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The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists. (Book Review).

Karl Keating, The Usual Suspects: Answering Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2000, 195 pages

Years ago at a New Year's Eve house party, I met a former Roman Catholic who had left the Church to join a Protestant sect. When I asked her why, she said something about the "assurance of salvation" and there the conversation ended. Regrettably, I embodied the misconception that a right knowing implies able teaching. If you have similar moments of regret, you will surely benefit from reading Keating's book.

A Catholic author and apologist in the United States, Keating receives correspondence from a variety of people, professional anti-Catholics as well as lay people who have left the Church. His book is a series of short chapters each containing a snapshot of an anti-Catholic situation, book, video or tract which calls for apologetics. The result makes for edifying, and sometimes amusing, reading.

What are the causes of these defections from Catholicism to Fundamentalism? The emotional and social support offered by the Protestant sects as opposed to the "rigorous anonymity" observed in many Catholic parishes; simple doctrine which "more readily harmonizes with one's feelings;" and, error-ridden though it may be, there is lively conversation about doctrine in Fundamentalist churches.

What is this topic of conversation? It varies, but according to Keating, one stands out: justification. Catholics want a reciprocal relationship with Christ, but they don't hear about it in church. In contrast, Fundamentalists offer the simple doctrine of the "assurance of salvation."

An additional problem encountered by Catholics being wooed by Fundamentalists stems from ignorance of our own faith. There exists barely any need to disarm us: the alien doctrine is simply "poured into a vaccum" and a new Bible Christian is born. The impact of the anti-Catholic tracts and videos arises as much from a lack of organized resistance to them as from their content.

What are some of the usual suspects that Fundamentalists trot out when on the offensive against the Catholic Church? Catholics worship the Virgin; praying in front of statues makes us idolators; the Rosary is "vain repetition" in prayer; Catholics have added to the true doctrine from the traditions of men by their insistence that Scripture alone does not suffice; and of course the Real Presence, to name only the most common ones.

Keating takes up these arguments and some more bizarre ones and refutes them with clear thinking, humour and above all charity. Protestants are fond of quoting 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 to defend their doctrine of sola scriptura. Keating asks: What scripture could Timothy have had at hand? Furthermore, Timothy refers to scripture being profitable, not sufficient.

An ex-priest Joseph Zaccello, claims that the Pope's blessings are really curses, and cites several instances when calamity followed a blessing. In 1897, Leo XIII blessed the Charity Bazaar in Paris. Within five minutes it was in flames. After an audience with the Pope, Churchill never regained his authority in the British Parliament. One wonders how an educated person could fall for such a transparent fallacy.

One of the more bizarre attacks against the Church comes from a man by the name of Texe Marrs who claims that the Pope will become head of a One World Church with the help of financial moguls who themselves will establish a Fourth Reich and impose their own Final Solution on the mongrelized race of Americans. Keating headlines this chapter, "Message from Marrs."

Keating himself is a model of how to conduct oneself in a conversation with Fundamentalists and anti-institutional Christians. He is quick to give credit when an opponent acknowledges some anti-Catholic materials as tasteless, such as a crucified Mary; and avoids counter accusations. Many times it occurred to me that Protestants' attitude toward the Bible borders on idolatry, yet Keating never uses such arguments. Neither is he a wallflower, however. He doesn't hesitate to butt in to have the last word when precious seconds remain on radio and television broadcasts. And he cautions against rushing to a presumption of good faith" when dealing with people who "lust" after and promote conspiracy theories.

So having read Keating's book, how would I now answer my New Year's Eve acquaintance? Clearly, charitably, and above all like the lay person I am, I would say that God's promise of justification is sure, but only one side of the relationship he wants with everyone. The other side contains me, and I cannot take my correspondence with grace for granted once for all, as I can His promise, but must work out my salvation in fear and trembling.
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Author:Nitsch, Kathline
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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