How can we best discern when a heretic is wasting our time?


I realize Catholic Answers was founded on the principle that intellectual argument is a valuable tool, and I do not doubt that in the least … but …

I find that there are quite a number of high-volume posters on these forums who, besides not being Catholic and not even sharing our moral values, are expert time-wasters who frequently lure the inexperienced and naive into futile and demoralizing discussions which go nowhere.

Worse yet, it sometimes seems to crowd out and obscure the truth.

Does anybody else see this as a problem? Am I just being a whiner? Be honest - I can take it… (i think) … unless of course you are a heretic … in which case I will bang out a vicious retaliatory bombshell from this poor old keyboard that’ll knock you right into purgatory, cuz I have had it with you people. :smiley:


Although some of these posters are trolls, it may be beneficial to continue the threads because there may be somebody else who is lurking and not posting who will read those threads and come to a clearer understanding of the truth.


If a non-Catholic comes to the forum to ask a questions about the Faith, I noticed that the questions is usually answered under 10 posts. If the non-Catholic continues to elude the answer, extending the thread fifty or more posts after the answer, then I determine that the OP does not want to learn about Catholicism, and is a waste of my time.

I do applaud those who continue, which kindness, thorough thought, and charity, to answer the poster. They sure have a lot more patience than I do! :thumbsup:


As a non-Catholic who is seeking to enter the faith, I agree with what the first poster said about the threads being helpful. Sometimes the more argumentative threads can be the most valuable, because the Church’s teachings are challenged and subsequently defended, which serves to reaffirm the values.


Your point is well made. Likewise, we just never know how the grace of God may be at work. Suppose a non-Catholic starts a thread and argues back and forth for several days with Catholics on this forum. Every once in awhile the non-Catholic takes a short break to regroup in an attempt to come up with a better argument after the wonderful Catholics on this board give him/her the facts. This regrouping may include contacting some of his/her non-Catholic friends for help. It could be that the poster doesn’t get persuaded or softened but perhaps one of his/her contacts will.

I generally post to a thread of interest until it hits an impasse or simply burns out. I have to admit that sometimes I’m guilty of beating a dead horse, but that’s only because I want to make sure the horse won’t get up and “nag” me later.:smiley:

I try not to refer to those that disagree with me/us as heretics even though some people can be pretty far out there. The term “heretic” can be counter productive.


You rang? :slight_smile:

(I think I should probably note I’m being facetious, just in case…)


:rotfl: That is funny!


I agree completely. I must admit that I lurked on these forums for a looong time before finally signing up, right after I was received into the Church this year! As part of my discernment, I would often seek out anti-Catholic arguments from many sources in order to learn both sides. I would read others’ responses to them, then think about how I would respond myself. In fact, many of the questions and arguments posed about the Church were ones I had been thinking about, but was afraid to ask at RCIA. To see the Church’s teachings challenged and then defended by others was a great tool in helping me come to the Truth.

I feel the same way about James White and owe him a great debt of gratitude in helping me find the truth in the Catholic Church.




I usually break off discussion when the person I’m talking to becomes internally inconsistent, rude and/or insulting, persistently illogical, or continuously ignores the argument at hand.


Its good practice for when you are on the street and have to respond standing up without any books/documents at hand. It helps to sharpen your sword so to speak. I will admit when the thread goes on and on to over a hundred exchanges it gets pretty painful just to read let alone reply.


You are not a time-waster. But I agree with the original—there are three or four people I no longer respond to (the majority of these identify themselves as Catholic, by the way). I think the rule of thumb given earlier is a good one: If someone has a good, simple question, it doesn’t take long to answer.

If someone has a difficult question (I think back to a certain thread on Christ’s dual natures :smiley: ), it can take longer, but still be profitable.

But if someone has a simple question and refuses to accept a simple answer, or starts changing topics repeatedly, I usually bow out. Also if someone starts name-calling (again, I’m thinking of some on this site who identify themselves as Catholic, and two who identify themselves as Protestant), I simply stop responding to their posts.

