Thursday, September 6, 2012

Top 10 Modern Myths About the Catholic Church

When I decided to write this list, I thought about how it has changed, even in the past ten years. If I were to write this list 10 years ago, it would probably include these items:
  • Catholics worship Mary.
  • Catholics believe non-Catholics are going to hell.
  • Catholics believe the Pope cannot sin.
  • Purgatory no longer is a Catholic doctrine.
  • Catholics were told not to read the Bible.
  • etc.
But, none of those appear on this list for today. This is because the modern person's knowledge about Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, is worse than it was 10 years ago. This means modern people are more secular in their thinking and thus the myths have evolved. Without further commentary I give you:
Top 10 Modern Myths About the Catholic Church

10 - The Catholic Church is anti-woman and misogynistic.
This myth has deep roots. Certainly there are men in the Church's history who may have been misogynistic, but the Church itself has never been. In fact, the biggest defender today of women's basic human rights is the Catholic Church.

9 - A large number of priests are perverts and/or pedophiles.
This just doesn't have any support in the numbers. At worst, the numbers are about 4% of priests can be credibly linked to abuse (this is still WAY too high). But, the priesthood itself isn't full of predators or perverts. By comparison teachers could be as high as 5% or more. This is in no way defending any priest if they did something wrong, but rather a busting of a myth.

8 - Celibacy is the cause of the priestly scandals.
Again, the numbers don't bear this myth. If this were the case, then we should see a much lower rate of abuse in non-celibate ministers. We don't. In fact, it could be higher in others. How a marriage would solve a psychological issue of wanting to abuse children is beyond me.

7 - Catholics don't think for themselves.
The basic idea is that we should never try to rely on any external authority. Rather, we need to make up truth "for ourselves". No, we don't make up the truth. It is above and beyond our opinions. But, we do need to seek it out and work to find it. Having an adult faith means we have to know it, but we should always examine it and test it - as St. Paul says, "Test everything; retain what is good." 1 Thes 5:21

6 - The Church is homophobic and encourages discrimination against gays.
While not accepting any kind of sinful behavior as ok (from anyone), there is no evidence of this myth's veracity. I will let the Catechism answer this one:
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
5 - The Church doesn't allow abortion and contraception so that there are more people they can control.
This is from those that see the Catholic Church only in terms of power (as they define it). So, they can't believe that the moral reasons for opposing these issues makes sense, rather they make the irrational claim that it is all about making more Catholics. No, it is actually about doing the right thing. Read more here and here if you doubt.

4 - The Catholic Church is anti-sex.
Actually, the Catholic Church is pro-sex, when sex is for the proper purposes and is between a married man and woman. Sex can be beautiful and wonderful. In fact, it can be sacred. That doesn't sound "anti" to me.

3 - The Catholic Church supports immigration for everyone because they know most of the immigrants come from Catholic countries and the Bishops want their money.
First of all, the immigration issue doesn't have a "one-size fits all" mentality with the US Bishops. Second, this is a distraction from the real problem - justice on both sides of the borders of the USA. The US Bishops do not condone breaking the law or violating anyone's human rights. How that works in concrete political policy is for us, the laity, to figure out.

2 - The Catholic faith and science are not compatible. 
Another distraction. The Catholic Church's priests and laity have furthered science, not held it back. There are a number of Catholic scientists who are the founders of their area of expertise: Mineralogy, Modern Chemistry, Modern Algebra, Atomic Theory, Astronomy, and more. If you want to know the full story, I recommend this book.

1 - The Catholic faith is stuck in the past and needs to be updated to reach the modern world.
If this were the case, then we should also see significant growth in Protestant denominations that have gone down this path - Episcopalians, ELCA Lutherans, etc. But, it is the opposite, they are losing numbers rapidly. Rather, the truth attracts and the truth never changes.


Lotus said...

Bravo Marcel!
Excellent list. Very interesting to see the differences in the two lists.

I work with the public (in transportation) and many people I've spoken with have no clue what the Church is. They think it's just another christian group.

I do come across some hostility towards Catholicism, but it's mostly from "I was raised Catholic but..." people. And, mostly people my age (47)!

I love your blog! Keep up the wonderful work!

kkollwitz said...

