Category Archives: Noteworthly for Conversation

On Islam Is on Target, by William Kilpatrick

A subject many Catholics are naive about.  Kilpatrick’s article about Fr. James Schall’s collection of essays is very relevant to Catholic men of faith today.  Knowledge of the truth,  is true power, Ignorance is not bless….

On Islam Is on Target

One of the interesting aspects of Fr. James Schall’s refreshing collection of essays, On Islam, is that it provides a chronological record. The first essay appeared in 2003, the last in 2018. This allows the reader to see how our understanding of Islam has changed over those years.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t changed much at all. In 2003, we understood next to nothing about Islam, and in 2018 it’s still next to nothing.

One of Fr. Schall’s main themes is that we must try to understand Islam as Muslims understand it, and not as we would like it to be. Instead of adjusting our theories to fit the accumulating facts, we keep trying to force the facts to fit our theory. This, says Schall, is the main reason we have failed to stem the tide of terrorism. We still assume that Islam is a religion like our own and that terrorism is a misunderstanding of genuine Islam.

On the contrary, writes Schall, terrorists are arguably more faithful to the essence of Islam than peaceful Muslims. As he puts it:

The terrorists themselves do claim with considerable historical and doctrinal evidence, on Qur`anic grounds, that they are in fact the true interpreters of Islam.

I don’t mean to oversimplify Fr. Schall’s argument. His essays are chock full of solid philosophical, theological, and historical evidence for his conclusions. But one of his conclusions is that:

advocates of the Islamic State are Muslims who faithfully follow what this religion allows and encourages them to do… To look on them as heretics or aberrations results in policies that only make the Islamic State’s success more likely.

Our insistence on seeing Islam through Western eyes, says Schall, means that we will be blind to the larger picture. Thus, “each bombing, shooting, knifing, or truck-crashing incident” is treated “as an individual problem of some usually ‘fanatical’ or otherwise confused youth acting on his own.” The authorities can’t bring themselves to admit that each incident is part of a pattern—that these actions are motivated by a world view that is shaped by the Koran and the example of Muhammad.

Likewise, the West’s leaders will fail to understand Muslim migration:

The trouble is that such large numbers of young and mostly male Muslims in every Western country are not there simply because they are poor or have been expelled…They are there to expand Islam.

“The purpose of Muslim expansion,” he continues, “is not to assimilate into a new nation and culture but rather to change it so that it conforms to Muslim ways.”

And what is the overall purpose of the expansion? Schall answers with refreshing candor: “Briefly, the assigned mission of Islam is to conquer the world for Allah.” But this simple truth about Islam flies in the face of politically correct and religiously correct notions that all religions are peaceful and opposed to violence. To conquer the world for Allah? Religious people, we assume, just don’t think like that. Thus, we convince ourselves that terrorist acts committed in the name of Allah, have “nothing to do with Islam.” “Dealing with Islam,” writes Schall, “is a function of understanding Islam,” and until we admit some very basic facts about Islam we will be unable to meet the challenge of Islam. The result? “I think it very possible, if not likely,” he writes, “that Islam will successfully establish itself in many areas of Europe and America.”

As might be expected, Fr. Schall also addresses the Church’s role vis-à-vis Islam. In an essay on dialoguing with Islam, he suggests that Church leaders, like secular leaders, fail to see Islam for what it is. Instead, they prefer to look at it through Catholic eyes and have therefore convinced themselves that the two faiths have very much in common. But, says Schall, “What Islam and the Bible have in common is very little when it comes to doctrine … only with the greatest stretch of the imagination can we say that Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews.” As a result, the dialogue is without resolution because there is precious little common ground. For example, when Muslim and Catholic dialoguers use the word “peace,” they mean entirely different things. According to Islamic tenets, true “peace” will only come when all the world is Muslim.

Quite obviously, Schall’s position on Islam is at odds with the policies pursued by many in the Church leadership. He asserts that Islam is not a religion of peace, but of conquest. He maintains that terrorists are not misunderstanders of Islam, but are faithful to the plain meaning of the Koran. Moreover, he suggests that many Muslim immigrants to the West are not coming simply to find jobs or escape violence, but to convert the world to Islam.

