By DEIRDRE C. MAYS
LANCASTER — An interdenominational group of quilters meeting at St. Catherine Church Aug. 4 thought ordering pizzas would be an enjoyable repast, but they got an extra topping of anti-Catholic pamphlets that left more than a bad taste in their mouths.
Upon receiving their delivery from Fox’s Pizza Den, Laura Kaleugher, a Catholic, noticed a bundle of pamphlets that the delivery person had placed on the counter. The one on top was “Are Catholics Christians” followed by “The Death Cookie.”
Kaleugher, who is a member of St. Michael Catholic Church in Great Falls, said she was sickened by what she read.
Chick Publications produces the tracts as a witnessing tool for Christians. The pamphlets, designed by Jack T. Chick, are cartoons telling stories about a variety of topics including several attacking Catholicism and linking it to Satan.
According to a statement on the Web site (www.chick.com), “Each one grabs the reader’s attention, then clearly presents the gospel, ending with an invitation to receive Christ.”[Editor’s note: The Web site contains material that is extremely offensive to Catholics and others.]
Kaleugher had a difficult experience after reading the first two pages.
“I immediately got very upset,” she said. “It made me sick.”
After calling the store to let them know what happened, she got in her car and drove straight over to Fox’s with her pizza. The manager apologized and gave her money back. The man responsible for placing the tracts in the restaurant was one of the cooks. Kaleugher said he told her that he was sorry and didn’t mean to offend anyone.
“I told him that the things written in the tracts aren’t true, and if you want to learn more about the Catholic Church, you need to ask someone, but these are absolutely not true,” Kaleugher said.
“I didn’t think about it like it was the only thing I could do,” she continued. “I didn’t think good or bad; I just knew it had to be addressed.”
Since this incident Kaleugher said that the approximately 20 women of various faiths at the quilting meeting expressed their shock and how they were disturbed by it. They were so concerned that several of them brought it up at their churches on Sunday, and one of them called the Charlotte Observer, which ran a story about the event.
One woman’s husband, a member of a local Presbyterian church council,
e-mailed the owner, Kaluegher said.
On Aug. 7, Fox’s Pizza Den owners Stan and Deborah Neff wrote to Kaleugher and Father Thomas Morrison, pastor of the church, apologizing for the employee’s actions and stating that the employee was reprimanded. The manager also wrote saying that he was completely unaware these pamphlets were being delivered and that all had been removed from their store.
“Since that letter from the Lancaster manager, the employee has been fired because he said he would not stop,” Kaleugher said.
Father Morrison addressed the idea of anti-Catholicism in his homilies the following weekend.
“I mentioned how this has been going on for years and how I saw this when I was in high school in Spartanburg,” he said. “The people who have lived here for a while would probably take the pizza and throw tracts away. We need to realize that the problem here is ignorance and fear. We need to be forgiving.”
Father Morrison said that the people who have been living there for generations are seeing things change with new people moving in all of the time.
“This scares them to death,” he explained. “The object lesson I presented was to tell them about the folks at St. Philip’s Church in Lake City. The first Catholics were Lebanese who looked and spoke differently. The Lebanese people who moved in educated themselves, worked hard, and became professional people like merchants, attorneys and teachers. Three generations I know there were assimilated but remained very Catholic. People would come up to me and say, ‘I don’t know anything about your religion, but if it puts out people like them, then you must be doing something right. The people themselves were the best witnesses. Our best defense is to be honorable, charitable, caring people and forgiving.”