A myth, like a gun, can be deadly. But myths are unloaded guns. Exposing the empty barrel removes the threat to bystanders and the one taking aim. Everyone benefits from the truth, but not everyone takes it well. Even blanks can backfire. Thus, truth always requires the company of charity.
Catholic myths can lead people astray, prevent some from entering the Church, and embarrass the faithful. Thus, we need guys like Christopher Kaczor and his latest work, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church. He logically debunks the myths with clarity and brevity. But not without the threat inherent to apologetics – reducing Christian mysteries to mere formulas, reducing evangelization to winning the argument, and in the worst case, speaking truth without charity. Yet the author delivers the ultimate antidote to deadly myths by highlighting the crucial foundation of the Church – the life and love of Christ. Kaczor begins with a proper perspective of real persons living out their faith, and at times, failing to be saints. “Would it be fair to judge a hospital by the patients who disregard doctor’s orders and fail to take their medication?”
Kaczor’s fortifies each chapter with pointed references to Church teaching, saints, experts and psychological and sociological statistics. He relays scientific facts (which are good for critics) without implying, “just believe it.” This, however, may leave the reader seeking a more theological explanation and a less practical or sociological one, such as in the chapter on earthly welfare. In such places a horizontal explanation is emphasized at the expense of the vertical. Of course, the book’s purpose is not to be extensive manual. Yet it accomplishes the subtitle’s aim: distinguishing fact from fiction about Catholicism.
Kaczor exposes the seven myths quite simply. Is faith an obstacle to science? Albert Einstein didn’t seem to think so; he said, “Not everything that can be counted counts; not everything that counts can be counted.” Did the Church oppose science with Galileo? What about evolution and embryonic stem-cell research? Or perhaps the Church recognizes the value of both faith and reason as being complimentary.
Does the Church oppose earthly welfare, freedom, and happiness? Not according to Hilaire Belloc. He wrote, “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!”
Does the Church treat women as second class citizens or is equal treatment of both sexes a Christian innovation taught by Christ, the Scriptures, and Tradition?
Does the Church oppose contraception because she opposes authentic love? Or could it be that procreation enhances erotic love, builds marital friendship, and helps parents get to heaven? What about the Church’s stance on homosexuality and AIDS – is it bigoted and outdated? Kazcor’s shines a spotlight on the truth. For example, answering whether Pope Benedict was criticized unfairly, the director of AIDS Prevention Research at Harvard University replied, “This is hard for a liberal like me to admit, but yes, it’s unfair because in fact, the best evidence we have supports his comments.”
Is opposition to gay marriage motivated by homophobia? Kaczor’s chapter on same-sex marriage is probably his strongest. He shows both what marriage is in itself, a comprehensive union, and how same-sex marriage affects the institution of marriage and culture as a whole.
Finally, is priestly pedophilia caused by celibacy? Or perhaps it is caused by a lack of fidelity. Kaczor cites several non-Catholics who explain that the Catholic priesthood is unjustly attacked. More central than media distortion remains celibacy itself, which scandalizes people because many believe one cannot be happy without sexual activity.
The Seven Big Myths disarms spurious arguments with the simple light of truth – a powerful book for Catholic and non-Catholic readers alike.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.