Dr. Peter Kreeft, "Seven Reasons to be Catholic" -- a loose transcription (courtesy of M.W.)
I will give you 7 reasons why everyone in the world should be Roman Catholic. They are, respectively, from:
1. Walker Percy,
2. Cardinal Newman,
3. C. S. Lewis,
4. The Nicene Creed,
5. Thomas Aquinas,
6. St. John of the Cross, and
1. When Walker Percy was asked why he was a Catholic, he answered ”What else is there?” That was St. Peter’s answer to Christ’s question “Will you leave me also?”: “To whom else should we go? Thou alone have the words of everlasting life.” As a philosopher, I like to lay things out logically in order. There are 8 options or choices that any seeker of truth has to make.
(1) The very first choice he has to make is to be honest or dishonest. There is only one reason anyone should believe anything at all: because it is true. If that seems too simple or too tough minded to any of you, I ask “Do any of you believe in Santa Claus?” You did when you were three. And believing in Santa Claus when you were three gave you two of the most important things in the world: it made you very happy and it made you very good, generous, and moral. Do you remember how happy you were and how good you were before Christmas? Well, if you believed in Santa Claus now, you would probably be a better person and a happier person. And does not everyone want to be good and everyone wants to be happy? So, why don’t you believe in Santa Claus? Because it is not true. Truth trumps everything.
(2) The second choice is whether you love the truth, whether you’re passionate about it, whether you desire it. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, separates people into two groups. Not those who know the truth or not, but those who seek the truth and those who don’t. God says to Jeremiah “You will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” And Jesus says repeatedly “All who seek find.”
Pascal said there are three kinds of people in the world: Those who have sought God and found Him, those who seek God and have not yet found Him, and those who do no not seek and have not found him. There is no one in the fourth class, those who found Him without seeking Him. Those in the first class, those who have found Him are reasonable and happy. They are reasonable, that is honest and wise, because they sought and happy because they have found. Those in the third class, those who did not seek, are not reasonable, because they did not seek, and not truly happy because they have not found. Those in the second class, those who seek but have not yet found, are reasonable because they seek and not yet happy because they have not yet found. However, everybody in that second class is guaranteed entrance into that first class. So the most important thing in the world is to seek the truth. You do not find it without seeking it.
Bertrand Russell asked one of the best questions ever asked by an atheist. A preacher asked him on his death bed, “What if you’re wrong, and there is a God? What would you say to Him?” Russell replied “Fair enough. I think I would ask Him ‘Why didn’t you give us more evidence?’”
That’s a very rational question. And the answer is if God gave us too much evidence, it would compel us against our will. Romeo doesn’t talk to Juliet with logic and lawyers; he says “If you love me, jump into me arms.” If God gave us too little light, even those who sought Him would not find Him. If He gives us too much light, then even those who didn’t seek Him would find Him. So He gives us just enough light, just enough clues, so that those who truly love Him and seek Him will find Him and those who don’t won’t. So what determines our eternal destiny is not our IQ but our love.
So the second choice is do you have a passion for truth? Unless you hunt that game, you won’t find it.
(3) Third, assuming that you have a passion for truth and seek it, there are two ultimately different worldviews. Either life is a “tale told by an idiot, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (Shakespeare, Macbeth), and we are on a stage, ad libbing lines in a play that nobody wrote or else there is a mind behind it all. Either there is some sort of god or there isn’t. Either mind is a late comer and just evolved from blind matter or else, matter is a late comer and was an invention of a divine mind, a mere 18 billion years ago, maybe.
(4) Assuming that the religious worldview of some sort is true, that there is some sort of God, the next choice is whether there is one of Him or more than one of Him, monotheism or polytheism, one God or many. Both reason and revelation vote for monotheism. Whether you follow Socrates or Moses, many gods just doesn’t work.
(5) If there is only one God, how is He related to everything else? Most Eastern religions answer that he is the same thing as everything else. There is only one thing: that’s God. Pantheism means everything is God and God is everything. Instead, in the West, we have theism, or creationism. It flows from one of the most radical ideas in the history of human thought. Namely, the thought that never occurred to any human mind in all the history of the world except a Jew or those who learned it from the Jews: Creation.
