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Apologizing to the Masses
Catholic Education ^ | December 2003 | Karl Keating

Posted on 12/02/2003 11:02:12 AM PST by NYer

Today, while still engaging Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, the “new apologetics” movement has broadened and responds to confusions and challenges from all quarters, including from within the Church. And it’s proving unexpectedly successful. The author provides an overview of the development, current status, and importance of the new apologetics movement within the Church. The future, we now see, belongs to those who are unafraid to proclaim and defend the fullness of Catholic truth.

Sometimes, upon being introduced as a Catholic apologist, I ask my listeners whether they know what an apologist is. Eyes are lowered in shame and heads shake, so I explain, with a straight face, that “an apologist is someone who goes around the country apologizing for being a Catholic.” Most people laugh, but some don’t. They think I’m being serious. To them, “apology” simply means “I’m sorry.”

Chalk it up to ignorance of Greek roots — and to the fact that, for a third of a century, apologetics has been in disrepute. As late as the eve of Vatican II, apologetics was taught in seminaries and Catholic colleges, where it was understood as the art of using reason to explain and defend the faith. Then, almost overnight, it disappeared from the curriculum. Worse, it disappeared from practice. Even those trained in it declined to use its techniques. No longer was a challenge to the faith met head on; it was sidestepped through an appeal to a misunderstood ecumenism: “We no longer should argue in favor of the Catholic faith; instead, we should try to understand the faith of non-Catholics” — as though the one precluded the other.

Soon there was a gaping hole in pulpit teaching, adult education, and publishers’ lists. At first nothing seemed amiss. But, just as it is true that ideas have consequences, so it is true that the lack of ideas has consequences. When the faith no longer was explained, when challenges were no longer met, when reason was laid aside in favor of a mushy irenicism, interest in Catholicism flagged. Those who no longer understood the faith saw little reason to practice it. Those who found their questions unanswered looked for answers elsewhere. Catholics voted with their feet and became lapsed Catholics or non-Catholics.

From this disarray has arisen the “new apologetics” movement.

But it is not the first movement to have that name. Today’s revival of apologetics can be traced to a revival in the 1920s, when there arose a new interest in using reason to advance the faith in terms accessible to everyday believers and non-believers. In the English-speaking world this interest coalesced around the Catholic Evidence Guild, headquartered in London. Members of the Guild (almost exclusively laymen) became well-known for setting up “pitches” in Hyde Park, where they took on all comers. Apologetics was saved from the dry theology manuals of the preceding century, and it turned into a movement, dubbed the “new apologetics.” In the inter-war years many Catholics found their faith reinvigorated by a clear explanation and defense, and many non-Catholics found themselves coaxed Romeward.

Frank Sheed, probably the most influential Catholic apologist of our time, noted that in the first half of this century, “a Catholic, merely as a Catholic, was an object of interest. . . . A Catholic speaker faced an audience of which practically every member had a solid and stateable — and stated — set of anti-Catholic prejudices.” People were divided into two groups. One held what we now would call the prejudice of the Fundamentalist: The Catholic Church subverts the authority of Scripture, elevates Mary artificially, and is guilty of “inventing” countless doctrines and practices that are antithetical to authentic Christianity.

The other group “accused the Church of denying man’s animal ancestry and of thinking that the world was made in six days” — in other words, the secularist view. “Both groups united in the view that the Church was hostile to virtue, intellectual freedom, [and] science.”

Then after World War II came a sea of change. While the traditional anti-Catholic forces — Fundamentalism and secularism — continued to exist, they no longer were representative of the larger portion of society. “People as a whole,” said Sheed, referring to the situation at mid-century, “do not care much who is put in place of Christ, what commandment gets broken, how anyone goes to God. . . . Indifference lies over all such things. They have not come to deny the existence of God or the supremacy of Christ; they have simply turned their mind elsewhere. They are not sufficiently interested to doubt.”

Suddenly the Catholic apologist found himself facing a crowd “which is almost totally apathetic.” It retained a hostility to Catholicism, but a hostility “from which all the sap has drained out. It is a hostility without vehemence and without shape — a slight discoloration marking the place of what was once a great wound.”

