Response to an Irish Atheist

Fetus IIThe following piece is part of an online exchange I recently had with an Irish atheist who claims to be a medical doctor and enthusiastically voted for abortion.  He obviously feels that Ireland has gradually emerged from its Catholic darkness, with the outcome of the referendum of May 25 being only the latest proof.  I do expend a lot of time and effort responding to such people, with the expectation that I will probably not be given a response from them.  Regardless, my comments are there for others to read, so it’s worth the effort.

I’m posting this exchange because I think it offers a useful example of the manner in which a Catholic should respond to such charges made by an opponent of this nature.  I do not believe in the milk toast, saccharin, hyper-sensitive, coddle-them-like-little-babes approach that is common today.  If such an approach were effective, then the Church would be filled to overflowing with converts, since everyone in the Church has been using it for decades – popes, bishops, priests, deacons, and lay people.  The fact is, such an approach was not used by Our Lord when confronting His staunch opponents, nor by the Apostles, nor by the great apologists and evangelists of the Church.  It has the effect of misrepresenting the Christian religion as an ideology for the timid and effeminate, so I do not use it.  At all times, Christian charity – absolutely – but charity often requires firmness and directness, as every parent knows.  Treat people like adults, and they just might behave like them.  Treat them like babies, and babies you’ll have.

The atheist’s comments have been altered for obvious reasons, but the substance is exactly the same.  I’ve also given him a new name which I think is appropriate, in reference to Herod the Great, that maniac responsible for the slaughter of the Innocents.  His taunting comments are typical anti-Catholic rubbish such as we hear all the time, which is the reason I’ve decided to post them, along with my response.

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Doctor McHerod’s Comments:

I’m thrilled to know that you admit Ireland is no longer a Catholic country!  Catholicism is a rancid wicked body of beliefs that I had the misery of enduring for a long time.   But now the pedophile priests have had their day and I’m very happy about it.

The Catholic Church bears the responsibility for the happy outcome of the abortion referendum.  You folks have driven away the good and enlightened people of Ireland, so that they can’t get far enough away from you.   But I noticed in your previous comments that you enthusiastically encouraged people to vote against the introduction of abortion in Ireland.   Well, where were you during the pedophile rampage?!  I couldn’t find your enthusiastic posts denouncing such crimes.

The Catholic religion is so filled with flaws, as are all religions.  There are 7,000 supposed gods, and none of them exist, just like your god.   And that’s the reason you don’t stand a chance.

The Irish today are an especially well-educated people that can easily perceive your deception.   But you can’t, so you are doomed!  They have voted for divorce, contraception, gay marriage, and now abortion.  And you still don’t understand it all; you haven’t gotten the message.

The Irish people are finally awake, and they no longer want you around.  So, GOOD BYE FOREVER!!!  CHEERS!!!

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My Response:

Doctor McHerod,

Let me answer your questions directly.  I live in the United States.  When it was discovered that perverted priests and bishops were molesting people here and elsewhere, I was immediately screaming about it more angrily than you are now, – online, in the classroom, and on the radio, and at some risk to myself in my own diocese.  So please spare me the self-righteous finger-pointing.

I noticed that you twice referred to “pedophile” priests.  Nice dodge.  The vast majority of sexual crimes committed by priests – approximately 90% in the US – were not between men and very young children, but between men and boys and men and young men.  That’s not pedophilia, that’s homosexuality, so call it what it is.  The Catholic Church was, and still is, a rat’s nest of homosexual clergy.  As a man who went to seminary for one year and almost entered a religious order, who’s been Catholic since 1990 and worked in the Church all that time, I can tell you this firsthand.

And by the way, what’s so bad about men sodomizing children?   The only aspect your side really objects to is the forced nature of the act, that it was rape.  Well, I couldn’t agree with your side more on that point, but I would go much further with my outrage.  The evil in these sexual attacks is not only that they were forced on others, but in the very nature of the act itself: sodomy.  Whether it’s forced or consensual, whether it’s between a man and a child, a man and another man, or a man and a woman, sodomy is a disgusting, unnatural, perverse, and damnable act.  Do you agree with this?  I don’t know; let’s hear from you.  But if you do disagree, as the radical left does, then the only thing that actually upsets you in these scandals is the forced nature of the acts, and not the acts themselves; which means that, if only they had been consensual acts of sodomy, you would have been fine with them.  And that is disgusting.  But again, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for now and let you answer for yourself.  But that’s the social, cultural, political left – crying out with indignation over the sex scandals in the Catholic Church, while promoting and defending sodomy far and wide, night and day, as just another intimate expression of affection.