There are no creation myths. Myths do not believe in Creation. They believe in some gradual formation, or evolution, or makings by the gods or a god of a world with something that came before. But the idea that everything that exists was created by one God out of nothing whatsoever was an idea so radical that when the Jewish philosophers, like Philo, talked to the Greek philosophers, they thought he was insane. They had never heard an idea like that before. It has since become very familiar to Christians and Muslims because we inherit this Jewish revelation. But the idea of a totally transcendent God who is other than the universe and created it out of nothing gives you a dualistic world picture. There are two things in the world: a creator and a creature. So, from that point of view, pantheism is hopelessly out of date. Once there was nothing but God, but God created. Catch up with the news, Pantheists; you’re 18 billion years behind the times.
Connected with this idea of a transcendent God is the idea that God has a will, a moral will and (He) is not present in evil but only in good. To the Pantheist, God is present in everything, evil as well as good and is morally indifferent.
(6) Assume that we make the choice for Theism, that is, the God of Abraham, who created the world and has a moral will. Assume that we connect to the two deepest instincts of our own heart, namely, the religious and the moral, the instinct to worship something and the instinct we call conscience. Assume that we follow this Jewish lead, which was not theirs but God’s revelation to them. Then the next question is do we also follow the Jewish revelation historically? Has this God appeared in history or is He, as the Deists say, an absentee landlord; He created the world and then did nothing else in it.
If we follow this Jewish revelation then we have another road other than simply abstract reason, we have the road of history to look for clues about what God has done in history.
(7) And the seventh choice is the most shattering historical event on this trial of all, namely the man who said he is God, Jesus Christ. The choice here is between Christianity or Judaism or Islam or Unitarianism. That is: is God only one person or is He three? The doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Incarnation imply each other. And they separate Christianity from all other religions and all other philosophies because every Christian believes this and no non-Christian did. It does, because if they believe this they would be Christians.
(8) Finally, if accepting this claim of Christ to be God incarnate then you are a Christian, then what about the claim of the Catholic Church to be the Church that Christ founded? Is this true or is it not? Catholics say yes and others protest it and say no. So, there are the alternatives.
(Walker Percy did not outline these 8 options in Lost in the Cosmos. Kreeft uses this same type of analysis in his Jacob’s Ladder, but he uses 10 options in a slightly different order.)
2. Let’s just concentrate on the last choice, Protestant versus Catholic. The second reason I have for why everyone should be a Catholic is the basic reason I found, the one thing more than anything else decided me. And it’s very closely connected to the path trod by Cardinal Newman: history.
At Calvin College I was falling in love with things Catholic and I had thought that was wicked, that the Church was the Whore of Babylon and so I was falling into temptation so I wanted to get some ammunition against this temptation. So I enrolled in a good, honest Church history course taught by a good, honest Calvinist professor. And the first day, right from the beginning, he said, not knowing me from Adam or that I was tempted by things Catholic, “Someday you’re going to meet a Roman Catholic and they’re going to say to you ‘You’re in the wrong church because our Church was founded by Jesus Christ. And it is 2,000 years old, and your Church was only founded by John Calvin and it is only 450 years old.’ What do you say to that?” And I said “Thank you, God. You put me in the right course.”
And then he said “We Calvinists had better have a defense against the Catholics. What is our philosophy of Church history?” No one answered. “Well here’s what the Catholics will say ‘Jesus Christ planted a little seed called the Catholic Church and it was one and it put up many branches, and it is now almost 2,000 years old. But some 500 years ago, some people called Luther and Calvin broke off some branches and tried to plant it separately.’ What do say to that?” Nobody had an answer. “Well, here’s what we say. Jesus Christ founded a Church and it’s described in the New Testament. And it was a very simple Church, but, to put it crudely, it was a Protestant Church, not a Catholic Church. But it was like Noah’s Ark and it sailed around for 1,500 years and by that time it got a lot of barnacles on its hull. So what Luther and Calvin tried to do was to scrape the barnacles off. They didn’t make something new: they tried to restore something old. Those Catholics misunderstood what those reformers tried to do. They think we were progressives. We’re not. We’re the traditionalists. We wanted to return the Church to its pure, pristine, New Testament essence. So they think the Reformation was branch breaking and we think it was barnacle scraping.”
