Wednesday, July 25, 2007


At a former assignment there was a Christian denomination in town that totted that they loved Catholics. They loved us so much that they wanted to save us from hell. Apparently the atheist, the other Christian denominations and the Muslims in the same town were either not going to hell or were not loved as much as we were. For unlike their dealings with others, part of their particular act of love for us involved sneaking into the Church and leaving tracts that on the surface looked very Catholic but inside tried to destroy the faith of Catholics along with an invitation to come join a "real" Christian Church.

The reaction of many was to immediately rip up and throw these things away as if they were contaminated with some bacterial agent that would render them stupid. I didn’t. I collected them and used them to teach classes. They are wonderful tools not only for learning more about our faith but how to use that knowledge to engage in apologetics.

If you are confident in your faith do not be afraid of them. In fact, look for them. Engage them. Sit with them. Pray about them. Study them. Know that the issues that they present against Catholicism may not be immediately discernable. The producers have put a lot of time and effort into them. In some cases years. That you cannot see through them after a few minutes with them is nothing to be shocked about, they are designed to offset you. But that they offset you is a good thing. It shows that there is an aspect to your faith that has not yet been fully explored. Explore the issue like a CSI expert. Take apart every facet of the proposal; find the real issues and the facts. Feel free to call in experts. Solve the riddle. It is like a newspaper puzzle but with a purpose and reward.

To get you started here are some hinters. First take a look at the context in which the whole proposal is placed. Here are two examples.

One of my favorite Chick publications is one called “Last Rites”. The first three pages are used to set up a tone for the rest of the booklet. There are two people arguing and in general treating each other poorly. Interestingly enough, they have nothing to do with the rest of the booklet. Their sins are not addressed nor do they play a part in the rest of the story line. They are simply there to set an ominous mood.

Another way mood is used is in a video clip entitled, “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees”. Much of the beginning and peppered throughout are references to the intelligence of the viewer. “You are an intelligent, well educated person”, implying that if you are, you certainly will agree with the narrator as would all intelligent, educated persons. What does this have to do with any of his argument? Nothing, except to hopefully not have the person think any more deeply into the issues presented lest they should disagree with the presenter and thus not be considered intelligent and educated in his eyes.

There are a few more underhanded tactics to look at also. One of the most common is to make a statement that might seem like Church teaching (and is in fact not) and then tear it apart. Further on into “Last Rites,” the main character states, “I spent my whole life doing good works. That alone should have saved me.” This is presented as the teaching the Catholic Church which, of course, it isn’t, which is why it is so easy to then tear the supposed faith apart. But they are not tearing apart Catholic teaching, they are tearing apart something they claim is Church teaching. That would be a kin to saying, “The Catholic Church teaches that WWW is all real”, and then proceed to give proofs that it is not.

Sometimes misleading propositions are proposed. The lead question in “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees” is such a set up. On the surface this might seem quite disturbing. But if you sit with it for a while, maybe do some research into it the question itself becomes questionable. For example, if a person is in need of healing and it is granted, they wouldn’t then need an amputation. But amputation in not even a pathology anyway, it is a cure. We amputate because some other cure has not worked. And besides, healing does not necessarily mean cure. If an amputee is still living and getting on in life, they are healed. Further, a person with an amputation is not less of a person or less loved by God because they are amputees. So the question is misleading. God does heal amputees. Perhaps the real question is, “Why did not God make us like reptilians that regenerate their tails after they have been amputated?” Or an even far better question might be, “Why does God give us the free will to drive drunk and get into accidents in which people lose limbs?” Or, “Why does God allow people to continue unhealthy behaviors that they have been warned may lead to amputation?” Or, “Why in the richest country in the world are we the only industrialized nation that does not provide free health care to those who need it when we clearly could?”

Another tactic is to artificially limit the answers to questions. For example, to the question, “Why is God more concerned about your raise than poor starving innocent children?” The answers are limited to “God must hate them,” or “He wants them to die for some horrible divine reason.” Are those the only possible answers? No. Further, the question is manipulative in and of itself. If the author was really interested in an honest intellectual discussion the question would have been, “Is God more concerned about whether you get a raise or starving children?”

Those are just some examples. So do not be afraid of challenges to the faith. Do not be afraid to strip them of their emotional manipulation. Do not be afraid to strip them of the intellectual manipulation. You do not have to settle for the answers provided. You do not have to stay within unfair intellectual restraints. If you are stumped, there are wonderful resources to help you, go out there and use them! Above all, enjoy the endeavor!


Anonymous said...

The father of all lies is Satan. So Chick publications are full of lies--half-truths and emotional manipulations--hmmm, sound like Satan's friends.

On the other hand, The Father of all truth is God. All love comes from God.

The most disturbing thing I find is that when presented with truths those who purport these lies, say things like, "no, that's not what you believe--this is what you believe." They do not want to hear truth--they like the lies. They are full of hate.

