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Defending the Catholic Faith

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

We are not accustomed to defending the faith in an age of ecumenism and of the promotion of Christian unity. When everybody seems to be talking about unity, why should anyone bring up the embarrassing subject of divisions in Christianity?

But true ecumenism does not exclude the defense of truth, nor does it forbid - in the norm of charity - standing up for the only sound basis for true unity, which is sound Catholic orthodoxy.

One focus in defending the Catholic faith today must be the refutation of error among those, especially priests, who have abandoned their Catholic ancestry. A case in point is the best-selling books of one Joseph Girzone, a priest who has become nationally famous for his clever attacks on the Catholic Church. One exchange of ideas in his book Joshua illustrates the general approach.

When you talk about God and the things of God and the Church; that is theology. Do you talk about these things? Cardinal Ricardo asked.

  1. When people are concerned and confused about their religion and ask me what I think, I tell them, Joshua answered.
  1. What do you tell them?
  2. I tell them that Jesus came to bring meaning into people’s lives and that his message should give them peace and joy. They should not be confused and fearful and filled with guilt because of Jesus’ message.
  1. Is that what you tell them, a middle-aged bishop asked.
  2. No. People ask me what I think of religion as it is practiced today and I tell them honestly.
  1. What do you tell them? The prelate continued.
  2. I tell them that religion is not something separated from their life, either well-lived or badly-lived. Jesus told people they are free and they should enjoy their relationship with God and find joy and peace in their lives. But often Jesus’ message is taught as a set of lifeless dogmas and laws demanding, demanding observance under frightening penalties that destroys the beauty of Jesus’ message and frightens people away from God.

So the narrative goes on. Joshua is too shrewd to openly deny that there are unchangeable truths to be believed, and unchangeable divine laws to be obeyed. But through several hundred pages of fascinating dialogue, Joshua undermines the whole of Catholic Christianity. He appeals to the millions of still professed Catholics who are chafing under the hard demand of Christ on His followers. With demonic cleverness, Joshua is portrayed as a simple Gospel believer. In reality, Joshua is an iconoclast revolutionary who is sowing the seeds of doubt and discontent among Catholics. He is turning non-Catholics against an authoritarian Church that, for the sake of power, has become a monster of oppressive cruelty - all under the guise of being divinely instituted to preserve and promote authentic Christianity.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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