More Catholic Than …

… Matthew Kelly. Here.

I have to confess I thought Mr Kelly was more a darling of the Catholic Right. The milder part of that lung, to be sure. But here is a denier, it seems, who objects to one of this author/speaker’s many books that end up in churches these days.

There’s a problem with mentioning James as a “half-brother.” I suppose the problem is that the Bible and early tradition don’t distinguish “half.” A few places mention James as the “brother of the Lord.” Maybe that requires some catechesis for our more sensitive Marian-inclined sisters and brothers. Me, I’m willing to offer it up. If it’s good enough for Matthew. The evangelist, that is.

It’s serious matter, but I admit I found this funny:

While this book does state that sin hinders our relationship with God, it is quite selective about the kinds of sins with which it deals.  I see talk of “greed” and “losing one’s temper”, but nowhere did I detect any mention of mortal sins such as the support of abortion, contraception, gay #mowwidge.(sic)  But anyone with two functioning eyeballs can see that it’s rampant in the pews – not only the support but the participation in these mortal sins.

I have to say that in many years of service, I have never found contraceptives, 2-man or 2-woman cake toppers, or medical instruments in the pews of any churches in which I’ve ever served. The main pew sins, if I were to speculate, would be, um, greed and losing one’s temper.

John 2:13-25 aside, maybe a church book that criticizes “losing one’s temper” is written for people who, you know, lose their tempers. Folks who get angry about people who have specks in their eyes. That’s in the Gospels too. Maybe preaching or writing on mortal sins like abortion is better left for mortal sinners who happen to be Catholics. Mr Kelly’s book might be for penitents of venial sins.

The anonymous blogger professes here:

I became convinced that the evil one is quite clever in deceiving good Catholics into error and sin.

I think this is correct. I think it happens more frequently and much closer to home than many good Catholics suspect. One point of deception is often found in the personal confusion of many Catholics over the matter of tolerance. Eschewing tolerance is often a rejection of the virtue of prudence. Many good Catholics confuse their inner impulses, even when the external diagnosis is correct. There may well be serious sin in a neighboring pew. But virtue is not a zero-sum affair–there’s no guarantee that exemplary goodness is on the watch.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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24 Responses to More Catholic Than …

  1. Melody says:

    There is a tradition in the Eastern churches that Joseph was a widower who had children by his first marriage. Some people would call them half siblings when the more correct term would be “step” siblings. I happened to pick up Matthew Kelly’s book, “Rediscover Jesus” at church this weekend since it was being given free by an anonymous donor. It’s divided into 40 short chapters, suggested for a Lenten devotional. Just looking through it I didn’t find anything objectionable. Of course I wasn’t looking for anything objectionable. I didn’t find the reference to half, or step siblings. I will give it a try, for Lent, or maybe before. I’m sure it falls under the category of popular spitituality rather than something like Aquinas or Augustine, which a lot of people might find intimidating. At least Mr. Kelly is trying to do his bit toward the Gospel imperative to evangelize. Wonder what the armchair imprimatur police are doing towards that goal.

    • Liam says:

      Yes, St Epiphanius was a major Patristic promoter of what became the dominant view in the East, while St Jerome promoted a different interpretation that became the dominant one in the West (St Jerome was bucking the trend at that time).

  2. Atheist Max says:

    You describe a philosophy which is entirely Ad Hoc. Cafeteria Christians picking and judging what sins are okay and which ones are not with nothing to worry about either way because they will be forgiven repeatedly no matter what.

    And this is supposed to produce moral behavior? Sounds unlikely.
    It is as morally relative as Atheism except with a free get out of jail card to unhook oneself from personal responsibility.

  3. Devin says:

    I attended an Eastern Catholic service for New Year’s and by happenstance the pastor gave out copies of “Discover Jesus” as a present (did Dynamic Catholic do a special end of year bulk discount?) Since the “default option” was to have the book handed to you and also because of this blog post, I took a copy. Briefly scanning it, I don’t see anything problematic but nothing strikes me as being particularly special.

    In academic research there is a rule that a paper should build and add insight and not simply rehash other’s people’s work. I think that should be applied to religious books. If you want to publish, sample randomly 50 books in the area you are writing about. If you can’t write it better than the bottom 40%, don’t publish.

    • In academic research there is a rule that a paper should build and add insight and not simply rehash other’s people’s work. I think that should be applied to religious books. If you want to publish, sample randomly 50 books in the area you are writing about. If you can’t write it better than the bottom 40%, don’t publish.

      I could not agree with this more.

  4. I have to be honest, I shared the blogger’s initial reaction to the book Rediscover Catholicism. I read the prologue and was so horrified and angry I almost threw the book against the wall. Ok, not quite, but I refused to read the rest of it.

