Bad Catholic

I’ve enjoyed all the books in John Zmirak’s Bad Catholic series. The latest, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism is the best so far, I think, perhaps because the topic gives the book more structure and organization than others in the series. For example, the book has a well-chosen, concise and illuminating list of chapters: I. Reason and Revelation II. The Father III. The Son IV. The Holy Spirit V. The Church VI. The Sacraments

Here’s a little excerpt from the section on the Church:

Q. The problem I have with what you’ve been explaining isn’t so much with the details. They all seem to follow, once you grant a set of very strange premises.

A: I’d say that we humans reside in some very strange premises, which we didn’t build ourselves but blundered into, like those hapless Eisenhower voters who used to visit the Addams family. By the way, I’ve always considered that a deeply Catholic show: Here’s a bunch of aristocratic, history-obsessed homeschoolers who live in a gothic house full of torture devices and actual relics, trapped in an uncomprehending Protestant suburb. Watching the reruns as a kid, I developed a real “thing” for Morticia. She ruined me for any woman whose veins don’t show through her skin.

Q: Thanks so much for sharing.

A: Here we are, shaped a lot like chimps and inclined to act like baboons, but unlike them we’re capable of building La Sagrada Familia and making films like Annie Hall—to cite just two of the high points of our species. But beyond the arts, some of us do astonishingly non-Darwinian things, like giving all our worldly goods to the poor (St. Francis of Assisi); crossing the world to care for unbelieving foreigners (St. Damien the Leper); or giving up reproduction to educate other people’s children (those thousands of sisters who used to man our Catholic schools, before they encountered Carl Rogers and absconded). We also engage in outrageously useless acts of evil, like setting up death camps (Hitler) or famines (Stalin and Mao) to attack the most productive members of our societies; or aborting our own kids by the millions, then spending billions to generate new kids in laboratories, only to leave most of them sitting in the deep-freeze like shrimp dumplings we forgot about. Any account of man’s fate that didn’t sound a little bit strange—for instance, those chipper “just-so” stories of inevitable human progress and rationality they came up with in the Enlightenment—would obviously be nonsense. Like whistling in the infinite dark. Pascal said, “Man is a reed, but a thinking reed.” More important, maybe, is the fact that he’s a self-immolating, mass-murdering, icon-painting, and warmongering reed. We need some account of that.

As that commie hack playwright Arthur Miller said, “Attention must be paid!” Or not. We could just drink another Twisted Ice Tea and settle back to watch Tosh 2.0 on Hulu till the barbarians come. Your call.

Q: You certainly like to rub the ugly truth in people’s faces.

A: I’m practicing the converse of what Christians call apologetics. That’s the art of making faith appear as reasonable as possible. What’s needed now is to show that unbelief is unreasonable. Or at least it will lead you to madness, if you think about things hard enough. Consider what I do the art of apoplectics. And it’s as serious as a heart attack.


The book does not have an index; however, if it did I would expect to find these two entries:

Plan of Salvation: see Chapter 5
Gifts of the Spirit: see Chapter 6

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