My neighbor's biggest complaint about Catholics

How would you reply to a neighbor or friend who thinks Catholics are brainwashed?
She is a Christian. She doesn’t attend a regular church. I briefly attended a Bible study at her church and have invited her to a couple of events at my church, but she
always declines. Any advice appreciated.

It does upset me when she says this, but I would like to answer her calmly and
with a good and definitive answer.

I think without more details I can’t really help you. I would like to.

I am a firm believer in picking one’s battles.

And from your description, it sounds as if she is not asking a question so much as stating a (likely deeply held) belief.

Anyone who has children has likely experienced the teenage years, a period where the parent may well wonder why the child was not given to the gypsies when said child was more marketable.

My mother, however, being a strong willed type A female, had that one licked. When any of us in our teenage years came up with one of those snarky, parent-baiting comments, she would just look at us and say “Oh.”.

Believe me, it is deadly, and far more effective than the best prepared debate response.

I live in the Bible Belt. I have a friend who used to live in an area where people would tell him what Catholics believe. They would say, “You believe…” regardless of anything he would say otherwise. He found it quite annoying. Because of the number of misconceptions about Catholic beliefs, I choose not to accept what anybody tells me about another person’s religion or faith without directly going to that person and double checking facts.
The first thing I notice is that your neighbor does not attend a regular church. She may be “church shopping” for one that “fills her spiritually” and makes her feel good. Accept for now that she has been taught that Catholics are brainwashed, especially if we are cradle Catholics. There was a man on Facebook who tried to taunt me with this idea. The difference between Facebook and a neighbor is that at a certain point, I could choose to no longer respond.
How is it possible that a Catholic might actually be able to think for herself? To reason, ro read books, and not all of them spiritual?
For now, simply continue to extend friendship without overt evangelization. You have extended invitations to events at your parish. That is enough.

Continue to pray for your neighbor. The richness of the Catholic Faith lies in its simplicity and depth. The basic tenets are all summarized in the Nicene Creed, yet we never reach the depths of our Faith. There is always something more to learn, a better way of expressing it, or responding to God’s grace.

You made the gestures, that is all you can do…if she wants to see someone brainwashed, she might try the mirror!

You need to ask her what makes her believe that or simply ‘how did you come to that conclusion’. You can’t argue against a vague notion. You need to get her to assert some ‘fact’. Once she establishes some belief you can attack that specific belief.

I wouldn’t say Catholics are brainwashed, but like any other group they are indoctrinated into a belief. This is also called education. And it happens in every religion, in the home, at schools, in the Boy Scouts, at LGBT meetings, in short everywhere people are teaching others about something.

I think I agree with this.

But if she keeps up with the remarks, I would just tell her “look, I understand you’re misguided about Catholicism and I’ve tried to explain my faith to you If you don’t like my answer, that’s fine, but I’m not going to discuss religion with you anymore”.

LOL! Your mother was wise! That’s a great response for a) deflating the other person, and b) ending the conversation.

I think I would change the wording a little bit, just so that you don’t sound as frustrated as you are.
I’ve known mostly Baptists who thought they knew more about Catholicism than I did. A couple of them may actually have known more about the history of different councils.
I heard the testimony of one Baptist minister who converted. He realized one day that his always preached about Catholicism. Sermons were about the Bible.
He went to a Mass where the Word was proclaimed. Scripture was actually read, not merely talked about. He began questioning what he had been taught and had been teaching others.

Cursillo teaches the best way to evangelize is to “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.” Your neighbor is not ready to hear about Catholicism. You are right at this point in time not to talk about faith, at least not what sets you apart as a Catholic.
Let her know you first as a friend and neighbor. You don’t have to talk about religion at all. You can definitely ask her to respect your faith.
If she is Christian, let her discover the Christianity of Catholicism through your actions and words. I spend much time with non-Catholics who are strong Christians. At some point along the line they will ask me where I go to church. It is then that I tell them, “St. Benedict” or whatever parish I happen to belong to at the time. I’ve moved much in my life. I’ve opened the door for them to ask about my Catholic Faith. When it’s been a person with whom I worked, I have been able to bring flyers or pamphlets from the vestibule to help explain scripturally the origin of Sacraments or why go to Confession. I’m less dependent now on those sources of information. I do ask the Holy Spirit to guide my words, and especially to let me know when to stop.
I’ve had conversations about Faith and religion with Muslims and Sikhs as well.As Fulton Sheen said during one of his television shows, begin with what you hold in common.

:smiley: Indeed.

I’d ask, “do you think its important to worship as the very first Christians did, to do what they did, and to believe what they believed?”

Assuming the answer is yes, and almost all Protestants will say “yes”, and in fact tend to believe that they’re doing that, I’d then say, “And have you read the Father’s of the Church”.

The likely response is to be a baffled look, as most average Protestants, particularly those in the evangelical end of things, have no idea that there are Church fathers, let alone that they were around very early, or that they wrote. I’d point them in that direction.

Indeed, FWIW, a fundamentalist Christian church I’m aware of decided to do that very thing as sort of a Bible study project and the whole congregation ended up converting to Anthiochean Orthodox. Not quite where I’d have hoped they’d go, but pretty darned close.

I just take them to the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2:42. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”
I haven’t read the Fathers of the Church. This is for those forget the need for Church leadership. There is much in the N.T. that points to the hierarchical nature of the Church.

