Controversial Preacher Is 'Hard as Nails'

His message can seem to contradict his methods. He frequently points to overweight women in the crowd and tells them "you're fat," often resulting in the young women crying or getting upset. Again, Fatica says he's just trying to prove a point by demonstrating the "sins" he believes we all commit.

"What I'm trying to do is shake them up and help them realize that's how we do treat people," Fatica said. "We put them in a class, put them in categories: 'You're gay, you're fat, you're Catholic.' And we need to start respecting people for who they are, not about what we think they are, and why everybody is important. And that's why I do it."

Fatica, admits, however, that sometimes this point gets misinterpreted. "I might get some e-mails saying that, they say I'm a jerk for this."

Taking the Message Too Far?

It was these kinds of shocking methods that attracted the attention of journalist David Holbrooke, who has followed Fatica for years and made a documentary on him that aired on HBO. From the first moment he saw Fatica in action, Holbrooke said he was compelled.

"We found him at Soulfest, at a Christian rock festival in New Hampshire, and he jumped out," said Holbrooke. "He was so emotive, he was like … no filters, and right away I thought he was as compelling as anybody I'd ever met."

Holbrooke wasn't just captivated by his shocking methods but by his complexity -- he understands what Fatica is trying to do.

"He's got a real message of love," said Holbrooke. "I think in his heart he's really trying to do what he can do to move this ball forward, that there are kids in trouble, and they've largely been abandoned by society."

While Fatica acknowledges that this message of love and devotion could be taken to extremes, and possibly even be destructive, he believes it is a risk worth taking.

"No matter what experience we go to, somebody could passionately take a message, and go with it," Fatica said. "Whether with sports, no matter what we go through, people can engage a passion where they go to the extreme and it can hurt their life. And I do, of course worry about those things."

The documentary shows one instance in which a young man is so impassioned by Fatica's message that he reacts physically -- jumping up and down and dislocating his shoulder in the excitement.

Holbrooke said he was concerned that people might take Fatica's message or methods too far, which, he believed, was all the more reason to document it.

"They're going to get caught up in the fire and take this too far along," said Holbrooke. "And that made me nervous, and I wanted to be able to show that."

Despite varying opinion on Fatica's controversial tactics, it is clear that he aims to help people in his own, perhaps bizarre, way.

"Well, I know God's proud of me and that makes me know I'm proud of myself," he said. "I'm proud for every human that I've met because the humans I meet, no matter who they are, they always teach me something."

To learn more about Tough as Nails, click here.

This piece originally aired on ABC's "Nightline" on Dec. 17, 2007.

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