12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer

CRISIS Magazine

Special E-Report


Dear Friend,

Freedom of speech is a great thing. Unfortunately, it comes at an 
unavoidable price: When citizens are free to say what they want, 
they'll sometimes use that freedom to say some pretty silly things. 

And that's the case with the 12 claims we're about to cover. Some of 
them are made over and over, others are rare (though worth 

Either way, while the proponents of these errors are free to promote 
them, we as Catholics have a duty to respond. Hopefully, this special 
CRISIS Magazine e-Report will help you do just that.

Please feel free to forward this to your friends and family. These 
errors are widespread, and it's our responsibility to correct them.

So, at long last, I present to you 12 claims EVERY Catholic should 
be able to answer. 

Talk to you next week,




1. 	"There's no such thing as absolute truth. What's true for you 
may not be true for me."

People use this argument a lot when they disagree with a statement 
and have no other way to support their idea. After all, if nothing is 
true for everyone, then they can believe whatever they want and 
there's nothing you can say to make them change their minds.

But look at that statement again: "There's no such thing as absolute 
truth." Isn't that, in itself, a statement that's being made 
absolutely? In other words, it applies some rule or standard to 
everyone across the board -- exactly what the relativists say is 
impossible. They have undone their own argument simply by stating 
their case.

The other problem with this statement is that no relativist actually 
believes it. If someone said to you, "There is no absolute truth," 
and you punched him in the stomach, he'd probably get upset. But by 
his own creed, he'd have to accept that while punching someone in the 
stomach may be wrong for him, it might not be wrong for you.

This is when they'll come back with an amendment to the original 
statement by saying, "As long as you're not hurting others, you're 
free to do and believe what you like." But this is an arbitrary 
distinction (as well as another absolute statement). Who says I can't 
hurt others? What constitutes "hurt"? Where does this rule come 

If this statement is made based on personal preference, it means 
nothing for anyone else. "Do no harm" is in itself an appeal to 
something greater -- a sort of universal dignity for the human 
person. But again, the question is where does this dignity come from? 

As you can see, the further you delve into these questions, the 
closer you come to understanding that our concepts of right and truth 
are not arbitrary but are based in some greater, universal truth 
outside ourselves -- a truth written in the very nature of our being. 
We may not know it in its entirety, but it can't be denied that this 
truth exists.


2. 	"Christianity is no better than any other faith. All religions 
lead to God."

If you haven't heard this one a dozen times, you don't get out much. 
Sadly enough, the person making this claim is often himself a 
Christian (at least, in name). 

The problems with this view are pretty straightforward. Christianity 
makes a series of claims about God and man: That Jesus of Nazareth 
was God Himself, and that he died and was resurrected -- all so that 
we might be free from our sins. Every other religion in the world 
denies each of these points. So, if Christianity is correct, then it 
speaks a vital truth to the world -- a truth that all other religions 

This alone makes Christianity unique. 

But it doesn't end there. Recall Jesus' statement in John's Gospel: 
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the 
Father, but by me." In Christianity, we have God's full revelation to 
humanity. It's true that all religions contain some measure of truth 
-- the amount varying with the religion. Nevertheless, if we 
earnestly want to follow and worship God, shouldn't we do it in the 
way He prescribed? 

If Jesus is indeed God, then only Christianity contains the fullness 
of this truth. 


3. 	"The Old and New Testaments contradict one another in numerous 
places. If 	an omnipotent God inspired the Bible, He would never have 
allowed these errors." 

This is a common claim, one found all over the internet (especially 
on atheist and free-thought websites). An article on the American 
Atheists website notes that "What is incredible about the Bible is 
not its divine authorship; it's that such a concoction of 
contradictory nonsense could be believed by anyone to have been 
written by an omniscient God."

Such a statement is generally followed by a list of Biblical 
"contradictions." However, claims of contradictions make a few simple 
errors. For example, critics fail to read the various books of the 
Bible in line with the genre in which they were written. The Bible 
is, after all, a collection of several kinds of writing...history, 
theology, poetry, apocalyptic material, etc. If we try to read these 
books in the same wooden way in which we approach a modern newspaper, 
we're going to be awfully confused. 

