Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #25

Bible Christian Society

General Comments

Well, it seems that my last newsletter sparked an international “incident,” of sorts. More on that below.

Also, one of you emailed me to let me know that the transcript of Scott Hahn’s “The Fourth Cup”, which I recommended in last week’s newsletter, can be found (free of charge) at http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/4cp.html, along with some of his other works. And, again, the audio and video (don’t know if it’s available on DVD or not) can be found at www.saintjoe.com. Just type “fourth cup” into the search engine on their home page and it should pop right up.


It seems that a number of you folks, 30 or 40 or maybe even more, after reading last week’s newsletter – where I published an exchange between Dr. Joe Mizzi (of www.justforcatholics.org) and myself – emailed Dr. Mizzi and asked him why he wouldn’t respond to me and told him that you agree with me that his website misrepresents the Catholic Faith. That apparently got under his skin a bit and he felt the need to publish a response to my newsletter on his website (though he still hasn’t responded to me directly, and has now blocked my email address).

So, what I thought I would do is respond here to what he posted on his website. Maybe some of you (or all of you) could forward this newsletter to him so as to make sure he sees it and has the opportunity to respond. If you’re interested in doing so, his email address is: justforcatholics@yahoo.com. Also, one of you suggested that I answer some of the things on his website in future editions of this newsletter and I thought that was a very good idea, so I intend to do just that.

Below is the indirect response to my newsletter that he posted on his website. He is responding directly to an email he received from one Mr. Raymond Woodward, a non-Catholic subscriber to this newsletter with whom I have corresponded in the past, and who is not so patiently waiting for me to respond to his last email…which I will do in the near future…and also not so patiently waiting for me to publish all that he has written me in one or more of my future newsletters…which I will also do in the near future.

If you’re interested, I’ll ask you to simply go to www.justforcatholics.org and read Mr. Woodward’s letter as opposed to my printing it all here. My only response, at this time, to what Mr. Woodward wrote, is that I have explained to him on more than one occasion that carrying on a correspondence with me can quite often mean long periods between responses, as I can be carrying on dozens of such conversations with non-Catholics at the same time, in addition to answering hundreds of emails that come in each week, in addition to my travels and the fact that I work 2 part-time jobs to help make ends meet and, oh yes, I have a wife and four young children.

Nevertheless, Mr. Woodward chose to write what he did to Dr. Mizzi – I only hope that when our exchange is published in this newsletter, he will write a retraction to Dr. Mizzi and that Dr. Mizzi will post that on his website, as well. (Anyone want to give me odds on that happening?)

So, again, you can go to Dr. Mizzi’s website (www.justforcatholics.org) and read Mr. Woodward’s letter there. I have reprinted Dr. Mizzi’s entire response to him, which is an indirect response to me, in italics. My responses follow each of his paragraphs. This one is a bit long, so please bear with me.


Brother Raymond,

I was on duty at the neonatal intensive care yesterday. By midnight I was exhausted after spending many hours working to save the life of a newborn baby. Before getting to bed, I decided to check my email, and to my surprise there were about 20 or 30 letters in the inbox. I soon discovered about John Martignoni’s newsletter. I answered each and every one of them while trying hard not to be “overcome of evil, but [to] overcome evil with good.” Not easy, for some (not all) of those letters oozed with hatred and spite. I prayed and continue to pray for these people.

Helping to save the physical life of a newborn baby, or anyone else for that matter, is a wonderful thing, and Dr. Mizzi is to be commended for the successes of his profession, and his personal successes, in doing just that. However, helping to destroy the spiritual life of those who follow him into doctrinal error, is not a thing to be commended, but rather a thing to be lamented. But, we must keep in mind that he is not the enemy, and we must pray for him, as he prays for us. If anyone did send an email that “oozed with hatred and spite,” then they need to issue an apology to Dr. Mizzi. However, a few dozen of you forwarded to me the emails you sent him, and I saw nothing “oozing with hatred and spite.”

