Billy Liar - Part Three

Change Four - Roman Catholicism - Ecumenism

In 1948, Graham called Roman Catholics "one of the three gravest menaces facing orthodox Christianity.", and in 1957, he branded the Catholic gospel, "a stench in the nostrils of God" (A Prophet With Honor, p. 223).

At first, Catholics were warned not to attend Billy Graham crusades by their leaders, but, as Graham's attitude toward Catholicism changed, Catholic leaders started to speak approvingly of the crusades, especially when Graham began referring Catholic "converts" back to their own churches for follow-up.

On September 6, 1952, William McElwain, writing for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, reported:

"Graham stressed that his crusade in Pittsburgh would be interdenominational. He said that he hopes to hear Bishop Fulton J. Sheen at one of the masses at St. Paul's Cathedral tomorrow. Graham said, "Many of the people who have reached a decision for Christ at our meetings have joined the Catholic church and we have received commendations from Catholic publications for the revived interest in their church following one of our campaigns. This happened both in Boston and Washington. After all, one of our prime purposes is to help the churches in a community.""

As early as Sept. 21, 1957, Graham said in an interview with the San Francisco News, "Anyone who makes a decision at our meetings is seen later and referred to a local clergyman, Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish."

In 1962, the Roman Catholic bishop of Sao Paulo, Brazil, stood beside Graham during his crusade in that city, and blessed those who came forward at the invitation. Graham said this illustrated that "something tremendous, an awakening of reform and revival within Christianity" was happening (Daily Journal, International Falls, Minnesota, Oct. 29, 1963, cited by the New York Times, Nov. 9, 1963).

In 1963, upon the death of Pope John XXIII, Graham said from Bonn, Germany, "I admired Pope John tremendously, I felt he brought a new era to the world. It is my hope that the Cardinals elect a new Pope who will follow the same line as John. It would be a great tragedy if they chose a man who reacted against John" (2/2/63 Michigan City News-Dispatch; 6/8/63 Chicago Tribune).

In 1964, Graham's aide, George Edstrom, wrote: "Mr. Graham has never preached in a Catholic Church, and he does not agree with them in the joining of one church. If you heard this, it is nothing but false rumors." Yet, as early as 1963, one year prior to the above statement, Graham had spoken at the Roman Catholic Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina.

In the Catholic Herald of June 3, 1966, Billy Graham is quoted as being a friend of the Jesuits in the United States.

In 1966, Graham said, "I find myself closer to Catholics than the radical Protestants. I think the Roman Catholic Church today is going through a second Reformation" (Philadelphia Evening Bulletin 24 may, 1966).

March 19, 1965

Mr. Julius C. Taylor
100 Cardinal Drive
Taylors, South Carolina

Dear Mr. Taylor:

Your very nice letter addressed to the Rev. John Oetgen has been handed to me for reply. Father John is no longer president and is at the University of North Carolina working on his dissertation for the doctorate in Literature.

I am the one who, being acquainted with Billy Graham, invited him to speak to the Fathers, the Nuns, students and invited guests, and I am pleased to reply to your inquiries.

Billy Graham gave an inspiring and a theologically sound address that may have been given by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen or any other Catholic preacher. I have followed Billy Graham's career and I must emphasize that he has been more Catholic than otherwise, and I say this not in a partisan manner but as a matter of fact.

Knowing the tremendous influence of Billy Graham among Protestants and now the realization and acknowledgment among Catholics of his devout and sincere appeal to the teachings of Christ which he alone preaches. I would state that he could bring Catholics and Protesants together in a healthy ecumenic spirit.

I was the first Catholic to invite Billy Graham; I know he will speak at three other Catholic universities next month; I believe he will be invited by more Catholic colleges in the future than Protestant colleges.

So I am well pleased, then, to answer your question: Billy Graham is preaching a moral and evangelical theology most acceptable to Catholics.

With cordial regards, I remain

Very sincerely yours,

(The Rev.) Cuthbert E. Allen, O.S.B.
Executive Vice-President


Billy Graham at Roman Catholic Belmont College receiving his honorary doctor of Humane Letters (D.H.L.) degree from this Roman Catholic College.