I thought to myself “Gee, that makes it very clear.” So I asked the professor ”If I took a time machine and went back 1,900 years to the early Church, like around 100 A.D., you’re telling me that I would find that it was a Protestant Church. And if a Catholic and I went together, I’d feel more at home there than he would.” He said “Exactly.” I thought “This is great. Now I can find out for myself that this is true. All I have to do is to read the Church Fathers and find out how Protestant they were and convince myself that I’m in the right Church.”
Well, I think you know the rest of the story. But I was thrilled that this was an empirical issue; not just a theological, abstract, philosophical argument. This is an issue of facts. I was always impressed by the fact that Christianity, of all the religions in the world, is the easiest to disprove. If the bones of the dead Jesus would only turn up in some tomb in Palestine, all Christianity would be destroyed. We have so many historical claims that if any of those claims about what happened in history could be disproved, by archeology let’s say, we’d be dead in the water. But that has never, ever happened.
Science relates to Christianity much more than any other religion, certainly much more than to Eastern religions. But there has never been what many people think there has been, namely, a real contradiction between science and religion. It’s never happened. There’s not been a single discovery in any of the physical sciences that has refuted a single doctrine of the Christian religion. It could have happened, it didn’t. So I thought “The Catholic issue is the same thing. It’s something I can find out by looking at the facts.” So I read the Church Fathers. And I found out that from the beginning there was this primacy of the Bishop of Rome, and there was the absolute authority of a single worldwide Church. And I found that the Eucharist, and not the preaching of the sermon, was the center of worship from the very beginning, and that the real, literal sense of the real presence of Christ was taken for granted by every single Christian in all of history until Luther. And I said “Uh, oh.” So there’s my second reason, and the simplest reason for being a Catholic. I am a Catholic because I am a Christian. Christ is my Lord and I want to follow His lead. If He established the Catholic Church, that’s why I want to be in it. So I’m in it.
3. C. S. Lewis, who I think is the best Christian apologist of the 20th century, is famous for an argument that I think is his best and most important argument. It has influenced a lot of Protestant apologists like Josh McDowell (1939) who called it the “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” argument. Lewis got it from the Church Fathers. They called it in Latin “alt deus alt malus”, which means “either God or a bad man”. The divinity of Christ is the distinctively Christian doctrine, the doctrine that is central to Christianity, the doctrine that all Christians believe and no non-Christians do. This is the doctrine that is probably the single doctrine of the earliest Christian creed. It is mentioned a few times by St. Paul, namely that Jesus is Lord, the divine title. The argument is this. Here is a man who claims to be God. He either is or isn’t. If he isn’t God, he is a very bad man. He is not the one thing almost every non-Christians believes that he is, namely a good man: a prophet, a philosopher, a rabbi, a teacher, a moralist, somebody you’d send your kids to Sunday school to learn how to live from the lips of. He is instead either the world’s most insane idiot or he is the world’s wickedest, most blasphemous liar. If I said that I’m God and you should bow down and worship me, you would either cart me off to the asylum or you would say this is the very work of the devil if I really believed that. So you can’t say he is just a good man. He himself forces you to say one of two extreme things. You either throw stones at him in holy horror, as the pious Jews did when he said “Before Abraham was Yahweh (I am). Or you bow down and worship him. Now that argument, I think, is very powerful and very simple. But then one day I realized that a similar argument applies to the Catholic Church. The claim that the Catholic Church makes is that it is the very body of Christ. It doesn’t claim the same thing other churches claim. It claims that Catholic priest can forgive your sins. A Catholic priest can change bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ. That the Pope is the Vicar of Christ on Earth and when that when this Church speaks it speaks with the authority of Jesus Christ himself. Well, if that’s not true then the Church is a false prophet. In the Old Testament the false prophets were commanded by God through Mosaic Law to be killed. If you say “Thus says the Lord” and it doesn’t happen, that isn’t true, then you’re not just a bad man, you’re a great danger to the body politic, you’re a great cancer which must be destroyed. So if the claims of the Catholic Church aren’t true, they are blasphemous, idolatrous, wicked, prideful, and arrogant. Especially the Eucharist: if that’s not what we claim it is, we are idolaters. We are pagans; we are bowing to bread and worshipping wine. That’s not just a mistake: that’s horrible.
