Anti-Catholicism: The Curse of "Papists"

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1. Archbishop Fulton Sheen

This famous television "preacher" once remarked that:

2. Reinhold Niebuhr, a Lutheran, and one of the most eminent and influential theologians of the twentieth century, decried the undesirable religious state of affairs in the United States:

The sad division in the Body of Christ occurred, of course, in the 16th century, and the resulting separation has been the cause of much confusion, acrimony, and ignorance. We shall take a look at anti-Catholicism - in terms of the magnitude of its misinformation - as seen in a few notable and representative examples. In conclusion, an ecumenical appeal for unity will be made, in hopes of encouraging dialogue rather than mutual mistrust.


1. Luther's Own Words

It is, unfortunately, an undeniable fact that Martin Luther is the "father of lies" with respect to an accurate portrayal of Catholicism, and the mountainous mass of anti-Catholic falsehood which persists to this day. He spoke constantly in ways similar to the following invective:

Luther referred to Catholics routinely as, for example:

The pope, of course, receives the brunt of Luther's incessant attacks:

Luther deliberately spread lies which he either knew to be (or could have easily figured out thatthey were)  falsehoods, such as the ridiculous asertion that Catholics worship the pope as God:

Of course, the Catholic Church has never held that the pope (or the Church) has the power to damn anyone - that is God's decision alone. Excommunication means, literally, "an ecclesiastical censure by which one is more or less excluded from communion with the faithful" (8:137). It does "not necessarily mean that a person will not be saved." (2:31)

2. Johann von Dollinger, the great German Church historian (who himself was excommunicated in 1871 for refusal to accept papal infallibility), described Luther's mode of controversy:

3. Bartholomew Kleindienst, a Saxon Dominican, replied to Luther's misrepresentations, in 1560:

4. Hartmann Grisar, author of a six-volume biography of Luther, made these observations of Luther's anti-Catholicism:

III. THE TWO BABYLONS (Alexander Hislop)

Moving ahead three centuries, we will now examine a particularly venomous and well-known book simply teeming with ignorance and falsehood. This "scholarly" work, published in 1858 (16), gives its "thesis" in the Introduction:

Hislop interprets a passage in Newman's Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine utterly falsely, to the effect that Mary was to be "worshipped as a partaker of the Godhead" (18). Of course, this is absurd, as Mary is a creature in Catholicism - albeit the highest and only sinless one - but still infinitely distinct from the transcendent God and in need of salvation and God's grace just as we all are. She is venerated, but not worshiped, a distinction understood by even the most nominal Catholic.

This book is such a catalogue of error and falsehood that practically any page could be used as an example of folly, but we shall look at only two more here. Hislop feels that

The conclusion of this remarkable book illustrates Hislop's prejudice and ignorance and refutes itself:

The Two Babylons is based on a simple false premise, i.e., whenever a practice, custom, or belief of Catholicism has the least similarity with a "counterpart" in paganism, then the Catholic version must be essentially identical with paganism. The book is laced with childish pictures comparing items, supposedly proving their "lineage" and affinity (e.g., the pope's tiara, or crown). This method violates two accepted fallacies of logic: the "genetic" fallacy, in which the source of an idea is opposed rather than the idea itself; and the fallacy of correlation = cause, where similarity "proves" that one view derived from another earlier one (and carries all the same interpretations also).

Furthermore, it betrays a complete noncomprehension of the syncretistic impulse of Catholicism, whereby it affirms all that is good in paganism, or else absorbs and "Christianizes" it. This is merely practical wisdom and genius. For instance, Christmas, as is well known, was celebrated on the same day as a Roman feast, so as to make the people forget the pagan feast. What better way to overcome old customs? Such a lack of intellectual prowess in this book and others like it, leads one to suspect that the authors' blinding prejudice, as to what they think is Catholicism, as Fulton Sheen said, is the predominant motivation behind the writing.

