Like many of you I often use Google Alerts to stay in touch with what’s going out out there. One of my search parameters is “Catholic” as you might expect. But what I get back from Google would really be described more as “anti-Catholic.” Well over 80% of the articles and posts that are highlighted are not only hostile to Catholic teaching, but downright hateful.

This suggests two possibilities. First that the Google search algorithm is “off” and that it fails to really search for what I want, and that somehow Google likes or prioritizes the anti-Catholic stuff. Perhaps. It IS odd to me that most of the blogs I regularly read NEVER make the Google cut.

The second possibility is that there simply is a lot more anti-Catholic stuff out there than I’d like to think, and though we Catholics like to think we’ve really got it going on in the blogosphere etc., perhaps those who hate or oppose us just have a bigger footprint.

I don’t know, you decide. CARA recently did a study (HERE) that concludes that we faithful Catholics have a LONG way to go in really making an impact on the Internet, and that most of the faithful do not really frequent Catholic sites for Catholic info.

All that said, (as a challenge to us all to grow the footprint of faithful Catholicism), I want to comment on a typical article that Google alerts generates and make some comments on how the author of the article fundamentally misunderstands the Church and yet exemplifies even what many in our pews think the Church should do and be.

The author identifies himself as “the Friendly Atheist.” Frankly he doesn’t seem all that friendly, given what he writes, but lets take a look, and also at a comment. As usual the original article is in bold, black, italic text, and my remarks are in plain red text. The full article is HERE, these are excerpts.

Friendly Atheist writes:

The Catholic Church is Now Pissing Off the People Who Actually Like Them

Sorry, those are his vulgar words, not mine. Refined language does not seem to be the forte of our Friendly Atheist.

But note the premise of his statement seems to be that anger is an argument. In other words if I make you angry, somehow I must be in the wrong. The argument seems to be  that anger has the upper hand. Yes, if I am angry, somehow I must be “right,”  and if you caused me to be angry somehow you must be wrong.

It is, perhaps, a specific version of the more general trend of our culture to exult feelings over reason. Thus if a person is crying, or if there is anger, somehow they gain authenticity over someone who is more sanguine. If the mother of, say, a crime victim is crying, the cameras roll and she makes the opening of the TV news. If one is more measured and “logical” they get moved to page B2 of the paper, and don’t even make the evening news.

But again, note, anger is not, per se, an argument. Just because you are angry at me does not mean that I necessarily did anything wrong. In fact, it may be that I did something right, that I struck a necessary nerve. Jesus made a lot of people angry, so angry they killed him; the prophets and martyrs too. Anger is not a argument, it’s just a feeling.

We know Catholic leaders are mostly a bunch of men who don’t want to hear any legitimate arguments as to why they’re wrong on issues like contraception usage and gay marriage.

Note that he says we “know” this. I do not cede this point as a premise. Frankly, most Catholics I know, think the Bishops far less decisive than our “friendly atheist” presumes. They experience them, as a group, to be far more open the the “spirit of the age,” to collegiality and to “dialogue” than they would wish.  I personally disagree with either extreme (i.e. too open vs. too closed), but the point here is that what our friendly atheist stipulates as a fact we “know,” is far more disputable than he presumes.

Further he speaks of them not being open to “legitimate” arguments as to why they are wrong on contraception and Gay “marriage.”

Again note the logical fallacy: we are first supposed to stipulate that they are “wrong” on the said issues. No, Mr. “Friendly Atheist,” you are supposed to demonstrate that.

He further implies that the arguments against the Bishops are “legitimate,” which presupposes that arguments for these positions are “illegitimate.” Here too, a logical fallacy since he has failed to demonstrate the presupposition of “legitimacy.”

Now the word “legitimacy” comes from the Latin legis, meaning “law.” In the Catholic realm we find the sources of our law in Scripture and Tradition. Now, if there are “legitimate” arguments that the “friendly atheist” wants to advance, let him attempt to do so. But, frankly, the attempts to advance any argument from Scripture or Tradition that Gay “marriage” or contraception are good, and of God, will be hard to come by, since, at every stage of Scripture and Tradition these practices are consistently condemned.

Some argue that Scripture is largely silent on contraception (but remember, NO ONE wanted small families in those days, contraception was unthinkable except perhaps in relation to prostitution), but Tradition is not silent. And as for Gay “marriage” any attempt to validate homosexual activity of any sort is fanciful. Scripture unambiguously and at every stage, condemns homosexual activity, as well as illicit heterosexual activity. Hence it is unclear what “legitimate” (i.e. based in Law) arguments the bishops should be listening to on either topic

Perhaps our friendly atheist thinks that arguments from the world are the legitimate arguments. But “the world” is not a “legitimate” (i.e. “legal”) source of the moral Law for the Church. We draw from sources of Scripture, Tradition and appeal to the Natural Law both to confirm the rectitude of our beliefs and to demonstrate to unbelievers the rectitude of our positions.

We also know that most Catholics who are not part of the hierarchy don’t buy into what their “superiors” tell them. Catholic women use birth control. Many Catholics support gay marriage. The list goes on.

Here too there are a list of misunderstandings as to the nature of the Church. We are not a body politic that determines what is right based on polls or how conforming people are. It is a tragic truth that the faithful, down through the centuries, have not always lived or upheld what is taught. That goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden.

And even to this day, it is not merely the “conservative” sexual morals of the Church that the faithful often ignore or dispute, it is also more “liberal” notions. For example, we are to love our enemies and not seek to retaliate against those who assail us. But most Catholics, most Christians, liberal or conservative, do not live this very well and even openly live contrary to it. Should the Church simply jettison this call to love our enemies and now sanction, approve and encourage hating enemies? Should we recognize “covenants of hatred” and seek to supply encouragement and provision and rituals for retaliation? Should we affirm those who have a “right” to hate since, after all, God gave them the capacity to hate? Is the mere fact that people don’t live the moral law reason to jettison it?

Well, let these absurdities illustrate the truth that the Church cannot allow sinful human behavior, no matter how widespread and “celebrated” be the norm for our teaching. Taking votes and simply observing human attitudes is not a good source for moral norms. We must look to reveled truth for a more sure source, a source that does not merely pander to what we want.

And note that what the “friendly atheist” calls “Most Catholics” may be statistically true, but it fails to distinguish between church-going Catholics and merely nominal Catholics. It remains a sad fact that most people who call themselves Catholics are not really practicing Catholics in any sense of the word. Perhaps they will return, but non-practicing Catholics cannot set the norm for what it means to be a believing and practicing Catholic.

So when the Arlington Catholic Diocese sent Sunday School teachers a “Profession of Faith” they needed to sign, some of them balked at the idea that they have to “firmly accept” anything the Church teaches about faith and morals.