Just as there is no semi-Christianity possible there is no semi-Catholicism possible. There is no such thing as a “cafeteria Catholic”. Well, if I can’t say that the Church is the Whore of Babylon then I am going to have to say that it is the Bride of Christ. Well, why don’t you say that it is the Whore of Babylon? Because it is so much like Christ. Christ is obviously not a pathological liar or a wicked blasphemer. And he was obviously not insane. And neither are the saints. 4. A fourth reason is simple and direct. The Nicene Creed directly answers the questions of all inquirers. It was written, I suppose, by the Holy Spirit who knew ahead of time that a thousand years later Christians would have the problem of which Church. The Church was going to split. And there are now well over 20,000 (35,000) churches all of whom claim to be the Church of Christ. How do you tell which is the true Church? Well, the Nicene Creed gives us the four marks of the Church. If you want to find which church is the Church of Christ, find which one these four marks, or signs. Miracles are signs in the New Testament. The Greek word for miracle means literally sign. Clues, marks: clues are good enough reasons. They are not conclusive proofs like mathematical equations but there good enough reasons for anyone who seeks. They are footprints, divine fingerprints, like the Messianic prophecies. Jesus said “If you really understood the God you worship, you would understand Me.” “Know my Father know Me.” So, like all evidence for God, I think it is adequate but not so conclusive that you cannot see it if you are really looking for an escape hatch. The four marks of the Church are that it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Which Church is one? Where does the unity of the Catholic Church come from? It comes from the one deposit of faith that it received in the beginning from Jesus Christ. And the Church has throughout history taught one doctrine. It has always been faithful to that deposit of faith because it is absolute truth from the lips of God Incarnate. The Church in that sense has claimed less than every other church. Mainly, the Church has claimed to be merely a mail carrier. Every other church has claimed to edit His mail.
For instance, Protestants always ask me “How come the Catholic Church is so cruel that it will not allow divorce?” Because we claim less authority than you (do). Christ clearly forbade divorce in all four Gospels and we do not claim the authority to change the words of our Master, no matter what. The Pope used this kind of talk to explain why we do not allow women to be priests. He said the Church does not have the authority to ordain women since our Lord did not. It is not that we do not have the authority to say no, it is because we do not have the authority to say yes. There are all sorts of other questions that have to be answered about issues like that and pastoral questions, too. But here is the non-negotiable absolute: the one. This unity has been expressed in history in a visible way: one Pope, one Vicar of Christ. The Church is not a democracy. I rather like democracy in politics. I think the “divine right of kings” is a confusion of Church and State because there is not any secular Vicar of Christ. So the very reason for democracy in politics is a good reason against it in Church. I think C. S. Lewis said somewhere that there are two reasons for preferring democracy. First, you think everyone is so good and wise that you ought to give them as much power as possible. And second, you think everyone is so wicked and foolish that you ought to give everyone as little power as possible. The second mark of the Church is holy. What does that mean: perfect? Nope. A lot of Protestant churches try to be perfect. And when I was a Protestant I knew a lot of bad Catholics and very few bad Protestants. And I thought that proved the Church was not holy. And then I realized that the Church was not supposed to be a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. Holy means set apart. It does not mean perfect. The Church is the exception to every rule. Look at all the other churches and it is always the Catholic Church down through history that gets people excited, worried, and sticks in their craw. Today, in the Culture of Death, who is the big enemy? The Catholic Church, of course. Who does the media fear and hate the most? Us. We are the new Jews.
Throughout history, nobody has hated the Jews as much. And nobody has hated anybody as much as the Jews. Why? Because they are unassimilated. Oh, what a terrible thing to say. No it is a very humble thing to say. There are only two possible ways to explain their survival and their achievement. Either it is their virtue or it is God’s (virtue). Either it is their genius or it is God’s (genius). Either they figured it out themselves or god just gave it to them. Note that we make exactly the same claim. We have been given this divine revelation so that we are like an iron ball in the pit of the world’s stomach. We cannot be digested. We cannot be assimilated.
