Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Coping with Anti-Catholicism

Rachel emailed me the following question:
How do you deal with all the anti-Catholicism out there? Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by all the web sites that list us with the 'cults', as part of the norm (and how they use a separate definition of Christian for Catholics as they do for all Protestants). I just get so angry sometimes that I admit to writing e-mails to state my 'disapproval'. It's just so frustrating sometimes. How do you cope with anti-Catholics?
Here are a few things that I try to keep in mind, things that I have had to learn the hard way.


You have to equip yourself. When I first started doing apologetics I used to get my rear-end handed to me by these Seventh-Day Adventists on a Yahoo Group. The Directory grew out of my personal search for material that I could use to learn more about my faith and how to defend it. Once you know your faith well, the ramblings of anti-Catholics don't startle you as much because you know that there is an answer to them. Plus, you can't very well respond to their arguments if you don't even know what the Church teaches and why She teaches it.


One thing I learned through engaging in online apologetics is that I can't tackle every bit of anti-Catholicism that comes my way. I used to act as though the survival of the Church depended solely upon me and that it fell upon my shoulders to respond to every attack. Over the years I have learned to just let things go and to concentrate my efforts on what will be the most fruitful.

If you try to be a one-man army then you will burn out really quick and then you won't want to defend the Church at all. You have to pace yourself. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Prioritize your apologetical activities. Concentrate on a few debates instead of trying to take on ten people at once. Don't stretch yourself too thin. All of these things are really important when you are engaged in apologetics on the internet.


Many people tend to get very emotional when they encounter anti-Catholicism or when they begin to debate with someone. This hardly ever works out to your advantage. When you start calling people "bigots" and "heretics" and "haters" and say things like "how dare you!" and "who do you think you are!" all you do is come off as an ignorant person who has to use emotional appeals to prove a point instead of logic and reasoning. Plus, you show the other person that he has gotten under your skin. A lot of times, people aren't looking for intellectually-honest discourse. They just want to piss someone off. Don't make yourself an easy target.

Instead, be cool. You want to create the most glaring dichotomy possible between their statements and your response. When you set a hate-filled, vitriolic diatribe against a calm and reasoned response filled with charity it will be abundantly clear to everyone who is watching (there is always someone watching) who is right and who is wrong. You must be above the type of tactics that they use. If you write a response out of anger, or vengance, or hurt feelings then you will only end up sounding just like them.

Once you get used to responding to anti-Catholicism in that way, then it also helps you to not take it so personally. Anti-Catholicism doesn't get me all riled up like it used to. Now, when I see their arguments, my mind immediately zeros in on the holes in their logic and reasoning and I am automatically coming up with ways to refute the content of their message. Too many people respond to and become scandalized by the form of a person's arguments and they neglect the material content altogether.


This is easily the #1 mistake that I see people make when they engage others in debate. You HAVE to stay on topic. Be stubborn about it. You must simply refuse to discuss anything that is not on topic. If you don't do this, then your discussion will go nowhere.

A popular tactic of anti-Catholics is to throw out things called "red herrings," which are irrelevant statements presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. In anti-Catholic debate, such statements are usually juicy, scandalous statements that people have trouble ignoring because they are so fallacious and disrespectful. But, you have to remain focused and disciplined. Let it roll off your back. If you try to take on every false statement, and misconception, and absurd opinion that they make then you will never actually refute the original topic at all...........and their job is done.


Finally, you have to make prayer a central part of your work in responding to people who attempt to discredit and refute the Church's teaching. This is after all a spiritual battle that we are waging (cf. Eph 6:12). Pray that God will grant you the patience, wisdom, and above all CHARITY that is necessary to be effective in engaging these people.

Remember, this is not about "winner and loser," it's about bringing people to a greater knowledge, and appreication, and love for Jesus Christ and His Church. Since this is such an important task --one that we simply cannot do on our own-- we must be men and women of prayer. Pray before you begin. Pray while you're doing it. Pray for the person afterwards. Remember that, in this battle, St. Michael the Achangel is a particularly powerful intercessor. He will come to your aid, and all the angels with him.

St. Michael the Archangel....pray for us.
St. Justin Martyr....pray for us.

Pax Christi,


Anonymous said...

plus, it helps to have other people praying for you!


Cskaaren said...

Thanks for the advice. I agree that we should study our faith, but where do I start, besides the Bible and CCC of course.

God bless you

Cskaaren said...

I don't know if I made myself clear enough I am looking for tips on what to read

Adam Janke said...

There are hundreds of great Catholic books on the subject. Look at Catholic publishers like Ignatius, TAN, Scepter, and find books on apologetics that appeal to you. Read the Early Church Fathers, Karl Keating, Scott Hahn, Jimmy Akin, and other lay apologists.

phatcatholic said...

viking..........start with the Directory:

pick a topic you need to learn more about and then read the articles on those topics. once you have digested those, then you can move up to whole books on the subject in question

Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Use humor and the hyperbole of absurdity to combat their criticisms. Recently I was told how Catholics worship idols. it lead to me blogging an absurd poll on my set asking Catholic idol worshippers to vote for their fav idol. Sometimes when you reduce it to hyperbole, hopefully they can see the ridiculous of their attacks. well, there's always hoping anyway...

Jason Ramage said...

A friend of mine, when she had some fresh missionary zeal, e-mailed a bunch of anti-Catholic web sites. She still has the responses somewhere... whenever she sends them to me, I'll probably post them on my blog (which hasn't been active at all lately). It should make for a little fun :)

phatcatholic said...

Tiber.....your strategy supposed that they actually have a sense of humor! Unfortunately, many of them don't.

Jason.....I personally don't think that you should post their responses on your blog. They were writing for your friend, not for a wider audience. You should at least ask their permission first.

Anonymous said...

excellent post. =)

Innocent said...

Hi, everyone!

This is the first time I'm visiting this blog. Dear Mr. Hardesty, you're doing a terrific job. I shall pray for you. You will need lots of prayers, doing what you do. Especially, this is a most excellent post.

Of course, it also helps to be a Chestertonian!
From my personal experience, I find that the more of GKC I interiorise, the easier it becomes for me to stay calm and collected, and to ignore the personal attacks and tackle only the logical flaws.

You are in my prayers.

Yours in Christ,

phatcatholic said...

Thanks Innocent! I need your prayers more than you know.

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