Ditto with being forced to adhere to the “will and intellect to the teachings” of Catholic leaders.

It is not clear to me how many of the teachers actually balked at the idea. But, not having been born yesterday, and knowing the secular media’s usual approach, lets say 97% say fine, and 3% say “Hmm…” Just guess where the cameras and mics will be found. The dissenters get the attention, the faithful are either ignored or get a little line at the end of the piece.

Here too, our Friendly Atheist misunderstands the nature of the Church which is not a human club wherein the members get to vote on by-laws and determine what seems right according to their thinking. We are a community of believers who gather around a revealed doctrine that we do not get to determine, but are required to give assent to.

It is not so extreme to ask those who do not merely sit in the pews but actually take positions as catechists and who claim to teach in the name of the Church to publicly attest that they actually believe what they are teaching and to promise not to teach anything contrary to it.

No one is required to be a catechist, and thus, if one is struggling to assent to some teaching, they are not required to make a promise of any sort. Perhaps they can discuss their struggle with a member of the clergy or another believer and clarify or come to some understanding. Perhaps not. But that is a personal matter.

When, however, one steps forth to teach the faith in  a formal way and to take the office of catechist, it makes sense that they be asked to certify that they assent to Church teaching and are striving to live it.

Every employee of the Federal and most State governments are asked to assert under oath that they will respect and uphold civil law in these or similar words:

I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

If even secular governments and businesses expect their employees to affirm loyalty and allegiance to a basic set of norms, how much more the Church which proposes not only passing human norms, but what we believe to be eternal and divine norms?

The “Friendly Atheist” then goes on to quote outraged catechist (four of them) an then concludes:

I’m loving this implosion from the sidelines. The Church isn’t going to back down from their awful ideas and the decent people who actually like the Church are finding more and more reasons to get the hell out of there.

I am sure he is loving it but he doesn’t seem very “friendly” when he says this :-) .

He’s right that we are not going to back down, not with the Holy Spirit in charge any way. For God is not “no” yesterday and “yes” today and the moral law does not morph with our wishes. The truth does not change just because the world rejects it or even if most people choose to violate it.

So again, the “Friendly Atheist” fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the Church which is not a clubhouse, but is a lighthouse. And to be lighthouse we have to be a light, even when the world prefers darkness.

And as for those who are “getting the Hell out of there,” it is fairly problematic to argue that the Catholic Church would have greater numbers if we were towing the line of what the modern world expects and demands. For, the Mainline Protestant denominations have largely taken this path and their numbers are far worse, indeed one can only marvel at the mass exodus from the denominations who have embraced the spirit of the age. And, the Evangelical denominations who have resisted such modern notions are growing.

In the end, Catholicism is holding her own, and even growing on a worldwide basis. We do not grow by defining ourselves. Our only hope and prayer is to remain faith to the gospel in season and out of season.

One of his commenters  named “Moctavius” says, Nothing says, “I’m on the wrong side of history,” quite like a loyalty oath.

Well Mactavius may have pronounced an end to the Church, or to her influence, but he will do well to consider that the Church has outlived all her opponents and confounded the predictions of all who have announced her demise. Where is Caesar, where is Napoleon, where is the Soviet Socialist Republic? Movements too have come and gone, some remain and recast themselves as “something new” but are really just the same old tired heresies. You think you have a new idea, go back and see how the Greeks put it.

But through it all the Church has remained. She has outlived every enemy and every movement. And though her numbers may rise and fall, she is, by God’s promise, indefectible.

So pronounce away Mactavius, but the Church is not on the wrong side of history, she IS history.

And to the “Friendly Atheist,” and to all who think the Church should learn to “tow the line” and come into conformity with “modern” (actually old, rehashed) thinking, I am mindful of a saying of Jesus:

Jesus Said, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”’ But time will prove where wisdom is” (Matt 11:17-19)

Yes, wisdom is proved true by her works and by her lasting vindication in the parade of erroneous or foolish ideas.

81 Responses

  1. Alicia G. Mendiola says:

    Here in the Philippines we are face with some people who always profess that they are Catholics. Yet, they do not adhere to some of our Church Teachings relative to contraception thru pills, injectables and other means. This some people are people of prominence and very influential. NGOs who were formed from the Communist who were accepted after the so called ‘Edsa’ Revolution as the National Democratic Front (NDF), so they can be at mainstream of the society. But sad to say, the NDF Armed group still around, the NPA. We are faced with the Traditional Politicians and this Socialist groups. But I thank God, there’s still a very large percentage of good Catholics in our Country. Our Church Leader, the Bishops are very vigilant and most of the Laity. But sad to say, It is also the so called ‘Free Thinkers Catholics’ who are continuing to do things against our Blessed Lord Teachings by discrediting our Church Leaders, confusing our brothers & sisters in Christ and destroying our Youth and our close knit Families, by pushing their Culture of D.E.A.T.H. Agenda. By the mercy & grace from God, we will persevere.

    Thank you for sharing this blog. We need this. Its very profound. I will share this to many. God bless you Monsi!

  2. Wendy Rodriguez says:

    Thanks for sharing this insight and to me as the saying goes “There are no atheists in fox holes”, so whether he be a friendly or unfriendly atheist, he is obviously challenging himself to see how many readers he can get to follow his blog, or Catholic blogs..so that’s OK buddy, your points here are well taken, but, you still need God’s grace and mercy at some point in your life, don’t wait until it’s too late. As Hell is a very very hot place that much we both agree on So maybe Msgr Pope will be willing to meet with you, to share with you the love of Jesus and the promises he have left us to those who follow his commandments and walk in his ways and, teaches others to do the same. Peace and Blessings to you.

    • TalkingSnake says:

      Fail. Atheists also don’t accept the existence of heaven or hell – there isn’t a shred of evidence to support either concept – so threats of eternal fire and burning fall pretty much flat. It’s like a hippie threatening to punch someone in their aura.

  3. Alfred Finch says:

    I like the comment, “But through it all the Church has remained. She has outlived every enemy and every movement. And though her numbers may rise and fall, she is, by God’s promise, indefectible.

    So pronounce away Mactavius, but the Church is not on the wrong side of history, she IS history.”

  4. David L. Gray says:

    Great points! I had to modify my google feed from ‘Catholic’ to ‘Catholic Jesus’ – it noticeable improved, but still consist of some of the same unintellectual garbage being passed off as intellectual gold.

