Is "Catholicism: Crisis of Faith" a legit video?

I (Hugh) played music at Evangelical Churches. It was part of my desire to build bridges between communities of Christians. We must be able to come together on social issues, etc. I believe we must have respect for one another although we may not agree with each other. And I believe Jesus wants us to love one another. One of these Evangelical Churches where I have played to help out their street outreach recently presented a video called "Catholicism: A Crisis of Faith" produced by James McCarthy. This has become a very popular video in some Fundamentalist and Evangelical circles.

Many well meaning Evangelical pastors think they are doing their congregations a service by showing the film. They do not realize that the video is breaking up many long term friendships between Catholics and Evangelicals. Jesus prayed for unity among Christians (Jn 17:21). Pastors who show this film do not know that it is dividing families that have different denominations, who up to that point, had learned to accept each other's differences. Now if all of these negative things were happening because the truth was presented, I would have no problem whatever with it, since Jesus predicted that some families will break apart over the Gospel (Mat 10:21). But this is not the case. The anger and hostility against Catholics that this video is creating largely unfounded.

William Curtis of Vision Video (an Evangelical organization), released clips of a Martin Luther film to McCarthy because they thought "Catholicism: Crisis of Faith" was a going to be a "helpful critique" of Catholicism. He was "very, very disappointed" with McCarthy's production, and in his estimation the video offers "a very biased presentation" of Catholicism. He called the video "A Catholic Basher". McCarthy asked if Vision would distribute his film. Vision "refused to distribute" the film and was "rather disgusted" with its contents. Curtis said his company "would not endorse or support that at all." For one Evangelical organization to be disgusted with another organization's mistreatment of Catholics means it must be pretty bad.

The video is packaged to look like it was produced by a Catholic organization. There is a Catholic stained glass window, statue of Mary, and Priest with a Eucharist on the cover.  They even use the name "Lumen Productions." In 5 years, I've never heard Evangelicals use that Latin word but Catholics use it all the time. They clearly want to attract practicing Catholics.

Once inside the video we get some interesting twists of truth. Narrator Bob Bush says "This is St. Ignatius Church. It is adjacent to the University of San Francisco. I studied here during my years of seminary training." According to the registrar, Bush only took six summer courses there and three of them were Spanish.

A Catholic theologian Fr. Richard Chilson was interviewed as an expert on the Catholic Church. He said:

"McCarthy [the producer] approached me saying that they were doing a video to help Christians understand the Catholic Church. He was all sweetness and ecumenism....and I must admit to having been duped by this ... There was no preparation for the interview other than that I knew they wanted me to speak about the current state of Catholicism." 

Out of the hour and a half interview, they selected a couple of clips of Chilson wiping his brow (as if to be confused) and saying "I'm sorry - I don't know". Any of Chilson's articulate answers remained on the cutting room floor. The only remaining clips were selected to make him look confused. They also edited it to make it seem like the Church is trying to become a synthesis of Buddhism and Christianity. Chilson had no idea of the intentions of the producers, who didn't even give him a copy of the video after promising it to him.

The producers stood on 5th Avenue New York and videotaped interviews with dozens of people coming out of St. Pat's Church. They were looking for people who would say particularly dumb things about their Catholic Church, and of course they found them. And then they used those clips as a representation of what Catholics believe. I (Hugh) have been around a lot of Evangelical Churches and lots of people don't know what their Church teaches. We don't think it's very fair to edit a video to humiliate a Church using dumb quotes from congregation members.

The video misrepresents historical facts in the Church. For instance, it says the Catholic Church "invented" the doctrine of Transubstantiation in 1215 A.D. whereas they simply gave it the name "Transubstantiation" at the Fourth Lateran council. The early Church always believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

The "brilliance" of the film is that it actually picks and chooses lines, and quotes out of context and puts them together to make the Church look dumb. The film is much in the same tradition as Alexander Hislop's 1856 book "The Two Babylons." written 135 years earlier which uses selective quotes and historical events to mount an argument that Catholics are Pagans. It was a smashing success and fueled 100 years of Catholic bashing until another Evangelical, Ralph Woodrow, exposed the book and its false references and poor scholarship. A full discussion of Hislop is here. I pray a fundamentalist will call McCarthy on the carpet for the damage he's caused the Catholic Church and the embarrassment he is causing to authentic fundamentalist scholarship, dialogue, and Christian brotherhood.

It is beyond me how an organization that believes it;s doing God's work would use such deception in order to win converts. Perhaps they think the Catholic Church is a washout so it;s OK to use deception to try to destroy it. Personally, I wish they would take this to prayer.

If you have seen the film "Catholicism; Crisis of Faith" you probably have some serious questions about the Catholic faith such as:

Is the Mass a re-sacrifice of Christ?
Did the Church invent Transubstantiation in the middle ages?
Is Purgatory in the Bible?
Do Catholics believe we earn Salvation by works?
Do Catholics believe Mary is a "Co-Saviour?"
Is the Catholic treatment of saints superstition?
Are statues in Catholic Churches idols?

Clicking on any of the links above will lead to articles that contain my responses to these questions.

The film has been a "great success" in converting fallen away Catholics. Clear thinking and balanced presentations of opposing views are a much more ethical way to approach interdenominational dialogue.

Source material for this article is resourced from Karl Keating "The Usual Suspects"