Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Catholics Really Believe

What Catholics Really Believe: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions about the Catholic Faith
© 1992 Karl Keating
155 pages

Last week a friend of mine introduced me to the chat client PalTalk, and since then we've been spending our evenings together, usually participating in or listening to conversations about religion and philosophy. We're both especially fond of a room called "Catholics What We Believe and Why" because of the genial host, and my experience in there has proven to be elucidating -- though it also makes it plain to me how shallow my understanding of Catholicism: I know only what I have gleaned from the study of European history.

Unfortunately, that limited understanding has not been much remedied by this book, in part because it is written by a Catholic to Catholics: Keating doesn't explain the tenants of Catholicism to outsiders, and his answers to many questions seem to be written more to assure or calm concerned Catholics who are having their doubts than to satisfy the serious student. Though Keating is regarded well by Catholics (at least those I've asked), his answers to more meaty questions (regarding the inerrancy of the Bible, for instance) were frustratingly simplistic -- like applying a band-aid to a bullet wound. When commenting on contradictions within the Gospels, for instance, he chooses an example that can be easily reconciled with a little imagination and expects the reader to be content that this example speaks for the rest.  Fixing a single pot-hole doesn't repair the rest of the street, to say nothing of the broken bridge.  Perhaps all of the contradictions can be resolved with sufficiently creative imaginations, but convoluted what-if scenarios are unnecessary, unhelpful, and unconvincing to outsiders. Keating encourages Catholics worried about the integrity of the Bible to view it through Catholic eyes, to assume it is inerrant...and then all will be well. You only see contradictions if you're LOOKING for them, he says. I have no idea how someone can write that so un-selfconsciously. Again, it speaks to consoling readers rather than fundamentally resolving the issue.

Though Keating's work has the benefit of being conversationally easy to read, what information I learned from it I could have gleaned from another book just as well -- and perhaps from an author with a more respectable approach.


  • The Jewish Primer: Questions and Answers on Jewish Faith and Culture, Rabbi Dr. Shumuel Himelstein  


  1. I have a VSI book about Catholicism coming up soon which will (hopefully) be better than this.

    I thought that it was about time I learnt a bit more about the faith I was baptized into [grin]

  2. Ah, did you leave it early?

    (How fun is it to grow up Catholic in a country where Anglicanism is the primary religion, by the way?)

  3. Fortunately I was never 'in' so never had to leave. Also Catholicism is a bit like the Mafia - the only way you leave is feet first in a box and even then you're still a Catholic. I think I was baptised because it was the thing to do back then. Neither of my parents were particularly religious so we were never brought up that way - but (as far as I know) as long as I die in a state of grace I have a free pass into Heaven.... [laughs]

    Religion was a bit of an issue in some of the schools I went to where the first question the school bullies ever asked you was Protestant or Catholic..... That mostly went away when we moved out of Liverpool and the 70's came along. The only time I've ever felt to be part of a minority group was when I read about the real levels of oppression against Catholics throughout most of England's history - since the Tudors. I *totally* identified with Guy Fawkes..... [grin]


Thank you for visiting! Because of some very clever spambots, I've had to start moderating comments more strictly, but they're approved throughout the day.