Many Catholic households in this country will have received in their letterboxes an anti-Catholic booklet called National Sunday Law — and a local Catholic theologian suggests putting the booklet straight into the recycling bin.
Stuff reported the claim, from people connected with the booklet, that 1.5million copies have been printed and distributed in New Zealand.
In suggesting that Catholics rapidly transfer the booklet to recycling, Fr Merv Duffy, SM, said “we do respect freedom of speech and differing religious views, but do not appreciate unsolicited nonsense being put in our letterboxes”.
Fr Duffy, who teaches at Te Kupenga-Catholic Theological College in Auckland, observed that the booklet was originally authored by an American Seventh Day Adventist called A. Jan Marcussen, and the author objects to Christians who keep Sunday as the Lord’s Day, as opposed to those who follow the Jewish practice of respecting the Sabbath day — Saturday.
The book, which was first published in 1983, presents a conspiracy theory that the United States Government, influenced by the Catholic Church, is on the verge of legislating for Sunday to be a day of rest and worship. The theory involves the Pope as the Antichrist and a sinister Catholic plot to have the “Mark of the Beast” worshipped on Sundays, Fr Duffy said.
The Stuff article reported that a Seventh Day Adventist Church spokesman in New Zealand said that the booklet is neither endorsed nor recommended by their church, which has had no involvement in its publication or distribution.
Fr Duffy said that anti-Catholic literature being circulated in New Zealand is not a new phenomenon.
“The first anti-Catholic tract to circulate in New Zealand was Ko te Anatikaraiti (It is the Antichrist), of which the Rev. Robert Maunsell printed 5000 copies in November of 1838,” Fr Duffy said.
“The arrival of Bishop Pompallier prompted this member of the Church Missionary Society to give away this leaflet to his flock to warn them of what he perceived as a false prophet. This document, written for a Māori readership, dealt with image worship, celibacy, transubstantiation, and prayers to saints — issues of dispute between the Protestant and Catholic Christianity.”
Referring to the National Sunday Law booklet, Fr Duffy said that, “if someone wants to debate with you about the contents, it is likely to be a waste of your time”.
“If they are seriously attempting to judge the worth of the document, you could mention the following points.
“If the Catholic Church is deceiving people into worshipping on Sunday, we pulled off this trick quite a while ago. St Justin Martyr, writing about 155AD, mentions that Christians gather to worship ‘on the day called Sunday’; Sunday is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, something worth celebrating.”
“The Book of Revelation is deliberately obscure writing”, Fr Duffy added, “and people have read all sorts of things into the texts there.
It is about Christian hope in times of persecution, and does not refer to American legislation. When the Book of Revelation was written, Christians were members of a small movement within the huge Roman Empire, and America had not been discovered. The beast mentioned is plausibly a coded reference to the pagan Roman Emperor.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes St Justin Martyr referring to Sunday worship: “For Christians, its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfils the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath, and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ.” (CCC2175)
The catechism also states that “Sunday worship fulfils the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people”. (CCC2176)