Are you a Catholic? You should know your Catholic Faith.
Are you not a Catholic, but have an opinion about Catholics? You should know about the Catholic faith, too.
But learning about the Catholic Church is harder than it sounds thanks to a slew of anti-Catholic myths floating around. Lies about the Church can be found in books, lectures, podcasts, and behemoth that is social media. So what do Catholics really believe? And how can we dig past the myths and learn the truth?
Veteran apologist Dr. Gerard Verschuuren is doing some myth-busting in his latest book, Forty Anti-Catholic Lies. He doesn’t shy away from hard topics like the inquisition and papal infallibility. Although every chapter contains myth-busting gold, here are seven of our favorite thoughts from Dr. Gerard Verschuuren:
1. Catholics invented the sacraments
Very few Christians disagree that Baptism and the Eucharist were instituted by Christ, but what about the other five sacraments that are recognized by the Catholic Church? Some argue that there is no Scriptural basis for the rest of the sacraments. But the Catholic Church didn’t use a “magic wand” to invent the sacraments.
“All seven sacraments of the Catholic Church have a foundation in scripture and in the early practices of the Church,” Dr. Verschuuren writes. “Besides, we need to acknowledge that the New Testament isn’t a how-to manual of the sacraments. For more information about the practices of the early Church, we also need to look somewhere else.”
For instance, the sacrament of marriage isn’t only mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, but it’s also mentioned by Saint Augustine and the Council of Verona in 1184.
2. Catholics think confession is the easy way out
It’s easy to assume that confession is a ‘get out of jail free card’ for Catholics. Surely Catholics don’t have anything to worry about, right? They can commit as much sin as they want and they just need to make sure they get to a confessional before their last breath. But that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Catholics do not have an easy way out. Confession does not give Catholics a free pass to do the evilest things in life, but instead gives them the humble awareness that they are sinners,” Dr. Verschuuren explains. “So this does not make for an easy way to Heaven, as some claim it does. On the other hand, Confession is more about Jesus than us. The priest does not forgive sins, but Jesus does through the priest, who stands in for Jesus and thus shows God’s enormous mercy and forgiveness, more so than our immense sinfulness.”
3. Catholics aren’t Christians
Another myth about Catholics is that they aren’t true Christians. It’s a misconception that Catholics just introduced the Greek adjective katholikos (meaning whole or universal) and just declared themselves the only members of the true Church. But the reality is that Catholics are Christians through and through.
“Catholics are Christians to the core,” Dr. Verschuuren argues. “The Catholic Church did not betray her Christian origins but vigorously protected what she had received from the Church Fathers and apostles, who had an unbroken link with Jesus Christ Himself.”
4. The pope bosses Catholics around
Some believe that the idea of papal infallibility is crazy. They claim that the Catholic Church has no right to tell them what to believe, and the pope sure doesn’t have any authority at all. Isn’t the Church an invisible entity, referring to all Christian believers?
But Christ gave Saint Peter the keys to the Kingdom. “The authority of the Catholic Church, and in particular of her pope, goes back to what Jesus instituted himself,” explains Dr. Verschuuren. “It is thanks to the authority of the Church that we have been saved from numerous heresies in Church history.”
5. Catholics killed thousands during the inquisition
If you’ve ever taken a general history class, you may have heard of the inquisition. It’s supposedly where the Church rounded up tens of thousands of innocent people (Christian and non-Christians) and burned them at the stake for witchcraft. But that’s not actually what happened during the Inquisition.
“Catholics did not kill thousands during the inquisition,” Dr. Verschuuren writes. “The Inquisition was not one monolithic and papal-controlled enterprises. It did not target non-Catholics and Jews, but only Catholics or make-believe Catholics. It did not execute them, and torture was rarely used. It was an ecclesiastical court system that followed strict legal rules, often much better than those of the civil courts. But it did have extremely partisan enemies in the Protestant camp, which controlled powerful printing presses, while having at the same time its own kind of inquisition.”
6. Catholics hate science
Contrary to popular, mythical belief, Catholics have not held back science from progress for centuries. She doesn’t wage war against science. The reality is that, without the Catholic Church, the study of science wouldn’t be what it is today.
“The Catholic Church is certainly not anti-science, but has actually propelled the scientific enterprise,” Dr. Verschuuren argues. “However, she does have a problem with the claim that science is all there is. Science may be everywhere, but science is not all there is – there is more to life than science.” Science has religious roots (Catholic roots!), but it seems like most modern scientists have forgotten that fact.
7. The Church can’t stand free speech
Remember the list of banned books? Surely that’s proof that Catholics hate free speech. Even though the Index of Forbidden Books hasn’t existed since 1966, the idea that the Church is wary of free speech and new ideas still pervades modern thinking.
“As a matter of fact, it is the Catholic Church that strongly upholds and defends the idea that free speech and making free decisions is, in fact, possible,” writes Dr. Verschuuren. “She actually proclaims that human freedom is rooted in God. The Index does not stop free speech, for we still have the freedom to reject the Index and ultimately the Catholic faith. The Index acknowledges that people do have the freedom to sway the religious convictions of others exactly because they have freedom of speech. Freedom of speech means we can say whatever we want, but we cannot mandate as true whatever we want.”
If you want to read through thirty-three more Catholic myths, and watch Dr. Verschuuren bust them wide open, you need to put Forty Anti-Catholic Lies: A Mythbusting Apologist Sets the Record Straight on your reading list. Grab a copy at your local Catholic bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.