This was the situation on the eve of Vatican II. The tumult that followed the Council confirmed, in the minds of many, that even the type of apologetics that was successful earlier in the century should be abandoned, in favor of nothing. With unilateral disarmament came not an increased appreciation of Catholicism, but a hardening of opposition to it: a growing anti-Catholic sentiment among “Bible Christians”; a now-public attack from secularists; and, among the indifferent, an intellectual “nimbyism” that insisted that Catholic ideas should not intrude on the “I’m O.K., you’re O.K.” complacency of middle-class life.

And so over the last twenty or thirty years, as the Church seemed to implode, Catholics left in droves. Half a lifetime ago there may have been many lapsed Catholics, but there were few apostate Catholics. The dissatisfied may have stopped attending Mass, but they didn’t attend services elsewhere. Today there are thousands of “Bible churches” in which the majority of the congregants are former Catholics. Other Catholics, adopting as their motto Pontius Pilate’s “What is truth?”, have ended trying to reconcile their faith with beliefs and practices that are incompatible with it.

The absence of the promotion of an intellectual component to the faith did not result in a slumbering Catholicism, but in a hemorrhaging Catholicism. Adult Catholics, deprived of solid catechesis, proved vulnerable to the arguments of proselytizers. This vulnerability, widely recognized but not widely understood, created an opening for a revival of apologetics. The revival came not at the urging of Church authorities, but spontaneously from the ranks of the laity, many of whom came to realize that their lot and the lot of those like them would not be improved if they kept to a “Let Father do it” stance. Even more than in the era of the Catholic Evidence Guild, today’s “new apologetics” movement is a lay-run affair.

Dean Acheson, Secretary of State from 1949 to 1953, titled his memoirs Present at the Creation. I have a sense of what he meant, having found myself entering apologetics just as the “new apologetics” movement took shape. My 1988 book Catholicism and Fundamentalism was the first sustained response to the inroads made by modern Fundamentalism. It sought to stop the exodus of Catholics to “Bible believing” churches and seems to have been partly successful. Not surprisingly, the apologetics movement identified with the book concentrated at first on dealing with challenges posed by “Bible Christians.”

Today, while still engaging Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism, the movement has broadened and responds to confusions and challenges from all quarters, including from within the Church. And it’s proving unexpectedly successful. Perhaps that explains the recent Catholic attack on the “new apologetics.”

Until last April opposition among certain Catholics had remained low-key but nevertheless palpable. Despite lip service to Vatican II’s call for greater lay involvement, some clerics and religious seemed displeased that laymen were being successful in “their” area: instruction in the faith. Worse, the laymen conveyed the faith in its integrity, not with the doctrinal or moral looseness employed by many religious educators. The subterranean displeasure bubbled to the surface at a public lecture given by Prof. Thomas P. Rausch, a Jesuit teaching at Loyola Marymount University. Speaking at the seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and later at the country’s largest catechetical congress, he lambasted the “new apologists” and named names: Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Peter Kreeft, Dale Vree, Thomas Howard, the late Sheldon Vanauken, and me.

I have answered Fr. Rausch’s attack in a booklet called No Apology from the New Apologists. I need not repeat its argument here. What I wish to note is that his attack signaled not just a heightened opposition, but an acknowledgment of the success of today’s apologetics. Those who sought to ignore it can no longer do so. Observers on all sides realize (but may not admit) that the methodologies and ideas of “progressive” Catholicism have failed. What was touted as the wave of the future just 30 years ago has ended up as the wave of the past. The future, we now see, belongs to those who are unafraid to proclaim and defend the fullness of Catholic truth.


Keating, Karl. “Apologizing to the Masses.” Lay Witness (February, 1998).

Reprinted with permission of Lay Witness magazine.

Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.


Karl Keating is the President of Catholic Answers, a lay organization which explains and defends the beliefs, history and practices of the Catholic Church. He also engages in public debates with leading anti-Catholics, and publishes This Rock magazine. Karl Keating is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Current Events; Ecumenism; General Discusssion; History; Ministry/Outreach; Theology; Worship
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Karl Keating is the President of Catholic Answers, a lay organization which explains and defends the beliefs, history and practices of the Catholic Church.

1 posted on 12/02/2003 11:02:14 AM PST by NYer
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To: NYer
good stuff. thanks.
2 posted on 12/02/2003 11:24:50 AM PST by MudPuppy (Semper Fi!)
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To: american colleen; sinkspur; Lady In Blue; Salvation; Polycarp; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; ...
As the author notes, catholic apologetics has grown significantly in recent years. Surprisingly, many famous apologeticists are converts to catholicism. Thought it might be enlightening to meet some of them. Please feel free to post information on your favorites!

