Apologetics for the Masses #404 - Mistakes Catholics Make When Talking About the Faith

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Mistakes Catholics make when talking about the faith...


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General Comments


Big Announcement!!!

Hey folks,

     How would you like to join me for a 10-day cruise on the Danube River next July (July 22 - August 2)?!  The cruise would include stops in Munich, Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, Regensburg, Salzburg, and more!  There will, of course, be daily Mass in an itinerary that includes Marian shrines, beautiful churches, castles, classical music concerts, wine tastings, and more!

     Plus, and this is the really big one...the Oberammergau Passion Play!  The play is only performed every 10 years, but it wasn't done in 2020 because of covid, so the next opportunity you will have to see the play after this will be in 2030.

     The cost will be in the $4500 - $5500 range (double occupancy), depending on what kind of cabin you prefer, plus airfare.  There is also an optional 2-day trip to Poland to visit Krakow and the Divine Mercy Shrine and then to Czestochowa and the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa (the Black Madonna).

     If you are interested in possibly going, please let me know as soon as possible and I can send you more details.  Also joining us will be Gail Buckley Barringer (the Bible Lady, Founder of Catholic Scripture Study) and folks from her Bible study groups.  There are limited spaces available, so please let me know as soon as possible if you have any interest at all in going.

     One last thing, I will be having free Blue Collar Apologetics sessions while on board for any who would be interested. 


This week I want to talk about mistakes I see Catholics making - time and time again - when they are talking to people, engaging in email exchanges, or posting on social media about the Catholic Faith. 


Mistakes Catholics Make When Talking About Their Faith

1) Going beyond what the Church teaches - This is not the most common mistake I see Catholics make, but it is, in my opinion, the most egregious of the mistakes that Catholics make.  On a number of occasions I have seen Catholics say things about Catholic teaching that simply do not agree with Catholic teaching.  On occasion, they will literally try to add a new "wrinkle" to the deposit of faith.  Other times, they exaggerate what the Church teaches - not in the sense of making something up, but in the sense of stretching something out of proportion to the actual teaching.  Here are a few examples: 

     a) "The only thing we must believe in regards to creation is that the immortal soul did not evolve and all humankind came from only one man and one woman."  False.  There are nine things, not two, the Church teaches we must believe regarding creation and the 1st three chapters of Genesis.  Now, I would wager that the person who wrote this does indeed believe in those 9 things; however, their wording here is not at all accurate.  They need to be much more careful in what they say.

     b) "If every sin committed against the Son will be unconditionally forgiven (Luke 23:34) and any sin committed against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven (Matthew 12:31-32), is it logical and/or correct to conclude that the only sins Christ's death redeemed us of are those committed against the Father?"  This question was asked on my Facebook page - John Martignoni and the Bible Christian Society.  What's wrong with this?  Well, two things:

     1) He takes Jesus' words in Luke 23:34 - 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do." - to mean that everyone throughout all time who sins against the Son is unconditionally forgiven.  Where does the Bible say that?  It doesn't.  Where does the Church say that?  It doesn't.  In fact, the Church specifically states in the Catechism that the sin of those Jews who were directly responsible for crucifying Christ cannot be held against all Jews everywhere and throughout time (CCC #597).  So, when Jesus said, "Father forgive them...," He was talking specifically about those men who were directly responsible for His crucifixion.  He was not giving blanket amnesty to all people for all time who committed a sin "against the Son".

     2) The second thing wrong is that he is, essentially, interpreting Matthew 12:31-32 to mean that there are specific sins one can commit against the Son (2nd Person of the Trinity) that are not committed against the Father or the Holy Spirit; againt the Spirit that are not committed against the Son or the Father; and, in a later post, that there are sins that can be committed against the Father that are not committed against the Son or the Holy Spirit.  The problem is, though, that is not how the Church interprets that passage.  You cannot sin against one of the Persons of the Godhead without, at the same time, sinning against the other two Persons.  There is one God, indivisible.  A sin against one Person of the Trinity is simply a sin against all persons of the Trinity.  You cannot say, "Well, I sinned against the Father but not against Jesus or the Holy Spirit."  What he is failing to take into account in his interpretation of Matt 12:31-32, is that Jesus is talking to the Jews.  They had no concept of the Trinity.  To them, when Jesus made the distinction about sins against the Holy Spirit, he was not saying sins against the Holy Spirit in contrast to sins against the Father and/or the Son, He was saying sins against the Holy Spirit in contrast to sins against the sons of men, as it clearly states in the text.  The "Holy Spirit," in the minds of the Jews, was the equivalent of "God".  So, Jesus was talking about sins against men vs. sins against God, not sins against the Holy Spirit vs. sins against Jesus and/or the Father.