  5. Elizabeth D says:

    This is a beautiful response. I for one do not think commitment to family love, lifetime fidelity of the married couple, who welcome and love all their children always from the moment they are conceived and perfectly committed to raising and educating them, is any kind of horrible idea. On the contrary, best. idea. ever. I also think that the willing chastity and self control of people who are not married and starting a family is so rational, fitting, healthy and obvious an idea, so respectful of human interests and dignity, that anyone thinking in a sane an orderly way would see the wisdom thereof. These are two ways of life people engage in quite freely that foster human thriving, dignity and happiness. Actually no one could truly be coerced to live in that way, which does require sustained effort against various inclinations and temptations contrary to it, it calls for the daily choice in favor of love rather than selfishness. The Holy Spirit, human seeking after moral truth and the natural law, and trustful obedience to the teaching of the Catholic Church move people to live in that way. In the end, it is good, beautiful and true to live in such a way, and the resentful attacks against it are a kind of tyranny, the dictatorship of relativism, of those who often seem to see it as an accusation against them rather than as a lighthouse.

  6. TJ Burdick says:

    “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” I think the Catholic Church is on the right track.

  7. Inthetrenches says:

    Brilliant! Thank you, thank you.

  8. […] 16, 2012 By Frank Weathers Leave a Commentfrom the “know it all” Know Nothings. In this case, the know it all is Patheos’ own Friendly Atheist.I once wrote that treating atheists like they are stupid is a mistake. I still believe that. Of […]

  9. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    Monsignor – this is one of my favorite posts yet.

    Thanks for showing how to offer a response to attacks on the Church without cutting off anyone’s ear with a sword in defense of the faith!

    Must bookmark this post.

  10. Rouxfus says:

    Any time someone prefaces a statement with “we (all) know” – the likelihood that the statement which follows is actually patently false increases by a factor of 10. H.L. Mencken once defined the word ‘platitude’ as “An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone, and (b) that is not true.” I reckon this sort of thing falls into the category of logical fallacy called ‘argumentum ad populum’ (from the Wikipedia entry: “(appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to the people) – where a proposition is claimed to be true or good solely because many people believe it to be so”).

    I find that the Google News Alerts are skewed because among the “news” sources they choose to scan, they don’t include things like the Catholic News Service, Zenit, or other sources of unfiltered Catholic news such as Catholic-oriented blogs. This article provides some helpful hints for Catholic bloggers and news sources to consider to improve their chances that the content will be picked up by Google News searches:

    Google News: How to Get Your Blog Indexed
    http://www.ivanwalsh.com/google-tips/google-news-get-blog-indexed-tips/

  11. Rick DeLano says:

    “They experience (the bishops), as a group, to be far more open the the “spirit of the age,” to collegiality and to “dialogue” than they would wish.”

    Perhaps because the substitution of a principle of dialogue, for a principle of conversion of souls, has failed so drastically.

    This is an excellent article.

    The dialoguing is about at its logical conclusion now, and the bastions have well and truly been abandoned.

    I expect we will get back to the business of the Church- the conversion of souls and, not incidentally, the refutation of heresies- fairly soon now.

    There is nothing quite so effective for reigniting interest in the refutation of heresy, than a persecution.

  12. Mark H. says:

    Thanks very much for this. It’s helpful to be able to read clear and articulate responses to these kinds of comments, which are so widespread on internet blogs these days.

  13. enness says:

    I think there is some truth in both the first and the second possibility.

    For the first: Google, by its own admission, is on a cultural imperialist mission to spread same-sex marriage throughout the world. To give fair time to principled opposition is not conducive to such a mission.

    As for the second: “hate” is passionate, just as love is often passionate. The ultimate insult, I think, is to have someone be utterly indifferent to your existence. But, strange thing, people who “hate” the Catholic Church cannot seem to stop talking about it. With some individuals it seems to always simmer just below the surface, ready to bubble through at any moment (you can’t make this stuff up…before attending a party I had a premonition that someone would want to talk Catholicism with me. It came true in the first fifteen minutes). There’s a germ of hope there.

    • Rick DeLano says:

      How excellent it is to see someone who understands the obsession of the anti-Catholic as what it truly is.

      Imagine what happens once we recover the consistency, persuasiveness, and power of the Faith once delivered,

  14. teomatteo says:

    The simple fact that the Friendly Atheist is exspending a few millielectron volts in his cerebral cortex to contemplate our Church makes me happy.

  15. RichardC says:

    If you consider how the the simply meaning of the U. S. Constitution has been completely obscured and mangled in just 200 years, it is evidence of Divine Providence that the simply meaning of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church haven’t become obscured and mangled.

  16. Avilalver says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Clear and logical, complete. There is a blogsite on line where the author cleverly and logically (and charitably) ventures to delve into the reasoning of the atheist mind, in order to better understand (and plant seeds for the Holy Spirit, of course). It is an interesting site: http://www.littlecatholicbubble.com. Not many can humbly do this, and there is much to be learned there. In the meantime, I agree we need to stay bright, a light for Christ in this world and pray.

  17. DavidM says:

    I’ve had some dialogue with ‘the Friendly Atheist’ in the past. I’m afraid he’s just not a very bright fellow, and really just seems not interested in the actual truth. But you’re right: he is very typical. So the moral is, we really do need patience with these people. I rather doubt that such vain stupidity is merely human in origin.

  18. Linus says:

    Very good analysis. I really wonder who or what is behind this latest fad? We know that sources of money are behind other questionable movements.

  19. Larry says:

    I could be wrong but the atheist also seems to a gay activist. All his comments are just part of what they say on all blog sites, slightly different wording but the same content.

  20. […] Msgr. Charles Pope replies to “Friendly Atheist” whose nom de plume is not exactly accurate and I am not referring to the atheist part. Really love the way the Monsignor takes up points in response in a clear and charitable manner. He points out logical fallacies and how words such as legitimacy don’t mean what this commenter thinks they mean. […]

  21. TaylorKH says:

    God Is. “I Am.”

    atheism isn’t. “i ain’t.”

  22. MarkM says:

    An amazing bit of writing. I fall for this type of manipulative communication far too often. So having a piece that helps those of us who aren’t the most critical readers develop tools to discern the good from the bad ,edia out there is important. Too much media follows a “preach to the choir” approach. This requires ess critical thinking by the reader. The problem is when you aren’t the best at recognizing poorly constructed arguments…like me.

  23. Jack says:

    I think somebody should link this article to The Friendly Atheist website. It’d make for more interesting commentary.

    • TalkingSnake says:

      It is linked – that’s how I got here.

      Dialogue is difficult I have found. Not that we should give up. Hemant (The Friendly Atheist) actually does a good bit of interfaith work.
      The reason dialogue is difficult is because of the widely different starting premises. Believers will ultimately state “it is true because my book says so”. This circular argument is a debate-killer. Atheists don’t accept the existence of a deity, so it goes without saying that we don’t accept any book is the inspired word of a deity.