* * * * *

One of the most recognized apologeticts is

Scott Hahn

Scott has written an extraordinary series of books, one of which I recently picked up, entitled The Lamb's Supper. He begins by describing the first time he ever attended a Catholic Mass.

"There I stood, a man incognito, a Protestant minister in plainclothers, slipping into the back of a Catholic chapel in Milwaukee to witness my first Mass. Curiosity had driven me there, and I still didn't feel sure that it was healthy curiosity. Studying the writings of the earliest Christians, I'd found countless references to "the liturgy," "the Eucharist," "the sacrifice." For those first Christians, the Bible - the book I loved above all - was incomprehensible apart from the event that today's Catholics called "the Mass."

"I wanted to understand the early Christians; yet I'd had no experience of liturgy. So I persuaded myself to go and see, as a sort of academic exercise, but vowing all along that I would neither kneel nor take part in idolatry."

I took my seat in the shadows, in a pew at the very back of that basement chapel. Before me were a goodly number of worshipers, men and women of all ages. Their genuflections impressed me, as did their apparent concentration in prayer. Then a bell rang, and they all stood as the priest emerged from a door beside the altar.

Unsure of myself, I remained seated. For years, as an evangelical Calvinist, I'd been trained to believe that the Mass was the ultimate sacrilege a human could commit. The Mass, I had been taught, was a ritural that purported to "resacrifice Jesus Christ." So I would remain an observer. I would stay seated, with my Bible open beside me.

As the Mass moved on, however, something hit me. My Bible wasn't just beside me. It was before me - in the words of the Mass! One line was from Isaiah, another from Psalms, another from Paul. The experience was overwhelming. I wanted to stop everything and shout, "Hey, can I explain what's happening from Scripture? This is great!" Still, I maintained my observer status. I remained on the sidelines until I heard the priest pronounce the words of consecration: "This is My body . . . This is the cup of My blood."

Then I felt all my doubt drain away. As I saw the priest raise that white host, I felt a prayer surge from my heart in a whisper: "My Lord and my God. That's really you!"

I was what you might call a basket case from that point. I couldn't imagine a greater excitement than what those words had worked upon me. Yet the experience was intensified just a moment later, when I heard the congregation recite: "Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God . . . Lamb of God," and the priest respond, "This is the Lamb of God . . ." as he raised the host.

In less than a minute, the phrase "Lamb of God" had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn't ready for this, though - I was at Mass!"

3 posted on 12/02/2003 11:24:59 AM PST by NYer (Keep CHRIST in Christmas!)
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To: NYer
Lovely! Every time I read this, I think of HEARING it in one of Scott's tapes on the Lamb's Supper. I've had the privilege of seeing Scott Hahn speak on several occasions, and as one wag put it so clearly, "Listening to Scott Hahn speak about his Catholic faith is like trying to get a sip of water from a fire hydrant!" No truer words were ever spoken. He is incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The book and tapes mentioned here, "The Lamb's Supper," are some of Scott's best work.
4 posted on 12/02/2003 11:34:02 AM PST by redhead (Les Fran├žais sont des singes de capitulation qui mangent du fromage.)
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To: MudPuppy
Another apologeticist, well recognized by EWTN viewers, is

Marcus Grodi

Marcus Grodi received a BS in Polymer Science and Engineering from Case Institute of Technology. After working four years as Plastics Engineer, he attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he received a masters in divinity degree. After ordination he served first as a Congregationalist and then eight years as a Presbyterian pastor. He currently is an author, part time farmer, television talk show host, and public speaker. He and his wife Marilyn live with their three sons - Jon Marc, Peter, and Richard - and a cadre of other animals on their small farm near Zanesville, Ohio.

Marcus hosts The Journey Home, a live, call in program that airs Monday nights at 8pm on EWTN. This exciting call-in show examines why so many people, including fallen away Catholics and individuals from other denominations, are being drawn home to the Catholic Church. Host Marcus Grodi and his special guests discuss their personal conversion stories and how a specific Church teaching or experience influenced their decision.