Satan knows the truth of God in his mind--he will not love God in his heart??? I don't get it?? Once you know God, how can you choose the lie over truth, the hate over love??

Anonymous said...

why don't we have a tract printer?
why do the 'chicks' of the world do such a good [their view] job that they actually steal souls?
where are our booklets!?!?!?

hey, there adoro - still looking for a writing job ... here it is.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fr. V,

I have noticed that catholic bloggers, particularly conservative ones, sometimes seem terrified of unorthodox, heterodox, sites et cetera.

In my daily missal's examination of conscience, either compiled or written by Opus Dei, it has a couple self examination points like "Have I read anything that might corrupt my conscience" and that sort of thing.

And then it seems like so many catholics want to call in the cavalry when life calls for apologetics or actual christian witness.

Anyway, you didn't systematically take on the chick tracks here. But it was nice to see a padre encourage people to take them on, and then if one has questions to take them to their pastors, blog pastors, or elsewhere. I think that is a much healthier attitude than playing ostrich.

PS One such witnessing opportunity is John Haynes. He is battling prostrate cancer and raised a catholic family as an Anglican. He's ready to cross the Tiber now but for some reason his RCIA director is a bit slow about it. Anyway, he is a bit feisty but his heart is in the right place.

Adoro said...

Well said, Father, you apologist, you!

I've actually read a lot of people who state that they were a part of an anti-Catholic faith, one that loved to use Jack Chick tracts, and it seemed they spent no time learning about Jesus, but rather, learning about how to tear down another faith.

Many of these people leave these 'churches", and while they don't necessarily become Catholic, they do seek at least authentic religion; one that focuses more on their own relatinship and journey to the Lord as opposed to tearing down others.

It's not magic; they dont' cease being anti-Catholic but we certain tend to fall off their radar screen for a time if they aren't confronted with us in any way.

WC ~ I think you're right about a lot of bloggers avoiding heterodoxy, but there's a reason for that. For myself, I'm not a debator and I am not goign to go out and seek a debate. It's not my area. I don't blog in order to debate others; I blog in order to share my faith. There is a huge difference.

Some people have the temperment for aggressive apologetics. Others of us do not. Sometimes debate comes to our doorsteps, and thus we must answer, and it so happens that other regular readers naturally chime in. I, for one, will let them. Why restate what someone else has stated more clearly and with more knowledge?

And why seek out an argument with someone who is up front about the fact that they dissent from Church teaching?

Most of us are willing to discuss the faith, but those of us without the debate-mindset are more likely to refer the dissenter or opponent or what-have-you to solid resources versus our own position and summary.

Even though I am beginnign to study theology in ernest, I will never be an apologist, not really. We all get bees in our bonnets sometimes, and we all have our pet subjects, but that's not to say we want to go out and seek debate on an issue that in our minds, is settled.

Personally, I haven't seen a ton of heterdox/dissenters, or Christain denominations visiting me; so it seems it's not just the faithful Catholic bloggers who tend to avoid debate.

Some people live for it; most of us do not fall into that category, whether we are faithful to the magesterium and the eternal teachings of the Church or not.

Cathy said...

Yeah, what Adoro said.
I will talk to you if you come to my doorstep with the Watchtower, or if I pass you and hear you say "Yeah, Catholics worship statues" but I'm not trolling around atheist or pro-abortion boards looking to pick a fight, and I don't think most of them are trolling my board looking for a fight, either.
I'm not "afraid" of them - I just don't think that's the best way to evangelize, at least not for me personally.
I do, however, salute people who manage to do that.
(A Catholic Life is a pro at this.)

Anonymous said...

The strongest base of Catholic apologetics is not necessarily knowledge or ferocious defense, but sacramental grace from strong prayer - regular or daily Mass, Adoration, the Hours, reading Sacred Scripture, and bearing a humble spirit of listening first to God (contemplation), then to others, then to self. (So, uh, do as I say, not as I do.) The moment I let my guard down and start slacking, I'm the one who needs evangelizing and clarity and/or it becomes my horn being tooted, not God's.

"Remain in Me.." If the base is strong and constant, if we prepare for and allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to prevail in us, it is just as Jesus said, "Don't worry about what you will say, it will be given you." If the base is weak, then the other side of that coin is visible, "Even the little that you have will be taken away."

I spent a month, once (or perhaps many times) learning some parts of this hard truth in endless round arguments with one or more intense (nearly anti-Catholic) Protestant. It was exhausting for all. They at least have some portion of Christ, whereas atheists have nothing but Greenpeace (if that), and that has become my worry. But I, too, don't go looking for debate. It's not my nature or goal. It's just simply duty, sometimes.

Indeed, Uncle Jim, I've been handed tracts from JWs, Mormons and Muslims. Bring it on! Uh, Catholicism tracts, I mean. Yes. But perhaps we do have them.. how often do we see prayer cards to be taken after Mass.. we can order our own and leave them here and there. God is forever tilling the ground..