      • Well, your point may be better in reference to some Evangelicals, but the Catholic Church also appeals widely to Natural Law for exactly the reason you state, i.e. that in a dialogue with non-Christian believers, appeals to the Bible are not very effective, except to clarify what or why we believe something. .

        • TalkingSnake says:

          Perhaps I don’t fully understand what “Natural Law” is (or means). Can you elaborate?

          To use a specific example, you make the point above that “Scripture unambiguously and at every stage, condemns homosexual activity, as well as illicit heterosexual activity.”
          That seems like an appeal to the big book.

          If you mean nature could not have intended for homosexuality as a species could not perpetuate itself, how do
          you explain the documented cases of homosexual behavior in over a thousand other species?

          • I am explaining why the Church holds this, not trying to prove it to you based on the book. Natural law is the moral law available to human reason by observation and appeal to both reason and nature. And hence, with regards homosexual activity it is clear by observation of the body that the man is for the woman and the woman for the man. The man is not for the man and the woman is not for the woman. I can no more explain homosexual behavior than I can explain any other anomaly such as the fact that some are born lacking certain parts or proper functioning of certain capacities. They are anomalies, a misappropriation of the sexual function that is both futile to the purpose of sexual behavior and contrary to physical design of the human person. As for for other species, I doubt your attestation of how widespread the phenom is, but animals are not determinative for humans even if the concept is as widespread as you claim. When I owned dogs some years back they would do weird things like to to “hump” my knee. I did not conclude based on that this is therefore proper behavior just because I observed it in “nature” that is not what Natural Law means, I just concluded that the dumb animal is confused and would certainly not attest that humans should therefore adopt the behavior or that this was all well and good for humanity.

            • TalkingSnake says:

              Thank you for taking the time to elucidate the Church’s position.

              We CAN explain abnormalities like lacking certain parts, and in many cases can explain improper functioning of certain capacities. Genetic copying isn’t perfect – sometimes things get mis-wired. How is this any less natural than anyone else, other than the fact that they make up a minority of the population?

              I would argue that the many accounts of homosexuality in the animal kingdom (of which humans are just one) shows that it can happen ‘naturally’.

              • Ok, think what you want, but again, this is not a post about gay sex and I prefer not continue this specific dialogue.

                The point of the article is that most outsiders (as illustrated by the friendly atheist) completely misunderstand the nature of the Church and how we operate. The Church’s job is not to make everyone feel nice and affirmed no matter what they do, her job is not to fit in and be accepted by society, she is not a democracy and cannot look to polls or take votes from her members as to what is taught. The Church has the mission to proclaim the whole Gospel, in season or out of season. Gay sex, contraception, secularism, materialism etc are currently “in” and the Gospel is “out” such is our lot, but we go on proclaiming the deposit of faith as we always have. Those who want the Church to toe the line with modern sentiments ought to look to the liberal Protestant denominations to discover that such an approach would be a disaster since, for all their relevant “up-to-dateness” for all their affirming of gay sex etc., their numbers have plummeted. This is the essential point of the article, not gay sex which is only mentioned at all since the friendly atheist seems concerned about it.

                • Bruce H says:

                  “Those who want the Church to toe the line with modern sentiments ought to look to the liberal Protestant denominations to discover that such an approach would be a disaster since, for all their relevant “up-to-dateness” for all their affirming of gay sex etc., their numbers have plummeted.”

                  This is false. Catholic church attendance in America is falling, and Protestant attendance is rising. See this poll: http://www.gallup.com/poll/117382/church-going-among-catholics-slides-tie-protestants.aspx

                  • Yes, but not among the liberal mainlines who toe your line. It is rising among Evangelicals who reject gay sex, abortion etc. I admit that Catholic Church attendance has dropped as a percentage of Catholics attending. Though, thanks to immigration our actual numbers in Church on Sunday are stable nationwide. We have discussed the decline in Catholic church attendance extensively on this blog and in no way hide from the fact. However if we toed your line like, say the Episcopal Church, it is clear form their example our numbers would be drastically lower.

                • TalkingSnake says:

                  Charles – I will end our debate here. Thank you for the thoughtful comments.

                  I don’t know whether you will post this or not, but for your own edification, let me reveal something
                  to you about modern atheists. The Internet has been a boon for like minded people to “virtually” congregate, atheists being one example. The anonymity it offers has both good and bad sides. People get snarky a lot faster than usual (which some will say degrades the dialog), but it also readily dispenses with sacred cows. If something is viewed as silly, it will be openly mocked. Everything can be questioned and viewed critically (as it should be). if the answers are not fulfilling, then that is on the claimant. Religion in particular has seemed to whither in this style of debate format.

                  If people are not free to speak their mind, and a commentary turns into a simple echo chamber, it’s just not very interesting. I think that may have a lot to do with what appears to be an overabundance of anti-religious sites out there.

                  Thanks again for opening yourself and your site to the discussion.

              • rustywheeler says:

                Ah, Natural Law. The one that actually began with actual observations of nature; with Aristotle, the Stoics, and Cicero; and was then co-opted and bent to the service of apology and theology by Augustine and Aquinas: this is the Natural Law that the church now claims full ownership of.

                A simplistic appeal to Natural Law, while comforting, doesn’t really get us very far.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law

                • No it is precisely the wish of the Church that Natural Law would be the common ground on which to have discussions with non-Christians. Sadly in the post-Cartesian west, materialism, nihilism and relativism have taken such a toll that there is little common ground, philosophically to have a discussion. Modern secularists have wholly abandoned Natural Law and have largely rejected that there is an immutable truth that is revealed in created things and available to reason.

  24. Missing says:

    Thank you so much for this great post!! Ex-Atheist here, and now I’m a practicing Catholic! I do agree with the above that if someone is so invested in bashing the church, they are constantly preoccupied with the church, making their exposure to the Holy more frequent than an agnostic.

    I continually pray that we have more Pauls, as they can be the greatest sources of good. But it takes all of us to be brave enough to bring Christ to them in a way that He can work in them.

    Thanks Monsignor, please keep being a lighthouse!

  25. IgnatiusOfAntioch says:

    If you want actual Catholic web sites try the following :
    http://www.EWTN.com
    http://www.Catholic.com
    forums.catholic.com
    forums.catholic-convert.com

  26. Chon Buck says:

    A colleague at work is a Seventh Day Adventist. I would call him not a Christian, but a Bible-ist, because he will jettison the teachings of Christ and Christianity itself if he finds a thread of text in the Bible that can justify his mood at any given time. Early in my knowing him, he tried to get me to believe links to websites that claim the Jesuits and the Knights of Columbus are clandestine paramilitary organizations that take the same blood oath. Worse still, he sometimes passes out tracts that are nothing but absurd prevarications about the Church, emphasizing always “Rome” and “Catholics”.