Now go ahead and say it: “You should be ashamed to still be a Catholic.  You’re directly supporting and condoning an institution of rapists.  If you were truly opposed to it all, you would have left the Church years ago.”

No, Doctor McHerod, I’m directly condoning and supporting an institution of truth and grace that helps people of every type to grow in wisdom, sanctity, and the love of God, and to attain the end for which they were made – salvation.  But are there rotten apples in the Church?   To answer in the affirmative would be an understatement.  There are rotten orchards in the Church – whole hillsides of stinking decaying fruit!  But all such rot is the antithesis of Catholicism.  If you want to know what genuine Catholicism produces, look to the saints, not the unrepentant sinners.  Saints are the by-products of authentic Catholicism, while unrepentant sinners and scandal-mongers of all types are the result of the rejection of it.  So, to heap the whole Catholic Church into one mass of guilt is to make an entirely emotional judgment, not a rational one.  It is to accuse the numberless innocent Catholics – both clergy and laity – of guilt by association.  Well, in that case, we are all guilty because we are all associated with corruption – both that of others, as well as our own.

I know how to support the good in the Church, but avoid the evil, how to condone the Gospel, the virtues, and the sacraments, but condemn whatever is contrary to them.  I direct my resources and support very carefully and attend only the best of churches.  Any Catholic who cared enough could do the same.  If I see something contrary to goodness in the Church, then I withhold my support from it.

How about yourself?  Do you support evil of any type, in any way?  Yes, you do.  You just supported it with your pro-abortion vote.  You are part and parcel of a movement that kills many millions of innocent human beings in the womb.  They will die for the “crime” of being young and defenseless in a society with no heart for them.  In order to pacify your consciences, you redefine them as non-persons.

And do these “non-persons” feel pain?  Why don’t you watch a video of an abortion, and see for yourself whether that tiny victim embraces the abortionist’s deadly instruments, or desperately tries to escape them.  No pro-life propaganda in that approach, but just the demonstrable facts.

Instead of looking to these pre-born children with any sense of humaneness, you take from them their right to live, and concern yourself only with their mothers, whom you care for by allowing them to become the murderers of their own flesh and blood.   In taking from one the most fundamental right of life, you give to another the invented liberty to kill the innocent.

And apparently, this is motivated by your hatred for the Catholic Church and religion in general?  Killing babies in the womb – babies who aren’t even Catholic – is a strange way of getting back at the Church.  In fact, it’s a complete miss that strikes dead a perfectly innocent party.

But let’s take another approach.  By any chance, do you pay federal taxes?  Is your government in any way corrupt?  Have any of your officials committed crimes, been bribed by donors, or failed to fulfill their campaign promises?  Has your government ever supported unjust violence or war any place in the world?  Those were rhetorical questions, of course.  But do you at all give financial support to your government?

Did you ever attend a public school or a college?  Our public schools are filled with sex scandals.  There are now countless instances of female teachers having sex with very young male students.  The latest involves a thirty-two-year-old Ohio woman who had sex in her classroom with a fourteen-year-old boy, and who told him to lie about it to the principal.  The pictures of middle-aged women accused of rape have become a semi-regular feature in the news these days.  Out of a consistent indignation, should we not, therefore, denounce the public school system as a whole?  Should we not withhold all taxes that will be used to support it, and withdraw our children from it?

And what about Hollywood and its decades-long practices of systematic widespread abuse, harassment, and rape of countless girls and boys and women and men?  You know, those rich and famous Hollywood elites who live in mansions or gated communities, who are outspoken anti-gun activists, and yet, make a living shooting guns and glamorizing violence on the big screen?   Surely you’ve heard about Roman Polanski, Harvey Weinstein, Oliver Stone, Kevin Spacey, and most recently Morgan Freeman – that darling of the left?  Except for Harvey, who interestingly has a knack for distributing anti-Catholic films through his company Miramax, all of these people are still out free and enjoying life.  I’ll stop there with the names, but the list goes on and on.

Now are you still supporting the horribly corrupt institution of Hollywood by watching its movies, or have you been too busy taking part in anti-Hollywood protests?  And can you point me to your outrage online?   By your own reasoning, you should be publically denouncing and permanently boycotting Hollywood by refusing to enjoy any of its movies.

Come to think of it, are any of our famously outspoken social justice warriors presently boycotting Hollywood and all its movies?  Hmph, I can’t think of even one that is.

