“How Do You Make a Convert?”
OUR Sunday Visitor, a Roman Catholic weekly, of July 6, 1952, under the above heading, among other things, stated: “BEST ARGUMENT. Our biggest asset, of course, is the good example of our own living. People just can’t help admiring honesty, and purity, and truthfulness, and compassion, and all the Christian virtues. There’s something essentially charming and attractive about virtue. It’s God shining through the soul. More than once I’ve had a young fellow walk into my office and say, Father, I want to become a Catholic. My girl’s a Catholic, and any Faith that can make a person so darned good—well, that’s the Church for me! So each of us has our own little ‘circle of influence’—people who respect us, ask our advice, and watch our comings and goings with great interest. They see us going to confession and Holy Mass on week ends. They see us on Fridays munching our way through cheese and cold fried-egg sandwiches.”
It may not be amiss to observe that not all persons will agree with the sentimental swains who visit the “Rev.” Bonaventure Fitzgerald, O.F.M. Cap. Among those failing to agree is none other than the founding editor of Our Sunday Visitor, Bishop John F. Noll himself. In an address to the National Catholic Conference on Family Life, back in 1947 (March 12), he stated: “Nearly all the evils of society prevail most where we and not where Protestants live.” It is in areas where the population is eighty per cent Protestant that “family life is most wholesome, and where the divorce rate is low”, he asserted. “On the other hand, where the bulk of Catholics live, one half of the marriages end in divorce,” he contrasted.
How much more important and effective to present reasons and Scriptural proof for one’s beliefs than being content with letting people see us ‘munching cheese or cold fried-egg sandwiches on Fridays’; as if there were any merit in not eating meat on Friday when the Bible plainly tells us: “The kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.”—Romans 14:17, New World Trans.
Continuing his advice to the Catholic “laity” on “How Do You Make a Convert?” Fitzgerald states: “There’s at least one point on which we priests are up on laypeople. We’re filled to the ears with information on religion. Our education and reading have us soaked in it. It practically comes out of our pores. It’s pretty hard to stump any priest on a question of religion, after his years of philosophy and theology, his reading of Church history and the writings of the Fathers. From the thousands of hours spent instructing converts in the parlor, he’s heard practically every question and difficulty that can be thrown at a man. You haven’t. You’re kept busy with other things. You feel that you’re doing pretty well if you’ve mastered the catechism and a few elementary notions in Bible History.”
As to how thoroughly priests are acquainted with their Bible, regardless of how much they may know about theology, philosophy, church history, etc., can be gathered from the errors appearing in the section “Bible Class Studies” of Our Sunday Visitor of May 25, 1952. This article stated: “Later Abraham had another son named Ishmael.” As if Ishmael were born after Isaac, when all should know that Ishmael was the result of impatience for a seed by Abraham through Sarah. It also went on to state: “It was after the deliverance of Lot from the fire which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah that God promised Abraham a son.” In Genesis, chapter 15, we first read of God’s promise of a son. Chapter 18 gives the warning regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, whereas it is first in the following chapter (19) that we are told of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The magazine published corrections in its July 6 issue.
If such obvious and striking errors can be penned by a Catholic priest writing Bible class studies for an official Roman Catholic publication, and its own staff does not notice them, then what can be said about the average Catholic priest? Their Scriptural literacy must be of the same quality as that of the writer of the article.