To Defend My Faith

Posted by Webster
I learned from my Popeye post that taking the fight to Protestants, even with tongue squarely in cheek, is a questionable undertaking. Of the 50 or so comments beneath that post, most are positive, but a few are righteously indignant, maybe rightfully too. I might have thought twice about some statements. But when attacks are made on my faith, and especially on my fellow Catholics, I will not hold back.

Frank and I began a prayer intentions list on Monday, an innovation (of his) that I am particularly proud of. Today we received one “intention” that, unedited, reads as follows:

Catholicism is so great that we held our grandmothers funeral at a catholic church. The best part was when they past around the money basket! That is catholicism at it’s finest. Isn’t it great that if you sin all you got to do is say a couple of hail mary’s and all is forgiven? Or make a big enough contibution and your saved! I’ll stick with christianity, we don’t have a pope to worship, we worship christ himself.

There are plenty of swipes I could take at this “intention,” which Frank and I chose not to publish, for obvious reasons, but let’s take the points seriously for a moment. Our commenter apparently thought he/she was being clever phrasing them as he/she did (just as I thought with Popeye), but behind the ironic delivery there are some substantive thoughts (same as Popeye). I count three points worth taking seriously:

They passed around the money basketTranslation: The Catholic Church is rich and its clergy greedy.

Say a couple of Hail Marys, or make a big enough contribution, and all is forgivenTranslation: Catholics think they can sin freely and all will be forgiven if they just say a few prayers, especially after confession, and then make an indulgence-worthy donation to the Church.

We don’t have a Pope to worshipTranslation: The hierarchy of the Catholic Church, especially its leader, is irrelevant to personal faith.

I will answer these three points with a single word: Haiti.

I am proud of Catholics’ response to Tuesday’s earthquake.

Yes, we Catholics are passing the money basket. Please go right now to Catholic Charities or Catholic Relief Services or Cross Catholic International or some other reputable relief organization and throw something in that money basket. Please.

Yes, we Catholics are saying our Hail Marys. What else can we do? The airport in Port-au-Prince is as good as closed, yet the media are bringing us horrifying reports and images. Our brothers and sisters, including many Catholic priests, religious, and social workers, have been killed or have been injured or are desperately working to help the injured and homeless. I feel helpless. I’m sure Frank feels helpless. But at least we can pray, and I for one believe that prayer works.

Yes, our Pope is leading us. He is leading our prayers. And our Church has a bishop on the ground in Haiti, helping the Church’s relief effort. I have carefully observed my Pope at work since the day I considered becoming a Catholic in 2007, and I have never seen anything less than a wise and compassionate leader, one I would follow unto death if I had to.

I have just completed the final chapter of GK Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy and will be posting on it soon. I am afraid that our commenter, like many critics of the Catholic Church, is well described by Chesterton in this final chapter, where he wrote:

The sceptic was quite right to go by the facts, only he had not looked at the facts.

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  • EPG

    One of the difficulties inherent in blogging is that you are engaging in a public forum, and thus are subject to the abuse of the ill-informed, those who lack candor, and those who will bear you ill will.As we will all see when we read Lewis's "Mere Christianity," that which Christians hold in common is far greater than that which keeps them apart.Or, at least, it ought to be.

  • Webster Bull

    EPG, Yeah, it's funny how this post came up or out: I was out walking and brooding on Haiti. What can I do? What can anyone do? It's so horrifying. And I came back to my home office and read the anti-Catholic comment which, admittedly, does not contain the most cogent arguments against Catholicism, and I reacted! :-) You are right, of course. And I look forward to reading Lewis in your virtual company.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00659833542780220795 Russ Rentler, M.D.

    Amen brothers!I like your blog. I'm a convert too! (revert actually)Check out my blog and my thoughts on Haiti. God bless your work!

  • Maria

    Dear Webster: You are a most courteous host. The blog world ,into which I have just recently entered, is a bit mad. But, of course, that is what also makes it fun. Right? Not to worry. I suspect that I might safely speak for everyone when I say we have affection for you and your work. I am saying the rosary. And, of COURSE we should be saying the Hail Mary–pray for us sinners, NOW and at the hour of my DEATH. If you say the rosary, you say it 53 times. What, on earth, could be more appropriate? I found this prayer on a blog. It was written by Terry Nelson. He adapted it. It is a prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It is so beautiful I thought I'd post it. If read, it is prayed. So:O Mother of Perpetual Help, Patroness of Haiti, with the greatest confidence we kneel before you to present ourselves before you in our many afflictions. We implore your help for us and for our neighbors suffering from the devastating earthquake and its aftermath, especially as we struggle to provide aid and support for the survivors. Trials and sorrows often depress us; misfortunes and privations bring misery into our lives, especially now when the poorest of the poor are afflicted so terribly; everywhere we meet the cross. Comforter of the Afflicted, beg your Son Jesus to strengthen us as we bear one another's burdens and to free us from our sufferings. Or if it be the will of God that we should suffer still longer, help us endure all with love and patience. May we follow the example of your Son, and through him, with him and in him commend ourselves to the care of our heavenly Father. Jesus and Mary I love you, save souls! Amen. (This prayer was adapted from the regular novena prayer to OL of Perpetual Help, Patroness of Haiti.) Apparenty she saved the Haiti people from smallpox several hundred years ago. Her icon is displayed all over Haiti. Everywhere we meet the cross…Oh.

  • Anonymous

    Apparently at the last Catholic funeral I attended I missed the passing of the basket.Should I now rush over and give the priest a check? /sI wish I had been a Catholic when my husband died ten years ago. I would have handled his death much better.Miriam

  • EPG

    You know Miriam, I was curious about the collection of an offering. I don't think I've ever been to a Catholic funeral, but I don't think I've ever been to any funeral at which a collection was taken. An anomaly at this particular parish? The fevered imaginings of someone who could also imagine that Catholics worship the Pope? Who knows?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06195528409761980551 Anne

    Wonderful rebuttal to a malicious prayer request/comment. Good for you!

  • Turgonian

    A very well-argued and especially well-structured post. The word "Haiti", together with the picture, rings like a cannon-shot.