Top 15 Misconceptions About Catholics

Tuesday, April 20, AD 2010

Karen L. Anderson of Online Christian Colleges wrote a timely piece on the many myths, misconceptions, and outlandish lies told about Catholics:

With nearly one quarter of the U.S. population Catholic, they make up a huge part of society and the largest Christian denomination. Yet with so many, how is it they are so misunderstood and characterized by films, television shows, etc.?

Failing to do the proper research explains a great deal of it. With a simple search on the internet, we were able to find many interesting answers to the top 15 misconceptions about Catholics. They are both from official sources, reporters, academics, and more.

1. Priests Are More Likely to be Pedophiles : The most dangerous of all myths concerning Catholics, this can lead to many negative and unfair consequences. Recently in a book entitled Pedophiles and Priests, an extensive study – and the only one of it kind – took a look at the pedophile statistics of over 2,200 priests. It found that only 0.3% of all Catholic clergy are involved in any pedophilia matter, guilty or not. This number is actually very low and according to Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit, who reports that children are more likely to be victims of pedophile activity at school with nearly 14% of students estimated to be molested by a member of the school staff.

2. Everything in “The Da Vinci Code” is True : Even author Dan Brown himself doesn’t agree to this. In this free film from Hulu, Mr. Brown admits to writing his novel as a step in his own spiritual journey. As he confesses to being swayed by his extensive research, the experts behind the research weigh in with facts. Simon Cox is the author of “Cracking the Da Vinci Code” and tells more about his work in this documentary. If you don’t have 90 minutes to view it, you can get the real story behind Opus Dei, the villain organization in the novel, from ABC news.

3. Women Are Oppressed in the Catholic Church : Although women are still not eligible to become priests as explained by Pope John Paul II, they were still acknowledged as valued members of the church as far back as 1947. In a Papal Directive from then Pope Pius XII, he expressed his admiration of women “to take part in the battle: you have not sought to do so, but courageously you accept your new duties; not as resigned victims nor merely in a defensive spirit.” Also, in 2004 then Pope John Paul II historically appointed two women theologians to the International Theological Commission and named another as the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

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12 Responses to Top 15 Misconceptions About Catholics

  • The dificulty in the myths in the article are not the fact that they are misconceptions of the Roman Catholic Church. The turly sad part is that many so called members of our Church add to these misconception by 2 basic means. They do not correct these myths when asked by friends or others who are inquisitive either from lack of knowlegde or feeling this is not their right to do so and the second most problem and perhaps the worse is that many so called “catholics” beleve the crticisms are correct.

  • I would also say 9, 12 and 15 are odd; never heard them before….

  • #1: The book looks only at data since 1982. As we’ve seen in another recent TAC post, we have far more incidents prior to 1982. The John Jay study, which goes farther back, concludes that a shocking 4% of priests were reported to have sexually abused children. The second link you posted says that 1-5% of teachers sexually abuse or harass children. Harassment is more common than sexual abuse so the prevalence among teachers is probably less than 2.5%. But then you have to take out the women teachers who are must less likely to sexually abuse students. It also might to useful to compare the prevalence of sexual abuse of boys only. Priests are more likely to abuse boys and teachers are more likely to abuse girls. Bottom line is that you need more data but it’s certain that among pedophiles, priests are outliers. Even if abuse isn’t any more prevalent, why boys instead of girls? I think it’s entirely possible that the priesthood attracts sexual deviants.

    #3: And some black slaves were allowed to sleep in the master’s house. Crumbs do not disprove oppression. If we’re going to completely honest with ourselves, I think we have to admit that the Church denies women opportunities that are open to men. We don’t have to get all defensive over that fact. Christ denied women opportunities that he gave to men.

    #5: The Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Mary, not Jesus.

    #8: I’m unclear of what you’re saying here. Catholics were once required to abstain from meat on ALL Fridays. Catholics must still abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent but in the US, bishops allow Catholics to give up something else on Fridays outside of Lent.

  • RR,

    #3. She never claimed nor said that.

    #5. I corrected her post, thanks!

  • You can always count on restrained radical to bash the Church for no apparent reason.

  • Is the reason not apparent? I’m a closet Episcopalian. Which reminds me… there’s an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the debate over women bishops in the Church of England. Full article requires a subscription. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/04/26/100426fa_fact_kramer

  • I think that a lot of these misconceptions come from different places. The Dan Brown stuff is probably more common among evangelicals and conspiracy-types, two crowds that probably don’t have much in common. Ditto for the claim of oppressing women, which would come from feminist atheists and faithful Protestants.

    The supposed conflict between faith and reason in #4 is the one that irritates me the most. It’s so patently wrong! I attended a lecture on data visualization (of all things) last week, and the instructor went off on a tangent about the persecution of Galileo. For whatever reason, we get tarred by the same brush as evangelicals about science, then tarred by evangelicals about Mary. Oh well. As Chesterton said, if you’re being accused by everyone of every possible error, you may be perfectly correct.

  • Yes Pinky, Chesteron really had a unigue use of words and as far as 9 is concerned ,they probably never heard of Hilaire Belloc..”wherever the Catholic sun doth shine there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I always found it so Benedicamus Domino “

  • Number 9 was news to me. Wine is even part of our sacramental life, unlike those denominations that use grape juice. I’ve never heard a stereotype about a sober Irishman, a teetotaling Italian, or a Mexican refusing beer, so I don’t know where the myth of Catholic avoidance of alcohol comes from.

  • Too often Catholics get lumped together with puritan Protestant Creationists. And too often it’s Catholics who do it.

    Catholics can drink, smoke, believe in evolution, dinosaurs, the big bang, aliens, believe that you can be born gay, reject intelligent design, and celebrate Halloween.

    Here’s a couple others:

    Catholics are anti-sex or Catholics believe sex is purely for pro-creation.

    Catholics believe being gay is a sin.

  • Catholics believe engaging in homosexual sex is a sin. Whether people are in their “being” gay, that is that it is genetically determined, is far from scientifically proven. But if so, it would be like alcoholism. There would be a genetic predispostion to sin which in itself would not be sinful but which, through grace, could be overcome.