I know a bit about the history of the Assembly of God, the how and why they broke from mainline churches. As a result, they tend to criticize the mainline churches that rejected them, overlooking the actual history of Christianity.
As Catholics, we learn about the early martyrdom of the Church, and that following Christ involves sacrifice. “We love because He first loved us.” Our response to the Cross is not a mere acceptance of cheap grace. Nor is it a list of Catholic “shoulds and should nots” learned in childhood, although some see it as such. St. Paul writes about the importance of faith to mature, to grow. We have a life time to discover the depth of God’s love for us, and to respond to that love. Not once during any of the times that I visited a non-Catholic church did I hear mention of the possibility of laying down my life for God.
Many non-Catholic churches talk about a personal relationship with God. Yes, we are called to that. At the end of Mass, we are told to “Love and serve the Lord.” We are the Church, the people of God. It’s about more than a relationship between God and me.

Hi 7sorrows,

I favor the approach given by DebChris and Yeoman as it relates to church history. Based on many debates with Protestants I’ve developed a process (meant to be a dialogue) that is easy to remember and can be applied to nearly every situation where you are questioned:

Step 1: Jesus said He would build His Church and protect it (MT 16:18)…[That’s the Church I want to be a part of so who/where is that Church today?]

Step 2: Distinguish between today’s Church and that of the first 800 years…[Today, there are multiple Christian denominations all claiming that they are “that Church” and teach the truth including your neighbor’s. But, who’s right? Who’s got the real truth and not something man-made? In the first 800 years there wasn’t this problem because there was just one single universal Christian Church. No other groups even claimed to be “that Church” that Jesus built. Remind her that there weren’t denominations as we know it today…there was just one.]

Step 3: Since there was just one Church in the first 800 years either that Church taught the truth or Jesus failed to keep His promise to protect His Church…[This step is really important and you’ll have to get your neighbor to think hard about this. Since we know that Jesus can’t fail we then know that this single Christian Church MUST have taught the truth. The only other option I’ve heard Protestants give is that the real Church was hidden for 1500 years. At this point you know they’re in panic mode.] [so what did the early Church believe?]

Step 4: The Church of the first 800 years believed in the Eucharist, infant baptism, Mary as Mother of God and ever-virgin, a 73 book Bible, praying for the dead, and no salvation outside the Church amongst other beliefs…[We know this through the encyclicals as written as a result of each Church Council. In the first 800 years there were 7 such ecumenical councils and the beliefs of the Church are documented for all to see. The first 2 councils were held before even the books of the New Testament were formally agreed upon!]

Step 5: The beliefs of the early Church, which we know taught the truth, are the beliefs of today’s Catholic Church. Hence, we know the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus built as it is the only one that has faithfully preserved the beliefs of Jesus’ early Church. [All other Christian belief systems have strayed from the truth of the early Church beliefs in some way causing them to be fraudulent]

The only reason I’ve stopped using quotes from the early Church Fathers is because there are some questionable quotes from them where they use the word “symbol” as it relates to the Eucharist and a good Protestant debater will use them. The encyclicals are based on the entire magisterium rather than individual church fathers and is a better indication of what the Church actually believed…and there isn’t anything left for interpretation.

Every Protestant will question our beliefs with their interpretation of scripture passages as “proof” that we’re wrong. I say, “although I can appreciate where you’re coming from and your interpretations are plausible, they’re just not what the early Church believed and I choose their interpretation over yours as it allows me to prove that Jesus kept His promise to protect His Church.”

I hope this helps.


I’d decline any further invitations to attend her church.

No she is not asking if Catholics are brainwashed - she does seem to be stating a deeply held belief. Like I get the feeling if I ever tried to talk about my Catholic faith
she would just roll her eyes and let me know she is not interested. I have tried opening a door and am usually open to anyone asking me anything. I am not
pushy about it.
I stopped attending the Bible study she was going to at a certain church because
one morning one of the leaders said how lucky we all were that Martin Luther came
along. I finished the book we were doing, but it was a protestant Bible study and
I did here a couple of other comments during the 5-6 week study that made me feel as a Catholic I did not feel comfortable there. I never told her why I didn’t choose
to return, so I don’t know maybe she has heard other people say Catholics are brainwashed among this group of women and just joins in.

Thanks for your input. I know she is smart. Her husband is the head of the language department at our local university. I am not sure what her educational background is.
I don’t think she has a degree, but they recently returned from living in Spain for 5
months and I was hoping seeing some of the Catholic churches there and religious
art might stimulate some questioning about the Catholic faith, but it didn’t.

Thanks for your advice! :thumbsup:

LOL! I guess after being Catholic for almost 10 years, I see the richness and fullness
of the Catholic faith. I see how watered down protestantism is and feel she is smart and would be more open to learning what Catholicism offers. I don’t know if she was raised in any religion as a child. She is Hispanic, so maybe has family members who are Catholic and perhaps has had bad experiences with them.

Ask if she follows her own beliefs? If she says yes then ask her how that is not just as equally “brainwashing”?

BTW, decline to attend anything else that she invites you to and tell her that if she so badly lacks the courage of her conviction that she cannot reciprocate then you will no longer spend your time at her invited functions.

You might also point out that her own persistent badmouthing of Catholics might well indicate a bad case of anti-Catholic brainwashing since her remarks are not supported by facts.

This shouldn’t trouble you so much since it’s a terribly weak allegation anyway.

that is a good point about anti-Catholic brainwashing. I am going to reflect on that
one. Thanks for bringing THAT to my attention.

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