It is interesting that John Martignoni was unable to demonstrate a single misrepresentation of the Catholic religion. For instance, he wrote: “From your website: ‘Nobody will ever be heard boasting that he succeeded to enter heaven because of his penances and sufferings.’ The clear implication is that Catholicism teaches that we will enter Heaven because of what we do. That is false.” Well, where is the proof from official Catholic sources that the ‘clear implication’ is false? He simply makes a bald assertion and nothing more.

This is interesting indeed! I did exactly what he asked me to do…well, I did more than he asked me to do. He asked me to give him one instance of where his website misrepresents Catholic teaching. I gave him five (I probably could have given hundreds!). Now, he comes back and says that I didn’t give any evidence, any “proof” to back up my examples. He says I made a “bald assertion” [how did he know I’m bald?], and nothing more. Isn’t that sweet?! He dismisses what I wrote him because I did exactly what he does on his website…he makes bald assertions without any proof whatsoever. If it’s okay for him to do, why isn’t it okay for me to do? What’s that word for folks who condemn in others that which they themselves do?

Anyway, back to bald assertions…that’s all his website is. His website is nothing but his biased, anti-Catholic interpretation…his biased non-Catholic opinion…of what the Catholic Church teaches. I gave him my opinion, as a faithful Catholic, who is fairly well-educated in his Faith, of what the Church teaches. Why does his opinion on Catholic teaching hold more weight than mine? Why does his non-Catholic interpretation of Church teaching hold more weight than my Catholic interpretation? I wouldn’t dare say that my opinion of what his church teaches and believes holds more weight than his opinion…that would be nothing but the height of arrogance on my part

Now, I know he would probably respond that he has quotes from Catholic sources in many places on his website. Well, yes he does. However, he provides little to no context for those quotes, and he leaves out quotes that are quite pertinent to the topic at hand, yet do not fit in with what he is trying to make folks believe about the Catholic Faith…those go conveniently unmentioned. So, he takes these Catholic quotes with no context, and gives you his interpretation of them. Again, that’s all his website is, his biased interpretation of selected sentences or phrases from Catholic teaching (along with, of course, his fallible interpretations of Scripture).

Let me give just one example of this so that you can see what I’m saying (I wouldn’t want you to have to rely on my “bald assertions” – I still can’t figure out how he knew I’m bald). In one place on his site, can’t remember which section exactly, he asserts that the Catholic Church talks out of “both sides of its mouth.” And he quotes one Church document which says that Christ is our only “true priest,” and then he quotes another Church document which says that ordained priests can thus be said to be “true priests.” He then states that the Church is contradicting itself by saying Christ is the only true priest, but by saying elsewhere that the clergy can also be said to be ‘true priests”. You can see these statements yourself by going to paragraphs #1545 and #1564 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC).

But, there’s a problem with Dr. Mizzi’s interpretation that these two statements represent a contradiction. He simply doesn’t understand, or refuses to accept, the Church’s full teaching on the priesthood. Christ is the only true priest. Amen! But, those that have been ordained as priests, have been given a particular share in His priesthood – as members of His Body. It is only because they are members of His Body that the ordained priest can be said to be a true priest. As members of His Body, they can rightly be said to be true priests, even though Christ is the only true priest. They are a part of Christ! Christ works in them and through them in their ministerial duties as priests. They act, as every Catholic knows, in persona Christi – in the person of Christ. As the CCC states in #1548, "It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person His minister truly represents.” It is Christ, acting through the priest, who is a member of Christ’s Body. Therefore, we are perfectly correct in saying that Christ is the only true priest, and that those ordained to the priesthood are also true priests.