    • Melody says:

      I’m not very far into the book, but I did read the prologue. Just wondering what about it evoked this particular response. Found the hypothetical situation which was presented not to be very believable, but nothing really to horrify and anger me. Just a lead-in to what seems a rather unexceptional and likely to be boring book. Not one to throw against the wall as much as one to slide down between the couch cushions. And not causing me to care enough to retrieve it.

      • In the story, the man allows his little boy to be killed to save others. I had several thoughts.
        1 If it is laudable for a man to allow his son to be killed to find cures for diseases, then what is so terrible about an IVF patient donating her unused embryos for embryonic stem cell research?

        2 In the story, the little boy does not consent to being killed for his blood. His father does not stay with him while the doctors kill him. He walks out, abandoning his confused and terrified son to die. The implication is that God the Father murdered the Son without the Son’s consent, without His knowledge of why He needed to die, and without any assurance that He would rise again in three days. In Matthew Kelly’s vision, Christ is not a loving Bridegroom who willingly sacrifices Himself for His Bride, the Church, but simply a murder victim. What’s worse, Matthew Kelly’s God is not a Father in any sense of the word, but simply a monster. As flies to wanton boys are we to Matthew Kelly’s God. He toys with us for sport.

        If God is anything like the God that Matthew Kelly describes, I want to go to Hell. I am serious. I do not want to spend all eternity with a sociopath. And Matthew Kelly’s God is a sociopath.

      • Devin says:

        Are we talking about the same book? I can’t find the story you mention anywhere?

      • The story is in the book Rediscover Catholicism.

      • Melody says:

        Okay. Now I understand; different book. The one I have is “Rediscover Jesus”. I’m not familiar with “Rediscover Catholicism”, and from your description, I don’t want to be. I totally agree with you that I couldn’t base my faith on a vengeful god as described in the anecdote you cite from the book.

      • Melody says:

        However the book I have is also by Matthew Kelly; if his understanding of God is that distorted, it seems that my time would be better spent reading something more spiritually authentic.

    • Yeah, it is in a different book than Rediscover Jesus. I had pulled up the website that was cited in the blog post and found that the author had also condemned the Rediscover Catholicism’s prologue, and I was glad to see I was not the only one who was disgusted by how he presented the Passion narrative.

      I can’t say whether or not you should read Rediscover Jesus, but I am not going to read it.

  5. Todd says:

    Over the years, I have heard homily openers that were ill-thought-out. Sometimes the story or joke or example so overpowers the imagination of the listeners that the thread of the message is lost for the want of even picking it up. That’s what Matthew Kelly’s problem seems to be here. (Confession: I haven’t read either book.)

    A good editor would have impressed on the author the importance of keeping a clear bead on the idea and dispensing with the story you’ve cited.

    The only book by Mr Kelly I’ve read is the one I reviewed here

    • Indeed. Or, perhaps making the little boy a fully grown adult who knows that he would need to die to save the lives of others and consents to being killed to allow others to live. That would have been far less troublesome than the father walking out of the hospital room as his little boy cries out to his father for help, begging to know why his father is abandoning him to die, only to have his father ignore his little boy’s desperate pleas. The theological implications would also be far less disgusting either.

      Still, I find it telling that Matthew Kelly chose to make the Son into a helpless, confused, abandoned, powerless, little boy. He could have chosen to tell the story another way, but he did not. Very telling.

      • Atheist Max says:


        Matthew Kelly’s book prompts questions about exactly what was intended.

        Was Jesus murdered? if so, he was not a sacrifice of any kind. Just a victim of a criminal act, executed for some kind of insurrection against Rome. Humanity in toto would bear no responsibility for such a thing.
        “If you have money, buy a sword” – JESUS

        Or, was the death of Jesus a sacrifice? if so, humanity can not share any collective guilt for his crucifixion as the entire plan was God’s alone.
        “For the life of a creature is in the blood… it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life .” – Yahweh (LEVITICUS 17:11)

        Murder seems more likely. But it begs a bunch of questions nobody likes:
        If the spilling of blood was the objective as Leviticus and John insist (“look, the lamb of god” – John 1:29) why couldn’t Jesus fall off a cliff or commit suicide with a sword in a direct way, preserving the clarity of God’s sacrifice and spilling the blood in such a way so as to not wrongly incriminate humanity? Or why couldn’t God himself do the deed by striking his son Jesus dead in a quick and painless way – rather than tortured?

        If one could go back in time and save Jesus from the cross before he had spilled blood, would that be a good Christian thing to do?
        If Jesus was an innocent sacrifice, saving him would be the moral thing to do – but it would have prevented Christianity from happening.
        If Jesus was guilty, saving him would still be the moral thing to do – but that would have prevented Christianity from happening also.

        Emma, no matter how you look at it, the Crucifixion was an immoral act. Whether God planned it – or not.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Christianity, then, was founded on an immoral deed, committed by an immoral God acting immorally.