    If you ask me, this fellow is, as Chesterton says, replacing what matters with what doesn’t matter, and I think the Catholic Church is definitely doing something right if it is at least the obsession of this misguided Christian. “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”

    Also, if the world hates us, remember it hated Christ first.

    • enness says:

      Ah, I see you’ve met Jack Chick (the fellow who publishes those ignorant, paranoid, inconsistent screeds).

  27. Chon Buck says:

    That said, I think that most internet postings and most web sites are not worth a hill of beans and are largely a poorly entertaining waste of time.

  28. Kristine says:

    Nice work, Msgr. Pope. Friendly Atheist? Hardly. Excellent responses. And may I say as an aside, when I was asked to sign a profession of faith before I could teach a women’s series … I found it profoundly meaningful. I remember that moment of putting pen to paper — something I hadn’t actually done as a Catholic. Sure I professed my faith aloud, but since in this world be sign contracts and other things we promise to make good on … it seemed like my commitment to be faithful to church was complete. Like I couldn’t go back.And, if anything, it was proof (to me) that I was committed to be on the right side of history.

  29. Mike Demers says:

    I noticed the same thing on Twitter when I search for Catholic tweets or people. I get all these anti-Catholic stuff that you wouldn’t believe. Obviously, there’s something wrong with the algorithm Twitter uses.

  30. JWH says:

    to “tow the line”

    “Toe the line.”

  31. Eze sunday from Abuja says:

    All i have to say: is this” GOD IS LIGHT & THERE IS NO DARKNESS IN HIM AT ALL! For some pesons to think that darkness can overshadow LIGHT is fanciful.

  32. Bill Foley says:

    Iucunda Sane

    Encyclical of Pope Pius X on Pope Gregory the Great

    March 12, 1904

    8. Kingdoms and empires have passed away; peoples once renowned for their history and civilization have disappeared; time and again the nations, as though overwhelmed by the weight of years, have fallen asunder; while the Church, indefectible in her essence, united by ties indissoluble with her heavenly Spouse, is here to-day radiant with eternal youth, strong with the same primitive vigor with which she came from the Heart of Christ dead upon the Cross. Men powerful in the world have risen up against her. They have disappeared, and she remains. Philosophical systems without number, of every form and every kind, rose up against her, arrogantly vaunting themselves her masters, as though they had at last destroyed the doctrine of the Church, refuted the dogmas of her faith, proved the absurdity of her teachings. But those systems, one after another, have passed into books of history, forgotten, bankrupt; while from the Rock of Peter the light of truth shines forth as brilliantly as on the day when Jesus first kindled it on His appearance in the world, and fed it with His Divine words: “Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass” (Matth. xxiv. 35).

  33. cowalker says:

    I’m an atheist who occasionally reads “The Friendly Atheist” as well as other blogs at patheos.com. I think what gets up the Friendly Atheist’s nose, as it does mine, is the Catholic Church’s forays into U.S. politics. Religious beliefs should not be codified into U.S. law. An international institution that is tax-exempt because it is religious should not be allowed to use the money it raises from its members to support or defeat political initiatives in the U.S. political system, whether it’s making health care affordable, legalizing gay marriage or criminalizing abortion. And yet we atheists witness this happening. (The spectacle of Mormons from Utah interfering in California politics is equally repellent.) It does not leave us feeling neutral.

    So I don’t know if you can take the powerful negative emotions against the Catholic Church as a welcome sign of non-apathy. There are very concrete reasons for non-Catholics to feel anger against the Church.

    And take note. The Catholic Church is losing members in the U.S. It’s pretty much moribund in western Europe. Growth is happening in the Third World, where the people have not yet become aware that secularism is an option. They will become aware of more options as they are exposed to more Western culture. Don’t count on the Third World to save the Catholic Church.

    • Again, anger is not an argument. And again, whatever our current numbers, up or down, here or there, the Church will still be here long after the current, secular West has gone..you fail to note that the now Secular West, esp Europe, is in far worse shape than the Church I wonder if secularism has anything to do with that

      • Rick DeLano says:

        Oh, an excellent point by Msgr Pope, and one which needs to be reiterated often, since the mass media echo chamber will certainly not reiterate it.

        Europe is dying.

        Its financial system is collapsing.

        It has lost the moral fitness to survive, and it is dying.

        It is dying precisely because it has rejected the Church, the Faith, and the Gospel, and there is not a single thing that will save it, absent repentance and reversion to the Faith which is its life.

        Very soon now the people of Europe will confront, in all of its satanic complexity and deviousness, their own destruction and demise at the hands of usurers and their political minions.

        How can you be so blind as to imagine that God will be mocked?

        He is not mocked.

        He hates usury, and will permit its metastasis to proceed to its logical end- the destruction of your world, your certainties, your pride, your comfort, your security…..

        But the poor He will deliver.

        You have greatly misread the signs of the times.

        But God is merciful, He will permit even you to find Him, perhaps, in your poverty.

      • The Other Weirdo says:

        Anger, however, can be a powerful motivator for action. We just need to learn to look before we leap into action.

        That’s an interesting proposition, however, that Europe is in the state it’s in because of rising secularism. If I may rephrase that a little, to boil this down to its logical conclusion, God is angry at the Europeans for turning away from His Church and is causing all sorts of tribulations. Which, in effect, is exactly what many Protestant denominations across the US have been saying about the various natural disasters around the world: Katrina, Japan, Haiti, to name just a few.

        It also reduces European(and by extension, Church) history to a 5-year window and saying that’s all there is or ever was. In the past century, a much more religious Europe was wracked by 2 horrifying world wars within a span of 50 years. In fact, the Holocaust was the culmination of 1,500 years of Church policy. In centuries past, in a FAR MORE religious Europe, wars, plagues and diseases wiped out whole swathes of the population. Church leaders of the time fought tooth and nail against advances that eventually led to humanity’s ability to combat those diseases, and in fact, many still do.

        In effect, a rise in secularism has reduced European problems to a few minor financial difficulties that will eventually be resolved. Where is the benefit to anyone to return to the good old days?

        • Yeah, I don’t think the argument has to be that “God is angry” it can be far more human and of the self-inflicted wound variety. For example, the wars you cite were all secular wars rooted in materialism, eugenics, communism, fascism and the sort. The current troubles are also rooted in spending too much money, not a religious problem per se, more a self inflicted wound. There is also a great danger that large parts of Europe will become caliphates as the traditional denizens abort and contracept themselves right out of existence and are simply replaced by a largely Muslim population. It is quite possible that future Europe will look drastically different than the Western liberal democracy it has been. It’s future may be far less secular, but not on account of Christians. Could keeping the faith have helped Europe? It is hard to say since we are in the realm of speculation, but Europe’s decline into a century of serious war and now its current delcine with low birthrates and unsustainable debt do correspond chronologically to its wide scale casting aside of the Christian faith.