What, then, does he suggest as an alternative policy? His general prescription is to replace the utopian view of Islam with a more realistic one. A viable Islam policy must be based not on what we wish Islam was, but on what it actually is.   Otherwise, things will continue as they have, and we must face the real prospect of a world converted to Islam.

Among other things, getting real means that Christians must insist that the Koran is not of divine origin. Moreover, they should do what they can to cast doubt about the Koran in the minds of Muslims. Why? Because the Koran is the key motivating force for jihad. The terrorism and the warfare will continue because that is what the Koran commands. The remedy, then, is not to assert that terrorists have misunderstood the Koran, but to assert that the book they follow is not from God:

The first step needed, then, is the affirmation, from the Christian side, that these views are as such false. They cannot be divine revelations.

As long as Muslims continue to believe that the Koran is the direct word of God, then the bloodshed will continue. It should therefore be the aim of Christians to disabuse them of this notion by means either subtle or direct. “What has never really been faced, even by the Church,” says the author, “is the truth content, or lack of it, in the Muslim world view…”

In the context of most current thinking about Islam, what Fr. Schall proposes here is quite radical. On the other hand, it also seems quite realistic. As Pope Francis put it in Evangelii Gaudium, “Ideas disconnected from realities give rise to ineffectual forms of idealism” (232). Unfortunately, the ideas that many Catholic leaders, including Francis, hold regarding Islam seem to be based more on fantasy than reality.

In an essay entitled “On the Fragility of Islam,” Fr. Schall points out that the Koran is Islam’s weakest link. It’s authenticity as a direct revelation from God rests solely on the testimony of Muhammad. There is no other corroborating evidence. To the normal observer, says Schall, the Koran borrows heavily from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures: “Yet, if this historical origin is shown, then the Qur`an is merely the product of a confused effort to rewrite the Scriptures already in existence.”

Fr. Schall hopes that the eventual publication of a critical edition of the Koran by German scholars will make many of these problems evident. Possibly so, but there is already sufficient evidence in any standard edition of the Koran to cast doubt on the authenticity of the revelation. The Koran is almost completely lacking in chronology, continuity, and structure. At the same time it is full of mind-numbing repetition and formulaic prose. It strains credulity to believe that it was written—as Muslim scholars claim—by the Author of Creation.

Fr. Schall’s hope is that when all the many contradictions and incoherencies of the Koran become clear, “Islam may be as fragile as communism”:

Can we expect, as it were, a John Paul II effect, which saw a seemingly unbreakable communism suddenly collapse because its ideas were finally recognized as incoherent and evil?

Schall realizes that Islam is far older than communism and more resilient, and he admits that its fall is unlikely to come as quickly. Nevertheless, there is hope. Until the Iranian Revolution of 1979, there was a good deal of evidence that Islam was losing its hold on the Muslim world. Turkey had become a secular state, and many in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and other Muslim nations found Western values more attractive than Islamic ones. Sadly, this laxity of faith was the catalyst that spurred the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaida, and other groups dedicated to returning Islam to its original zeal.

But memories of better, less-Islamic times remain. Recent events give hope that what has happened once can happen again. In the last several months there have been numerous large demonstrations throughout Iran calling for an end to the theocratic regime. And last week in Paris, 100,000 people participated in a “Free Iran” rally. One minor news story is also telling. A recent study of thirty three deradicalization programs in the UK showed that all but two were either ineffective or counter-productive. The two effective initiatives were “one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts.”

The effective initiatives sound rather like the approach Fr. Schall advocates: tell the truth about Islam, and challenge Muslims to look more closely at the problems of the Koran. The ineffective initiatives resemble the ones the Church leadership has been pursuing; No one can accuse them of tackling difficult issues head-on. Indeed the only issues they tackle with gusto are Islam-approved ones such as the anti-Islamophobia initiative. If Western leaders and Church leaders keep insisting that Islam is fine just the way it is, there will be very little incentive for Muslims to reform their faith or—if it is irreformable—to leave it.

