Christopher Kaczor's new book is "The Seven Big Myths About the Catholic Church," in which he tackles issues related to celibacy for priests, contraception, science and homosexuality. Kaczor, a professor of philosophy at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, has written eight other books on Catholicism, bioethics and other topics. He was in D.C. last month to give talks about his new book.
Your book debunks myths about the Catholic church. Why do you think so many people have misconceptions about Catholicism?
I think there's a number of reasons for it. I think the first is that religious education among Catholics has been fairly deficient for at least two generations. There's a lot of Catholics who went to Catholic school or even Catholic college who really don't know the basics of their faith. Another reason is many people get their information about the church through secular media outlets. If I were to write a story on Islam or Judaism, since I'm not a member of those faiths, I really wouldn't have an informed opinion about it. I think a lot of times misinformation is passed on in the media.
Many people say they'd like the next pope not to focus as much on opposing contraception and gay marriage. Myth or actual possibility?
I think it's a myth in the sense that the last pope didn't focus on contraception or same-sex marriage. He did very, very rarely make remarks about those topics, but these are about the only things that are ever reported about what the pope teaches. This is not a central or main issue for Benedict XVI. I don't think it will be for the next pope either. But I do think the next pope, like all popes, will uphold Catholic teaching.
You write that priestly celibacy didn't cause the sexual scandals of the church. What did?
If you look at the sexual abuse of minors, the most common person to do it would be a married man, someone like Jerry Sandusky. No one would say marriage causes sexual abuse. In a similar way, there's no evidence at all that celibacy causes sexual abuse of minors. What caused the sexual abuse problem was a lack of fidelity the priests had in not living up to their own promises, their own vows, in not restraining themselves from sexual activity.
Do you think the church should be more understandable, more user-friendly? Should the church conform to the majority opinions of its members?
I think it's the duty of all Catholics to make the church more understandable to people. But I don't think there could ever be a compromise in terms of what the church teaches. What the church teaches should always be based on what Jesus taught. And if the majority of the church thinks, say, "You shouldn't love your neighbor," well that means we have a lot of work to do. Because that's part of being a Christian -- following and living out the teachings of Jesus. I don't think there's anything to be gained and everything to be lost in terms of conforming oneself to the culture, insofar as the culture is disagreeing with the message of Jesus as articulated by the church.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
One of my defining beliefs is that I should try my best to love God and love other people.
- Liz Essley