Q - Thank you for your wonderful bog. Would you be able to help me out with a question? Someone I know insists the Christian/Catholic faith started with pagan practices. They recently wrote to me:
"the Catholic religion practiced anywhere, paganisn is very much infiltrated within the religion. Eveything about Caltholism is pagan in organ. Also some Christian practices are also. Christmas and Easter...."
I realize pagan beliefs and practices do go on in Haiti as well as some other traditionally Catholic areas of the world, but I don't know how the bishops put up with this or what they can do to stop it. It seems to be really embedded in these places and I also would add many Christians/Catholics are into experiences with New Age, crystals, et al. which, of course, is superstition.
Thanks for your help!
A - Thanks for the questions. The first thing you ought to do, if you haven't already, is ask where the person is coming from. What kind of belief system do they hold to? What sources of information did they use to come to the conclusion that all of Catholicism is pagan in origin? Was it good history? Why do they trust it?
First of all they condemn all Catholicism because there are some who take the name of Catholic and then pervert or twist it to mean mostly anything. But, this is a false premise. We should never throw the baby out with the bathwater. For instance, if I said that all people in Houston are crooks because I got robbed there, then I am dealing in a false argument.
Next they sometimes find a similar practice to Catholicism and then make the conjecture that the pagan practice must be the origin of the Catholic practice. But, again, this isn't always the case. If I can find that ancient Romans worshiped statues, it doesn't mean that Catholics do now or that our practice of having statues in our churches makes us pagan idol worshipers.
Ultimately the persons making such claims are usually dealing in bad arguments and even worse history (if we even call it history). One Protestant pastor who wrote a very popular book with just these kind of accusations recanted them in 2005, took the book out of print and apologized for his errors. You can read an article he wrote for Catholic Answers here. Note that he never became Catholic or gave up his ministry, in fact his ministry suffered from taking the book out of print, but he did it anyway.
For some more details on the origins of such accusations, read this article.
As for what the Bishops could do about it, I am sure they do all they can to put a stop to it. I know New Orleans has some history of voodoo and I know Archbishop Aymond would never want it practiced by any Catholics in his archdiocese, but he can't force someone to stop (and he would never want to force them to - though he might ask them to). Pray for our bishops and those that twist the faith with pagan practices.
On the other side of the equation, there are some inaccuracies that even some Catholics buy into. For instance, it is a common mistake to think that Christmas finds it's origin in a Pagan holiday. This isn't true. In fact, the Church fixed the date as Dec 25th to battle against paganism, which celebrated a pagan festival this time of year. So, rather than being pagan, Christmas is anti-pagan! Scripture even speaks of other instances of "baptizing" certain practices to bring them to a Godly practices. For instance, the feast of Tabernacles that was celebrated by the Jews (which Jesus celebrates as a Jew) was set on the Jewish calendar to oppose a pagan feast day.
I hope this helps.