Third mark, catholic, means universal, in the sense that it includes everything. What everyone else has got we have got. It also means worldwide. As Chesterton said “Isn’t it a little strange that for a Southern Baptist missionary to ask an Outer Mongolian to become a Southern Baptist?” It does not seem universal enough. The Catholic Church is universal in that it includes many different and local churches and traditions. It is an organic body. It is not uniform; it is a body with organs. Truth is symphonic as von Balthasar says. But this universally inclusive Church to Protestants is the Church Invisible. Well, if you look in the New Testament, the Church is not invisible any more than you are, any more than Christ is. Christ is not invisible, He is a concrete historical person, and He invites Thomas to “touch my wounds”, see Me, and decide to believe in Me. Do not instead of retreat into your own invisible piety. And the same has to be true of His body. Because your body can not be less visible than you are. If Christ was visible then His body is visible. This notion of the invisible church, a merely invisible church, is not scriptural. But the clearest visible mark of the Church is the fourth, apostolic succession. You are in the Church of the Apostles. Here are three historical, empirical, undeniable facts. They are not theological, they are historical.
(1) Jesus Christ did in fact appoint Apostles and said to them things like “Whoever hears you hears Me”, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven”, and “Whatever you bind on Earth is bound in Heaven”. Protestants have to admit that: it is part of their scriptural data.
(2) Second historical fact: these Apostles, exercising that authority given them by Christ, did in fact appoint successors, called bishops.
(3) Third historical fact: these bishops still exist in the Catholic Church in an unbroken line of historical continuity. That is as clear a sign as you could want. My first four reasons have all been pretty concrete, except for the first one with its abstract possibilities. My last three reasons, 5, 6, and 7, why everybody should be a Catholic, are because the Catholic Church fulfills the here deepest ideals of the human spirit: the true, the good, and the beautiful. Be a Catholic because it is true. Be a Catholic because it is good. Be a Catholic because it is beautiful. (These three adjectives are part of a group of transcendentals. According to Father Norris Clarke, Thomas Aquinas added Beauty to the list of transcendentals. Aristotle called them transcendental because they transcend his 10 categories.)
5. First truth: Vatican (Council) I (1869 – 1870) defined that God could be known by human intelligence, by human reason. It is a dogma of faith that the existence of God is not just a dogma of faith, but that God has appealed to our intelligence. Reason can prove very much of the faith: not all of it, but much of it. And it can refute all objections to it. If not, then part of the faith is false. If somebody comes up with an objection to any doctrine of the Catholic faith, any one of them, and that objection cannot be answered, then that objection is correct. Then that particular part of the faith is false. Then the authority that says all these doctrines are not just human opinions but divine revelation and therefore infallibly true is mistaken. In other words, the Church, like Noah’s Ark, has a lot of cargo, a lot of animals, and you cannot throw any one of those animals overboard. Again, there is no such thing as a cafeteria Catholic.
(The Church can) refute all objections? When I was thinking about becoming a Catholic, I said that if I could find only one objection to one Catholic doctrine that cannot be refuted that would justify me not becoming a Catholic. I did not want to become a Catholic. It was very inconvenient. My parents would think I was going to Hell. Calvinists would think I had become a heretic. Most people would think that I had three heads. I wanted to find a good reason for remaining a Protestant, probably an Episcopalian because I loved the liturgy. (I) did not want to. I thought of becoming an Episcopalian because I loved the liturgy, but I didn’t want to. I was desperately looking for a single mistake. I could not find one. All the arguments went one way and not the other way. For instance, to take one example and not go through all of them, (consider) sola scriptura. If there is one fundamental principle of Protestantism from which everything else follows, it is that. Why do not Protestants believe in Sacraments, Saints, Purgatory, Mary, Popes, etc.? (It is) because they do not find it in scripture. Well, sola scriptura is self-contradictory. Scripture dos not teach sola scriptura. So, if you only believe what scripture teaches, you will not believe sola scriptura. And it is irrational because Protestants believe the Bible is infallible but the Bible, the New Testament, was written by the Apostles, that is, the Church. And it was defined, canonized, by the Church. How do you know that the Gospel of Thomas is not part of the Bible, and, Let us say, the Book of Revelation is? There is only one possible explanation to that question: the Church says so. But if the Church is fallible, the Church might be wrong. How can I as a Protestant know what is the infallible textbook unless the infallible teacher told me? So in order to be a good Protestant and believe the Bible was infallible, I had to believe that its cause was infallible. Because as a philosopher I knew that you cannot have more in the than in the cause. How can you squeeze infallible Bible juice out of a fallible Catholic orange? And then the whole Catholic tradition was so intelligent. I could not find a Protestant Aquinas or Protestant Augustine. And in my experience I found that all Protestant objections to Catholic doctrines were unintelligent, based on misunderstandings. O, like Catholics pray to saints and that is idolatry. It is just asking others to pray for us. Or Purgatory: it means you do not believe in the finished work of Christ. O, then we do not need sanctification? Then, when you die, you are a perfected saint? You are finished, God does not need to put you in an oven and make you better? Well, no.