Mirdath is fine, and WILL BE A DEVOUT CHRISTIAN BEFORE IT’S OVER. Consider that an inside tip. :wink:


Those who come here with pre-conceived, anti-Catholic stances, and continue to battle with the devout provide an opportunity in a way for the devout to dig even deeper. To seek guidance from the Holy Spirit, and provide a strong Catholic response. We are called to priesthood. We need to share our faith, without fear. Even if the inciter of some particular tirade seems unbudgable in our limited understanding of time, we don’t know what little seeds might be planted in their minds from our responses, and while they’re railing away on some issue or another, their heart might in fact be undergoing a subtle change. And besides, maybe the response you’re being led to give isn’t FOR the person who’s arguing with you. Maybe it’s for someone else who is reading the thread. Heck, they might not even be posting on it. Just do what God guides you to do when responding, and be mindful of the doctrine of the Church. You can’t really go wrong if you do that. Frustrating? Sure. Just ask St. Peter, or St. Paul.


Ignore list. Use it. Love it.

I find it an excellent tool for maintenance of a charitable attitude for the sake of those who might actually be looking for an answer.



Here’s a rule of thumb that can be useful in some cases.

Where someone objects to a Catholic taking a Catholic approach to answering the question, and persists in demanding that he takes another approach, one has probably found a time waster.

For instance, a Catholic will not reply from a position other than that the Church teaches the truth in matters of faith and morals. Someone may reject that, and that is legitimate. But what is not legitimate is for the someone to insist that the Catholic abandon that position – typically to adopt his presuppositions.

People who want Catholics to argue as if they were Protestants, or non-Christians, or atheists, or humanists, etc., are timewasters.




I would disagree with your statement. I am a protestant. When I witness to others, JW’s, Muslims, etc., I use their material to show them the errors. What I have found out is that God can show you the truth even through the most corrupt literature. It always points back to Christ.

Of course it’s different with Catholics and Protestants because we are all Christians. But when I debate a Catholic I use my Catholic Bible and the Catechism.

It would make no sense to use the Koran when talking with JW’s, nor the DR Bible for a Protestant.

But, if you don’t want to talk to Protestants, don’t you have an area in here that is just for Catholics? That would solve the problem.

Or if you think someone is wasting your time, just stop responding to them. That should end it.

Just my opinion.


Sorry, but if, say, a Baptist were to say to me, “There are no sacraments, and you can’t make points that depend on there being sacraments,” there would be no way I would oblige. We’d probably end up just noting our differences.

And it’s OK if we agree to disagree. But it’s not OK if I end up being berated (as has happened more than once) because I won’t adopt Protestant presuppositions. And I would be wrong to berate a Protestant for not adopting mine.




Lots of great points have been made here. Let me summarize with my own take on the subject.

If you challenge a heretic, especially if you do it calmly and rationally, one of three things is going to happen. 1: They will realize you’re up to the challenge and go away. 2: They will continue to debate, allowing you to set the record straight for the other people reading the thread. 3: You will manage to change their mind and help them to see the light.

If you don’t challenge a heretic, only one thing will happen. They will be emboldened by the lack of resistance, they will claim credibility from the lack of opposition, and others reading the thread will have nobody to tell them otherwise. Okay, so that’s three things too, but they will all happen at once. :stuck_out_tongue:

I leave you with this related quote:
“Nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good” - Pope Leo XIII


I understand and agree Gerry.

Cyberjacques, One other option: If you challenge a heretic, and they say something really stupid - it’s best to let them have the last word.

However, I have never seen a thread end like that. Someone always has to correct them and the thread goes on and on.


I have recently discovered some effective methods. If they have been on the board for a while, I look back at their previous posts. If you see the same posts extending over a period of month or a year, then you know that they are here for their own agenda, and not to learn anything.

This is, of course, the goal. From their point of view, it is Catholics who do not see the truth, and their purpose in being on the forum is to correct us, and “reach” us with the truth.

Most of these folks don’t qualify as being heretics. To be a heretic, one must have learned and espoused the Truth, then left. Most of these, including lapsed CAtholics, had poor catechesis, or have been brought up in Protestant communities where they never learned the Apostolic faith.


Oh yes and oh yes. No surprise to me that we’re the same age.

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