Now, if Dr. Mizzi protests that that makes no sense, then I would say to him that he needs to first protest Scripture, for that is where the logic originates. Does not Scripture tell us that we have only one Father…God, the Father (Mt 23:9)? So, one true Father, God the Father. Yet, my son has me as his father. But, if my son only has one true father, God the Father, then I can’t be his true father, can I? Oh, yes I can. There is only one true Father, God the Father, but I share, as do all fathers, in God’s Fatherhood when I cooperate with God (and my wife) in bringing forth new life. So, I can rightly be called a true father, even though we have only one true Father…God, the Father…because He has allowed me to share in His Fatherhood. That’s biological fatherhood, but we can say the same about spiritual fatherhood, as well. Scripture tells us that Abraham is the “father” of the uncircumcised (Rom 4:11)- well, not in a biological sense he wasn’t. Must be talking about spiritual fatherhood. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, refers to the Jewish religious authorities as “fathers” (Acts 7:2). Again, spiritual fatherhood. How could these people all be fathers, if God is the only Father? Because they shared in God’s Fatherhood.

Just so, 1 Cor 3:11 tells us that there is only one foundation, Jesus Christ. Yet, in Eph 2:19-20, Scripture refers to the Apostles and prophets as the foundation. But, wait a minute…if we only have one foundation, and it’s Jesus Christ, then how can the Apostles and prophets also be the foundation? Scripture, like the Catholic Church, must be contradicting itself, right!? Well, according to Dr. Mizzi’s line of reasoning, the Scripture is indeed contradicting itself…talking out of both sides of its mouth. But, Dr. Mizzi’s reasoning is flawed…his understanding of the subject limited. Again, the Apostles and prophets, as members of the Body of Christ, share in a special way in Christ’s role as Foundation. He is the only true Foundation, but they can be said to also be the true foundation…with Him, in Him, and through Him, as members of His Body. The same line of reasoning applies to Jesus as the only true priest, but the ordained priests are also true priests.

Dr. Mizzi has the understanding of a man who is on the outside looking in. By his own admission, he left the Catholic Faith in his “early teens.” What kind of education can he claim to have had in the Catholic Faith by his early teen years? Yet, here he is, railing against that about which he does not understand. Again, his whole website does nothing but give one and all his opinion about Church teaching. An opinion based in bias born of ignorance.

And, again, as this example shows, he is very selective about his “proofs,” – he gives no context to the Church teachings he quotes. He takes one sentence from CCC #1545 and one from CCC #1564 and says, “See, a contradiction!” Well, what about all the paragraphs before #1545 and after #1564? And, what about all the paragraphs in between?

Also, he attempts to charge the Catholic Church with contradicting itself, but what about the contradictions in his own website? For example, he states that he believes there are Catholics who are saved. And, he challenges those Catholics, after they get saved, to then examine what they believe as Catholics in the light of Scripture and to toss away the unscriptural teachings of the Church. But, he also says somewhere else, that if you believe what the Church teaches, you can’t be saved. Talk about a contradiction! If you can’t be saved while believing what the Catholic Church teaches, then how can Catholics be saved? And how could they then examine the teachings of the Church in the light of Scripture once they’ve been saved, if they can’t be saved while believing those teachings? Makes no sense, whatsoever!

Would he deny that Catholics perform penance to make satisfaction for their sins? Or that by their suffering in purgatory they are cleansed from temporal punishment and venial sins before they enter heaven? Would he deny that Catholicism teaches that, at least in part, the faithful supposedly enter heaven because of what they do? Surely many of his readers will recognize who is speaking the truth.

I would deny these things as he interprets them, but not as the Church teaches them. Let me quote from the CCC, #1460, “The satisfaction that we make for our sins, however, is not so much ours, as though it were not done through Jesus Christ. We who can do nothing ourselves, as if just by ourselves, can do all things with the cooperation of ‘Him Who strengthens’ us. Thus man has nothing of which to boast, but all our boasting is in Christ…in Whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth ‘fruits that befit repentance.’ These fruits have their efficacy from Him, by Him they are offered to the Father, and through Him they are accepted by the Father” (emphasis mine).

Do you think Dr. Mizzi would post that on his website as an official quote from Church teaching? I sincerely doubt it. It doesn’t fit with what he chooses to believe about Catholic teaching, so he ignores it. Dr. Mizzi believes, and teaches others to believe, that Catholics think we can make satisfaction for our sins apart from Christ. That is absolutely false, and he would know it was false if he bothered to pay attention.

