The Vatican would like Catholics to re-discover the lost art of explaining and defending the faith, namely “apologetics”. According to a recent story from the Catholic News Service, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has asked for a more widespread effort to make apologetics materials, such as pamphlets and leaflets more available to Catholics.
But don’t go looking for titles by Karl Keating and Patrick Madrid in the racks of your church’s vestibule anytime soon. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is already working to make apologetics kinder and gentler. A new committee has been formed and assigned the task of preparing parishes and dioceses to undertake the task of explaining and defending Catholic doctrine. The USCCB’s Department of Ecumenical Fellowship and Lasting Theological Equality (D.E.F.L.A.T.E.) has the tough task of preparing Dioceses to get the people in the pews ready to share their beliefs.
Cyril Flipsby, O.P., a key member of DEFLATE thinks that the key to apologetics is getting Catholics to understand other religions better. “There’s definitely a hunger out there for a greater understanding of why the New Springtime of the Church is taking so long to kick in after Vatican II. We believe a renewed Ecumenical effort is the key. As communities of faith, we are called to reach the world, so we want to encourage Catholics to reach out by attending services with other communities of believers, including Protestants, Jews, Hindus and, especially Muslims, since we have made them such scapegoats in recent years.”
But how does that help explain or defend the faith? Sister Teresa Wobble, Director of Religious Education for 7 merged parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston, thinks it’s important that apologetics reflect the modern realities of Catholic faith. “This isn’t about what we believe any more. The whole pre-conciliar idea of overcoming objections is futile. We like to take more of a Dale Carnegie approach by agreeing with the objections because that's what keeps the conversation going. And many of these people have a point. There IS great injustice in a Church that still only admits men to its ministerial priesthood, denies women the right to choose, won’t recognize same-sex marriage and keeps electing conservative chauvinists as its pope.
“We’re not interested in rules, doctrines or dogmas. Just ask any of the kids in our excellent programs. We abolished using any kind of catechism years ago. It’s not important that they understand stuffy concepts like ‘transubstantiation’ or the Immaculate Conception. Our focus is on what unites all people, not on rigid concepts like sin or salvation. We will defend the Church by proclaiming justice and peace and uniting ourselves with our sisters and brothers of ALL faiths.”