  34. MJC says:

    Monsignor…you are a cherished priest. Thank you for living your vocation in truth and for being a real shepherd.

  35. MaryLynne says:

    “he will do well to consider that the Church has outlived all her opponents and confounded the predictions of all who have announced her demise.”

    My father is a life-long and staunch Catholic. At the height of the stories about the abuse and cover-up and priests being moved from parish to parish, I asked what he thought of the situation. He said: “The Catholic Church will survive. It has been through a lot. Nothing can destroy the Church.”

    I . . . actually meant . . .. what about the children. The people who have been abused and hurt. their abusers not held accountable, and it happening again and again. His reply just gave me chills. My dad is a very loving man, not a monster at all, but to him the health of an organization was the first thought he had, not real live people who have one life on this planet. If you are right, monseigneur, is it a good thing? Why is it a good thing that the institution survives at the cost of hurting real people we can see and touch?

    You know the examples – the thousands dying of AIDS in Africa because the Church opposes condoms and the woman who would die in childbirth because the church doesn’t allow abortions in their hospitals, in addition to the abuse and cover up. I know you have scriptural and traditional justifications for the first two, but does it never occur to any of you that there is something wrong about honoring your understanding of the wishes of a omnipotent being who we couldn’t really hurt if we tried over the short, precious lives of real people?

    • Again, as many of her opponents do, you fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Church. The Church is not an organization, or institution, the Church is the Body of Christ, he the head we his members. To be concerned for the Church, is to be concerned for the members. As for your examples, AIDs would not be a problem, if people would live teaching of Scripture and the Church Of chastity. Chastity is the best preventative. Condoms only further encourage the promiscuous behavior that is really at the root of the problem, and condoms do not prevent aids they may only reduce the danger of a particular sex act, but since they encourage more promiscuity, it is arguable that they actually increase the danger and spread of aids.  As for women dying in childbirth because they cannot abort their babies, first of all, this is very very rare. Secondly you do not take into account the many many millions of women who were killed by being aborted from their mother’s womb. The Church has everyone in mind, not just some. 

      • MaryLynne says:

        Monseigneur,

        I appreciate your respectful tone and I also appreciate that you are allowing diverse viewpoints on your blog. I find these conversations very interesting – I learn a lot both about my own beliefs as I articulate and explain them, and I learn about other ways to see it as I try to understand viewpoints different from mine.

        These conversations can be difficult, though, because we come from such different assumptions. You and I won’t change our minds, but I hope it is interesting or useful to try to understand each other.

        1. My worldview depends on what I see as reality. Yours (I think – correct any words I put in your mouth) does not depend on what you see, but on what has been revealed through the Church. Therefore, when you say “AIDs would not be a problem, if people would live teaching of Scripture and the Church Of chastity” to me, that isn’t realistic – that is, based on what we can observe and know about the world and human nature. Realistically (in reality) human beings will have sex. Has any society ever successfully met the ideal of chastity? To say people should be chaste to solve the problem when they obviously aren’t and there is no evidence that anything different will come along to have them be chaste, seems to me a mistaken and unrealistic approach that harms real people. Also, to say if they aren’t chaste they should be left to suffer from AIDS instead of making prevention available is hard to reconcile with “The Church has everyone in mind, not just some.”

        2. I think you are factually wrong with “Condoms only further encourage the promiscuous behavior that is really at the root of the problem, and condoms do not prevent aids they may only reduce the danger of a particular sex act, but since they encourage more promiscuity, it is arguable that they actually increase the danger and spread of aids.” There is reliable research that shows condoms and education do prevent the spread of disease. Lack of access to condoms does not decrease sexual activity. Abstinence programs have a worse record at preventing unwanted pregnancy than birth control information-based programs.

        3. I value life. A human life is a precious thing. I believe that a person alive now is more important than a person before they are born or after they are dead. An embryo is not equal to a person. So again, to me, the fact that even though it happens rarely the Catholic church requires a woman to die in childbirth when an abortion would have saved her life shows that the Church values something other than real people and preventing their suffering.

        4. You’ve explained very well and I remember from my own experience as a Catholic what the stand of the Church is. I really don’t think I misunderstand. Do you think it is possible for someone to understand where you are coming from and still disagree?

        5. Here is the hardest part. If you and Rick are right, and if we don’t live by Catholic teachings we suffer in hell, then you are right. Any price is worth saving our souls. However, I don’t think you are. I think there is no afterlife and all the suffering, lives, lost resources, Sunday mornings, 10% of incomes, no cheeseburgers or bacon or meat on Fridays (whichever religion it is), and feeling guilty for actions that hurt no one are for nothing, no benefit, no one up there is keeping track. I find it sad.

        • 1. Well, though you do not accept revelation as a source, I understand, but for believers, faith IS evidence. I have also been able to test the teachings of faith in the laboratory of my own life and found faith’s teachings to be true. Hence I cannot agree that it is only you who see reality and I who revelation since, for me, for the reasons stated, faith and revelation are evidence for me. I think Chasity is very realistic. I live it successfully every day and have done so all my adult life. Further I know many married couples who are faithful to their marriages. AIDS is a preventable disease and chastity is its best preventer.

          2. Promiscuity dramatically increased in our culture with the widespread availability of contraceptives beginning in the mid 1960s. Abortions skyrocketed at the same time, so did divorce, teenage pregnancy, out of wedlock birth, and all forms of sexually transmitted disease. All of these result form promiscuous behavior and though they were not non-existent before the widespread contraceptive use, they surely skyrocketed thereafter. Condoms and other contraceptives facilitate promiscuous behavior by fostering the illusion that such sex has no consequences. It does, and AIDS is one of them.

          3. A person in the womb is alive. Calling a conceived child an embryo is just a euphemism for you to cloak the fact that a human person is being killed in abortion. No medical journal would call a child in the womb an embryo past the 8th week. Human life begins at conception and whether we want to term the stage we are in as embryonic, fetal, natal, teenage, young adult, middle age or elderly, does not cancel out humanity. We are all “real people.”

          4. Yes. But the misunderstanding I speak of here is not the teaching of the Church, but the nature of the Church. Friendly Atheist couches his discussion on polls etc. But the Church does not base her teachings on these sorts of things. Be popular and fitting in, and attracting people by simply affirming what they do, even if it is contrary to received teachings is not the purpose or mission of the Catholic Church. Telling the Church to get up to date and conform with what is popular (debatable when it comes to gay sex and gay “marriage” I might add) is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the Church which is not to simply reflect popular thought but is to point unceasingly to the truth of the Gospel, whether popular or not.