What about the medical field?  Have you ever considered the barbaric practices of medicine in recent centuries, including the horrific mental institutions and state hospitals from the twentieth century which used, for example, electro-shock therapy?  Have you considered the countless doctors in all fields of medicine who have groped women during examinations, or neglected or misdiagnosed patients who then went to early deaths?  How about the countless surgical errors that have resulted in the mistaken removal of healthy limbs or organs, or the errors on the operating table that resulted in worse health crises than the patients had when being prepped?

Doctor McHerod, have you been busily denouncing your own field of medicine and all its personnel for their intolerable cruelties to the innocent?  Or rather, do you save all your indignation and righteous anger exclusively for the Catholic Church, or for religion in general, which you personally dislike?  I see a double-standard of righteous anger here.

We could play this game all day and all night, moving on to such fields as science, the military, the police, and the media.  I hope by now you’ve gotten my point.

The fact is, if you want to play the indignation game and be consistent about it, then you need to withdraw from all institutions and society as a whole to the innocent woods, where you can live in peace with your sensitive social conscience and high standard of social justice.  Until you’ve done so, please spare me the selective indignation directed only at the Catholic Church.  It’s old-fashioned calculated bigotry of the most obvious kind.

The truth is, you’re perfectly fine with corruption and injustice.  The proof is in the fact that last week you voted for the most corrupt and unjust act imaginable – the slaughter of the innocent in the womb.  The abused, the molested, and the raped have a second chance.  With counseling and the compassion and support of others, they have the hope of recovery and a new beginning.  But for the aborted there can be no such hope, but only a voter-approved agonizing end to their brief little lives.

May the God that you reject move you to repentance with His grace, restore your empathy and understanding, and have mercy on your soul before the Day of days when the opportunities for repentance will be past.  I am praying for you, Doctor McHerod.

Addendum:

If anyone would like to propose atheism as a solution to the problems of religion turned rotten, please consider the following atheistic regimes casualty numbers:

  • Jozef Stalin (USSR 1932-39 only): 15,000,000 people murdered
  • Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79): 1,700,000 people murdered
  • Kim II Sung (North Korea 1948-94): 1.6 million people murdered
  • Tito (Yugoslavia 1945-1987): 570,000 people murdered
  • Suharto (Communists 1967-66): 500,000 people murdered
  • Ante Pavelic (Croatia 1941-45): 359,000 people murdered
  • Ho Chi Min (Vietnam 1953-56): 200,000 people murdered
  • Vladimir Ilich Lenin (USSR, 1917-20): 30,000 people murdered
  • Adolf Hitler (Germany 1939-1945): 12,000,000 people murdered
  • Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50): 49-78,000,000 people murdered

Dwarfing these numbers is the casualty count of abortions in America since 1973: 61,000,000 babies murdered.  The present US rate is about three thousand per day.

According to the CDC, the deaths of women due to abortion is a matter of voluntary reporting by abortion clinics.  Chillingly, the number is therefore unknown.

Is the Church Only a Means to an End?

Saints in HeavenThe famous apologist, Frank Sheed, once wrote that there was hardly a single Catholic teaching which he had not heard denied or contradicted at Mass.  I would heartily agree.  In this age of irreligiosity in both the world and the Church, the weekly and daily homilies are often periods of doctrinal, moral, and devotional confusion – accidental or intentional.  Sometimes it is subtle and shrewd, but other times it is overt and stunningly absurd.  At Mass this morning I heard the latter type.  The priest said,

“The Church is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end.”

The concept of the Church that was revealed in these two statements and throughout the homily is shockingly temporal, utilitarian, and Protestant.  As if the Church were merely a tool for making or fixing something else, to be discarded when the project was completed!  Is she only a gadget – a sort of wrench or hammer?  Is she comparable to a college course or a political campaign, which is meant to exist for a time, but then be terminated once its purposes have been served?   Will the Church finally cease to exist, once the job is done?

The best way to answer these questions is to consider the purpose of the public ministry and atoning work of Our Lord.  The reason Christ came was to glorify God and save souls.  This was the ultimate two-fold purpose behind His every word and deed.  His preaching revealed the way to heaven; his healings and exorcisms demonstrated that He was the divine Redeemer with authority over death and the devil; His execution upon the Cross comprised the price of human sin and the means of universal reconciliation with the Father; and His Resurrection and Ascension were the proof and completion of the entire divine scheme.  From beginning to end, Christ came to die, that we might live.  But exactly where will the saved live?  All the saved will live in the Kingdom of God.

