Norman Boutin's religious beliefs have influenced his writing, as well as his antics elsewhere. Though he calls himself a "Catholic loyal to the Pope," some critics have pointed out that the actions of his heroine and his own personal beliefs often conflict with what he attributes to his identity as a faithful Roman Catholic.
- 1 In Empress Theresa
- 2 In Application
- 3 References
In Empress Theresa
A Roman Catholic/Christian Book?
Norman has at times denied Empress Theresa is a straight "Roman Catholic" book. He's been warned that Theresa "contradicts some Catholic doctrine," but he denied any of this, saying "no Catholic doctrine is mentioned in the book." For him, that means "there are no Catholic themes such as going to Mass, confession, praying the rosary, or anything like that."
However, in more Catholic circles, Norman has contradicted his assertion that Empress Theresa isn't a Catholic book. In a comment on Tuscany Press' blog, Norman Boutin wrote, "This website is about Catholic books and Empress Theresa is one." At another blog, Norman Boutin explained his marketing plan for Empress Theresa involving the fact there are "1,180,000,000 Catholics in the world," and hence he should "go after the Catholics," which he states are the target audience. In an interview, Norman called himself a "Catholic writer," saying that Catholic writers in general should write "a story about a main character who is Catholic," and "should get in some Catholic faith ideas into the story." Certainly the main character Theresa is herself a Catholic, and is assisted by her local priest, his cardinal, and the pope. Theresa attends Boston College, which she identifies as a Catholic college.
Norman has also denied in some places that Empress Theresa is a straight Christian book, saying that the story could fit for a Muslim. This is absolutely false, as in Chapter 4 Theresa recites several Christian prayers prior to her execution. On the other hand, he has at times given the following accusation against critics: "But they [critics] want to kill the message. They don’t want the Christian message to get through." He has also said that his critics "hate the book because they hate anything that has anything to do with God," and announced he was removing the Kindle edition to keep "penny pinching non-believer" from writing a negative review of it. If Empress Theresa is not a Christian book, it would not have a Christian message, hence Norman's attack against his critics is completely inconsistent.
Norman considers Theresa to be a good Catholic girl. He's spoken of how "some people write stories about characters who sin and eventually repent, but he wanted Theresa "to be a good Catholic girl from page one." Characters throughout the book likewise speak on how perfect Theresa says.
The Theresa-Jesus Connection
Very clear connections are made between Theresa and the story of Jesus Christ. Some examples:
|Parallel||Jesus Christ||Theresa Sullivan|
|Before birth||Before Jesus is conceived, his mother Mary is visited by the Angel Gabriel.||Before Theresa is born, her mother Elizabeth is visited by HAL.|
|Childhood||At age 12, Jesus goes to the Temple of Jerusalem and amazes the elders with his knowledge of the scripture. He also indicates he is aware of his divine purpose.||At age 10, Theresa is possessed by HAL and begins to exhibit amazing powers and abilities.|
|Fearful leaders||The Pharisees and high priests are worried about Jesus's influence among the people and conspire to have him arrested and executed.||The United States President is concerned about the existential threat Theresa poses and conspires to have her kidnapped and executed.|
|Final words||"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
"Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit."
"It is finished."
|"Father, forgive me for all my sins. Take me into your house forever."
(Narration) It was time. All accounts were settled. All debts were paid. I had no more use for this world.
|Final witness||Upon hearing his last words, a centurion in the Roman army comes to believe that Jesus was the son of God.||An officer in the US Navy records Theresa's last words and distributes them.|
|Return from death||After three days, Jesus rises from the dead and commands his disciples to spread his word to all mankind.||After two weeks, Theresa is brought back to life and becomes adored by all mankind.|
Empress Theresa's Theology
Norman also seems to think his book is the Bible, or is at least just as important. At one point on Catholic Answers Forum, Norman quoted Psalm 23, but attributed it to Empress Theresa. On Amazon, Norman made the statement that "all wisdom is found in Empress Theresa," something which a professing Christian would only ever apply to the Bible (one commenter dismissed this as simple trolling of Boutin's adversaries). He has also subtly quoted his book in regards to spiritual issues, though not always attributing it directly by name. At other times, he was far more blatant about it. Hence, intentional or not, Norman places his own book on the same level as the Bible.
In addition to his writing, Norman Boutin's rants against critics, and his posts on a handful of forums, have betrayed much of his theological beliefs.
Norman believes that it is possible for someone outside of faith in Christ to be saved, which is called in theological circles "inclusivism." He's said that he was taught in Catholic schools "any man, even a totally uncivilized jungle native, can be saved if he follows his conscience."
Norman exhibits a belief in Libertarian Free Will more aligned towards Pelagianism, a belief which states that mankind has complete and utter free will, can earn their salvation and lose it freely, and that Jesus and Adam were merely good and bad examples for man to follow. He has openly said that "any person can raise himself up to a higher and more noble plane by determining to do so." This coincides with his beliefs regarding inclusivism (see above).
Norman also exhibits signs of the belief of Semi-Pelagianism, which was an offspring of Pelagianism and said that man required God's grace, but still had to cooperate with it. He has argued that man cooperates with God (Semi-Pelagianism), and that man's will and intellect "are moved by God in an undeterministic way leaving the soul initiative and free will." God "enables" a soul to make free choices, but it is still up to the person to make said choices. The purpose of this free will, according to Norman, is to participate in God's divine nature.
