Preaching to the converted, rather than preaching to convert.

My good friend Fr. Ray Blake, the great P.P. of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton, has a good post:

Mysogynistic, Homophobic, Fascist, Racist and Xenophobic

I find it quite frightening on how badly prepared the Church in England and Wales is to combat secularism and opposition to the Church’s teaching. We give the impression that we don’t really care.

This weekend there will be a demonstration against the Papal visit outside Westminster Cathedral followed by a rally outside the Italian embassy, presumably in the hope of attracting the attention of the Italian media, amongst the speakers will be Peter Tatchell, it advertises itself as:

    We support:
    · Women’s equality and reproductive rights
    · Equal rights for LGBT people
    · A secular Europe – immune to the Vatican’s agenda
    · One law for all, no religious exemptions from the law
    · State neutrality in matters of religion and belief
    We oppose:
    · European Union collusion with religion (Lisbon Treaty Article 16c)
    · The special status of the Vatican in the United Nations
    · State-funded faith schools
    · The economic privilege and political influence of the Vatican in Italy
    · Taxpayers funding the Pope’s State Visit to the UK this September
    · Misogyny, homophobia, fascism, racism and xenophobia

The problem is, I suspect most people in our congregation might actually agree or be unable to argue coherently against these assertions. Those Catholics not attending Sunday Mass, especiallly the young, are easy prey for the presentation of the Church as mysogynistic, homophobic, fascist, racist and xenophobic.

The very fact that our schools, our Catholic charities, our bishops, our clergy, our leading thinkers, our journalists, etc do not oppose this kind of appalling presentation of our faith might suggest that most of them believe that it is true.

Every agency of the Church needs to direct its efforts to communicating our Catholic vision of humanity. Too often we merely preach to the converted, rather than preaching to convert.

Let’s stop being so Churchy and look out, start training applogists, public speakers, people who can write about the faith.


Go give Fr. Blake some WDTPRS kudos.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Mark01 says:

    I agree with the need to trail apologists. Towards that end, can people please recommend books on the subject. I am a cradle Catholic and would have to admit myself that I should be able to do this better. Often times I am just so accustomed to the Church’s view and thinking that I can’t see any other way of thinking, so it is hard to know what questions non believers would even have. It all just makes sense to me, and what doesn’t I can usually find the answer to, but I have a hard time thinking on my feet and knowing what sorts of questions are coming so having a good answer readily available.

  2. Mark01 says:

    Sorry, I meant train apologists, not trail them. We don’t need to be spying on apologists.

  3. DavidJ says:

    A well educated laity would be all the apologists you would ever need. Toss in a touch of zeal for the Lord and the world would be set on fire.

  4. Thomas G. says:

    Mark01 – you might start with A Biblical Defense of Catholicism by Dave Armstrong. I believe he has his own website where he sells it (and others).

    Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating is also good.

    Of course, I would always start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I don’t know how well versed you are in the faith, but it always helps to know what you’re defending.

  5. Choirmaster says:

    The problem is, I suspect most people in our congregation might actually agree or be unable to argue coherently against these assertions.

    To paraphrase Fr. Z: If we don’t know who we are (our identity), and can’t articulate that clearly, then how can we make any positive contribution in the public square.

    DavidJ is right, the problem lies–and the work must continue–inside the Church.

  6. Leonius says:

    In the UK the first people we need to train as apologists are the Bishops.

  7. JosephMary says:

    Ok, I had to look up some of those words. Hatred of women and hatred of foreigners eh?

    I think those in the Reign of Terror also promoted a totally secular society. We know where it got them! Communism too tried to stamp out religion to the end that millions were murdered. Does not Europe learn from its history? Oh, I forgot, it rewrote history. Well, I guess it is doomed to repeat it then and to the detriment of all.

  8. yatzer says:

    I tried saying this when my kids were young. I didn’t know how to do it myself, having grown up in a basically non-religious family and my RCIA experience was a waste of time. I wanted my kids to have something better, but I got mostly blank stares if not hostility. I could see what was coming 25 years ago. This is soooooo frustrating.

  9. New Sister says:

    Dear Mark – I have used “Beginning Apologetics 1 – How to Explain and Defend the Catholic Faith” and find it very straight-forward and accessible for anyone — it goes over well with our Catholic Women’s group as well as my Confirmation students!

  10. Melania says:

    Definitely kudos for Fr. Ray Blake. The level of ignorance among our laity is truly frightening. The need to evangelize our own has to be top priority. And, it’s important to take a pro-active approach to the outside culture and never adopt a defensive posture when challenged. I’ve found that when I push back at secularists, it doesn’t take much for them to crumble. They’re shocked that I defend the Church and they find that they have not thought through their criticisms of the Church.