Furthermore, doesn’t he himself teach that, in part, the faithful enter Heaven because of what they do? Well, yes he does. He states the following in his reply: “Who says that we have ‘no role’ whatsoever – do we not insist that a person must personally believe in Christ for justification, albeit by God’s enabling grace?”

What is having faith? Isn’t it something we do? Isn’t it an act of the intellect and of the will. And, do we not have to have faith in order to get into Heaven? So, something we do is necessary for getting into Heaven. In other words, under his belief system, the faithful enter Heaven, in part, because of something they do. Yet, he castigates the Catholic Church for teaching the same thing that he believes. Now, he goes on to say that the only way you can have faith is by God’s grace, well, that’s exactly what Catholics say. Fill in the blank: In order to get to Heaven, it is necessary for a person to have _____, but it is only by God’s grace that one can have _____, therefore, it is only by God’s grace that one is saved. He fills in the blank with “faith,” we fill it in with “faith and works.” Why can it be one, but not the other?

Or take his question, “Based on your belief that the individual has no role to play in his/her own salvation, then why isn’t everyone saved?” Wow! This is the same person who is accusing me of misrepresenting Catholicism — how about his crass caricature of the Protestant and Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone?! (see, for instance, www.justforcatholics.org/a59.htm).

Actually, this is not a “crass caricature” of the “Protestant and [un]Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone.” I have run into any number of Protestants who do not agree with Dr. Mizzi regarding his personal take on salvation by faith alone. They would disagree strongly with what he says about the role of works. I have even had one Protestant gentleman look me straight in the eye and tell me that love has nothing to do with salvation. He didn’t have to love anyone and he can still get to Heaven, as long as he has faith. Now, it might not be a proper characterization of how Dr. Mizzi understands the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, but I hope he will understand and will forgive me…how can I possibly know which Protestant believes exactly which variation about which doctrine? There are so many different “Protestant” interpretations out there.

Who says that we have “no role” whatsoever do we not insist that a person must personally believe in Christ for justification, albeit by God’s enabling grace? What we do not say, of course, is that faith, or the works that follow, are in any way meritorious for our justification. We contend that we are justified on account of Christ’s blood and his righteousness alone, received by faith, and manifest in a holy life overflowing with good works.

This is the crux of the problem here – Catholics believe that the works we do can have merit. He denies that. Well, what does the Bible say about this? Gal 6:8, “For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Hmmm. That’s not possible according to Dr. Mizzi, is it? Something we do can cause us to reap eternal life, the Bible says. Isn’t that interesting? And look at Romans 2:6-7, “For He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life…” Again, the Bible tells us that God will render unto us according to our works. And, that by patience in well-doing, He will give us eternal life. Dr. Mizzi says that isn’t the way it is. Who do you believe, Dr. Mizzi, or the Word of God?

Now, given that scriptural background, let’s look at what the Church teaches about how it is that our works can merit anything. All one has to do is turn to the Glossary in the back of the CCC to see the Church’s definition of merit: “The reward which God promises and gives to those who love Him and, by His grace, perform good works. One cannot ‘merit’ justification or eternal life, which are the free gift of God; the source of any merit we have before God is due to the grace of Christ in us.” Due to the grace of Christ in us. We can be said to “merit” because Christ is in us. We are members of His Body. As the CCC says under the section on “Merit”: “You are glorified in the assembly of your Holy Ones, for in crowning their merits you are crowning your own gifts,” which is a quote from St. Augustine. (Again, another quote from the CCC that you will never see on Dr. Mizzi’s website.) In other words, we can only be said to merit as Christ Himself works through us, by His grace. Christ is crowning His own gift with merit. And, this teaching of the Church fits very well with the very clear words of Scripture.

Again, Dr. Mizzi gives not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor of the Bible, he gives a biased, uneducated characterization of Catholic teaching, and then proceeds to knock it down. We call that setting up a strawman, which is what he does throughout his website.

