Concerned about the influence of Protestant fundamentalism on Catholic laity, the nation’s Catholic bishops are mounting a counteroffensive. Their strategy: to ward off fundamentalism by asking Catholic parishes to incorporate measured doses of it into church life.

In an opening salvo, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral statement on biblical fundamentalism directed at America’s 52 million Catholics. The bishops voiced fear that this religious force is exerting an increasingly strong pull on unsuspecting Catholics.

This development has weighed heavily on the minds of church leaders, especially those who have seen large numbers of Hispanic Catholics turn to Bible-centered Protestant churches, including Pentecostal congregations, for spiritual nourishment. Up until now, the bishops had refrained from collectively speaking out against these movements. But the recent pastoral statement and a follow-up campaign signal a more aggressive approach.

The bishops’ statement describes fundamentalism as a “general approach to life which is typified by unyielding adherence to rigid doctrinal and ideological positions.” It defines fundamentalists as those who “present the Bible, God’s inspired Word, as the only necessary source for teaching about Christ and Christian living.”

The document praises such faith communities for their warm, friendly, and pious spirit and their emphasis on the need for religion to pervade family life and the workplace. But the bishops go on to advance a Catholic case against certain fundamentalist teachings, including:

• The teaching that “the Bible alone is sufficient.” According to the bishops, this view leaves “no place ...

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