You Catholics believe you have to work your way into Heaven. Faith is not good enough, you need two entrance tickets. Well, no: faith and works are part of the same entrance ticket. Because the very life of Christ absolutely appeals to faith and absolutely to good works. It is you that are separating them, not us. 6. In addition to the True, but also my 5th reason, the Good. This is probably the most common and the most powerful reason in all the history of religion. Most people believe in the existence of God not because they figured it out but because they see saints. The world, the hard-nosed Roman world became Christian because these hard-nosed Romans looked at these weird Christians and they said “Wow! Whatever they have, I want. I do not know what it is. I do not understand it. It seems crazy. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And whatever it is, it makes them wise, and good, and happy, and look how they love each other. They are going to our lions singing hymns and smiling while we are gritting our teeth and we are miserable.” If the Church is the Whore of Babylon, where did all those saints come from, I wonder? The reason most of us chose to believe in God at all, I think, is that we saw our parents were good, sincere, holy people. And we unconsciously realized that the True and the Good have to be allies. The Good has to be the splendor of the Truth. “By their fruits you shall know them.” The good tree produces good fruits. If you see good fruits then you say that must be a good tree. How could the Good and the True possibly lead in opposite directions? How could the human heart be that badly split? It could not. So I read the lives of the saints and I was very impressed. And I think we all have a saint detector in us. It is not infallible, but it is there. You can tell a saint from a sinner. I remember one summer at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. There were not very many waves. So I was sitting on the beach waiting for something. Well, I had to do something, so I got Saint John of the Cross, which I did not understand at all and I was just bowled over by it, more than I would have been by a 10 foot wave. I said, I do not understand this but I know it is true. This is a mountain.
My Protestant friends, knowing that I was reading about the lives of Catholic saints argued with me this way: Look at Catholic sinners. G. K. Chesterton was asked if there was one really strong argument against Christianity. He said just one: Christians. They gave me things like Fox’s Book of Martyrs about Catholic persecutions of Protestants. And made the mistake of saying read some anti-clerical Italians. That’s where the Church is and you know that they all hate the Church, they are all cynical. So, I got Boccaccio’s Decameron. He was a Renaissance, Italian, anti-clerical, funny, scatological, short story writer. And one of these stories was supposed to convince me to not become a Catholic (but) it made almost me a Catholic. There is a pious bishop of Paris who has a pious Jewish merchant friend, Abraham, who is thinking about becoming a Catholic. He comes to the bishop one day and says “I have got to go the Vatican to make a business deal. I will see you in six months.” Now this is the time of the Borgia Popes: bad Popes, really bad. And the bishop said “Look I will be honest with you. Why do you not become baptized before you go to Rome? Because once you see what happens there, you will not be in the market anymore.” And Abraham says “Look, I am a practical Jewish business man: business first, then pleasure. Good bye.” And the bishop says I have lost him forever. Six months later, Abraham comes back to Paris and says “I am ready now. Baptize me.” “What? Oh, you did not go to Rome?”
“No, I went.”
“Oh, you did not do business at the Vatican?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“You did not meet the Pope?”
“Yeah, I did.”
“And the Cardinals?”
“Yeah.” “You have seen that and now you want to join? I do not get it.”
Abraham says “I told you: I am a practical Jewish business man. One thing I know for sure: no earthly business that stupid and corrupt could possibly survive 14 weeks. Yours has lasted 14 centuries. It is a miracle.”
The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church. When Popes were assassinating each other, they never added a doctrine that said now you can assassinate the Pope. When they had 13 mistresses they never said that it is okay for Popes to have mistresses. The doctrine remained absolutely pure even though the practice was never very good and sometimes was horrible. That was very impressive.