IV. ROMAN CATHOLICISM (Loraine Boettner) (21)

This obscurantist diatribe, the current "Bible" of anti-Catholicism, describes within its pages a religion bearing little resemblance to the one which is known by its title. Catholic apologist Karl Keating, whose book Catholicism and Fundamentalism is an excellent expose of the overwhelming misinformation of anti-Catholicism, as well as a fine apologetic for Catholicism, gives an idea of the scholarly "weight" of this regrettable "tome":

A few examples of the folly ever-present in this work:

The Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist is the same as "cannibalism." (23) Mary is "a kind of fourth person of the Blessed Trinity." (24)

Boettner concurs with another writer that:

Boettner cites a book to the effect that young women who enter the convent are taught to hate their parents. (27) If anyone is persuaded by this manner of "reasoning" and the "conclusions" resulting therefrom, it is probably futile to pursue any rebuttal.


The late Keith Green, who died tragically in a plane crash in 1982, was a very popular Christian singer and evangelist (and a big influence on me in many beneficial respects, as he was for many evangelicals). I seriously considered joining his ministry in 1982. Much of his teaching is quite edifying, and his wife Melody has been a major force in the pro-life movement. Regrettably, however, his Catholic Chronicles of 1980-81, fell prey to some of the common misunderstandings of Catholicism. In fairness, it must be mentioned that these tracts were later discontinued by Last Days Ministries, but they no doubt had their effect, and when I read them, I didn't know any better than to accept them.

Green states in the Introduction to the series:

In his tract on The Holy Eucharist, Green takes exception to the Real Presence and transubstantiation and shows an appalling ignorance of Church history (a tendency common to virtually all anti-Catholics and, sadly, far too many Protestants in general). He implies that the doctrine was controversial and vague up until it was proclaimed a dogma in 1215. In fact, the Real Presence was universally believed by all Christians of note until Protestantism began. The early Christians were called "cannibals" by the pagans for this very reason. Transubstantiation, a consistent development of the Real Presence, was explicitly stated by Church Fathers Cyril of Jerusalem (d.387), Gregory Nyssa (d.394), John Chrysostom (d.407), Cyril of Alexandria (d.444), and Ambrose (d.397) (7:381-2).

Green cites Tertullian as an historian of the "Middle Ages." Tertullian died around 230 A.D., long before the Middle Ages, by anyone's reckoning. The Eucharist is later said to be prefigured in the worship of Osiris and in Mithraism (Hislop-type fallacious "reasoning" again). The second Chronicle, The Sacrifice of the Mass, (29) is subtitled "Jesus Dies Again." Catholic doctrine has never held that Jesus dies every time a Mass is celebrated (although this is the constant accusation). Rather, as Karl Adam writes, "Christ our high priest sacramentally re-presents the sacrifice which He once offered on Calvary" (1:135). This could have been found out in any basic introduction to Catholicism or Catechism.

The problem is that the anti-Catholics never seem to consult the very works with which they should begin their analysis. They have their own networks of disinformation which facilitate a regurgitation of the same old lies over and over again - the same tactics which Luther himself perfected. Invariably, however, Catholic teaching is much more subtle, fine-tuned and complex than its detractors think. Chronicle III, Salvation According to Rome, (30) ends after shallow arguments, in a self-righteous tone belying the modicum of moderation preceding it:

Green recommends Boettner's book (obviously his primary source) to all as "a valuable resource for reference," giving the author's address and highlighting it in a separate "box". It is also quoted from at great length at the end of Chronicle IV, What Did Vatican II Really Change? We have already examined the quality of Boettner's "scholarship."


No survey of anti-Catholicism is complete without reference to Jack Chick and Chick Publications, and its notorious comic booklet "Alberto" (with myriad sequels). Here we pass from ignorance and lack of serious study to outright farce and absurdity. Alberto Rivera claimed to be a Jesuit priest, but has decisively been shown to be a total fraud in evangelical magazines Cornerstone (31) and Christianity Today (32). According to Rivera, the Jesuits assassinated Abraham Lincoln and trained Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin; Hitler was a pawn of the Vatican, which was also behind both World Wars. Billy Graham is a Vatican agent, and the Ku Klux Klan, Nazis, Communists and Masons were or are secretly directed by the Jesuits. Oh, and the Jesuits, conspirators that they are, also wrote the Koran! As of April 8, 1989, the date of an article on the subject in the Detroit News (33), nearly half of twenty metropolitan Detroit Christian bookstores carried these magazines. This, more than anything, gives an idea of the magnitude of the problem here dealt with. See my paper, The Real Alberto Rivera (edited, with commentary, by Dave Armstrong, from articles by Protestant Gary Metz). VII. CATHOLIC RESPONSES TO THE ONSLAUGHT