        BTW, this is not the version of a silly Atheist – but rather based squarely on the version before us in the gospels. How could anyone consider this good news?

      • Atheist Max says:


        I’m familiar Rene Girard I but don’t share the enthusiasm of Michael Boyle at all. And these claims of his which you have linked me to are not helpful:

        “It’s not God that needs sacrifice; we demand the sacrifice.”
        Who does? Us? How so? This isn’t playing fair. Millions of us would gladly have saved Jesus from the cross if we could have just as we are trying to bring Syrian refugees to the USA. Where is there any sign that we demand a ‘sacrifice’ – let alone Jesus? What supports that claim? I don’t see it.

        “We need victims to manage our memetic rivalry, to keep our society together at the expense of the marginalized few. This is our way.”
        ‘Our way’? Again, this isn’t fair. Memetic Rivalry is an arcane claim which should be debated separately. Regardless, how does Jesus fix the problem? The rivalry Jesus insisted on is far more violent and absolutist than anything before him (“I have come to bring fire to the world. So constrained..I am bring not peace but disorder!” – JESUS, Luke 12:49-51) Jesus brings out the worst in human nature and encourages all sorts of rivalry.

        “So, Jesus did die, in a real sense, because of our sin.”
        Not fair. Again, I don’t see any dots which add up to this. I am not guilty for simply living. That would be an obliteration of the word ‘guilt’.

        “And it is true that his death is the vehicle that allows us to step out from that sin. But not in that senseless transactional sense that makes God into a divine loan shark, or according to the oppressive, terrifying premise that God is lurking around the corner waiting to revel in our destruction and demand that his rage be satisfied. Instead, Jesus went willingly to the cross to liberate us from the dead-end cycle of violence and persecution, to free us to live in a new and better way.”
        It ‘is true’ ? the death of Jesus allows us to ‘step out from that sin’? Terribly sorry. No support for this claim. It looks wishful. Why that particular death and not all others?
        Of course there is a transactional component to the Crucifixion. It cannot be so breezily denied as God supposedly condemns many people who merely refuse to believe it.
        And what is this claim about going willingly? Jesus did hide from the authorities after all otherwise, why would Judas need to cough him up to the authorities?
        Again, wishful.

        “Jesus is just like all of the other scapegoated victims throughout history, with one critical difference–we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is innocent.”
        How do we ‘know’ Jesus is innocent? The books of the New Testament are contradictory and written by people who claim up front that they are completely biased in favor of Jesus, and they admit they are not eyewitnesses to the events they describe.
        The best we can say is it is biased hearsay. That means we do not know.

        IF Jesus whipped people (as John says) and prevented hundreds of others from leaving the temple area he was personally responsible for ideological bullying with some violence as well as an attack on the Roman rules of decorum and civility.
        “He would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple.” – Mark 11:16
        Even the biased redactor is revealing this is not an innocent person.

        But thanks for forcing me to revisit Rene Girard and reminding me why I don’t like his arguments.

  6. Todd says:

    “Who does? Us? How so?”

    Certainly human beings demand sacrifice. Perhaps they have created a god or gods in their own image–all-powerful beings who demand and act just like people. Makes a lot of sense to me. It strikes me that you have made your anti-god in the image of what you dislike. Far from being unfair, it may well be nervously close to home. And not just for you, my friend.

    • Atheist Max says:

      “Certainly human beings demand sacrifice.”

      Please elaborate. I find this fascinating.

      • Todd says:

        Easy. The impulse to commit sins–crimes, if you will–upon another person, senseless or otherwise premeditated. People have always been eager to sacrifice someone else for their own reasons. Survival. Pleasure. Power. Whim.

        The difference with Jesus is that his sacrifice was a willing one, and of himself. Not anyone else. The inspiration, or hope, is that others will follow this example in usually small ways. That is, placing others ahead of themselves, and doing so freely. The opposite of the animal impulse of survival of the self at all costs.

      • Atheist Max says:


        “placing others ahead of themselves”

        Thanks. I like your answer. Excellent the way you articulated it, really. I appreciate the reminder that there are beautiful ideas in the Christian philosophy.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Of course, my problem is whether the idea – however beautiful – is man made or Divine.
        If it is man made, it can certainly be improved. Eliminating God’s injunctions for slavery, rape and genocide from the bible would help a lot. And there is no need for Jesus to invoke Jonah or Leviticus as he does. Also, it would be better if Jesus had surrendered to authorities without putting Judas in a difficult spot.

        If it is Divinely inspired – well, that is the part I really no longer see.
        Even as an Atheist I gladly make sacrifices for others (to some degree) every day. It can be unhealthy to lose your ability to assert yourself however. Christians who surrender themselves too much can become enablers and contributors to many bad things.
        There are no checks and balances in Christianity regarding ‘sacrifice for others’. These determinations are far more Ad Hoc than believers sometime recognize.

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