And the list of Bible "contradictions" bears this out. Take, for 
example, the first item on the American Atheist's list:

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Exodus 20:8


"One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every 
day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind." Romans 

There! the atheist cries, A clear contradiction. But what the critic 
neglects to mention is something every Christian knows: When Christ 
instituted the New Covenant, the ceremonial requirements of the Old 
Covenant were fulfilled (and passed away). And so it makes perfect 
sense that Old Testament ceremonial rules would no longer stand for 
the people of the New Covenant. 

If the critic had understood this simple tenet of Christianity, he 
wouldn't have fallen into so basic an error. 

The next item on the American Atheist list is similarly flawed:

"...the earth abideth for ever." Ecclesiastes 1:4


"...the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and 
the works that are therein shall be burned up."

So, the Old Testament claims that the earth will last forever, while 
the New says it will eventually be destroyed. How do we harmonize 
these? Actually, it's pretty easy, and it again comes from 
understanding the genre in which these two books were written. 

Ecclesiastes, for example, contrasts secular and religious 
worldviews -- and most of it is written from a secular viewpoint. 
That's why we find lines like, "Bread is made for laughter, and wine 
gladdens life, and money answers everything." (Ecclesiastes 10:19)

However, at the end of the book, the writer throws us a twist, 
dispensing with all the "wisdom" he'd offered and telling us to "Fear 
God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." 

If a reader stops before the end, he'll be as confused as the critic 
at American Atheists. However, since the viewpoint that gave birth to 
the notion of an eternal earth is rejected in the last lines of the 
book, there's obviously no contradiction with what was later revealed 
in the New Testament. (And this is just one way to answer this 
alleged discrepancy.)

The other "contradictions" between the Old and New Testaments can be 
answered similarly. Almost to an item, the critics who use them 
confuse context, ignore genre, and refuse to allow room for 
reasonable interpretation. 

No thinking Christian should be disturbed by these lists.


4. 	"I don't need to go to Church. As long as I'm a good person, 
that's all that really matters."

This argument is used often, and is pretty disingenuous. When 
someone says he's a "good person," what he really means is that he's 
"not a bad person" -- bad people being those who murder, rape, and 
steal. Most people don't have to extend a lot of effort to avoid 
these sins, and that's the idea: We want to do the least amount of 
work necessary just to get us by. Not very Christ-like, is it?

But that mentality aside, there's a much more important reason why 
Catholics go to Church other than just as an exercise in going the 
extra mile. Mass is the cornerstone of our faith life because of what 
lies at its heart: the Eucharist. It's the source of all life for 
Catholics, who believe that bread and wine become the real body and 
blood of Christ. It's not just a symbol of God, but God made 
physically present to us in a way we don't experience through prayer 

Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of 
the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who 
eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise 
him up at the last day" (John 6:53-54). We're honoring Jesus' command 
and trusting in that promise every time we go to Mass. 

What's more, the Eucharist -- along with all the other Sacraments -- 
is only available to those in the Church. As members of the Church, 
Christ's visible body here on earth, our lives are intimately tied up 
with the lives of others in that Church. Our personal relationship 
with God is vital, but we also have a responsibility to live as 
faithful members of Christ's body. Just being a "good person" isn't 


5. 	"You don't need to confess your sins to a priest. You can go 
straight to God."

As a former Baptist minister, I can understand the Protestant 
objection to confession (they have a different understanding of 
priesthood). But for a Catholic to say something like this...it's 
disappointing. I suspect that, human nature being what it is, people 
just don't like telling other people their sins, and so they come up 
with justifications for not doing so.

The Sacrament of Confession has been with us from the beginning, 
coming from the words of Christ Himself:

"Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has 
sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed 
on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive 
the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, 
they are retained.'" (John 20:21-23)

Notice that Jesus gives His apostles the power to forgive sins. Of 
course, they wouldn't know which sins to forgive if they weren't TOLD 
what sins were involved.

The practice of confession is also evident in the Letter Of James:

"Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, 
and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the 
Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord 
will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 
Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, 
that you may be healed." (James 5:14-16)

It's interesting that nowhere does James (or Jesus) tell us to 
confess our sins to God alone. Rather, they seem to think that 
forgiveness comes through some means of public confession.

And it's not difficult to understand why. You see, when we sin, we 
rupture our relationship not just with God, but with His Body, the 
Church (since all Catholics are interconnected as children of a 
common Father). So when we apologize, we need to do so to all parties 
involved -- God AND the Church. 

