“Ask a Priest: What to Do About Online Attacks Against the Church?”

Q: I often have to defend the Pope and the Catholic Church on Facebook from people who literally think the Pope is Satan and share pictures of him sitting between two angel statues. They say it is blasphemy for him to say he is God or that he is here in place of Jesus. I am overwhelmed with some of the statements [on Facebook]. I have never believed that the Pope is equal to GOD, nor do I believe he is equal to Jesus. They also always attack the fact that Jesus did not establish the Roman Catholic Church. How do I respond? -V.I.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There is never a shortage of misconceptions out there about the Catholic Church. We could spend all day refuting errors. That might not produce many results — folks tend to be stuck in their way of thinking — and it might burn us out in the process.

So what to do? Here, I could offer a few personal suggestions.

First, pray for those folks who are attacking the Church or who are simply confused about what Catholicism stands for.

Second, if some questions seem incisive, and we don’t have a ready answer for them, then that might be a moment to do some research. All of us should try to go deeper in our understanding the faith (this includes priests). Hence, it might be good to have a reading list of apologetic works. There are lots of good resources online, too, such as Catholic Answers and EWTN and the ZENIT news service. Sites such as http://patrickmadrid.com/ are helpful, too.

Third, if you feel called to answer some of these folks, do it with a lot of charity. Try to see each person as a brother or sister in Christ. Sometimes a tone of charitable respect in an e-mail can open a person’s heart and lead to fruitful dialogue.

Fourth, choose your battles well. It might be helpful to focus on questions that seem to be sent by people with genuine interest in living a good life and discovering what the Church is about. You can soon distinguish between these kinds of folks and those who just have an ax to grind.

Fifth, stick to topics that you are sure of. If possible, cite a number from the Catechism as a reference.

Keep up a solid prayer life, too. The help of the Holy Spirit is often needed in the business of explaining Church teaching.

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