  11. Son of Trypho says:

    Peter Tatchell has a lot of public credibility because he has been a genuine anti-racism, anti-homophobia and anti-rightist political figure. In saying that, the best response to him would be to politely ignore him – it will show up that he is picking a fight with a group which is far more reasonable than many of the villains that he is trying to group them with (eg. Russia where he got beaten up by a mob or Robert Mugabe where he got beaten up by his bodyguards).

  12. Chris C says:

    What we really need to do is to be able to argue not on the basis of faith but on the basis of reason.

    My 15 year old daughter and 13 year old son have been enjoying the Crash Courses offered by the International Society of Scholatics.

    In-depth Thomistic reasoning followed by application to current issues like Health care reform.

    What I have most appreciated is that these courses transcend the conservative/liberal polemic and go to the root of the issue to offer an orthodox Catholic perspective on modern problems.

    Looking forward to up-coming courses on

    Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Right to Privacy’?

    Why Homosexual Marriage is a Contradiction in Terms

    The Moral and Immoral Roles of Insurance Companies

    to name but a few.

    We need hundreds of Catholics to know these arguments.

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t know how “converted” they are, but yes, we only preach to appease the ones hard set on going out the back door while totally ignoring those at the front door. It’s very striking if you’re not a cradle catholic. People who show up for the first time often get the impression that they’re not understood or wanted.

  14. catholicmidwest says:

    The *point* of this thread is that Catholics spend a lot of time and bandwidth arguing only about contentious issues within the church in public INSTEAD of talking about (or doing anything about!) converting the world to Christianity. Yet, here in the comments, the same old thing goes on.

  15. Supertradmom says:

    May I state quietly that those who are priests or seminarians should be the first trained in apologetics, the why, the what and the how.Only then can the laity respond and learn correctly, unless they are fortunate enough to obtain a good Catholic education somewhere.

  16. Erik P says:

    “Let’s stop being so Churchy and look out, start training applogists, public speakers, people who can write about the faith.”

    YES! We need a whole army of Jeffrey Tucker’s and Father Zuhsdorf’s!!!

  17. Maltese says:

    NO! It’s not LGBT, you meanies!

    It’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Concerns (LGBTQC), get it right!

    Geesh, how long must I suffer you insensitive types!

  18. rinkevichjm says:

    The Apologist’s cheatsheet is very handy for the beginning apologist.

  19. JonM says:

    This is why St. Pius V authorized the printing of catechisms. I have two of four volumes of the Dominican Catechism (printed in the 1600s).

    It is in French and has those long S’s so it is a challenge for me (not to mention I don’t really want to touch it.

    The modern Catechism is, well, confusing even to a seasoned Catholic. For example, the section on religious liberty gives two conflicting points.

    I think the Baltimore Catechism is a solid place for Catholics to begin. Karl Keating has produced some wonderful material, though it is generally meant for approaching Baptists and various fundamentalist types.

    Leonius is correct, though his comment applies beyond the UK: Bishops have to start leading us instead of praising Protestants or hanging out with Buddhists or offering gifts at Hindu altars.

    I think then more of the laity will demonstrate a confidence in the faith.

  20. AJP says:

    One thing to keep in mind is that apologists typically face two distinct audiences: evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants and secularists or varying religious or non-religious backgrounds. These two audiences require two distinct sets of apologetics. Keating and Armstrong’s works are great for explaining and defending Catholicism to fundamentalists, but not much use for the other audience. I doubt someone like Peter Tatchell cares much about whether or not praying to saints violates biblical teachings. Other apologetics works and tactics are more appropriate for secularists. I get the impression that Fr. Blake has that sort of apologetics in mind.

  21. Rob Cartusciello says:

    In the 1840s & 50s, Archbishop John Hughes of New York engaged in a series of public debates in the newspaper with the critics of Catholicism. His articles were then printed and distributed to the laity so they might present similar arguments.

    The closest I’ve seen to this was Archbishop Dolan’s letter in the New York Times some months ago.

  22. The only thing I can think about right now is just that I thank God America’s in a better situation than Europe when it comes to these kinds of things (hey, I don’t think even atheists were complaining when taxpayers’ money was used to help protect the Pope a few years ago when he came to the US).

    That being said, we do need pastors, catechists, and parents to help children defend the Faith better. Indeed, whether you’re in America or in Europe, a lot of Catholic children cannot even defend God these days, and I know that many don’t even believe in Catholic teaching (you know, Catholic in Name Only?)!

    But even that sort of training can only come with conversion and aggressive encouragement from the top down, so let’s pray that the bishops will give some leadership on this point. For indeed, some in our own Catholic congregations (cradle and converted) aren’t really converted in heart and mind as much as converted in name.

    And even Fr. Blake himself points out that many liberal Catholics will agree with a homophobic, xenophobic, misogynist, blah-blah whatever Papacy. Ah, le Curé d’Ars, priez pour nous!

    [And Father Zuhlsdorf, thank you for presenting the article to the rest of us. Looks like I’m going to be responding to Fr. Blake’s article today for my blog post in the afternoon. :-)]

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