Think of it this way. Imagine you walk into a store and steal some 
of their merchandise. Later, you feel remorse and regret the sinful 
act. Now, you can pray to God to forgive you for breaking His 
commandment. But there's still another party involved; you'll need to 
return the merchandise and make restitution for your action.

It's the same way with the Church. In the confessional, the priest 
represents God AND the Church, since we've sinned against both. And 
when he pronounces the words of absolution, our forgiveness is 


6.	"If the Church truly followed Jesus, they'd sell their lavish 
art, property, and architecture, and give the money to the poor."

When some people think of Vatican City, what they immediately 
picture is something like a wealthy kingdom, complete with palatial 
living accommodations for the pope and chests of gold tucked away in 
every corner, not to mention the fabulous collection of priceless art 
and artifacts. Looking at it that way, it's easy to see how some 
people would become indignant at what they think is an ostentatious 
and wasteful show of wealth.

But the truth is something quite different. While the main buildings 
are called the "Vatican Palace," it wasn't built to be the lavish 
living quarters of the pope. In fact, the residential part of the 
Vatican is relatively small. The greater portion of the Vatican is 
given over to purposes of art and science, administration of the 
Church's official business, and management of the Palace in general. 
Quite a number of Church and administrative officials live in the 
Vatican with the pope, making it more like the Church's main 

As for the impressive art collection, truly one of the finest in the 
world, the Vatican views it as "an irreplaceable treasure," but not 
in monetary terms. The pope doesn't "own" these works of art and 
couldn't sell them if he wanted to; they're merely in the care of the 
Holy See. The art doesn't even provide the Church with wealth; 
actually, it's just the opposite. The Holy See invests quite a bit of 
its resources into the upkeep of the collection.

The truth of the matter is that the See has a fairly tight financial 
budget. So why keep the art? It goes back to a belief in the Church's 
mission (one of many) as a civilizing force in the world. Just like 
the medieval monks who carefully transcribed ancient texts so they 
would be available to future generations -- texts that otherwise 
would have been lost forever -- the Church continues to care for the 
arts so they will not be forgotten over time. In today's culture of 
death where the term "civilization" can only be used loosely, the 
Church's civilizing mission is as important today as it ever was.


7. 	"Dissent is actually a positive thing, since we should all keep 
our minds open to new ideas."

You might hear this argument a lot today, especially in the wake of 
the abuse scandal in the Church. Everyone wants to find a solution to 
the problem, and in doing so some people are advocating ideas that 
are outside the pale of our Catholic faith (i.e., women priests, 
being open to homosexuality, etc). A lot of people blame the Church 
for being too rigid in its beliefs and not wanting to try anything 

The truth is, a lot of the ideas for reform that are floating around 
today aren't new. They've been around for a while, and the Church has 
already considered them. In fact, the Church has spent its entire 
life carefully examining ideas and determining which ones are in line 
with God's law and which aren't. It has discarded heresy after heresy 
while carefully building up the tenets of the Faith. It should come 
as no surprise that there are thousands of other Christian churches 
in existence today -- all of them had "new ideas" at one point that 
the Church had decided were outside the deposit of faith.

The Church has an important responsibility in protecting the 
integrity of our Faith. It never rejects ideas out of hand, as some 
dissenters would claim, but has two thousand years of prayer and 
study behind the beliefs it holds to be true. 

This doesn't mean that we can never disagree on anything. There's 
always room to discuss how best to deepen our understanding of the 
truth -- for example, how we can improve our seminaries or clergy/lay 
interactions -- all within the guidelines of our Faith.


8. 	"Properly interpreted, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. 
Rather, it weighs against promiscuity -- whether homosexual or 
heterosexual. Therefore, we have no reason to oppose loving 
homosexual relationships."

As homosexual activity gains greater acceptance in our culture, 
there'll be more pressure among Christians to explain away the 
Bible's clear prohibition against it. It's now the standard liberal 
party line to claim that the Bible -- when understood correctly -- 
doesn't disallow homosexual activity. 

