In "The Death Cookie", caricatures of the pope and the devil make a pact to take over the world with eucharistic wafers.
Calling upon the goals and beliefs his church shares with Baptists, Roman Catholic Diocese of Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika is calling anti-Catholic tracts distributed by a Pigeon Forge church "reprehensible" and containing "outright lies and blatant exaggerations."
The tracts drew public attention after a member of Conner Heights Baptist Church distributed them at Pigeon Forge High School. Despite admitting he knew little about the Catholic Faith, Conner Heighs Baptist Pastor Jonathan Hatcher felt confident that publisher Chick Publications was spreading the gospel.
Bishop Stika said the characterization of Catholicism is simply inaccurate--and "hateful, discriminatory, and full of prejudice and bigotry."
In a written statement, Stika clarified some differences in doctrinal belief between Catholicism and what many Baptist churches believe. But ultimately, he stressed the similarity between the faiths and common goals.
"As bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, I pray that all Christian pastors will develop a spirituality of ecumenism, with a willingness to explore with other Christians the common beliefs of our Christianity-primarily our belief in the one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ-rather than focus on our differences."
You can read Stika's full statement in the sidebar to the right on this story, on wbir.com.
Previous: Baptist pastor stands by anti-Catholic booklets passed out at local high school
A Pigeon Forge baptist church is drawing attention after one of its members passed out anti-Catholic literature at school.
One of the teens who received the tract at Pigeon Forge High School attends Holy Cross Catholic Church just down the street.
"This girl came up to her and said, 'This will make you very mad,'" said Holy Cross Catholic Church Pastor Father Jay Flaherty.
One of the booklets is titled "The Death Cookie".
"It says that our eucharist is of the devil," Father Flaherty said.
In it, cartoon caricatures of the devil and the pope make an agrement to take over the world with a eucharistic wafer.
"It irritates me that in today's age, with the tolerance we're learning, that this stuff still exists," Father Flaherty said. "The reason they do this is they believe what these things say. They're trying to save Catholic souls. They feel and believe we are devil worshippers and that are souls are lost because we don't see the Christ that they see. It's just ignorance."
On the back of the tracts, a stamp reads "Compliments of Conner Heights Baptist Church."
The church's pastor stands by the literature, saying it helps spread the Gospel, which he says he's called to do.
"It's what saved my life. Why would I not want to share it if I believe it's the right way to go?" said Conner Heights Pastor Jonathan Hatcher.
Pastor Hatcher says he's not trying to target Catholics specifically, just the belief that the eucharist will save one's soul.
In fact, he says he doesn't even really know much about the Catholic faith.
"I'm obviously not schooled in the Catholic religion, I've not read the Catholic canons. I study the King James Bible and that's what I preach from, what I study from," Pastor Hatcher said.
When asked if he's concerned about passing out literature targetting a religion about which he admits he doesn't know much, Pastor Hatcher says he trusts the publishers of the material.
"The people who distribute these tracts, or put them on the market, say they are schooled in it," Pastor Hatcher said. "Our goal is not to spread not to start violence, not to spread hatred, but to share the Gospel."
However, not all baptist leaders say the tracts spread the Gospel.
First Baptist Church Pigeon Forge Student Pastor David Huskey says the literature is divisive and hopes the theological conflict can be worked out, especially since the two churches are neighbors.
"One way we can honor God is to spend less time focusing on our differences and pointing people to how great God is," Huskey said. "My prayer is that this [conflict] doesn't give people outside the church another reason to say, 'That's why I don't go to church'."