(March 17, 2011) Atlanta, GA—The notoriously anti-religious HBO talk show host, Bill Maher recently featured a three-minute segment on his Real Time with Bill Maher show, slamming Catholicism, and in particular Catholic priests, just as one-billion Catholicsworldwide observe Ash Wednesday, the start of the forty-day Holy Season of Lent.
Maher specifically edited and perverted one of the highly-effective national commercials produced by the lay-Catholic charitable outreach organization,CatholicsComeHome.org.
In an effort to offer unwavering hope and peace to families during these troubled economic and conflict-driven times, nine Catholic dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Boston, are partnering with CatholicsComeHome.org to use television and the Internet to share the life-giving power of faith in God by inviting inactive Catholics home to the Church during the Lenten season. This initiative marks the 30th market launching the CatholicsCome Home® evangelization initiative. These ads and interactive website have reached 40 million viewers across the US and 1.5 million viewers worldwide through CatholicsComeHome.org in the past three years. According to census statistics published by participating dioceses, Catholics Come Home® ads have helped more than 200,000 fallen away Catholics come home to the Church.
“This Lent, we’ve made an outreach to inactive Catholics…launching several television commercials to invite our brothers and sisters home,” said Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. “It’s for Catholics, who for whatever reason have stopped coming to church.” Where these ads have aired, Mass attendance has increased an average of 10 percent, and as much as 18 percent.
But despite these gentle television invitations, Bill Maher continues to rant against all things Catholic, in an effort to “crucify” the Catholic Church by holding it up to continual ridicule and scorn. Maher inaccurately claims that the “Catholic Church made these ads.” False. The hierarchy of the Church did not produce these ads, CatholicsComeHome.org did. The television and website advertisements accessible atwww.CatholicsComeHome.org were created and are supported by a group of Catholic families and individuals inspired by Pope John Paul II’s call for a New Evangelization.
Maher went on to ridicule the Catholic Church as comprised of only “white hair” geriatrics, when, in reality, Catholic parishes across the U.S., particularly in the South andSouthwest, are experiencing an increased Mass attendance. Adrian, a young man in his 20’s from Colorado watched the CatholicsComeHome.org commercial called “Epic,” and wrote: “Months ago, I was an atheist trying to convert people out of the faith. I felt like God was personally calling me home.” Adrian and his family are now practicing Catholics and he is helping his younger brother to also return to the Catholic faith.
Maher also attempted to exploit the Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis to cast a cloud of suspicion on all Catholic priests in particular and on the Catholic Church in general. While all sin is deplorable to God, Maher is grossly distorting the facts in the service of his “smear the Catholic Church” abuse information. The fact is, the national percentage of Catholic priests accused of abuse amounts to one half of one percent, according toCatholic Answers, “Understanding the Priests Scandal”. Protestant and secular experts have even cited surveys showing the actual abuse among Catholic clergy to be much lower than other denominations, as well as significantly lower than the general population (P. Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests; J. Could, “Pedophilia,” Time Magazine, April 2002).
Despite these statistics, the public typically only hears of the criminally unfaithful priests, rather than the tragedy of the overall abuse problem in our culture. CatholicsComeHome.org is on the record as proclaiming that the root cause of evil, such as sexual abuse, is human sinfulness and the abandonment of Jesus’s teachings of moral Truth.
Maher ignores the millions of faithful Catholics worldwide, as well as the 2,000 year history of the Church: starting hospitals, feeding the poor and caring for homeless, educating millions of young students, starting the university system, and contributing to the scientific method and laws of evidence. These are the truths of history that are often forgotten. He also fails to take into account the “faithful majority” of Catholics, literally thousands of holy priests and bishops, religious sisters, and lay ministers who have helped transform Western Civilization, often at the price of martyrdom. Despite the reports of scandal among some criminally unfaithful priests in past years, Catholicism continues to flourish.
Even so, Catholics Come Home desires to reach those who have not been to Mass in a while, or do not attend church regularly “Most say that they are not upset with the Church nor disagree with her teachings,” said Tom Peterson, president and founder of Catholics Come Home, “in fact, the vast majority, about 90 percent, are telling us that they just drifted away from their practice of faith due to many secular lures of the world.” When they are asked, “Why did you come home?” the majority of returnees answer, “Because you invited me.”
Even many Non-Catholics have praised the Catholics Come Home commercials. Debra, a Presbyterian from Charlotte, states, “I just saw your TV commercial and I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. It is so refreshing to see your religion in such a positive light.”
Peterson concludes with a plea: “So now is the time for faithful Catholics and all Christians to join together to pray for our troubled world, to follow the example of Jesus and to love our neighbor, and to invite Bill Maher, his viewers and others back to the practice of faith, back to a life of love, back to the healing and peace that always triumphs over evil, and only comes from God.”