If and when Church leaders come to the conclusion that their current approach to Islam is both ineffective and counter-productive, they will find in Fr. Schall’s gem of a book a clear guide to a more promising direction.

(Photo credit: Islamic State / VOA)

William Kilpatrick

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William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic? James V. Schall, S.J.

 

Why Be (or Continue to Be) Catholic?

On a recent book review TV interview program called Q/A, Ross Douthat, author of To Change the Church, was asked about his own beliefs. He responded quite frankly that he was a Catholic. When asked why, Douthat replied that, as far as he could see, a divine intervention did take place in this world around the time and appearance of Christ. He added that the essence of this intervention has been best preserved down the subsequent ages by the Catholic Church. This sensible view is one that many Catholics would also accept as valid. Indeed, probably the best way to see the divine intervention spelled out step by step is in Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth. After reviewing most of the scholarly literature on this topic, Benedict concluded that the evidence seems to show that Christ was “who He said He was.”

But few are much concerned with an intellectual understanding of the facts of the matter. Something else is going on today. Not many really seem to worry about the truth of these issues, though that is where the real drama lies. Freely to assent to truth is the heart of what it means to be civilized. In a way, however, our culture is beyond truth. We make up our own universe; the Supreme Court tells us this is our “right.” Such a development, wherein we impose our ideas on reality rather than let reality instruct us about what it is, usually means to opt for one or other current fantasy or ideology that is custom-designed to explain away things that we choose not to accept, no matter what the evidence.

Many millions of words have now been written about the meaning of the Irish abortion vote, one foreshadowed by a similar change in Quebec decades ago. In both cases, areas that had been proudly Catholic for centuries, suddenly decided to ditch its tradition in order to join the secular world, with its principles and practices. A radical change in these cultures had already taken place, as Plato would say, in the souls of the citizens of these areas. From this viewpoint, the change was not so surprising. Human order is built on fidelity to tradition and principle. It is not immune to change as if it were a material object. Indeed, reasonable change is part of its stability.

Likewise, many Catholic churches, orphanages, hospitals, and schools in Europe and America have closed. Muslims are willing to move into these edifices if allowed to do so. Many famous churches have long been national monuments or museums under government support. I read somewhere that, regarding the visiting of churches in Dublin, that the only people there were American tourists, often looking for their ancestors. While there are signs of life in various areas of the Church, a survey of the whole, to be frank, is rather bleak. Whether Scripture or tradition gives us many grounds for expecting anything too different is doubtful. Christ himself asked the disciples whether, on his return, they thought there would be faith on earth (Luke 18, 7-8). This passage is always a testimonial to the powers that are in constant opposition to what Christ put into the world.

In the past several years, I have perceived a noticeable loss of intellectual acumen that the Church had gained with John Paul II and Benedict. Many are upset by this lack of depth, especially more recent converts who came into the Church with the help of the vigorous thinking we still see from these two popes. But the main reason for the decline of Church membership is the desire to be like the rest of modern society. Many want Catholic teaching to be viewed and interpreted through a modern lens.

We no longer speak of “heretics” today. Instead, everybody is nice, with a “right” to his own opinion. Nothing is held as definite, precisely so that nothing binds. This freedom of opinion leads to everyone having mostly the same opinions, increasingly enforced by authority. Things that once seemed unchangeable are now changed or expected to change in the near future. The clergy and the bishops are not much help, as they seem—to many at least—to betray the same symptoms.

II.

In the light of these comments, and in spite of scandals and confusion in Rome, we still need to ask: “Why should we continue to be Catholic?” Much of the controversy that swirls around the Holy Father has, at its origin, the feeling that certain basic—once thought non-negotiable—principles and practices have been revoked or at least implicitly allowed to pass away. Under the aegis of finely-tuned “mercy” and “discernment,” a method has been developed that was hoped would justify this accommodation of the Church to that modernity and those of its principles that everyone seems eager to embrace.