John bases his question on a false premise, and then pretends to be an honest seeker. No, I will not waste time with people like him.

I am an honest seeker. I honestly seek to get him to understand that he is falsely representing Catholic teaching on his website, and that may not go well for him when he takes that final curtain call.

When this man first wrote to me, he gave me no hint who he was or what his intentions were.

I think you can read my first email to him and see that I was very clear in what my intentions were. He didn’t ask me for a biography. Would he have answered differently if he had known I have a newsletter with a few thousand subscribers? Which, I did tell him in my second email to him.

He said that I misrepresented the Catholic religion; I asked him to give me an example. He replied by listing several alleged misrepresentations without any substantiation form [sic] Catholic sources.

Already discussed this above.

And, for good measure, he added two ‘trick’ questions. I suppose he will call that ‘strategy’ - flood someone with questions that require a tome to answer properly, and then when he does not answer, sing and shout the victory!

I “flooded” him with two questions? Trick questions? Why are they trick questions? Because he can’t answer them and be consistent with what the Bible teaches and with what he claims to believe? And, they wouldn’t require a “tome” to answer. All he had to do on the first one is give an account of what he believes regarding salvation by faith alone, and the second question I asked him was a plain yes or no question. Would have taken him two seconds to answer that one. I haven’t claimed victory, I just claimed that he did what most Protestants who spout off about the Catholic Church do when they run into an informed Catholic who talks back to them – they get outta Dodge. I don’t consider this a victory, I consider it a lesson. If he does not repent of the error of his ways, there is no victory here.

Many Catholic people who write to ‘Just for Catholics’ are sincerely interested in the gospel; for them I take the time to answer as best as I can. But others are not genuine. I have long learned to recognize people like them, of whom John is a prototype. I cannot waste time in futile debates. I informed him about that, and blocked his email address on the Microsoft Outlook.

What he really means is that he will answer the misinformed Catholics who write to him and fall for his half-truths, mischaracterizations, and misrepresentations regarding the Catholic Faith. You can only be genuine in his eyes if you believe the gospel according to Joe.

Of course, John triumphantly interpreted my silence as weakness. But he should know better. In my ‘Terms and Conditions’ of the Q&A page, I state clearly: “Apart from the time restraints, I am not convinced that prolonged debates are useful and edifying; I have decided not to participate in them anymore.” That is the primary reason why I did not answer him! Perhaps he is honest enough to let his readers know.

Regarding his “Terms and Conditions,” I never saw them until I read his response to my newsletter. Even then, I had to look carefully for them and it took me a little bit to find them. Also, he said he will not engage in “prolonged” debate, but he didn’t engage in any debate! And, I wasn’t asking him a question for inclusion on his site, I was informing him that his site is rife with error. If he is truly a man of integrity, wouldn’t he want to make doggone sure that what he is teaching people is the genuine article? I would.

May I ask your permission to publish your letter on my website? Perhaps John Martignoni may want to publish your correspondence in his next newsletter :)

In Christ,


I hope it is obvious to all that I am not one bit hesitant to publish anything that someone writes to me or about me. I wasn’t hesitant to give out Dr. Mizzi’s website. I’ll bet he had more Catholics visit his website this past week than in any number of other weeks combined. Will he publish my website address on his website? Of course not. Will he publish anything out of this newsletter on his website? Of course not. Well, he might, but it would undoubtedly be only a single line and he would take it out of context. Yet, I have published his full response, and I have told everyone where they can go to read Mr. Woodward’s correspondence about me to Dr. Mizzi. Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

In Conclusion

I would sum everything up here, but this newsletter is already long enough, and I have a feeling that there may be more to be said in the future. Plus, I will be responding to some of the stuff on his website in future emails. So, that’s all for now, folks.

As always, comments are welcomed and will be read. And, again, if you want to forward this newsletter to Dr. Mizzi so that he has an opportunity to read it, I would love to have you do so. His email address is, again: justforcatholics@yahoo.com. And, his website is www.justforcatholics.org.

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Apologetics for the Masses