     I'm going to do a whole newsletter on this dialogue in the near future, so I'll get into this more at that time.  Suffice it to say, this guy felt like he had some new and special insight into the Bible and to the forgiveness of sins and such.  I kept telling him that, in a 2000-yr. old church, "new" insights that led to "new" teachings should be considered dangerous.  He wouldn't listen.

     3) One more along these lines - "The good thief (St Dismas) had Baptism of desire. Yes he went to Paradise with Jesus that day. Jesus went to Limbo for 3 days to where everyone with Original Sin was waiting till His death...Our Lord's soul went to Heaven with the thief and His body went to Hell (seperation from God) for three days."

     No, that's not what the Church teaches.  If you don't know for sure...if you haven't read something from a magisterial document (the Catechism being one that is most readily available and accessible)...that says what you are about to say, then don't say it or write it!  If you're not sure about something, look it up.  Or, do as the guy in this next quote did:

     "The plan for Adam and Eve [before the Fall], to me, is a difficult concept. In His Omniscience, God knew they would fall, so I don’t know if their plan was to live forever. I think maybe the perfect world of Eden they lived in was maybe to help them realize after the fall how much they had lost in their disobedience, and bring them to repentance. Complete speculation on my part; just thoughts…"  "Complete speculation on my part."  That's what you say when you are speculating.


2) Acting as if your personal preferences are Church teaching - I've seen this most often with folks on the more traditional side of things and folks who consider themselves to be "charismatic".  Not exclusive to those groups, but those two are where I've seen it happen the most.  Amongst the former, there are those who say that taking Communion in the hand is a heresy and a grave offense to God, or that one has to kneel to receive the Eucharist, or that women have to be veiled at Mass, that if the Mass isn't the Latin Mass then it is not truly the Mass, and so on.  Among the Charismatics, I have had people tell me that if I don't speak in tongues then I don't really have the Holy Spirit and other such things. 

     Now, this is not to say that the people I'm referring to are the majority of those communities or any such thing.  They are not.  I also want to say that I appreciate and applaud the spirituality of both communities and have good friends who I would identify as Traditionalist and others who are most definitely Charismatic.  And, again, this "mistake" is not confined to just these two communities. 

     Make the case that kneeling to receive the Eucharist and receiving it on your tongue is more reverent than standing and in the hand, but don't tell anyone they can't stand and they can't receive on the hand (and I say that as one who kneels and receives on the tongue).  Make the case that speaking in tongues or prophesying are awesome modes of prayer and dialogue with God, but don't tell people they haven't truly experienced the Holy Spirit if they don't.  What it comes down to is: If the Church doesn't require it, neither can you.  Period. 


3) Too much information - I often have people send me their email dialogues with non-Catholics and ask me for my opinion as to how they were doing.  Unfortunately, I pretty much never have the time to go through them and respond - just not enough time in the day.  However, what I have often seen, is that when the Catholic is asked a question, or is responding to a particular argument, they will give answers that, if printed out, would be 2-3 pages long, or more!  That is, generally, not the way to go about it.  First of all, because people have shorter attention spans these days and may not read all of what you have said, but second of all, and more importantly, the more verbiage you produce, the more opportunities you give someone to take you off on some rabbit trail.  The more you say, the more likely it is they will pick up on some minor point and go off in a direction that distracts from the main points you are trying to make.  Keep your answers concise and as short as possible.  Every now and then a lengthy answer is necessary, but that should be the exception, not the rule.  And, remember, every time you answer a question, you ought to be sending back one or two questions for the other guy to answer.