7. Finally, my seventh argument is it is beautiful. This is an argument, but it is hard to put into words. I was, I guess, musically deprived and I had never really heard any great traditionally Catholic music. When I became interested in things Catholic, I bought a record of Palestrina. I put it on. I was alone. And I said I absolutely know that this music comes from Heaven. This is angels. This is not earthly music.
Earlier, when I was just a kid I did not know anything about the Catholic Church except what my parents told me, namely that it was the Whore of Babylon and very wicked and they were probably going to Hell. We were living in New Jersey and went to New York City a lot. Once we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I entered that and said to myself “This is not Hell. This is Heaven. Whatever spirit built this, it is so beautiful that it must be true.”
I know three ex-atheists who were converted by Johan Sebastian Bach’s “St. Matthews Passion”. They all said to me without copying from each other “This is how I knew there is a God. There is the music of Johan Sebastian Bach, therefore there is a God.” Well, it is something like that that happened to me with Catholic art, music, and architecture. It is kind of immediate evidence. You just see the face as in nature.
There was a doctor I met in Toronto. He had gone to Zaire as a dietician and saved the life of a dying tribe. He was the first white man they trusted. So, after he saved their lives, he told them about life in the West and they were amazed. They were suspicious of cities and knew very little about civilization. But they believed everything he told them because he was the Great White Father and knew everything. But there were two things they literally could not believe. They believed we could touch a button and blow up the world. They believed we could fly to the Moon. They could not believe that there was such a thing as an atheist. “An atheist - you mean someone who believes in no God at all? Not good ones, not bad ones, not one, not many? Not the gods of the Sky, not the gods of the Earth?” “Oh, I know”, one of them said to him, “these people must be bound and gagged and put in a cellar all their lives.” I think the origin of atheism is the lack of moving water. No one near a river or an ocean can be an atheist.
The other thing they literally could not believe is that in America alone, one and a half million mothers pay hired killers called physicians to kill their unborn babies (each year). They literally could not believe that. They were very disturbed. They asked him “Why did you tell us this horrible thought? This could not be true. We do not understand.” I wonder who the (real) primitives are.
Some of our modern liturgists are terrified of the beauty of the Catholic faith and want to strip our churches bare of it. But, this immediate experience of the glory of the Lord, the beauty of the Catholic faith is a tremendously powerful argument: sermons in stone. And the experience of becoming a Catholic for me was like the experience of entering a cathedral. G.K. Chesterton uses this type of experience in his book The Catholic Church and Conversion. He says when he became a Catholic, his friends, said “Oh, you poor man, you are going to bow down meekly and humbly and stoop low and enter the door of this old maundering building which is all stuffy inside.” “No”, he replied, “it is exactly the opposite. I have been in that stuffy maundering building all my life. And the experience of entering the Church is not the experience of going in but of coming out: Out from a little cellar to shatteringly a great enormous world, with all the winds of heaven whistling through my hair.” So, I think our message to our non-Catholic friends and the world has to be that: Come out. Come out into the splendor of truth.
Questions and Answers
Before we have Q and A, I want to sell some books.
1. Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity is probably the best single work of Catholic apologetics in the 20th century. It contains, for instance, the clearest explanation of the Trinity that I have ever read. He writes with clarity and power: a great book.
2. Scott Hahn’s tapes are already legendary. All of them are good. Anything he types turns to gold.
3. And, of course, there is that wonderful magazine, Envoy.
Q: I want to ask about the “invisible church”.
A: The invisible church was defined as a heresy long ago. It is called Gnosticism. Most religions have two dimensions: an esoteric and an exoteric. The esoteric is the hidden invisible dimension that only the scholar or the mystic understands by his own private experience. And then exoteric, visible, or public dimension is (consists of) the myths that you tell the masses like Santa Claus, or in Hinduism,. Most Hindus believe reincarnation but the mystics say it is a myth because there is no individual soul. Christianity, like Judaism, has always been a public religion and a democratic religion. What is believed is exactly the same to the greatest theologian and to the simplest peasant. But I think my argument is very simple. Christ is visible; therefore His body (the Church) must be visible.
Q: I have talked to fundamentalists about the Catholic Church, but their argument is that “It is too complicated, too difficult. I am committed to Jesus Christ: I am saved.” How do we get them thinking?