But this claim flies in the face of clear passages in both the Old 
and New Testaments. The first, of course, is the famous story of 
Sodom and Gomorrah. If you recall, two angels were sent by God to 
Sodom to visit Lot:

"But before [the angels] lay down, the men of the city, the men of 
Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded 
the house; and they called to Lot, 'Where are the men who came to you 
tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.' Lot went out 
of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, 'I beg 
you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two 
daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and 
do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have 
come under the shelter of my roof.' But they said, 'Stand back!' And 
they said, 'This fellow came to sojourn, and he would play the judge! 
Now we will deal worse with you than with them.' Then they pressed 
hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the 
men put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and 
shut the door."  (Genesis 19:4-10)

The message of this passage is pretty clear. The men of Sodom were 
homosexuals who wanted to have relations with the men inside the 
house. Lot offered them his daughters, but they weren't interested. 
Shortly thereafter, Sodom was destroyed by God in payment for the 
sins of its people -- namely, their homosexual acts. This fact is 
confirmed in the New Testament:

"Just as Sodom and Gomor'rah and the surrounding cities, which 
likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an 
example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire."  (Jude 7)

But these certainly aren't the only passages in the Bible that 
condemn gay activity. The Old Testament contains another unambiguous 
condemnation: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is 
an abomination." (Leviticus 18:22).

And these statements aren't reserved to the Old Testament alone.

"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their 
women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise 
gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion 
for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving 
in their own persons the due penalty for their error."  (Romans 

It's awfully hard for a liberal Christian to explain this away. 
There's simply no mention here merely of gay promiscuity or rape; 
rather, Paul is weighing against ANY homosexual relations (which he 
describes as "unnatural," "shameless" and "dishonorable"). 

Liberal Christians are in a bind. How, after all, does one harmonize 
homosexuality with the Bible? Their solution, it appears, is to strip 
the Bible of its moral power, and run in rhetorical circles trying to 
escape its clear message. 


9. 	"Catholics should follow their conscience in all 
things...whether it's abortion, birth control, or women's 

It's true -- the Catechism says quite plainly, "Man has the right to 
act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral 
decisions. 'He must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. 
Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, 
especially in religious matters'" (1782). This teaching is at the 
heart of what it means to have free will.

But that doesn't mean that our conscience is free from all 
responsibility or can be ignorant of God's law. This is what the 
Catechism refers to as having a "well-formed conscience."

The Catechism assigns great responsibility to a person's conscience: 
"Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at 
the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil.... It bears 
witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to 
which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. 
When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God 
speaking" (1777).

In other words, our conscience isn't just "what we feel is right" - 
it's what we judge to be right based on what we know of the teachings 
of God and the Church. And in order to make that judgment, we have a 
responsibility to study and pray over these teachings very carefully. 
The Catechism has a section dedicated entirely to the careful 
formation of our conscience -- that's how important it is in making 
right decisions.

And in the end, whether right or wrong, we're still held accountable 
for our actions: "Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for 
the acts performed" (1781). When properly formed, it helps us to see 
when we've done wrong and require forgiveness of our sins. 

By seeking a fully-formed conscience, we actually experience great 
freedom, because we're drawing closer to God's infinite Truth. It's 
not a burden or something that keeps us from doing what we want; it's 
a guide to help us do what is right. "The education of the conscience 
guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart" (1784).


10. 	"Natural Family Planning is just the Catholic version of birth 

Natural Family Planning (NFP) has enemies on all sides. Some believe 
that it's an unrealistic alternative to birth control (which they 
don't think is sinful anyway) while others think that it's just as 
bad as birth control. NFP has had to walk a fine line between both 

First of all, the main problem with birth control is that it works 
against the nature of our bodies -- and nature in general. It aims to 
sever the act (sex) from its consequence (pregnancy), basically 
reducing the sacredness of sex to the mere pursuit of pleasure. 

NFP, when used for the right reason, is more of a tool used for 
discerning whether a couple has the means (whether financially, 
physically, or emotionally) to accept a child into their lives. It 
involves understanding your own body, taking careful stock of your 
situation in life, discussing the issue with your spouse, and, above 
all, prayer. Rather than cutting yourself off from the full reality 
of sex, you are entering into it with a better understanding of all 
aspects involved.

People who favor birth control point to those people who can't 
afford more children, or whose health might be at risk from further 
pregnancies. But these are perfectly legitimate reasons to use NFP -- 
situations where it would be perfectly effective -- and the Church 
allows its use.

Other people think that taking any sort of control over the size of 
your family is like playing God, rather than letting Him provide for 
us as He sees fit. It's true that we must trust God and always accept 
the lives He sends us, but we don't need to be completely hands-off 
in that regard. 