He also maintains a web site for non-Catholic pastors or laymen with interest in the Catholic Church. The number of staff "working the phones" has increased over the last year to handle the surge of converts. This web site makes for a very interesting visit.

5 posted on 12/02/2003 11:36:01 AM PST by NYer (Keep CHRIST in Christmas!)
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To: NYer
Also, for those who don't know, Catholic Answers has a daily radio show on Catholic stations around the country.

You can listen online, and you can download past shows (in RealAudio format) from their massive archive. Well worth the time!

6 posted on 12/02/2003 11:38:35 AM PST by B Knotts (Go 'Nucks!)
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To: NYer
The Third Stage of The Ecumenical Movement:
Is The Catholic Church Ready?
Thomas P. Rausch, S.J.
(A lecture given at the National Workshop on Christian Unity in April, 1997 in Sacramento, CA.)

Originally published in Ecumenical Trends, Volume 26, No. 10, November 1997
Ecumenical Trends is published by the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.

The modern ecumenical movement dates from 1910 when delegates to the World Missionary Conference, held at Edinburgh, began to consider ways of working together for the sake of the Church's evangelical mission. The next fifteen years saw the establishment of various ecumenical bodies and councils, including the Life and Work movement (1925), the Faith and Order movement (1927), the World Council of Churches (Amsterdam, 1948), and finally the entry of the Roman Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement with the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962).

A second stage of the movement. the stage of dialogue between churches and traditions, began with the fourth World Conference on Faith and Order in Montreal in 1963. Since the WCC document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM) was published in 1982,[1] with an understanding of ministry which to a remarkable degree incorporates the doctrinal positions and concerns of the different traditions, a number of specific proposals for a "phased reconciliation" of churches have appeared. The concrete steps these proposals recommend suggest that the relatively near future will see churches hitherto separated by history and doctrine reestablishing sacramental Communion. Father John Hotchkin, executive director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, has described these proposals as initiating a "third stage" in the ecumenical movement.[2]

Hotchkin reviews six specific proposals. The international Lutheran-Catholic joint Commission report Facing Unity, Models, Forms and Phases of Catholic-Lutheran Church Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, suggests steps towards a joint exercise of episcopal authority which would include joint ordinations of priests and pastors.[3] The COCU Consensus: In Quest of a Church Uniting, is a proposal for a reconciled "communion of communions" which would ordain its bishops "in such a way that recognition of this ministry is invited from all parts of the universal Church" (n. 48).[4] COCU's nine member churches include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the International Council of Community Christian Churches, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, each of which has indicated an intention to approve the covenanting process, as well as the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the United Methodist Church, which will vote on the proposal in their upcoming assemblies.

Similar proposals include the statement of the Lutheran-Episcopal dialogue in the United States, "A Concordat of Agreement" (1991),[5] the "Formula of Agreement" put forward by the US Lutheran-Reformed dialogue on behalf of the Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian, and Reformed churches in America as well as the United Church of Christ (1991),[6] and the widely acclaimed "Porvoo Statement," developed by the Anglican churches of the British Isles and Ireland together with the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic nations.[7] All of these proposals call for setting aside the doctrinal condemnations of the past, providing for the interchangeability of ministers through mutual recognition, and--with the exception of the Lutheran-Reformed dialogue in which episcopacy is not an issue--moving towards a common ministry through a jointly ordained episcopate (though as John Reumann notes, the L/RC Facing Unity statement aims at a common ordained ministry by having ordinations of pastors or priests with neighboring Catholic and Lutheran bishops participating).[8]

Finally, Hotchkin mentions the report published in 1988 in Germany by the Ecumenical Study Group, chaired by a Roman Catholic cardinal and a Lutheran bishop. Titled in its English version, The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide?, the report argues that the condemnations Protestants and Roman Catholics hurled at each other in the 16th century were often based on misunderstandings and should no longer be considered church-dividing.[9] The report has been evaluated positively by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, praised by the Catholic bishops in Germany, and the Evangelical Church of Germany has concurred with its judgment.[10] A final common declaration is being prepared. Such an official agreement between Rome and the churches of the Lutheran World Federation would effectively undercut the charge of conservative Protestants that Catholics do not accept the doctrine of justification by faith, a charge recently reaffirmed in the April 1996 "Cambridge Declaration" of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.[11]

It is too early to tell how many of these different proposals will succeed. Hotchkin's sense is that "a number will, and none will be entirely abandoned."[12] As of December 1996, 10 of the 12 churches involved have approved the Porvoo Declaration. The United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Reformed Church in America have approved the "Formula of Agreement," calling for full communion with the ELCA. On August 18, 1997, the ELCA added its approval, but by six votes rejected the "Concordat of Agreement" with the Episcopal Church which that church had approved on July 19. The next day it endorsed the Lutheran/Catholic joint declaration on justification, agreeing that the 16th century condemnations are no longer applicable.

