|Jesus teaching his disciples|
The Language of Dissent: Answering Those Who Distort the Catholic Faith
by Kevin Lents
Published by Litteral's Christian Library Publications, 2014
How many Catholics really know their faith? Most young parents today grew up with marshmallow-style catechetics. I remember one of the elementary books in my own parish that had mirrored foil in the front of the book to focus the child on self and pictures of Jesus that were downright scary. I sometimes wonder whether there was a deliberate attempt to make materials that would destroy the faith of children. Whether or not it was deliberate, it certainly did the job judging from those falling away from the faith, especially the millennials. It isn't just Catholic millennials, of course; Sadly, the younger generation across the board is bailing on the Church.
Addressing our specific Catholic problem with retaining the young, is it really very surprising? We live in a time of mass confusion where even the Pope muddies issues with statements like, "Who am I to judge?" and criticizes the young who are still believers if they happen to prefer the "extraordinary" rite instead of praising them for their fidelity. Catholics see bishops in public disagreement and laity all over the place with regard to doctrine. How does that chaos impact the average Catholics in the pew (millennial and otherwise) who probably have a Kindergarten level of understanding and often reject what's true in favor of what they erroneously believe to be true (or want to be true)?
And think about the situation of young Catholic college students off on their own for the first time. Meeting zealous Protestants who challenge them, can they defend their faith or are they fair game for the friendly fellowship that preaches error? It is a serious problem!
But problems have solutions and ignorance is one that can always be repaired. One excellent tool that would particularly help Catholics recognize error and defend the truth is Kevin Lents' excellent book, The Language of Dissent. Whether a Catholic is debating a dissenter next to him in the pew or a Jehovah's Witness at the door, Lents' book will arm him for battle. He addresses many common issues that are misunderstood by Protestants and distorted by "progressive" Catholics. Some of the questions include:
- Did Jesus know He was God?
- Were Adam and Eve real people or just literary figures?
- Do we have too much devotion to Mary?
- Did Jesus perform any miracles? Did he really multiply the loaves or did he just inspire the people to share the food they brought?
- Did the four evangelists write the gospels?
- Are we really instructed not to judge and what does that mean?
- How can Jesus be really present in the Eucharist?
- Aren't "We (the laity) the Church"?
- Do Catholics need to obey all the "rules" of the Church?
- If the Bible doesn't teach anything (e.g., about contraception), why should we believe what the Church says?
- Why should we listen to the pope; what authority does he really have?
Using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, documents from the Church Fathers, encyclicals and other Church documents, writings of saints and holy men and women, and brief anecdotes, Lents illustrates in a simple and clear voice what the Church teaches and why. His style is engaging and entertaining.
Here's just one example where he quotes Fulton Sheen to make a point about our proper devotion to Mary which he believes "is not enough":
The crux of the controvertible statement [There is too much devotion to Mary] seems to be that the attention given to Mary somehow takes away from her Son's unique role of salvific action completed upon the cross at Calvary for mankind. Indeed, in some circles of the Church, there are those who claim that the devotion to Mary is a hindrance to true ecumenism and fellowship with our separated brethren, the Protestants...Archbishop Fulton Sheen gave an analogy to the charge that the devotion to Mary in the Church somehow takes attention away from her Son:
"imagine that an internationally known artist is having a display of his most famous works in one of his well-known art galleries. Many fans and critics who love this artist's work show up to his art gallery to view the display of his work especially his most famous piece that is rarely on display. Could you imagine his fans' reaction if suddenly he told them to stop looking at his works of art, yet tells them to look at him instead because he is the one who created them? It can be used in a parallel view with Jesus and His Bless Mother. He allows us to honor and venerate her because in the long run it glorifies Him! This is the way it is in the Mystical Body."
...Mary's role in salvation history is a participatory role. In other words, by her fiat (yes!) to the archangel Gabriel, she participates in her Son's role of untying what Eve had tied in the Garden of Eden.That clear explanation is typical of Lents' approach of stating a truth and then backing it up with enlightening quotes that are all well foot-noted.
Parents and grandparents with college age youth would do well to wrap this book up and put it under the tree for young adults. Catholic study groups and campus Neman clubs could go through the book chapter by chapter using the content and references to increase understanding and appreciation of the faith.
In the forward of the book, Donna Steichen, author of Ungodly Rage about feminism in the Church made this poignant observation:
During the era of the Baltimore Catechism, the faithful were so tightly linked in a cohesive and vigorous Catholic culture that one could ask an audience of hundreds of adult believers a catechism question -- "Who made you? Why did God make you? How many Persons are there in God? What must I do to gain eternal life? Why must I be baptized? How many kinds of sin are there?" -- confident that it would elicit a unison reply. As it did.
While it is true that most of those who shared that common faith could not explain all the concepts involved with theological precision, neither could most children who memorized the multiplication tables explain the roots of the mathematical theory. But they had assimilated the tools they needed to proceed with their educations and their lives.We need to provide those tools again and Lents book is an important item to include in the Catholic tool box. I recommend it and will, in fact, be giving it this Christmas to at least one teacher of the faith who prepares young people for confirmation. In fact, I can also think of a recent confirmandi who I think would enjoy the book. There is more than one way to evangelize and sharing the authentic faith through good books is one of them.