Recent remarks and decisions, often coming from Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the current Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, however, have been more careful. We have seen a firm statement that women cannot be priests. The German formula for interfaith communion at a wedding is set aside. A renewed interest in the centrality of doctrine appears in CDF documents. These are welcome signs. However, the dubia are still not answered. Good Catholics are still seen as rigid. The papacy often appears to act in the public eye like a political party of the left. Christianity is seen mainly as a force to lead sundry crusades over ecology, poverty, and immigration, yet such initiatives are difficult to square with good economics, science, and politics.

Not a few have also pointed out that an indirect papal input in the various pro-abortion and gay marriage votes in Ireland and Portugal occurred with Catholics being advised to deal with more “important” things. Their enemies, to give them credit, do not think these issues are among the lesser important things. Many wonder whether the Church does not now see itself as simply a socio-political movement instrumental primarily in curing our temporal ills. The irony is that the methods recommended in these areas have almost invariably, when tried, made things worse. We do find considerable talk of sanctity and holiness, but again, this is often of an activist kind. The contemplative life, the life that is needed to keep our souls in touch with the transcendent, seems to be minimized.

III.

Let us ask again: “Why be, or continue to be, Catholic today?” The only sensible reason is that what the Church teaches is true to its immediate origin in divinity itself. Has the Church on any major issue contradicted its own mandate? This is a delicate point, as only the Church believes that it is the sole depository of this mandate.

In thinking about these things, I again take my cue from the “heretics” who refuse to leave the Church but stay in it to transform it, as they say, into their image of modernity. In the end, they can find no place else to go. They are already wrapped within modernity’s orbit. The effort from within to transform Christianity into modernity, to align its basic premises with those of the modern world, may seem like a plausible, shrewd tactic, and many have already made this transition.

Catholics who remain in the Church and see the Church no longer consistent with its founding purpose often find themselves perplexed. Practically no one is excommunicated for holding any position associated with modernity. They see people, in apparent good standing, in the Church, who accept and practice most of the aberrations of modern social living. Indeed, it seems like we have two Churches holding contradictory views within the same Church. The usual division between liberal and conservative is practically useless as a way to understand the difference. The issue is a matter of truth, not interpretation.

To many, both inside and outside the Church, there seems to be much ecclesiastical confusion. Upsetting new interpretations constantly appear. Previously, many considered the Church wrong, but no one thought it did not hold or articulate what it affirmed on basic points of practice and doctrine. The primary argument that the Church teaches the same things over time does not seem valid for many any longer. The same things are no longer being taught and affirmed in all dioceses, schools, seminaries, and institutions. Various attempts have been made to explain how the Church can be both loyal to its tradition and, without contradiction, accept the basic premises of modernity.

For instance, Jesus was said to look at current events and see what needed to be changed, and so he changed things according to what was needed at the time. “Loyalty” to tradition thus means doing the same for our time. First we do what needs to be done; then we develop a theory to justify it. The word “discernment” has come to mean the ability to read almost directly into temporary things or situations the action of the Holy Spirit. On the basis of what we think we discern, we can act with confidence that we are not following our own wills but that of the Holy Spirit.

Or we can say that we do not know exactly what Jesus said or did, and that he really did not lay down basic principles that needed to be maintained over time to protect the authenticity of his teaching and revelation. He was merciful and compassionate, and the best we can do is to read the “signs of the times” and accommodate ourselves to where the Spirit, in mercy and compassion, is leading us. This approach would allow us to put aside our “absolutes” and embrace the pastoral changes that the culture has already put into place.

However plausible these positions may seem, if indeed they do seem plausible, they clearly avoid facing the central issue of whether a definite revelation in Christ was to be maintained for the good of man down the ages in spite of persecution, disagreement, and other cultural conditions in other eras.

Can we continue to be Catholic today? Only if one thing remains true and upheld. Only if the same teachings and practices that were handed down and guaranteed down the ages remain the foundation of the Church. This revelation in all its ramifications is what best explains human meaning and destiny. If the substance of this revelation is not upheld, the question is no longer a merely human problem of whether or not to be loyal to a tradition. It is the breakdown of revelation itself since it is no longer credible on its own terms. The guarantee of Christ is to be with us till the end, with the central teachings and practices of his life at the center. If this content and sequence is not maintained in a living way, i.e., in a thoroughly nuanced but plain way, we have no reason still to be Catholic.

