Anti-Catholic bias is far from dead. Wrong assumptions. Errors. Misunderstandings. Even fear-based propaganda about the Church, what Catholics believe, and how we worship is not uncommon. What’s to be done? Plenty.
By Donna Caito
7 January 2020
I was amazed one afternoon when a news article came through my phone. It featured a son-in-law of a popular reality television show family. During one of his sermons he called Catholicism a “demonic” religion. He also used words like “defile” and “distorted” to describe Catholicism. Moreover, he said he would never hold hands with Catholics because, according to him, we’re not even Christian.
Que record scratch.
When I heard this, I chuckled a bit. When you’re a semi-knowledgeable Catholic who loves their religion and enjoy learning more about it, it’s always fascinating to hear other people’s conjectures. Most people fear Catholicism. They’re afraid of what they don’t know so they make assumptions. And we all know what happens when someone makes negative assumptions out of fear.
Others are simply misinformed. Still others are ignorant because they choose to be. Whatever the reason, much of this adds up to anti-Catholic bias. And there’s still plenty of it out there.
Idolatry: one of the things Catholics are “charged” with time and time again and one that this particular pastor had vehement issues with.
The words idolatry is often associated with Catholicism. When people see our churches filled with beautiful statues and pictures of the saints, they automatically assume we’re worshipping them. And worshipping them means we have more than one God. Again, this is where ignorance and fear come into play.
I always ask people when they talk about idolatry and the Catholic faith if they have pictures of their relatives in their home. Most say they do. Next, I ask if they have pictures of relatives who have passed away, maybe even carry them around. Again, most say they do. Finally, I ask if they’ve ever talked to those pictures while missing the person they represent. Just a, “Hey, Grandma. I know you’re in heaven so can you put in a good word for me?”
Or do they keep a memento of their loved one around just to feel closer to them.
Maybe even visited a grave of a family member and said a few words.
If they categorically deny those things are the same as a Catholic having a picture, a statue, or a memento of a saint, I always use the same comeback:
Do you have a Nativity scene at home?
Our love for the Blessed Mother: She’s the mother of God and yet we’re not supposed to acknowledge that?
We pray the Rosary. When people see those beads wrapped around our hands surely we’re worshipping Mary. I remember talking to my brother about this and how frustrating it was to have to explain all the time we ask for Mary’s intercession and not worship her. He said, “Just explain it this way; when you want something from your Dad who do you go to? You ask your Mom to talk to him for you.”
It’s interesting to me when people also argue Mary wasn’t a virgin. They cite the passages when Jesus is in ministry and it’s written his “brothers and sisters” were with him. However, like a lot of things when it comes to Catholicism, the people citing those passages completely ignore historical context.
We must remember the Bible is written during the New Testament times. English as we know it wasn’t even a language. Moreover, the people who wrote the New Testament spoke Aramaic yet wrote it in Greek to reach a wider audience. Therefore, certain situations and words originally in Aramaic were translated into the best term they could think of in Greek. When the texts were translated from Greek to Latin, the same thing happened. It happened again when the texts were translated from Latin to English. Just like Eskimos have over fifty words for snow or the Russians have two words for blue or the Japanese term for “love” has a stronger meaning than ours, when translating we’d try to find the closest approximation of these terms.
In New Testament times families lived together in the same community. Oftentimes extended families lived in the same home. The Greek word used to indicate “brothers and sisters”, adelphios, was a term used to indicate all children within an immediate family. Therefore, adelphios also meant cousins. As we know, Jesus had at least one cousin; Saint John the Baptist, and probably had many more. After all, Joseph may have had a family of his own prior to having married the Virgin Mary. It’s not outside the realm of possibility Jesus had many cousins on Joseph’s side of the family.
Moreover, we must remember what Jesus did with his dying breath. John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to his disciple, “Behold your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
These were Jesus’s last words. I tend to think that’s a pretty big deal. He wanted his mother taken care of. In New Testament times this was vitally imperative. When a woman became a widow, she went to the home of her son to be taken care of. If Jesus had any brothers or sisters, Mary simply would’ve gone to live with them. Since Jesus was an only child, he needed someone to take care of her. And who would he want to take care of his mother? The disciple he loved.