For example, rather than throwing money around and saying that "God 
will provide," families carefully budget their finances and try not 
to overextend their means. NFP is like that budget, helping us 
prayerfully consider our situation in life and act accordingly. It's 
part of our nature as humans to understand ourselves and use our 
intellect and free will, rather than passively expecting God to take 
care of everything. We're called to be good stewards of the gifts 
we're given; we must be careful never to treat those gifts 


11. 	"Someone can be pro-choice and Catholic at the same time."

While this may be one of the most common myths Catholics hold 
regarding their faith, it's also one of the most easily dispelled. 
The Catechism minces no words when talking about abortion: It's 
listed with homicide under crimes against the fifth commandment, 
"Thou shalt not kill."

The following passages make this clear: "Human life must be 
respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception" 
(2270). "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral 
evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and 
remains unchangeable" (2271). "Formal cooperation in an abortion 
constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical 
penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life" (2272).

It can't be stated more plainly than that. Some people might argue, 
however, that being "pro-choice" doesn't mean being in favor of 
abortion; lots of people think abortion is wrong but don't want to 
force that opinion on others.

There's that "what's true for you might not be true for me" argument 
again. The Church has an answer to that, too: "'The inalienable 
rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil 
society and the political authority. These human rights depend 
neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a 
concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature 
and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from 
which the person took his origin'" (2273).

The sanctity of life is a universal truth that can never be ignored. 
Advising someone to get an abortion, or even voting for a politician 
who would advance the cause of abortion, is a grave sin, because it 
leads others to mortal sin -- what the Catechism calls giving scandal 

The Church stands forcefully and clearly against abortion, and we as 
Catholics must take our stand as well.


12. 	"People's memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation 
is true...and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not."

As society becomes increasingly fascinated with the paranormal, we 
can expect to see claims of "past life memories" increase. Indeed, 
there are now organizations who will help take you through your 
previous lives using hypnosis. 

While this may be convincing to some, it certainly isn't to anyone 
familiar with the mechanics of hypnosis. Almost since the beginning, 
researchers have noted that patients in deep hypnosis frequently 
weave elaborate stories and memories...which later turn out to be 
utterly untrue. Reputable therapists are well aware of this 
phenomenon, and weigh carefully what the patient says under hypnosis. 

Sadly, though, this isn't the case with those interested in finding 
"proof" for reincarnation. Perhaps the greatest example of this 
carelessness is the famous Bridey Murphy case. If you're not familiar 
with it, here's a quick outline: In 1952, a Colorado housewife named 
Virginia Tighe was put under hypnosis. She began speaking in an Irish 
brogue and claimed to once have been a woman named Bridey Murphy who 
had lived in Cork, Ireland. 

Her story was turned into a bestselling book, "The Search For Bridey 
Murphy," and received much popular attention. Journalists combed 
Ireland, looking for any person or detail that might confirm the 
truth of this past-life regression. While nothing ever turned up, the 
case of Bridey Murphy continues to be used to buttress claims of 

That's a shame, since Virginia Tighe was exposed as a fraud decades 
ago. Consider: Virginia's childhood friends recalled her active 
imagination, and ability to concoct complex stories (often centered 
around the imitation brogue she had perfected). Not only that, but 
she had a great fondness for Ireland, due in part to a friendship 
with an Irish woman whose maiden name was -- you guessed it -- 

What's more, Virginia filled her hypnosis narratives with numerous 
elements from her own life (without revealing the parallels to the 
hypnotist). For example, Bridey described an "uncle Plazz," which 
eager researchers took to be a corruption of the Gaelic, "uncle 
Blaise." Their enthusiasm ran out though when it was discovered that 
Virginia had a childhood friend she called Uncle Plazz.

When a hypnotized Virginia began dancing an Irish jig, researchers 
were astounded. How, after all, would a Colorado housewife have 
learned the jig? The mystery was solved, when it was revealed that 
Virginia learned the dance as a child.

As the Bridey Murphy case shows, the claims of past-life regression 
are always more impressive than the reality. To this day, not a 
single verifiable example exists of a person being regressed to a 
former life. Certainly, many tales have been told under the control 
of a hypnotist, but nevertheless, evidence for reincarnation (like 
that for the Tooth Fairy) continues to elude us.


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Rathergate: Dan Rather's use of forged documents & CBS anti-Catholicism