Before becoming Catholic, I had a lot of prejudices against Catholics. These prejudices were derived from rumors and ignorance rather than actual experience. My conversion process was one of untangling these prejudices and watching my pre-conceived notions of Catholicism being dismantled. The rumors that I heard growing up as a Protestant are the same rumors I hear others saying now. Here are three of those rumors and my responses to them:
RUMOR: Catholics don’t read the Bible
ANSWER: The Bible was formed and agreed upon by the Catholic Church. Apart from the Catholic Church, nobody would have the full Bible. Catholics not only read the Bible, but they listen to the Bible being read at every Mass, and pray the Bible through the Mass and in the Liturgy of the Hours. In a three-year period, if a Catholic goes to Daily Mass, he or she will have listened to a vast majority of the Bible. When I first went to Mass, I was shocked at how much Scripture I heard. In fact, I heard more Scripture throughout the Liturgy than I ever heard at any Bible church, Baptist church, non-denominational church, or any other church growing up. The Scriptures are central to the Catholic Church: “In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, ‘but as what it really is, the word of God’” (CCC, 104).
RUMOR: Catholics worship Mary
ANSWER: Catholics worship God alone. We show great honor and respect to Our Lady, but we do not worship her. Most Christians believe in asking others to pray for them, especially those they believe are close to God. Asking Mary, or any of the saints, to pray for us is similar, except that they are in heaven and are even closer to God than we can imagine. The prayer of a righteous person has great power in its effects (James 5:16). Praying, or asking someone for something, is greatly different than offering sacrifice and worshipping someone. Thus we can pray to Mary, but those requests are not acts of worship, but acts of veneration and honor. “‘All generations will call me blessed’: ‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’ The Church rightly honors ‘the Blessed Virgin with special devotion. From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God,’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs…This very special devotion … differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration’” (CCC, 971). While we do not worship Mary, we go to Mary for help so that our worship to God is magnified all the more.
RUMOR: Catholics don’t believe in having a personal relationship with Christ
ANSWER: When I first read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I was shocked to find that the very first paragraph talked about being in relationship with God. I had thought Catholicism was just a dead, empty, ritualistic religion, but instead, I found that the centerpiece of the Catholic Church’s teaching was about being in relationship with the Holy Trinity: “In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life” (CCC, 1). Far from being dead doctrine, the Catholic Church aims all her teachings toward love: “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love” (CCC, 25). Not only does the Church’s teaching bear witness to having a personal relationship with Christ, but also in practice, the Church epitomizes what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ through the Holy Eucharist. The Church becomes one flesh with Christ in the Eucharist. We get to actually partake of Christ’s very own Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. The very person of Jesus, enters our body and becomes one with us in a very real way. It doesn’t get much more personal than that!
I know there are many other rumors floating around, but I wanted to go over these three, because these were the ones that most gripped me when I found out the truth. Let us continue to correct those who promote these rumors with gentleness and respect (2 Timothy 2: 25, 1 Peter 3:15) so that they also might come to experience Christ more profoundly through his Holy Catholic Church.