          5. God will be your judge not Rick. Life as a Catholic is not miserable as you describe it. I love being a Catholic and have great joy on account of my faith. I do not suffer from morbid guilt as you suppose, though I, as I hope you do too, have sorrow for the sins I commit, yet I trust and celebrate God’s mercy. As for Hell, the teaching is there out of respect for your freedom. God does not force anyone to believe in him or to accept the values of the Kingdom of heaven. our teaching is that God offers us his very self and heaven. And either we reach out and take it….or we don’t. Scripture terms “hell” as that place where those who freely reject God and his offer choose to dwell. Mysteriously it is described as a place of great suffering though Scripture must be understood to speak analogously rather than literally regarding its particular qualities. Since, according to the faith we were made to know God, choosing to live apart from him cannot ultimately lead to happiness for us. Now you are free to reject all these teachings, but in so doing you, like me, must be willing to accept any consequences that may flow from that. In this sense, I get the better the deal :-) since, if you are right and I die, I still die happy and hopeful and then never live to know that I was wrong. If I am right, you will live, know you were wrong, and say oops for all eternity. So I like my deal better. However, Hell is a more complicated teaching than either you or Rick articulate I have written more on Hell here: http://blog.adw.org/2010/07/hell-has-to-be/

          • TalkingSnake says:

            Charles,

            Surely you know that Pascal’s Wager is an extremely weak argument.
            a) What if you choose the wrong religion? There are so many flavors, your odds are better off not to choose any.
            b) Following religious dogma is not without cost – believers spend a great deal of their time, money, and resources on their religion during their lifetime.
            c) No one can just believe because they want to. I cannot make myself believe there is a 100 dollar bill in my pocket. There is no evidence that there is a 100 dollar bill in my pocket, so I can’t just make myself believe it. Don’t you think St. Peter would see us atheists with our fingers crossed behind our backs at the pearly gates?
            c) Finally, the most damning of all the arguments against Pascal’s Wager: You can’t seriously expect someone to base their faith on that kind of flimsy logic. You obviously don’t – you are a genuine believer.

            I cringe whenever I see someone trot out Pascal’s Wager in a debate. C’mon – there is much deeper thinking going on here.

      • MaryLynne says:

        Monseigneur,

        I hope that you will post my reply to Rick. He had a good point and I’m eager to see what response I get.

        ML

  36. Rick DeLano says:

    “does it never occur to any of you that there is something wrong about honoring your understanding of the wishes of a omnipotent being who we couldn’t really hurt if we tried over the short, precious lives of real people?”

    >> Does it never occur to you that the short, precious lives of real people come to an end,and that they will be judged by God for what they have chosen in this short and precious life?

    Of course it hasn’t.

    You think like an atheist, and expect us to surrender those living short, precious lives, to your atheist conceptions of who and what we are.

    Never.

  37. Samuel says:

    All the arguments about why the Church is right seem sound if you take your premise as true. I agree, that the Friendly Atheist may not try to take your perspective that the doctrine and the dogma of the church are legitimate premises, so he argues from the position of social good and social ills and interference in the lives of those who don’t want to follow the Church. I think he is angry because he doesn’t see things through the lens of dogma and finds the policies of the church to be medieval at best. But, I understand the Church is very slow to change due to it’s interpretations of the bible… I don’t want to bash the church, but I do want to point out that his arguments were against the social harm caused by following Church dogma without every attempting to admit understanding that the Church is somewhat stuck with defending it.

    • I deleted the second half of your comment because I am not going to turn this thread into a debate about homosexuality and have lots of questionable commentary going on about Sacred Scripture. The obsession of the world about justifying gay sex takes too much oxygen out of the air. The Church’s teaching on this is clear, it is not going to change because Scripture, to which we are bound and cling, condemns gay sex (and illicit heterosexual union) unambiguously and at every stage. As an unbeliever you are free to sniff at it all you want but as a Church we are not free to go tearing pages out of the Bible. You or others may call it bigotry, but I call it a principled adherence to what we devoutly believe to be the revealed word of God. That certain increasingly small denominations have come to accept gay sex/marriage is because they use a modernist interpretation of the sacred text which sets aside its rather plain meaning. The Catholic Church does not accept the modernist method or use such principles and we will not. If there were modernist trends among Catholic Biblical theologians back in the 1970s, they have been forcefully rebuked by Church authorities, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and the reiteration of Catholic Principles in the Catechism. The teaching on gay sex is settled doctrine, it is not going to change in the Catholic Church.

      But the point of the article is that most outsiders (as illustrated by the friendly atheist) completely misunderstand the nature of the Church and how we operate. The Church’s job is not to make everyone feel nice and affirmed no matter what they do, her job is not to fit in and be accepted by society, she is not a democracy and cannot look to polls or take votes from her members as to what is taught. The Church has the mission to proclaim the whole Gospel, in season or out of season. Gay sex, contraception, secularism, materialism etc are currently “in” and the Gospel is “out” such is our lot, but we go on proclaiming the deposit of faith as we always have. Those who want the Church to toe the line with modern sentiments ought to look to the liberal Protestant denominations to discover that such an approach would be a disaster since, for all their relevant “up-to-dateness” for all their affirming of gay sex etc., their numbers have plummeted. This is the essential point of the article, not gay sex which is only mentioned at all since the friendly atheist seems concerned about it.

      • Raven says:

        No one is misunderstanding the Church’s goals or purpose. What some people are saying is that its purpose is now at odds with the greater good. That wasn’t always the case, but our civilization is starting to outgrow religion.

        • It’ll be back. It does not pertain to the human person to be nonspiritual. Belief in God is a clear feature of every culture going all the way back. Human nature has not changed. Atheism is a flash in the pan, it still remains a minor feature of largely decadent cultures like ours in the declining West. When the current atheist craze has come and gone, the Church will still be here.

      • Bob Smith says:

        “The Church’s teaching on this is clear, it is not going to change because Scripture, to which we are bound and cling, condemns gay sex (and illicit heterosexual union) unambiguously and at every stage. As an unbeliever you are free to sniff at it all you want but as a Church we are not free to go tearing pages out of the Bible.”

        Fine, if we can’t tear pages out of the Bible, then you cannot either:

        Do you mix fabrics? That’s a no, no! Leviticus 19:19 “You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.”

        Do you eat shellfish? Another no, no! Leviticus 11:10 “But whatever is in the seas and in the rivers that does not have fins and scales among all the teeming life of the water, and among all the living creatures that are in the water, they are detestable things to you.”

        Do you eat pork? Yet another no, no! Leviticus 11:8 “You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”

        Divorce? Still another no, no! Mark 10:9 “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

        Getting a haircut? No, no, no, no, no! Leviticus 19:27 “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”

        Stone a man for working on the Sabbath? Exodus 35:2 “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.”