A: I think the best approach to a fundamentalist is Biblical just as the best approach to a Jew is the Old Testament scriptures. Start with where they are coming from. Instead of starting with specifically Catholic doctrines and trying to explain them, start with what we already have in common. And Scott Hahn can help you a lot with his tapes. He has done that ministry tremendously. That is the only way, the only effective way of ever arguing with anybody about anything. You have to establish some common ground first. On the basis of this premise which you deeply believe already, I will lead you now to its conclusions. So I would say scriptural arguments.
Q: What about the revelation of Mary at La Salette?
A: I do not know the details of La Salette. But for the Church to approve a manifestation does not mean that it to dogmatically defines that everything that was said there was true. There is a good book by Father Benedict Groeschel (A Still Small Voice: A Practical Guide on Reported Revelations, Ignatius Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0-89870-436-5) which gives you discernment about private revelations. And in a sense, though it was public, it was a private revelation. It is not a dogma of the Church. Catholics are free to believe that Mary appeared at La Salette, Lourdes, and at Fatima. Medjugorje is still up for grabs. They are still deciding about that. So the Church does not require everyone to believe this. And also I am not quite sure what she means when she says “Rome will lose the faith”. It might just refer to, let us say, Hitler’s invasion of Rome in WW II, or maybe that Rome will be destroyed with a nuclear bomb or something, or maybe most people in the city of Rome will lose the faith. But the Church will never lose the faith: we know that. For Christ Himself (said) the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.
Q: What is our response to books that are anti-Catholic, that bring up negatives from Church history, like Popes who had mistresses?
A: First of all let us get the facts straight. They are very often exaggerated. For instance, the Inquisition killed a few hundred people, not a few hundred thousand. And Galileo was just as arrogant as the bishops that condemned him (to house arrest). So, there usually is a less severe scandal than the scandal mongers think. But, on the other hand, yes, Catholics have acted very badly. And the Pope has apologized publically to women, to Jan Hus (1369 – 1415), to Galileo, and to Protestants. It was a very stupid mistake to think that you could deal with heresy by burning heretics. It is the very same mistake modernist Catholics are doing today in reverse. They think you can love heretics by loving heresies. We have to hate the sin and love the sinner. That is a hard distinction to make. And we have been rather bad at it. But the principles are there. The truth is there. What we should do is there. But we have not acted on it very well. So the first thing to say is “You are right. We were wrong.” We were never officially wrong. The Church has never taught anything that was wrong. But as Christ Himself prophesied and told His apostles, “You are going to fall away. You are going to betray Me.” Look at poor Peter. What did the first Pope do? What was almost his first act? (He) said three times that he never knew Jesus Christ. So if the first Pope did that, for later Popes to have mistresses and plot assassinations is possible and it is scandalous. But the Church went through really bad times, worse times than these, and (it) emerged. So I think we will emerge from these times, too.
Q: Catholic and Protestant home schoolers use history books written by Protestants. These books obfuscate about these times. Are these authors ignorant or do they want to hide the truth?
A: I think most of them are victims of poor teaching. One book that did more damage than any other, a book by Loraine Bettner called Roman Catholicism that fundamentalists always quote even though it is even though it has been refuted time and time again. So I think it is ignorance.
Q: We all know the problem of Catholic universities in this country. Only 5 have taken the oath of fidelity to Rome(as of 19xx): Franciscan University of Steubenville, etc. Which ones would you recommend for our children?
A: Parents call me and ask if they should send their children to Boston College. And I say, “Yes I would. You can still get a first rate Catholic education at Boston College, a good education, a Catholic education, if you are guided away from the wolves and towards the sheep. In some departments, notably the Theology Department, there are very few sheep left. Theology departments are always the worst it seems at football Catholic schools. But it is Catholic enough to be a home if you know what rooms to go into, but at the same time pagan enough to be a mission field and a gymnasium where you can build up your spiritual muscles by testing your faith against heretics. So it is sort of the best of both worlds. But if you want a solid Catholic education you go to one of those schools (the 5 in xxxx) I would add two more to that list, St. Thomas More in New Hampshire, and the one in Fort Worth. But those are all not only authentically Catholic but also great schools. And if anyone is wondering about college I think the single best education you can get in the world is at St. Thomas Aquinas College. I cannot say enough about the place.
Q: How do you pronounce your last name?
A: Any way you like. Krayft, it means crab, it is Dutch.
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