Now what is the relationship between the Kingdom of God (called the “Kingdom of Heaven” in the Gospel of Saint Matthew) and the Church?   When Jesus first sent out His twelve young Apostles, He instructed them,

“And as you go, preach the message, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Mt. 10:7)'”.

In announcing Simon Peter’s future primacy in the Church, Jesus said,

“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven, and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt. 16:19).

Both of these passages describe the Kingdom as something that is present here and now on earth.  Saint Peter and his successors have supreme authority over it.  In addition, Jesus warned repeatedly that there would be corruption and scandal within the Kingdom, under the metaphors of weeds among wheat, bad fish among good fish, and a man who is thrown out of a wedding feast because he is improperly dressed.

To draw the obvious conclusion: the Kingdom of the God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the one true Church of Jesus Christ are one and the same.  The Church is the Kingdom, but at its first stage of existence.  If the purpose of Christ’s redeeming work is the establishment of the Kingdom of God, then it can equally be said that the purpose of Christ’s redeeming work is the establishment of His Church.   The two statements are different ways of saying the same thing.

Commenting on the Lord’s Prayer, the Roman Catechism teaches,

“In this petition we ask God that the kingdom of Christ, that is, the Church, may be enlarged.”

Later, it says,

“In this kingdom of the Church, God has provided all those succors by which He defends the life of man, and accomplishes his eternal salvation.”

Expounding on this same topic, the Second Vatican Council fathers wrote,

“When Jesus, who had suffered the death of the cross for mankind, had risen, he appeared as the one constituted as Lord, Christ, and eternal priest, and he poured out on his disciples the Spirit promised by the Father.  From this source, the Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding his precepts of charity, humility, and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God and to be on earth the initial budding forth of that kingdom.  While it slowly grows, the Church strains toward the completed kingdom, and with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its king” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church/Lumen Gentium, #5).

The Church, then, is the beginning, the “budding forth,” of the Kingdom of God on earth.  She is the Kingdom in its initial and most imperfect stage, the Church Militant still engaged in the battles between flesh and spirit.  And one enters this Kingdom through Baptism.  One day, it will be purged of all sinners and unbelievers by the judgment of God, and only then will it be perfected.  Even now, that same identical Kingdom exists in heaven and is populated exclusively by the righteous, the saints, and is called the Church Triumphant.  Both are the same Kingdom and the same Church, but at different stages of perfection.  And it is concerning this futuristic purification and perfection of the Church that we pray, “Thy kingdom come”.

Now, to ask again and finally answer the original question: Is the Church only a means to an end?  Is she meant by God to serve a purpose here and now, but, once that purpose has been served, to cease to exist?

The Church, as the Kingdom of God which Christ became incarnate and taught, suffered, died, rose, and ascended into heaven in order to establish, is not merely a means to an end.  Rather, she is that place where man finds his ultimate purpose, the reason for his being, both here and hereafter.  As the domain of all the saved and the final home of the elect who will enjoy the beatific vision and worship God for eternity, her permanent establishment is part and parcel of the very purpose of Christ’s salvific work.  Hence, with the fulfillment of all things, the Church will finally enter the state of perfection and adoration…forever.  Like the righteous angelic spirits and human souls that will fill her, she will never cease to exist.

I am not suggesting that merely possessing membership in the Church as a mundane society is an end in itself.   Contemporary models of the Church as a social, cultural, political, and ethnic organization whose purposes and constitution are anything but transcendent – these directly contradict the standard set by Christ and have as their end, not the glorification of God and the salvation of souls, but merely current human interests as determined by the spirit of the times.  Such a “Church” could easily be replaced by other secular institutions that engage in humanitarian and philanthropic activism.  On the contrary, the Church has what no other institution has; namely, divine truth and grace.  And she must weary herself night and day urgently dispensing these to all who would receive them.  Thus, it is not mere membership in the Church that matters, but discipleship.  Because every human being was made to know, love, and serve God here, and to enjoy Him forever hereafter, and because the Church is that domain where this two-fold purpose is reached and retained, so the Church, correctly understood, is far more than a means to an end.  She will never pass away because her end is eternal; it is God Himself.

Are there elements within the Church that are temporary, that do serve as a “means to an end,” but that will one day cease to be?  Certainly.  These would include the many externals of her devotion, ministry, and government, including the sacraments, Scriptures, and all authority.  For one day, the faithful will no longer need these because they will possess grace, truth, and God Himself directly and immediately as the the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Church Triumphant.  Thanks be to God!