Summary of today’s show: There are many arguments and accusations leveled against the Catholic Church today, much of it based on prejudice and misinformation. Dr. Chistopher Kaczor has written a new book addressing The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, especially those held by those who oppose the Church from a secular viewpoint. Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connor engage with Dr. Kaczor on several of the myths, including those about science and faith, on same-sex marriage, on contraception, and on the primacy of conscience.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Dr. Christopher Kaczor
Links from today’s show:
- “The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church” by Dr. Christopher Kaczor at Ignatius Press
- The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Catholicism by Dr. Christopher Kaczor
Today’s topics: Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author of 7 Big Myths about the Catholic Church
1st segment: Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell talked about the launch of the Year of Faith and Scot said part of the Year of Faith is getting a handle on our faith and the new apologetics. Today’s guest is Dr. Chris Kaczor, author of a new book about the myths people have about the Catholic Church. Chris is a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He attended Boston College as an undergraduate and has a Ph.D from the University of Notre Dame.
Scot welcomed Chris to the show and asked him why the number seven. Chris said he could have 35 big myths, but 7 had a better ring to it. Chris said he was inspired by the book by Michael Medved called The 10 Big Lies About America: Combating Destructive Distortions About Our Nation
. He thought there should be a book from a Catholic perspective and he wanted to approach the myths that are held by secular people, as opposed to those held by non-Catholic Christians. He wanted to fortify Catholics who wanted to share their faith. He garnered the list of myths from those held among his students and took the most challenging and the most widespread.
The seven myths are Catholic irrationality, Catholic indifference to earthly welfare, misogyny, opposition between love and procreation, homophobia, that there is no rational basis for limiting marriage to one man and one woman, and priestly pedophilia.
The book starts with a famous quote from Bishop Fulton Sheen: “There are not 100 people who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive is the Catholic Church.”
Chris said the biggest obstacle to people appreciating the Church is the behavior of Catholics at times. We have many holy saints, but many of us fail to live out the message of Jesus. If all Catholics acted in the way Jesus treated others, that would change attitudes and would dispel myths. He quoted Chesterton who said the only argument against Christianity is Christians. But it is really misguided to base an attitude toward the whole Church based on the actions of some because in a big enough group, there will always be people who’ve behaved badly. Important goods, like education or healthcare, will have institutions that serve those goods, but the people in those institutions will not always be their best selves. It would be ridiculous to refuse to go to any doctor because of a bad experience with one doctor. Scot said Chris makes a reference to St. Peter, writing that we can make up for how we fail by repenting and returning to Christ.
Chris said people sometimes misunderstand the Church’s teachings because many Catholics are not well-informed by their own faith. Even highly educated people are educated to a grade school level about their faith. Another problem is that people get their news and understanding about the Church from the media which is often ill-informed and even prejudiced against the Church. Gleaning faith from movies, TV, or even news will lead to a distorted picture of the Church. It’s important to help people deepen their faith and we need to make ourselves better informed and then we need to explain it in an atmosphere of friendship and charity.
Fr. Mark asked about specifically reaching people in their 20s and 30s who can be the toughest audience. How do we get this book in their hands and address these issues with them. On the same-sex marriage issue, many people seem to have made up their minds, for example. So what he does is examine the reasons people give and then explain how the justifications don’t work. He points out that the same-sex marriage is not like interracial marriage. He points out that differences in race are not the same as differences in sex. We treat men and women differently all the time in many ways. We differentiate in athletics, in public accommodations like bathrooms. Chris said we would never have a 100-yard dash where men and women compete on the sam track or sports teams where the same standards apply. We don’t treat men and women as if there were no important differences.
Fr. Mark said it comes down to natural law, which is foreign to a lot of people in that age group. Chris said you don’t need to invoke the natural law to explain law. Marriage is a comprehensive union. It’s only possible when you have beings that can become united. So their will has to be able to be united, so they both have to be human. There also has to be a unity of bodies and the most complete kind of union is the sexual union because it allows them to create a new human being. Only in a complementary one male-one female union can that occur. It precludes both same-sex and polygamous marriage.
Scot said another of the myths is topical because of the Year of Faith. He said the myth is that faith and science are opposed, that the more one if a believer, the less rational they are. He asked Chris to explain underlying premises and the best response. Chris said if you look at the evidence, it’s very strong that the Church supports science. Many Catholic scientists have made important contributions to science, like Gregor Mendel, Nicholas Copernicus, George LeMaitre. Even the Church as an institution supports science through Catholic universities and even some cathedrals in 17th and 18th centuries were designed as world-class observatories. This comes from the belief that God is the author of both the book of revelation and the book of nature and he doesn’t contradict himself. The Church holds that faith and reason go together. There is no foundation for the supposition that faith and reason are opposed in the Church.
Scot quoted Dr. Peter Kreeft in his endorsement: “All of this book is full of clarity and charity, but two chapters are masterpieces each worth ten times the price of the whole book. The chapter on contraception is the most simple, commonsensical, winsome, and persuasive I have ever seen. The chapter on same-sex marriage has the clearest and the completest logic I have ever read on the subject.”
