Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, has a lengthy and wide-ranging interview with Dr. Christopher Kaczor, author of The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction about Catholicism, recently published by Ignatius Press. Some excerpts:
KJL: In your new book, you explain that “Catholics aren’t anti science, anti-woman, the Aryan nation.” Defensive much?
KACZOR: I think a good defense and a good offense are necessary to make progress towards the truth. Unfortunately, there are many people who believe that the Church is against women or against science. In The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, I challenge the most common myths, the ones that many secular people and inactive Catholics, among others, believe. If many people thought that Catholics were members of the Aryan nation, I would have included a treatment of this as well. Relatively few people believe Catholicism is racist, if only because the majority of Catholics in the world are people of color.
KJL: “Christianity is properly measured not by its great sinners but by its great saints” you write, “for it is the saints who have lived out the Gospel message, not the great sinners.” Isn’t that conveniently counting people there?
KACZOR: Not really. How would you evaluate the effectiveness of a medication in clinical trial? Would you look at how the medication worked for those who took it as directed or would you look at how it worked for people who skipped doses or didn’t take the medication at all? G. K. Chesterton was onto something, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
KJL: Do you actually defend the Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo?
KACZOR: No and yes. No, I don’t defend the Catholic Church’s treatment of Galileo insofar as the ecclesial judicial authorities in the trial of Galileo made serious mistakes. The authorities wrongly condemned heliocentricism which was, at that time, a proposed but as yet unproven view. However, this error — and other errors of a disciplinary and judicial nature — were not a formal part of Catholic teaching. Then, as now, Church officials can and do make errors, unfortunately sometimes serious errors, in terms of discipline and order within the Church community. But yes, I do defend the Church insofar as the Galileo case was only partially based on scientific disputes but had much to do with conflicts of personality, politics, and theology of the time. In many people’s minds, the condemnation of Galileo has become a Catholic condemnation of science. In fact, at issue was not chiefly the scientific views of Galileo (which were held by many Catholics of the time, including the Catholic cleric Copernicus and Jesuit priests in good standing), but more centrally whether Galileo broke agreements he had made about in what manner to teach his views and that Galileo insisted on changing the dominant interpretations of scripture at the time. Both Galileo himself (who remained a faithful Catholic his whole life) and those involved in his trial such as St. Robert Bellarmine agreed that there can never be a true conflict between science and faith. Apparent but not real conflicts can arise through a mistaken interpretation of faith (as was made by those who condemned Galileo), a misunderstanding of science (e.g. that science requires atheism), or both. It is a myth — albeit a persistent myth — that the Church opposes science. ...
KJL: Why do you end with the abuse scandals?
KACZOR: The abuse scandals are extremely important and often misunderstood, so I wanted to end the book on the topic. Many people mistakenly believe that celibacy causes pedophilia or that Catholic priests are more likely to sexually abuse children than other kinds of people. In The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, I provide a great deal of evidence that these beliefs are false. ....
KJL: “The point of contraception is to make sure that there is not a complete union between the two.” Aren’t you making a bigger deal of this than it is?
KACZOR: Erotic love — by its very nature — is a drive
towards deeper unity with the beloved, and children are a wonderful
manifestation of the unity between husband and wife. Each child unifies
the husband and wife with each other in a physical sense. Every one of
us is a living manifestation of the union of our mother and father, half
of our DNA from each. This unity, like erotic love itself, is
exclusively bringing together one man and one woman. No other woman is
the mother of his child; no other man is the father of her child. As
long as the child lives, they are unified in their offspring. This unity
is characteristically not limited to the physical. Normally, a unity of
will and affection also arises between the mother and father. They both
love their child, both want what’s best for that child, both delight in
the child’s good fortune, and mourn the child’s misfortunes. Even in
the case of divorce, very often the parents still share a united will to
help their child and will put away their differences and become united
again at important events in the child’s life, like graduations and
Ideally, the unity of the parents includes running a household and raising the child together. They work together, as mother and father, to provide for the child’s many needs. Their unity which began as a unified sexual act continues over the years as a unity of shared activity ordered to the education and raising of the child.
Children therefore help parents realize the goals of erotic love — to be together, unified physically, psychologically, socially, and emotionally. Each child unifies these two people together, and no one else, in a unity that is lasting and exclusive. Children are a good of marriage that unites the husband and wife in a way that realizes the aspirations of erotic love.
The use of contraception acts against the unity sought by erotic love. A couple only uses contraception when one does not want to a child to unite them. Although their bodies are partially unified, the point of contraception is to make sure that there is not a complete unity between husband and wife. Contraception, through various means, seeks to make sure that part of him (sperm) does not unite with part of her (egg). Contraception also involves, against the goals of erotic love, the acceptance of the whole person. Part of the person, the potential to become a father or a mother, the fertility of one or both parties, is intentionally rejected, at least for the time being. If this analysis is correct, then contraception does not serve the same goals as erotic love.