortion, is a grave sin, because it leads others to mortal sin – what the Catechism calls giving scandal (2284).
The Church stands forcefully and clearly against abortion, and we as Catholics must take our stand as well.
12. “People’s memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation is true…and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not.”
As society becomes increasingly fascinated with the paranormal, we can expect to see claims of “past life memories” increase. Indeed, there are now organizations who will help take you through your previous lives using hypnosis.
While this may be convincing to some, it certainly isn’t to anyone familiar with the mechanics of hypnosis. Almost since the beginning, researchers have noted that patients in deep hypnosis frequently weave elaborate stories and memories…which later turn out to be utterly untrue. Reputable therapists are well aware of this phenomenon, and weigh carefully what the patient says under hypnosis.
Sadly, though, this isn’t the case with those interested in finding “proof” for reincarnation. Perhaps the greatest example of this carelessness is the famous Bridey Murphy case. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick outline: In 1952, a Colorado housewife named Virginia Tighe was put under hypnosis. She began speaking in an Irish brogue and claimed to once have been a woman named Bridey Murphy who had lived in Cork, Ireland.
Her story was turned into a bestselling book, “The Search For Bridey Murphy,” and received much popular attention. Journalists combed Ireland, looking for any person or detail that might confirm the truth of this past-life regression. While nothing ever turned up, the case of Bridey Murphy continues to be used to buttress claims of reincarnation.
That’s a shame, since Virginia Tighe was exposed as a fraud decades ago. Consider: Virginia’s childhood friends recalled her active imagination, and ability to concoct complex stories (often centered around the imitation brogue she had perfected). Not only that, but she had a great fondness for Ireland, due in part to a friendship with an Irish woman whose maiden name was – you guessed it – Bridie.
What’s more, Virginia filled her hypnosis narratives with numerous elements from her own life (without revealing the parallels to the hypnotist). For example, Bridey described an “uncle Plazz,” which eager researchers took to be a corruption of the Gaelic, “uncle Blaise.” Their enthusiasm ran out though when it was discovered that Virginia had a childhood friend she called Uncle Plazz.
When a hypnotized Virginia began dancing an Irish jig, researchers were astounded. How, after all, would a Colorado housewife have learned the jig? The mystery was solved, when it was revealed that Virginia learned the dance as a child.
As the Bridey Murphy case shows, the claims of past-life regression are always more impressive than the reality. To this day, not a single verifiable example exists of a person being regressed to a former life. Certainly, many tales have been told under the control of a hypnotist, but nevertheless, evidence for reincarnation (like that for the Tooth Fairy) continues to elude us.
Contributed by BCBP BOT Chairman Bobby Atendido. Source: From: CatholiCity. com