Religious Misconceptions and the Catholic Church

NOTE: This column appears in full at Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at

When I think of religious misconceptions and the Catholic Church, I legitimately have to stifle a laugh as I think to myself, “Where do I even start?”

It’s almost as sure a thing as death and taxes, in my experience, that misconceptions abound about the Catholic Church — what she believes, the ramifications of her members behaving badly, whether or not her teachings are outdated. One could look anywhere and find them.

A quote from the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen has always said it best for me:

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

It’s a very intriguing statement, when you think about it, and I believe it’s profoundly true.

There should be no doubt that the Catholic Church is a tour de force in our world, and has been for centuries. For better or for worse, everyone who’s been to a university, been treated in a modern hospital, or lived virtually anywhere in the world has been affected, directly or indirectly, by Catholicism.

One example is Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last September; for those days, the American public was treated to the “most positive news week I have ever seen,” as one writer put it.

But two questions still remain: Why should I care? And how can the good things matter when so much bad has been done by the Church over the centuries?



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Ignatius of Antioch quote (3)


Ask A Catholic: What is the Rosary?

Q. What is the Rosary? How do you pray it? When do you pray it? Are there different kinds?

A. The Rosary is perhaps the most commonly known and most popular form of devotion practiced by Catholics and, believe it or not, even many non-Catholics. In short, the Rosary is a series of prayers is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, that provides a contemplative walk through the life and significant events of Jesus Christ.

How to pray the Rosary

The rosary is made up of a crucifix (a cross bearing the crucified Jesus), five introductory beads, a medal (usually bearing an image of Jesus & Mary), and five sets of 10 beads with a single bead between each set. Depending on the day, a different set of “mysteries” are used to guide the person praying through the Rosary (more on that in a minute).

Only six prayers are used when a person prays the Rosary: the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the O My Jesus (The Decade Prayer), and the Hail Holy Queen.

Read the rest over at Spokane Faith & Values.

Sheen quote Rosary


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Wifely Wisdom: Why I’m Not Fretting (Much) Over Obergefell

The day of the Supreme Court’s now-well-known decision in Obergefell v. Hodges coincided with a trip my wife and I took to Montana to visit family. So the majority of it was spent chatting about the case, the decision itself, and the various ramifications that may or may not come as a result.

I’ll admit that I was “on the cliff”, ready to call time-of-death for America and prepare for the impending public persecutions. I wasn’t surprised at the ruling, but boy was I afraid of the havoc it could wreak on the lives of its dissenters.

Enter my wife, who will soon begin her third and final year of law school at Gonzaga University in Spokane. Conversations with her on topics like this always have an interesting dynamic — there’s me, reading/listening/watching all I can daily to learn more about the faith, and her, living and breathing only legal subject matter for the better part of 2 years.

This is usually how conversations like this go:


panic1 panic2 panic3


bored1 bored2 bored3

Usually, if the subject of the conversation itself isn’t causing the above reactions in me, her perceived boredom with the issue at hand will do the trick. It was definitely the case with the recent Obergefell decision.

But when I dug deeper into why she failed to utter a reaction resembling mine, I found, as always, an introspection and a consideration of the issue at hand that’s incredibly sensible and well-reasoned. Her reasons for a lack of reaction were part self-described gift from God to not buy into the hype, part explanation that the law is a LOT more complex and won’t fall apart with one ruling, and part recognition that nothing’s changed in the Divine Department.

The latter of the three is the one that us panicky folk should take to heart most to all. So I broke them down into four points:

1. God is still God, and we are still not.

It goes without saying, but it’s always a good reminder that we don’t have to be in charge. God has things under control. He still works in people’s lives like He did before, and He still works in our lives, too. Jesus’ death and Resurrection still redeems the world. Even if civil marriages are now being extended to gay couples, it’s not to say they’ll be any better (or worse) off than they were before, and God isn’t about to abandon any of them as a result of the decision of five people.

To remember that God is still God reminds us to have faith and to not despair, most of all.

2. The Supreme Court is not the arbiter of moral truth.

To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “Moral principles do not depend on a majority vote. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong. Right is right, even if nobody is right.”

Justice Kennedy tells us that we don’t have dignity if we can’t get married? That we’re being kept from a basic human need? That our most profound hopes and aspirations are being thwarted?


We have inherent dignity, no matter what the government says. “Human dignity can be violated or disrespected, but it can never be taken away,” says Fr. Connor Danstrom.

Dred Scott was right, the Supreme Court was wrong – every person ought to enjoy the same freedom and ought not be enslaved. Wade & Casey were both right, the Supreme Court was wrong — babies ought to be protected from the moment they’re conceived to their birth. And so it is here: Marriage is an institution written on our bodies, and is meant to keep man and woman, husband & wife, mother & father together for life for the well being of the children that come from their union.

Those truths were true before, and will remain true forever, no matter what the High Court rules.

3. What needs to be done hasn’t changed.

No matter how much marriage changes, now or in the future, our call to evangelize hasn’t changed. Our call to live holy lives of prayer, sacrifice, service, and penance hasn’t changed. Sacramental marriage in the Catholic Church remains unchanged. Everyone still needs love, and everyone still needs the Gospel, the same as it was before June 26.

Perhaps most importantly, the Church isn’t going to change. Whether you’re bummed or relieved to hear it, it’s the same reality that has kept the Church around for twenty centuries and counting. Yes, there will be dissent from within. Yes, there will be efforts of attempted theological finagling to approve of same-sex unions in the Church. But the Chair of Peter and the whole Church remain protected by the Holy Spirit nonetheless. Those errors will lie “sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect,” as I’ve so often quoted from Chesterton.

4. The “So What?” Principle applies.

Let’s say that public persecution does happen. Let’s say we Catholics eventually are strung up in the public square for our beliefs, that the oppressors win and violence ensues. They win, we lose (or so it appears).

So. What.

If we die as martyrs, to be perfectly honest, it would be pretty great. To be sure, I’m not hoping for that outcome in the least. But isn’t giving our lives for Christ what we’re already asked to do, even if that means literally giving our lives?

As Fr. Robert Barron so eloquently put it recently, “We take a deep breath, preparing for what could be some aggression from the secular society, but we take courage from a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. The Church has faced this sort of thing before—and we’re still standing.”

And so, as a result, I’m not fretting (much) about the decision that was made two weeks ago, thanks to some well-timed wifely wisdom. Without that wisdom, I would’ve been led sadly astray, worrying about ghosts, and trying to control what isn’t mine to control anyway. But now, thank God, that isn’t the case, and I think we all could benefit a lot by keeping these four reminders close at hand in times like these.


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