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Religious Fights: Discussion and Debate Strengthen Our Faith

Mark Gauvreau Judge

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It's hardly surprising, in the era of political correctness, that the debate over Catholic politicians who are pro-choice has been a mile wide and an inch deep. People just don't know how to fight about religion anymore.

This became clear to me when I recently came across the book The Church and I, an out of print 1974 classic by Frank Sheed. For most of the mid 20th century Sheed was one of the great Catholic apologists and lecturers in the world. What's remarkable (actually, in this age of committees and organizations whose sole purpose is to sniff out any bigotry, no matter how small, it's shocking) is how Sheed became such a strong Catholic: he was heckled.

When Sheed was in his early 20s, in the early 1920s, he traveled from his native Australia to England. Sheed was Catholic, but didn't know much about the Church. In England Sheed went to a concert sponsored by a group called the Catholic Evidence Guild, which would hold events pretty much anywhere they could get a crowd to gather. The guild speaker would give a fifteen-minute talk on the faith, then entertain forty-five minutes of questions.

Well, "entertain" is probably not the right word -- endure would be closer to the truth. Sheed became a speaker for the Guild, and reading his account of his adventures in a Protestant England hostile to Catholics makes one despair of our psychotically sensitive age. Standing on platforms in England-- Sheed eventually came to America where he said the crowds were more polite -- Sheed faced it all: anti-popery saboteurs, intellectual debunkers, comic hecklers, outright lunatics. One night he was speaking but had a bad cough. "Excuse me, sir," a man shouted out, "I think there's something wrong with your throat. If I were you I'd get it cut." Another time two pranksters in the front row tied Sheed's shoelaces to the base of the podium. One man followed Sheed all the way back to the train station, saying he was going to get his son the beat Sheed up. "I'd do it myself if I wasn't a Christian," the man told him.

Read the entire article on the Breakpoint website.

Posted: 9/9/04



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