How does a Catholic respond to the astonishing and widespread displays of credulity, and often sheer malice, such as just recounted? We shall take a look at eight rejoinders:

1. G.K. Chesterton, that eminently intelligent and witty Catholic (a convert from Anglicanism) retorts with amusement:

Chesterton makes many interesting points in this regard:

2. Msgr. Patrick O'Hare tells us why Catholics must exercise great charity:

3. Karl Keating responds to the ever-present charge that the Inquisition "disproves" Catholicism:

4. Georges Tavard discusses a certain form of Protestant condescension:

5. James Cardinal Gibbons, of Baltimore, gives his strong views in Faith Of Our Fathers, a well-known and influential Catholic apologetic:

6. Louis Bouyer, a convert from Lutheranism, recounts some of the common misunderstandings:

7. Sir Arnold Lunn (also a convert) gives some idea of Catholic frustration:

8. John Henry Cardinal Newman, the most famous, perhaps, of all converts, speaks of:


I wouldn't want to leave an impression that all Protestants are anti-Catholic. This is not the case by a long shot. Although the problem is very deep and serious, many notable and noble Protestants have not taken part in this frenzy of hatred of the Ancient Faith. I would like to salute some of these by quoting them, and thus end on a positive note:

1. John Wesley, the great English evangelist and founder of Methodism, wrote a remarkable open letter, dated July 18, 1749, which was published in Dublin, in the context of great inter-faith bitterness. His Letter to a Roman Catholic reads in part as follows:

2. C.S. Lewis, the brilliant Anglican apologist and writer, had many close friends who were Catholic, including the famous fantasy writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, and held many views similar or identical to Catholic teaching, as somewhat of an Anglo-Catholic. In 1953 he wrote this in a letter to a friend who had become a Catholic:

This sentiment of Lewis's is one which I have also felt strongly both before and after becoming a Catholic.

3. Billy Graham, the premier evangelist of the 20th century, has also been markedly ecumenical and tolerant. The distinguished historian of modern Christianity, Martin Marty, testifies of this quality in the preacher:

Graham has described Pope John Paul II as "one of the greatest moral and spiritual leaders of this century." (38) The admiration is apparently mutual. For instance, biographer John Pollock describes Graham's meeting with Cardinal Cushing of Boston:

4. Evangelical Countercult Organizations

Most of these hard-working groups dedicated to fighting heresies such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, the Way International, etc., do not regard Catholicism as a cult (i.e., a group denying central Christian doctrines, nevertheless claiming to be Christian, according to the prevailing evangelical criterion). This was true of the late "father" of this movement, Dr. Walter Martin, as well as nearly all the prominent leaders currently (I know something about this personally, having been part of this sub-community of "ministries" as a researcher on Jehovah's Witnesses). For instance, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, directors of Answers in Action, exhibit a refreshing tolerance and understanding of Catholicism:

5. Charles Colson, the highly respected Presbyterian, founder of the ecumenical, influential and highly successful Prison Fellowship, and author of several widely-acclaimed books such as Loving God, Kingdoms In Conflict, and Against the Night, states in the Foreword to Evangelical Catholics (written by Keith Fournier, a Catholic seeking to emphasize the "evangelical" elements fully available within Catholicism):