Mary is not simply some woman who happened to give birth to Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, which to me feels strange even writing because in and of itself that’s a huge deal. She’s our Blessed Mother, someone we can turn to when times are hard. She’s the woman I come to with my troubles and say, “Can you talk to Dad for me?”
Papal Succession: Being a key-holder was not merely symbolic. It was a big deal.
When we hear the term “keys to the kingdom” now, we think of a popular saying without much meaning. Even a mayor giving the keys to the city is symbolic. The key isn’t actually a key. The kingdom is usually a small town. It’s more a representation of an ancient practice no longer well known.
The land Jesus lived in wasn’t a republic but a monarchy. Kings ruled the world. It was believed kings had every right to everything in their kingdom. When you lived under a king’s rule, your home wasn’t yours, your personal items weren’t yours, the food you ate wasn’t yours, et cetera. Everything within that kingdom was property of the king. You were merely borrowing those items out of the “goodness” of the king’s heart.
Within the kingdom, the king had several different advisors. However, there was always one who had a place of prominence; the key-holder. They literally held the keys to the kingdom around their necks and body on a chain (where we get the term “key chain”). This person had access to every part of the kingdom. The key-holder was the king’s second in command, a trusted advisor, the highest position within the kingdom without being the king himself. Joseph in Genesis was a key-holder.
If the king was sick, the key-holder led until the king was better. If the king died and his son was too young to rule, the key-holder would lead until the young king was fit. If the king were away, say an Ascension into heaven, the key-holder would run things until the king got back. The key-holder wasn’t a king but was someone who stood in for the king in his absence.
When Jesus handed Saint Peter the keys to heaven, it wasn’t a symbolic gesture. Jesus was telling Peter and everyone around Peter was his second in command. And when Jesus was gone, it was Peter who would lead in his stead. And when Saint Peter died a new key-holder needed to be named. And so on and so forth throughout the years.
Papal succession isn’t something we just made up one day. It happened the moment Peter announced Jesus is the Son of God. To which Jesus replied,
Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:17-19)
Sola Scriptura: The age-old argument about “the Bible alone” and why we don’t believe it.
I could go into all the passages in the Bible that argue against sola Scriptura. Passages like 2 Thess. 2:15 and 3:6, 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2:2, 3:14, 1 Cor. 11:2, 2 Peter 2:21.
But what I’d like to point out is one very important thing about the Bible. Something we often forget. It’s also something Protestants usually don’t have an argument for.
There is no place in the Bible that argues for sola Scriptura.
If someone is going to believe “Bible alone” don’t you think there’d be a passage about it in the Bible?
It was the Catholic Church who deemed the books of the Bible holy works of God. Pope Damasus in the year 382 decreed the seventy-two books of the Bible scriptural canon. This was reaffirmed during Hippo in 393, Carthage in 397, and Florence in 1442.
Before the Bible was put together, what did the early Christians rely on? Sacred texts and sacred tradition. For hundreds of years they had certain parts of the Bible until late in the fourth century. Are the people who follow Sola Scriptura today saying the early Christians weren’t really Christians?
Anti-Catholic bias has been around a long time.
Many other Christian denominations think Catholics aren’t Christian because of things they heard from one biased person to another. And Catholics in America have been hearing such things from the moment we came to the shores. America, after all, is a Protestant nation founded on Protestant principals. It was the Catholics of Maryland who stood firm our nation was to separate church and state. It’s unfortunate even hundreds of years after the settlement of this country, we’re still hearing the same arguments against Catholicism.
As for that pastor? I’d love to shake his hand and discuss religion. Maybe if we sat down and broke bread he’d come to realize preaching fear and ignorance is not what Jesus would’ve wanted.
Donna Caito has a B.S. in Management and a M.A. in Theology. She’s a Catholic revert who didn’t want to be a Catholic but couldn’t come up with a good argument otherwise. She lives in the middle of nowhere with her children, her black cat named Midnight, and her white dog named Jack Frost. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about her unique place in the Catholic Church as a single mother and giving good reviews on Google.