Pelagianism, as well as the belief known as Semi-Pelagianism (which believes man cooperates with God's grace, but still requires it to some extent) was condemned at the Council of Orange. Ironically, Norman quoted the Council of Carthage (418 AD) condemning Pelagianism, as a way to demonstrate that the Roman Catholic Church believes "God moves man's conscience to do good and avoid evil," showing that not only did he not understand what the council was saying, but he does not understand what Pelagianism really is.
Norman's argument in favor of a Libertarian Free Will seems to be based on the mere fact that, if he goes to a fast food restaurant, he can choose whatever he wants on the menu, ergo he has a Libertarian Free Will. People on both sides of the debate over Free Will would recognize this as a silly and oversimplified view of the subject, and would slap their foreheads if Norman used it against them. Norman has also argued that man's Free Will is different than animals because animals just do what they do by nature, whereas humans "can will things that are not good for themselves" - seemingly forgetting that animals are capable of harming themselves, or exhibit human-like traits (for example, cats, like humans, are capable of killing for no other reason than sheer pleasure, and self-harm is common in stressed parrots).
Norman seems to hold a confusing view of God's omniscience and foreknowledge. While he has denied the idea that God has imperfect foreknowledge of future events (which is known as Open Theism), he likewise denies that it would be possible for God to give us an exact prediction of future events, or else we would change what we were about to do and hence prove God wrong. This seems to imply that God's foreknowledge is inherently flawed with the possibility to be wrong, and hence man has some form of power over and against God's otherwise perfect foreknowledge.
Norman appears to hold a view that a person saved cannot turn away, saying "it is essentially impossible for a soul that already possesse [sic] the infinite goodness of God to turn away from it." However, he appears to argue this more from the idea that no one would leave a good thing, rather than the Reformed view of Perseverance of the Saints, or a "Once Saved Always Saved" perspective.
Knowledge of Scripture
Norman has often demonstrated a lack of understanding regarding what his own religion's holy book. One example is when he said: "There is no instance in Scripture of a human being told by God ahead of time that in the future he would make some specific decision on a certain day in certain fully defined circumstances." He seems to have forgotten when Christ told Peter: "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." Norman has tried to get around this by arguing: "Peter wasn't told at exactly what time he would deny Christ, with whom he'd be talking, and where he'd be, or he would have been somewhere else at the time to avoid it." However, this is the logical fallacy of shifting the goalposts (which Norman is very fond of).
In addition to his theological beliefs, Norman's antics online have betrayed the hypocrisy of his own position.
One needs only take a casual glance at Norman's interaction with critics to see how quickly he dives into the realm of ad hominems and insults. To Norman, it is not below him to call his critics losers, pathetic, dummy, and a host of other names, including recently "Beavis and Butthead people." When he quotes opponents, Norman will often say that they "blabbered" and a host of other snide phrases.
By contrast, Christ said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," and the apostle Paul said to "overcome evil with good." In Norman's mind, however, both these men must have meant to add, "If someone insults your book, let 'em have it."
Norman has demonstrated how highly he thinks of his book, to the point of believing that it will be remembered forever, and is much more worthy of being read by high school students than classics like Animal Farm or 1984. He has attacked popular authors, like Stephen King, in order to attempt to make his book look better.
Norman's pride makes him a guilty Catholic, given the Roman Catholic Church identifies pride as one of the capital sins. Christian scripture likewise condemns pride - in fact, Solomon seemed to have been writing with Norman Boutin in mind: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling."
Norman has been caught in lies, either in reference to Empress Theresa or in reference to his critics. This, in spite of the fact that Christian scripture states "lying lips are an abomination to the Lord," and the Roman Catholic Catechism states "a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord."
Amazingly enough, Norman Boutin often makes spiritual threats against critics, or makes subtle spiritual jabs. On his website, he writes:
- A very careful reading by a thoughful person who ponders such matters will reveal that Empress Theresa is .........
- ----FOR trust in God's involvement in the human situation
- ----FOR wisdom of following the conscience, the 'voice of God within'
- ----FOR the wisdom of trying to do good in the world
- ----FOR the merits of courage, empathy, and all the best facets of human personality as demonstrated by the sterling example of Theresa
- ----FOR the merits of never giving up.
He then mentions those who have supposedly opposed this message, and writes:
- I wouldn’t have thought it possible for people to be so evil for the sake of being evil. They're like the devil...Their sin cannot be forgiven as long as they keep doing it.
Apparently, those who criticize Norman Boutin are in sin, and will not be forgiven by God until they cease doing it. Most sane people would recognize that Boutin is making a straw man here, since people do not oppose the mission he listed, but rather his poor writing and his inability to respond to criticism with patience and grace. To take this to a spiritual level is simply extreme. In fact, to equate criticism of a human personality with criticism of God (or any spiritual being) is the sign of a cult.
Lack of Forgiveness
As is painfully obvious by now, Norman is very cruel and unforgiving towards his critics - which puts him at odds with the belief system to which he claims to adhere. Compare for example this statement to critics:
- "You better hope God will forgive you. I won't."
With a statement from the Gospel of Matthew:
- Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."
Norman Boutin tells his critics that he can never forgive them, even though Christ plainly commanded his followers to forgive "seventy times seven" (an antiquated manner of speaking referring to infinite times). Again, this is in the context of someone criticizing him and his book. It would seem that Norman Boutin and his book were the sole exceptions for this case of repeated forgiveness.
- Amazon Review
- Matthew 26:34, 75; NASB
- Matthew 5:44; NASB
- Romans 12:21; NASB
- Proverbs 16:18; NASB
- Proverbs 12:22; NASB
- Matthew 18:21-22; NASB