1. Rumble, Leslie & Charles M. Carty, Radio Replies, (Preface), Rockford, IL: 1979
2. Niebuhr, Reinhold, Essays in Applied Christianity, NY: Meridian, 1959, pp.220-21.
3. Luther, Martin, Wider den Radschlag der Meintzischen Pfaffery, 1526, beginning.
4. Ibid., Werke, (Works), Weimar ed., 1883, 34,1, pp.83 ff.
5. Lauterbach's Diary, pp.171,64.
6. Tischreden (Table-Talk), Werke, Erlangen ed., 1868, 62, p.439.
7. Werke, Erlangen ed., 60, p.206.
8. Ibid., 60, p.183.
9. Ibid., 60, p.214.
10. Ibid., 62, p.222.
11. Ibid., 57, p.206.
12. Ibid., 60, p.185.
13. Werke, Jena ed., 1558, 7, p.285 / Halle ed. (Walch), 1753, 19, 2438 ff.
14. Dollinger, Johann, Sketch of Luther (in German), 1890, pp.56 ff.
15. Paulus, N., The German Dominicans, (German), 1903, p.276.
16. Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons, Neptune, N.J.: 1959, 2nd American ed., 330p.
17. Ibid., pp.2-3.
18. Ibid., p.83.
19. Ibid., p.150.
20. Ibid., pp.282,287.
21. Boettner, Loraine, Roman Catholicism, Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1962, 466p. Over 100,000 copies sold.
22. Ibid., p.53.
23. Ibid., p.176.
24. Ibid., p.151.
25. Ibid., p.184.
26. Ibid., p.59.
27. Ibid., p.323.
28. Last Days Newsletter, November/December 1980, "Introduction to the Catholic Chronicles," p.13.
29. Ibid., pp.23-27.
30. Last Days Newsletter, January/March 1981, pp.10-20.
31. Cornerstone, vol.9, no.53, "The Alberto Story," Gary Metz, pp.29-31.
32. Christianity Today, March 13, 1981, also by Gary Metz.
33. Detroit News, April 8, 1989, p.17A: "Comic Book Series Gets No Laughs From Christian Groups," Kate DeSmet.
34. Walsh, William T., Isabella of Spain, 1930, p.275 / Davies, R. Trevor, The Golden Century of Spain: 1501-1621, 1937, p.14.
35. Wesley, John, Works, vol. 10, pp.80-86.
36. Lewis, C.S., Letters to an American Lady, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1967, pp.11-12.
37. Marty, Martin, "Reflections on Graham by a Former Grump," Christianity Today, November 18, 1988, p.25.
38. News Sun, (Kendallville, Indiana), November 7, 1979.
39. Pollock, John, Billy Graham: The Authorized Biography, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1966, pp.263-4.
40. Passantino, Bob and Gretchen, "From Catacomb to Vatican," Part II, Cornerstone, vol. 13, no. 72, pp.33-4.


{ * = non- Catholic work}

1. Adam, Karl, The Spirit of Catholicism, tr. Justin McCann, rev. ed., Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1954 (orig. 1924).
2. Schreck, Alan, Catholic and Christian, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1984.
3. Toon, Peter, Protestants and Catholics, Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Books, 1983. *
4. Keating, Karl, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988.
5. Gibbons, James Cardinal, The Faith of Our Fathers, NY: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, rev. ed., 1917.
6. Fournier, Keith A., Evangelical Catholics, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990.
7. Ott, Ludwig, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1974.
8. Hardon, John A., Pocket Catholic Dictionary, NY: Doubleday Image, 1980.
9. O'Hare, Patrick F., The Facts About Luther, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, rev. ed., 1987 (orig. Cincinnati, 1916).
10. Grisar, Hartmann, Luther, tr. E.M. Lamond, ed. Luigi Cappadelta, 6 vols., London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917.
11. Tavard, Georges, Understanding Protestantism, tr. Rachel Attwater, Glen Rock, NJ: Deus/Century Books, 1963.
12. Bouyer, Louis, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, tr. A.V. Littledale, London: Harvill Press, 1956.
13. Newman, John Henry Cardinal, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1956 (orig. 1864).
14. Chesterton, G.K., The Catholic Church and Conversion, NY: Macmillan, 1926.
15. Chesterton, G.K., The Thing, NY: Sheed & Ward, 1929.
16. Lunn, Arnold, Now I See, London: Sheed & Ward, 1944.

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Completed by Dave Armstrong on 25 January 1991 / Slight revisions: 9 October 9 1993, 29 January 2000 and 27 January 2002.