        Touching a man (who’s attacking your husband) in the privates? Still yet another no, no!Deuteronomy 25:11-12 “If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.”

        Are you “bound and cling” to everything in the Bible, “as a Church we are not free to go tearing pages out of the Bible” or just those things that make you feel better.

        • You are using a fundamentalist reading of the Bible that the Catholic Church rejects. The point, as I have made repeatedly, is that the teaching against homosexual acts (AND illicit heterosexual acts) is made at every stage of Biblical revelation from the beginning of the Bible to its final pages. There are other practices and measures that either fall away after the early stages (such as some of the things you describe), are fulfilled (e.g. Jesus is the Lamb of God so we no longer kill animals in ritual sacrifice, or are explicitly abrogated (e.g. Jesus rendered all foods clean). But there are other things, most notably in the moral Law (to include the sexual matters being (endlessly) discussed) that are repeated at every stage of revelation, they do not fall away, neither are they fulfilled or abrogated by later Biblical texts.

          Once again, you show a lack of sophistication in condemning what you do not understand. Catholics are not fundamentalists do not treat Scripture in the way you understand or use it.

          • Bob Smith says:

            You are, quite frankly, being dishonest.

            At no point did I ever state that you were being fundamentalist – if anything, you directly implied it yourself with your statements of “as a Church we are not free to go tearing pages out of the Bible” and “The Church has the mission to proclaim the whole Gospel.”

  38. George R. Kadlec says:

    (Matt 13:27-30). How would we be sifted?

    Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man ‘against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household. (Matt 10:34-36)

    Some G.K. Chesterton quotes:

    “There are an infinite number of ways to fall, but there is only one way to stand.”

    “Is one religion as good as another? Is one horse in the Derby as good as another?”

    “I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.”

    “Be careful not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

    “I want a church that moves the world not one that moves with it”

    “Take away the supernatural and what remains is the unnatural”

    “Moral issues are always terribly complex for someone without principles.”

    The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense. “

    “Only a live fish can swim against the current, the dead go with it.”

    “When men cease to believe in God they do not thereafter believe in nothing; they believe in anything!”

    “What puzzles the world, and its wise philosophers and fanciful pagan poets, about the
    priests and people of the Catholic Church is that they still behave as if they were messengers,” wrote the British Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man. “A messenger does not dream about what his message might be, or argue about what it probably would be; he delivers it as it is.”

    “Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine [Ephesians 4:14], seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s ego and desires.” — Cardinal Ratzinger (before he became pope)

  39. Hieronymus says:

    If the Internet has already disproved anything it is the hypothesis that if a million monkeys banged at random on a million keyboards long enough they would eventually produce the collected works of Shakespeare. Why pay attention to a few such monkeys?

  40. GribbletheMunchkin says:

    I think what your reply to Hemant and the lengthy comment thread shows is that at a fundamental level, its not possible for Atheists and the catholic church to agree on even the premises of reality.

    As an atheist myself I can state that the vast majority of what the church does is simply irrelevant to most atheists, it has no place in my life and bothers me not one iota and thats fine. You guys do your thing, I’ll do mine. Catholics tend not to proselytize, unlike those annoying mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses and certain Protestant groups and thats appreciated.

    What gets us writing and talking about the church is when they either commit a great evil or when they do try and interfere in our lives.

    Now obviously and much debated, the great evil at the moment is the child rape cover up. That really angered an awful lot of people and atheists weren’t any less aggrieved than anyone else to find out that the church had been sheltering and protecting child rapists. So yes, we are angry at the church, we have a good reason to be, our anger doesn’t make our arguement invalid at all. Our arguement is that covering up child rape is a bad thing. You are welcome to argue the converse if you like.

    On interfering in our lives, I’d honestly have little problem with the church not liking the gays and frankly you can keep the women out of the priesthood until the world ends for all I care. But when you try and get your religious views instituted as civil law, or when you work actively to manipulate national policies to reflect your faith, that really gets my goat. I’m not gay myself but I have friends that are. They aren’t catholic (obviously) so your commandments on homosexuality don’t mean anything to them. But when you campaign politically agaisnt them, you intrude in the lives of people who are not catholic and that you may not do or at least not without expecting some kind of push back.

    That makes us angry. You are trying to tell us what to do. You are trying to force your religion, which we find nonsensical and strange, on us as law. We don’t begrudge you your faith, we detest that you wish to make us follow it. If the catholic church tries to push itself on others, it must expect that those others will push back.

  41. FFA says:

    Number big or small of people in the Church doesn’t really matter to me. The Church’s faith is eroded by many half-baked Christians inside her. They run counter against the purity of the Catholic faith. The Church soul-saving mission would do better without them. May the Lord have mercy on us all even if they would still remain inside His Church for some more time!

  42. jess says:

    It seems that my comment of July 19 at 10:28 pm has been moderated into the trash (unless of course it was the victim of a coding error, or some other mishap). Perhaps the way I phrased it was lacking? Quite possible, because I dashed it off quickly, brain dump style. I’ll try again.

    Monsignor,

    In your post you wrote that it “remains a sad fact that most people who call themselves Catholics are not really practicing Catholics in any sense of the word.” I am an ex-Catholic, by which I mean that I have undertaken, and received acknowledgement of, a formal defection from the Christian Faith of the Catholic Church, but for many years before I took that step, I fell into the category often referred to as ‘lapsed’, and before that I was one of those ‘nominal Catholics’ to whom you referred in the quoted text above.

    One of the issues which prompted me to make my defection official was that I was aware that I was being counted as a member of the church, which was clearly not a true representation of the facts. Assuming that you stand by your assertion that most self-identifying Catholics are not really practicing Catholics in any sense of the word, do you think there is a moral issue, or perhaps one concerning integrity, regarding the claimed number of Catholics as stated in the Statistical Yearbook issued by the Vatican?

    As far as I am aware, the Statistical Yearbook does not include a disclaimer stating that the number of members given includes a substantial number of people who do not meet the church’s criteria, in any way, to warrant the label ‘practicing Catholic’. I may no longer be a Catholic, but the issues of honesty and moral integrity come very high on my list of virtuous human attributes. I also note that you earned a Master of Arts Degree in Moral Theology, and thought you too might find this issue of interest.

    I would be interested to read your comments.

    • I stipulated that the church numbers are down at least here in America but have said again and again the Church does not run popularity contests to determine her teaching, hence your concern to demonstrate inflated numbers is gratuitous and misses the whole point of the article.

  43. John Earl says:

    Thank you for this Monsi! May I ask your permission to re-post this and some of your other online articles in our Youth website? We are gathering online materials we can share especially to the youth of our Diocese here in the Philippines. This article of yours would be of great help to the young faithful to be firm in our faith as we journey in our ministry.

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