Your first 5 from ten years ago are still very au courant here in South Carolina.

Marcel said...

I don't think they have gone away, but they are tied to fundamentalist and evangelical myths about Catholicism - not secular persons.

Divina Joy said...

I love this post. It gives me a little consolation. I agree, the first 5 myths have not gone away, even here in the Philippines. If only Catholics try to go deeper in the faith, then they will understand.

Christine Falk Dalessio said...

Very well thought out... thank you for sharing, and doing a good job to dispel the myths.
#10 is always of interest to me.. Unfortunately, there were not just a few men who failed to honor woman and all she is. The 1912 Catholic encyclopedia, for instance, stated women should not go to college because she was unfit to learn... But we can forgive them their stupidity and move on. Certainly, the offcial doctrine of the Church, which recognizes woman as the highest creature in Heaven, is where the Truth has always lain.

priest's wife said...

very good post---and I must say (as one myself)- Converts rock! ;)

Carolyn Lalli said...

One myth that also applies to catholics is that ALL catholics are members of the Roman Catholic Church.

Although it is not widely known in our Western world, the Catholic Church is actually a communion of Churches. According to the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, the Catholic Church is understood to be "a corporate body of Churches," united with the Pope of Rome, who serves as the guardian of unity (LG, no. 23). At present there are 22 Churches that comprise the Catholic Church. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, uses the phrase "autonomous ritual Churches" to describe these various Churches (canon 112). Each Church has its own hierarchy, spirituality, and theological perspective. Because of the particularities of history, there is only one Western Catholic Church, while there are 21 Eastern Catholic Churches. The Western Church, known officially as the Latin Church, is the largest of the Catholic Churches. It is immediately subject to the Roman Pontiff as Patriarch of the West. The Eastern Catholic Churches are each led by a Patriarch, Major Archbishop, or Metropolitan, who governs their Church together with a synod of bishops. Through the Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Roman Pontiff works to assure the health and well-being of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

Reminder to Roman Catholics! A Roman rite Catholic may attend any Eastern Catholic Liturgy and fulfill his or her obligations at any Eastern Catholic Parish. A Roman rite Catholic may join any Eastern Catholic Parish and receive any sacrament from an Eastern Catholic priest, since all belong to the Catholic Church as a whole.

Carrie said...

Great list, but do you happen to have the source for Protestant churches losing numbers? A friend doesn't believe that and wants some research to prove it. He also mentioned that, though not truly considered "Protestant" (esp by members), the Mormon Church is gaining numbers steadily ... Often from lapsed Catholics.

Brian Brady said...

Excellent link on #2. I just finished Tom Woods' book and it debunked MANY myths about the Church

Momof4 said...

Your first list is definitely what I come across. ESPECIALLY MARY! I'll never understand that!

Margarett Cahill Zavodny said...

Another myth, that still comes up on TV shows where Catholicism is mentioned, "Suicides is a mortal sin & those who commit suicide cannot be buried in consecrated ground".

JennyW said...

There are other myths I have encountered more commonly as a convert that are spread by "opposing churches" that condemn the Catholic Church. I think these should be addressed as well; such as:
1. Catholics give themselves an excuse to sin because they can "just go to confession and it's all wiped clean". What most don't understand about the sacrament of confession is the things that come with it that give us forgiveness. Such as confessing is not enough to be forgiven but we must repent, and truly desire to not commit that sin again.

2. We worship Mother Mary INSTEAD of God. People believe that because we pray to her, that she is our god. When in fact we pray to many Saints and figures not as Gods but as advocates for our well being. Most who believe this myth have not actually heard and listened to a Hail Mary "pray for us sinners" is a pretty clear explanation.

3. Catholics are idol worshipers. Most people who believe this see our symbols of our faith, alters etc. and assume we are worshiping the statue rather than worshiping the figure the statue represents. Again these people are going by what they see without understanding what they see and why.

Me Too said...

These are so true!!!

I am constantly asked how I (a strong, intelligent woman) can be Catholic, when it is a "misogynistic, woman-hating" religion. Most of those asking only hear what they want to hear and ignore the rest, focusing on what they THINK to be true of a religion.