A statement from Catholics Come Home today responded to Friday's segment on "Real Time with Bill Maher."
The organization noted how "Maher specifically edited and perverted one of the highly-effective national commercials produced by the lay Catholic charitable outreach organization, CatholicsComeHome.org."
The statement observed how the slam came just at the start of Lent, while nine dioceses are partnered with Catholics Come Home to "share the life-giving power of faith in God by inviting inactive Catholics home to the Church during the Lenten season."
With over 30 markets in the last three years, Catholics Come Home ads and the interactive Web site have reached 40 million viewers in the United States and another 1.5 million in other countries.
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.
Where these ads have aired, Mass attendance has increased an average of 10%, and as much as 18%.
"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," the organization statement noted. "Maher inaccurately claims that the 'Catholic Church made these ads.' False. The hierarchy of the Church did not produce these ads [...] [they] 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."
The statement goes on to criticize Maher's false characterization of the Church as comprised of elderly people, and said he is "grossly distorting the facts" regarding the scandal of clergy sexual abuse.
"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," it added.
Founder Tom Peterson reflected on the organization's mission to reach out to Catholics.
“Most say that they are not upset with the Church nor disagree with her teachings,” he reported. “In fact, the vast majority, about 90%, 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.'"
Peterson concluded 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."
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On the Net:
Catholics Come Home: www.catholicscomehome.org