Addressing Protestant challenges to Catholic beliefs and doctrines
ANSWERING THE ANTI-CATHOLIC CHALLENGE
by Robert M. Haddad (ed.)
(Modotti Press, 2012, 199pp, $29.95, ISBN: 978-1-92142-156-3
From the outset Robert M. Haddad shows that he has a clear vision for this book: it is a direct answer to Nothing in My Hand I Bring, a book released around the time of the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney.
That book's author was a former Catholic who converted to Protestantism, the charismatic Ray Galea. It was produced and distributed by Protestants in the local area in an attempt at damage control, given the strengthening of Catholicism that was sure to result from World Youth Day.
All of the contributors to Answering the Anti-Catholic Challenge are young, passionate and well-educated converts or reverts to Catholicism who meet Galea on his own turf. Each chapter is named after one of the chapters in Galea's book and directly addresses its challenges, as is the title's promise.
Chapter 1, "Growing Up Catholic", responds to Galea's criticisms of his Catholic upbringing, including the accusation that Catholics are "more about belonging than believing" and do not seek a personal relationship with Jesus. David Collits convincingly counters this stereotype by quoting Benedict XVI's words, "Intimate friendship with Jesus [is that] on which everything depends". Collits also explains the meaning of the Eucharist as the most intimate form of contact with God.
He quotes statistics showing that an overwhelming majority of Anglicans classify themselves as "cultural Christians", namely belonging rather than believing. He concludes his chapter with an account of the riches and glory of the Catholic Tradition.
While showing respect for Galea's honest search for truth, Collits points to the fundamental problems with Protestantism that are often swept under the carpet of ecumenism.
Zachary Vermeer, in Chapter 2, "Which Catholicism?", outlines why the Church being understood as a body is so important. He quotes Scripture to show the inadequacy of Protestantism's S ola Scriptura approach (Scripture alone without an authoritative source of interpretation).
Vermeer tackles Galea's claim that Catholicism, like Protestantism, contains diverse beliefs and opinions. This, he says, overlooks the reality of a splintered Protestantism. While Catholic teaching on the essentials is consistent, Protestants lack agreement on these.
In Chapter 3, "Christ and the Mass" , Robert Haddad corrects numerous mistaken ideas about the Mass and priesthood, including the concept of transubstantiation. He responds to Galea's complaint that the ongoing Sacrifice of the Mass undermines Christ's death, which occurred only once and was sufficient for mankind's salvation.
Haddad explains that yes, Calvary is a past event, but "the distribution of its spiritual fruits to Christ's faithful is a continuous process." Christ's sacrifice "transcends space and time", and in the Mass becomes present to us, or makes us present, at the Last Supper and Calvary.
Haddad provides a long list of Biblical references to refute Galea's assertion that nowhere in the New Testament does the word "priest" appear, and explains the two main roles of the priesthood: offering the Mass and forgiving sins.
He produces the Biblical, Apostolic and Patristic foundations for belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and convincingly corrects Galea's numerous doctrinal and scriptural misinterpretations with strong evidence and logic.
In The Bible and the Church, Daniel Miller addresses questions about authority refuting Galea's Sola Scriptura position. Miller points out that the Bible actually upholds tradition; and since it comprises a selection from numerous separate books and texts, an authority outside of the Bible was obviously needed at the very outset to judge which of these could be considered inspired writings.
Moreover, the Bible on its own isn't always self-evidently clear, and Miller quotes Luther admitting in a letter that private interpretation can lead to error. Miller then lists 16 Biblical passages about the need for an authoritative Church.
Thomas Waugh in "The Way of Salvation" examines the issue of justification providing a clear outline of the Catholic/Protestant debate with a measured and well-thought out response to Galea's claim that the Catholic Church allows no positive assurance that one is going to heaven.
Glenn Bolas, a former Baptist, sets the record straight regarding the Catholic teaching on Grace. Many Protestants believe the Church teaches that Christians may merit or earn some part of their own salvation through good works, as though they were not entirely in need of God's grace.
Indeed, Luther said that the Church "stands or falls on the doctrine of free grace". To clear the matter up, Bolas recollects how, while he was still a Protestant, he consulted the Council of Trent and found the following statement: "If anyone says that man can be justified before God by his own works ... without divine grace through Jesus Christ, let him be anathema."
Bolas answers other criticisms, explaining for example the necessity for the physical aspects of the sacraments, and how they are channels for God's grace rather than impediments. He also clarifies Church teaching on Purgatory and indulgences.
While expressing gratitude for many aspects of his Protestant upbringing, Bolas, who is a natural apologist, provides illuminating summaries of the nature of sin and grace and the necessity for the Sacrament of Penance (confession).
Kiran Newman contributes an excellent chapter on Mary, often a stumbling block for many Protestants in regard to the Catholic faith. Every popular objection and misunderstanding is addressed. For example, the Rosary illustrates how Mary leads us to focus primarily on Jesus.
Newman quotes prominent Protestants who have spoken in harmony with Catholic Marian doctrines, and explores her Biblical status as Theotokos (God-bearer) and the New Eve.
Thomas Kwok, in the final chapter, sets out Galea's arguments point by point and provides systematic Biblical rebuttals.
Answering the Anti-Catholic Challenge is an invaluable resource for anyone who intellectually objects to the Church's positions and sincerely seeks answers in the name of truth.
Angela Schumann is a graduate of Campion College, Sydney.