What is unusual about our time is not its opposition to or rejection of the truth of this revelation. Adversaries have been found in every era. What is new is the worry that radical changes have been made in an official way that would cause us to doubt the integrity of the original revelation. At least some of us can still affirm with Douthat that a divine intervention did take place in Christ and that it is best preserved in the Catholic Church. The same intervention also gives us the criterion for judging when the latter is not credible—namely when the Church, as guardian of revelation, clearly changes its own truths instead of uphold them before the nations down the ages. This is why contemporary writers like Douthat carefully watch for changes that take place in Rome.

(Photo credit: CNA / L’Osservatore Romano)

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Rev. James V. Schall, S.J.

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Rev. James V. Schall, S.J., taught political science at Georgetown University for many years. He is the author of The Mind That Is Catholic from Catholic University of America Press; Remembering Belloc from St. Augustine Press; and Reasonable Pleasures from Ignatius Press. His newest books include A Line Through the Human Heart: On Sinning and Being Forgiven (2016) and On the Principles of Taxing Beer and Other Brief Philosophical Essays (2017). His most recent books are Catholicism and Intelligence (Emmaus Road, 2017) and The Universe We Think In (CUA Press, 2018).

The Irish Moment at Home and Beyond – The Catholic Thing

 

The Irish Moment at Home and Beyond

This moment, when the principle of life has been removed from Irish law, is ominous. The Irish have a history of disproportionately affecting events in what used to be known as Western Civilization.

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who fought to keep Ireland a pro-life country, and whose fight will continue. As one of their leaders stated after the devastation: “Every time an unborn child has his or her life ended in Ireland, we will oppose that, and make our voices known.”

Ireland’s formal admission to the bien pensant ranks of pro-abortion countries is unsurprising. In 2015, Ireland introduced same-sex marriage, also by referendum. Both changes had enjoyed growing support long before their formal adoption.

Ireland’s Catholic hierarchy was in no position to sway either debate. In 2010, Benedict XVI censured their collective malfeasance in the child-abuse scandal. He told the bishops, “you and your predecessors failed, at times grievously,” noting that their “grave errors of judgment” and “failures of leadership” had “undermined your credibility and effectiveness.” The Irish faith has brilliant and energetic lay defenders and many wonderful priests and religious, but little ecclesial voice.

“Pangur Bán” writes that the principle of life has been removed from Irish law: an ominous sign of the times. The Emerald Isle is no longer pro-life.

Source: The Irish Moment at Home and Beyond – The Catholic Thing

Did the Pope say there is nothing wrong with being gay?

Pope Francis made headlines recently for reportedly telling a gay man that ‘God made him that way.’ Was the Pope making a theological statement that God loves us no matter what…. or was he saying there’s nothing wrong with being gay? Christopher Hale and Dr. Robert Royal are here to discuss.

 

 

How to Destroy Catholicism in America – The Catholic Thing

 

How to Destroy Catholicism in America

May I respectfully recommend a study of the history of liberal Protestantism in the USA? You will soon see that today’s liberal Catholics are traveling down the same road that liberal Protestants traveled down earlier – that is, a road to destruction.

It’s hard to blame the old Protestants for what they did, for they didn’t know where this road led. They were pioneers, they were cutting a path in the religious wilderness. They feared that traditional Christianity was becoming unbelievable; that if they didn’t modernize their religion by dropping certain old-fashioned doctrines, modern men and women would no longer be able to accept Christianity.

As it turned out, to modernize Christianity, at least if you carry this modernization process beyond a certain limited point, is to destroy it. Look at the liberal Protestant denominations today. All of them are shrinking rapidly in numbers. All of them have lost much of their once-great social influence.

But liberal Catholics don’t have this excuse. They can’t very well say, “We didn’t know where our liberalism was taking the Church.” For they have the precedent of liberal Protestantism in front of them. Their ignorance is vincible – and culpable.