On Nov. 21, 1967, Graham again spoke at Belmont Abbey, at the Institute for Ecumenical Dialogue, an honorary degree was conferred on Graham by the Catholic priests who run the Jesuit school, Belmont Abbey College, North Carolina, during an Institute for Ecumenical Dialogue. The Gastonia Gazette reported:

"After receiving the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters (D.H.L.) from the Abbey, Graham noted the significance of the occasion--'a time when Protestants and Catholics could meet together and greet each other as brothers, whereas 10 years ago they could not,' he said.

"The evangelist's first sermon at a Catholic institution was at the Abbey, in 1963, and his return Tuesday was the climax to this week's Institute for Ecumenic Dialogue, a program sponsored in part by the Abbey and designed to promote understanding among Catholic and Protestant clergymen of the Gaston-Mecklenburg area.

"Graham, freshly returned from his Japanese Crusade, said he 'knew of no greater honor a North Carolina preacher, reared just a few miles from here, could have than to be presented with this degree. I'm not sure but this could start me being called "Father Graham,"' he facetiously added.

"Graham said... 'Finally, the way of salvation has not changed. I know how the ending of the book will be. The Gospel that built this school and the Gospel that brings me here tonight is still the way to salvation" ("Belmont Abbey Confers Honorary Degree," Paul Smith, Gazette staff reporter, The Gastonia Gazette, Gastonia, North Carolina, Nov. 22, 1967).

At a meeting in San Antonio, Texas, 1968, Graham said that the Roman Church had given "tremendous cooperation" in areas where he had held crusades. He added, "A great part of our support today comes from Catholics. We never hold a crusade without priests and nuns being much in evidence in the audience."

On 21st April, 1972, Billy Graham received the Catholic International Franciscan Award in Minneapolis, given by the Franciscan Friars for "his contribution to true ecumenism" and his "sincere and authentic evangelism." (22/4/72 Minneapolis Star). In acknowledging the award, Graham said, "While I am not worthy to touch the shoe laces of St. Francis, yet this same Christ that called Francis in the 13th century also called me to be one of his servants in the 20th century" (2/86 The Gospel Standard).

St. Francis of Assissi believed he was saved by works. By helping the poor, he believed he was saving his soul. St. Francis was canonized, (made a saint by the Roman Catholic Institution) because of his strong position on the doctrine of works. St. Francis of Assissi blessed and baptized animals and gave them Christian names.

In 1972, the official Vatican view of Graham's ministry was set forth in the following words of Rev. Charles W. Dullea, Superior of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome:

"Because he [Graham] is preaching basic Christianity, he does not enter into matters which today divide Christians. He does not touch on Sacraments or Church in any detail. This is, for us Catholics, a loss. But from another point of view it is a gain. For he is preaching basic Christianity, not Protestantism per se. True, he implicitly assumes certain Protestant positions in his own preaching, assuming for example the 'Bible as the sole rule of faith' and ‘private interpretation of Scripture' but these assumptions are not obtrusive and in fact influence the main thrust of his sermons little, if at all. The Catholic will hear no slighting of his Church's teaching authority, nor of Papal or Episcopal prerogatives, no word against the mass or sacraments or Catholic practices. Graham has no time for that; he is preaching only Christ and a personal commitment to Him. The Catholic, in my opinion will hear little, if anything, he cannot agree with. Perhaps occasionally a too literal interpretation of Scripture will be heard or a too rigorous stricture on gambling or drinking or smoking, but nothing against his faith."

In 1973, Graham recommended Roman Catholic literature in the ecumenical Key '73 meetings held across North America; he especially recommended a biography of the Pope John XXIII containing hundreds of pages of devotion to Mary and the Saints, worship of the host (wafer) at the Mass, and his [the Pope's] trust in the sacraments as the means of salvation. Graham advertised this book as "a classic in devotion" (2/86 The Gospel Standard; Key '73: Congregational Resource Book).

In the "Sun Telegram" Jan. 6th, 1973, Billy Graham, advising a Roman Catholic couple disillusioned with their church, said, "Don't pull out of the church. Stay in it ... help your church"

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