On the topic of contraception, Chris said romantic love is geared towards a union between the lovers who want to be together in a complete way for their whole lives. So we have to explain why procreation is important in a society which doesn’t value children. When you have a children with someone there is a unity with someone both physically, emotionally, and activity (working together for the baby’s well-being). The child unifies that couple. Contraception is a barrier to romantic love. It’s a desire for a disunity, a lack of unity. One of the reasons procreation is good is it allows people in love to have a bodily unity that they so deeply desire.
Scot noted that the chapter asks some interesting questions. One is whether having children fosters marital friendship. Scot said he and his wife have found they have to be so much more of a team to care for their three kids. Then with the children and spouse, living it as a vocation so that loving your wife and your kids can help you get to heaven. Chris said this is one of the most important reasons procreation is good. He referenced the sheep and goats parable that Jesus told about the corporal works of mercy. He said he learned that every good parent literally does these things that Jesus is talking about. Every child comes into a family as a stranger and you welcome him. You feed your children. You clothe your children. Parents get into heaven by taking care of Jesus who they find in the least of these, their children.
Fr. Mark said this must have been timed for the Year of Faith. He said one of the parts of the New Evangelization is informing our consciences so we can out and evangelize others. Chris said God desires everyone to be happy, but to be happy we have to love God and love others. When we do things that contradict love, we are undermining our own happiness. Our actions become disordered. A rightly formed consciences knows the truths about what actions serve love of God and serve love of neighbor and which ones undermine those. We have an obligation to know that truth and live that truth. A conscience is like a compass and a compass doesn’t create true north; it recognizes true north. A properly formed conscience doesn’t create truth for itself.
Fr, Mark said young people often say that tolerance is a virtue. Chris said the Christian attitude is that we should love every single person and that includes those who are different and those who are the same as us. But when you love someone it doesn’t mean you agree with the things they do that are harmful to themselves or others. If I love my friend, I prevent him from driving drunk. Real love wants the well-being of a friend to flourish. All Christians are called to work for the real salvation of everyone. Real love doesn’t tolerate people working against their own or others true happiness.
Chris said the reaction to the book has been positive since it came out on October 8. Most fair-minded people don’t come to a judgment until they’ve read the book or engaged the arguments. He encourages anyone who disagrees to read the book and if they still disagree to have a dialogue and civil conversation about it.
2nd segment: Scot said Cardinal Sean launched a new initiative, asking people to follow him on Twitter at @CardinalSean, where he’ll be tweeting several times a day between now and the election. He also noted that Fr. Mark was in Chicago this past week for the Canon Law Society of America. Fr. Mark said he had been asked to preach at Mass about last week’s Sunday readings which included a major topic of canon law, marriage and divorce. He also gave a well-attended talk before a prestigious audience.
Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
- Gospel for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 14, 2012 (Mark 10:17-30)
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up,
knelt down before him, and asked him,
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?
No one is good but God alone.
You know the commandments: You shall not kill;
you shall not commit adultery;
you shall not steal;
you shall not bear false witness;
you shall not defraud;
honor your father and your mother.”
He replied and said to him,
“Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him,
“You are lacking in one thing.
Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
At that statement his face fell,
and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
“How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words.
So Jesus again said to them in reply,
“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,
“Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For human beings it is impossible, but not for God.
All things are possible for God.”
Peter began to say to him,
“We have given up everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters
or mother or father or children or lands
for my sake and for the sake of the gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age:
houses and brothers and sisters
and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Scot said it sounds like Jesus rebukes the questioner for calling him Good Teacher. Scot said he calls him good as a teacher, when he should be calling him good for his nature. Fr. Mark said it could be that the man was only approaching Jesus on an intellectual level. Jesus doesn’t want to just know things well and say things well, but to do things well. It shouldn’t just be wonderful words, but he should take the words to heart.
Scot said when Jesus is said to love the young man, it recalls what Chris Kazcor said about truly loving others. He said the passage makes us question how attached we are to the things in our lives. Fr. Mark said many people in our society duplicate this story by going away sad from the Church to indulge in the things that will make them happy.
Fr. Mark said he hopes this young man later came back, just as many people today come back to the faith.
Scot noted how the disciples were amazed at Jesus’ words about wealth. Scot said it’s not just about how much money you have, but your attitude. Fr. Mark said wealth was seen as a blessing from God and sickness was seen as a curse from God and Jesus was turning that on its head. Whatever the camel going through the eye of the needle means, it clearly means it’s very difficult.
The disciples are left wondering then who can be saved? Scot said that none of us can save ourselves. None of us merit eternal life on our own. Fr. Mark said the Scripture we should take into the Year of Faith is “Nothing is impossible for God.”
Scot said imagine how confusing this whole episode must have been to the disciples. The riches and treasures from God aren’t just measured in man’s terms. Fr. Mark said there is some speculation that the rich, young man was St. Mark the Evangelist.