4) Soft pedaling the faith - Here's an example of what I mean by that: "God loves everyone.  So, if you love God, it doesn't matter what you believe, you can still get to Heaven."  In other words, what this Catholic person is saying is that truth doesn't matter.  The Sacraments don't matter.  Baptism doesn't matter.  The Eucharist doesn't matter.  The Church doesn't matter.  As the Beatles said, "All you need is love."  Yes, absolutely you need love to be saved, the problem is, though, Jesus said that He came to "bear witness to the truth," and that "Everyone who is of the truth hears [His] voice."  Which means, if you are not of the truth, you are going to have a difficult time hearing the voice of Christ.  Furthermore, the Scriptures make a clear connection between knowing the truth and salvation (John 8:32; 1 Tim 2:3-4).  So, both truth and love are necessary for our salvation.  If you downplay the need for truth...the fullness of the truth that is found in the Catholic faith...you are not doing anyone any favors and, truth be told, you are not showing anyone the love of Christ.


5) Not truly believing in the power of the Eucharist - Essentially a corollary of #4 above.  If you don't believe everyone on this planet who is not currently validly receiving the Eucharist, would be better of by receiving the Eucharist, then you really don't believe in the power of the Eucharist and the love of Jesus Christ.  If you do believe in the power of the Eucharist, that it is truly the body, blood, soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, then you would want to do whatever you can to plant seeds of the truth with those who are not currently Catholic to hopefully one day have them come into the Church.  I.e., we ought to have a deep desire within us for everyone to be Catholic so that they, too, can receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  So that they, too, can unite with Jesus in the Eucharist.  If we don't have that desire, then do we really believe in the Eucharist?  Do we really love those who are not Catholic?


6) Using the word "myth" when talking about Adam and Eve and Genesis - I can't stand it when people use the word "myth" to describe Adam and Eve and the 1st few chapters of Genesis.  This usually happens when Catholics have had some theology courses - theology courses that often leave a lot to be desired.  In Theology, the word "myth" has a very narrow and strict definition.  It does not mean some fanciful made up story.  But, for the uninitiated, the word "myth" means exactly that.  So, when the Theology-learned folks start talking about the "myth" of Genesis or of Adam and Eve, it quite often confuses those who may be less informed.  These folks might think: "Oh, so Adam and Eve were myths, not real people?  There really wasn't a Garden of Eden?  Everything in Genesis 1-3 was just made up?" 

     Now, there are indeed a number of people out there in the world of Catholic theology, who do indeed believe that Adam and Eve were not real people and that Genesis is a nice "story" and so forth and so on, and they use the word "myth" to deliberately try to disabuse Catholics of the notion that Adam and Eve were real and that there was a Fall and that Genesis 1-3 pertains to real historical events.  But, what I'm talking about here is people who do follow Church teaching on these matters - yet they still insist on using the word "myth" when referring to the happenings in Genesis 1-3.  Don't do it!


7) Not answering the questions asked - This drives me absolutely batty.  I see it all the time on Facebook.  Someone - Catholic or not - will ask a question, and there will be Catholics who give all sorts of answers, but a lot of the time the answers pertain to the question in only a tangential way, if at all.  For example, someone will post a question about where in the Bible does it say this or that, and the answers will talk about the Church Fathers, the Catechism, a papal encyclical, Vatican II, and so on.  The question asked where "in the Bible" something was.  Or, a question might be asked about confession, and someone responds with something about Original Sin.  Sorta kinda in the ballpark, but that's not what was actually asked about. 

     Pay attention to what the person is asking.  Answer what they ask.  Don't answer what you think they might be asking, don't answer about something sort of related to what they're asking...answer, as directly as possible, what they have actually asked.  To do otherwise is to waste your time and theirs.  When you have typed up an answer to a question or a response to some argument - whether for Facebook or a personal email exchange you're involved in - before you post/send it, go back and read what was asked or argued and then read your response again to see if it answers, clearly and directly, what was being asked/argued.  If not, then do it over.

     So, read carefully whatever question or argument is put in front of you and give it as direct and concise an answer as you possibly can.  If you don't do that when someone asks you a question or presents you with an argument, how can you expect direct and concise answers to your questions and arguments?

Closing Comments

Don't forget to let me know if you're interested in the Danube Cruise for next July!  And, do me a favor and say a prayer for my son, Noah, who I am taking down to Montgomery this weekend for the Alabama Chess Championship tournament.  Just that he will be able to do his best...thanks!


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Apologetics for the Masses