Liberal Christians, beginning with the Boston Unitarians of the late 1700s and early 1800s, always “improve” Christianity according to the same pattern. The pattern is this: You attempt to blend what seems to you to be the essentials of Christianity with the best in whatever happens to be the fashionable anti-Christianity of the day. This synthesis, partly Christian and partly anti-Christian, will, of course, be incoherent; but at the moment you’re creating it, it looks pretty good.

In the generation after the American Revolution, the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was Deism. And so the Boston Unitarians said in effect, “While Deism is very wrong in its rejection of Christianity, the Deists, it must be admitted, make a few good points. So let’s toss out the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ and Original Sin. We’ll then have a purified Christianity.”

In the post-Civil War era, the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was a triple-headed threat: (1) agnosticism; (2) evolutionary theory; plus (3) a skeptical higher criticism of the Bible. Liberal Protestants responded by becoming near-agnostics while arguing that Christianity is far more about morality than knowledge: doctrine is of little real importance.

They became evolutionists, holding not just that biological species have evolved (under God’s guidance) but that religion itself has evolved, Christianity being but its latest result, and we should expect more evolution in the future. As for the Bible . . . oh, well. It abounds in errors, but it’s still a very good book.

Thomas Jefferson’s cut-and-paste Bible

In the 1960s and 1970s the fashionable form of anti-Christianity was the sexual revolution – a total rejection of traditional Christian sexual morality and, by implication, a rejection of virtually all the rest of Christian teaching; for if Christianity had been wrong for all these centuries about sex, wasn’t it likely that it was wrong about almost everything else?

As usual, liberal Protestants responded by blending Christianity (what was left of it) with this form of anti-Christianity, announcing that Christianity, correctly understood, was perfectly compatible with fornication, homosexuality, and abortion.

Liberal Protestant thinkers remind me of certain U.S. Supreme Court justices. The latter “find” things in the Constitution that aren’t there (e.g., rights to abortion and same-sex marriage). The former “find” things in the Bible that aren’t there. They claim that the Bible, rightly understood, mandates the watering down of Biblical religion and morality.

It’s as if the most important teaching of the Bible is, “Don’t take the Bible too seriously.” In reality, of course, they find these new “truths” not in the Bible but in the anti-Christianity that happens to be flourishing at the moment, much as some German Protestants in the 1930s “found” – mirabile dictu – that the Bible justified Nazism.

Anybody familiar with the history of modernizing Protestantism cannot help but see this same thing going on today among many Catholics. Catholics, it is true, are moving in this direction only gradually, and this for a few reasons.

For one, they got into the game much later than Protestants did. Second, the RC Church still has bishops in places of authority, even though many bishops are reluctant, or unable, to wield their authority. Third, the Nicene or Apostles Creed is still recited at Mass, which serves as an obstacle to kicking orthodoxy completely out the door.

Orthodox Catholic morality, however, especially sexual morality, is not included in the Creeds. And so it’s easier to get rid of. You get rid of it in three steps.

Step one: silence. You don’t talk about it, or you very rarely talk about it. Most Catholic leaders today are shy about teaching Catholic sexual doctrine. In some cases, this is because they don’t really believe in it, but in most cases it is probably because they don’t want to offend folks in the pews. When it comes to the sexual behavior of gays and lesbians, our leaders know that public opinion increasingly views it as shockingly un-American or un-Christian to disapprove of homosexual sodomy.

Step two: you modify that old saying about “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Instead, you love the sinner so much that don’t bother mentioning the sin, for that would hurt the feelings of the well-loved sinner, and that would be a sin against Christian charity, wouldn’t it? The most conspicuous example of this today is the small book by Fr. James Martin, S.J., Building a Bridge. Fr. Martin tells us he is fully orthodox. I don’t doubt his sincerity, but I know, having studied the history of liberal Protestantism, where Fr. Martin, whatever his intentions may be, is leading us.

Step three: you declare that the Church will eventually, maybe 50 or 100 years from now, come around to your opinion. You argue that your apparent heresy is really nothing but premature orthodoxy.

That’s the sure-fire, historically proven way to destroy the Catholic religion in America.

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

Source: How to Destroy Catholicism in America – The Catholic Thing