So if there are some positive signs, the way ahead will not be easy. There are many challenges yet to be faced by the different churches as they struggle to renew their structures, liturgical life, and commitment to evangelization. But the proposals are extremely significant as the churches begin finally to move beyond dialogue to the concrete steps toward reconciliation and full communion that the dialogues have shown to be necessary.

Challenges for the Catholic Church

What do these initiatives for a "phased reconciliation" of churches mean for the Catholic Church, and will it be able to participate? I would like to consider here three potential obstacles which might hinder the Catholic Church's entry into this third phase of the ecumenical movement, its lack of movement in regard to the recognition of ministry in the Protestant churches, the related question of the ordination of women, and finally, the rise of a new Catholic apologetics.

1.The Recognition of Ministry

A key feature of the proposals for a staged reconciliation is providing for the interchangeability of ministers through mutual recognition, and--with the exception of the Lutheran-Reformed dialogue in which episcopacy is not an issue--moving towards a common ministry through joint episcopal ordinations.

Since the appearance of BEM in 1982, a broad consensus in regards to ministry has emerged. Apostolic succession in the episcopal office is understood as a sign, not a guarantee of the unity and continuity of the church (BEM, M no. 38). But if the ministry of bishops in a particular church is to be recognized by all parts of the universal church, it must ordain its bishops in such a way as to invite this recognition (CF. COCU Consensus, no. 48). With a fundamental consensus on faith and the sacraments, a process toward reconciliation could begin with a mutual recognition of ministries. According to the L/RC Facing Unity, the Catholic Church could do this without necessarily granting that a particular ministry realizes the fullness of the church's ordained ministry (Facing Unity, no. 124).

On the Catholic side, this emerging consensus on ordained ministry remains largely a consensus of theologians; the official Church has been slow to respond. Yet there may be some signs of movement. In 1991 Walter Kasper, bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, delivered a bicentennial lecture at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore in which he pointed to the unresolved question of apostolic succession in episcopacy as that which particularly impedes progress towards eucharistic fellowship.[13] He noted that the different Catholic and Protestant views of apostolic succession in episcopacy are rooted in different understandings of the Church as institution, particularly in the question of "the sacramental and symbolic interdependence of the visible Church on the one hand, and the Church as a spiritual reality which can only be apprehended by faith, on the other."[14]

Kasper's principal argument is that the apostolic succession needs to be discussed in its broader theological context rather than considered in isolation. Thus he specifically rejects a mechanistic, "pipeline" theory of apostolic succession through an unbroken line of ordinations, stretching back to an apostle, beneath which lurks the old argument of a uniquely transmitted sacramental power. Because of the inner unity of successio and communio "it would be more correct to say that the individual bishop comes to be part of apostolic succession by becoming a member of the College of Apostles and of the College of Bishops, by being in communio with the whole ordo episcoporum."[15]

Among the consequences Kasper draws from his argument, two are particularly important to our concern here. First, he notes that "Vatican II merely talks about a defectus with regard to the full form of ministry, a lack, but not a complete absence. Thus a certain degree of recognition has been conceded."[16] This language echoes that of Facing Unity which says that the Catholic Church could affirm the existence of the ministry instituted by Christ in the Lutheran churches while still pointing to a lack of fullness "which, for the sake of church fellowship, has jointly to be overcome" (no. 124).

Second, he sees promoting a greater understanding of the extent to which the true nature of the episcopal ministry is embedded in a ecclesiology of communio as a further challenge for the Catholic Church. This ecclesiology of communion stresses that full ecclesial reality comes from being part of the communio: "The individual local Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ to the extent that it is in communion with all other local Churches."[17]

Thus Kasper argues for a limited recognition of ministry in the Reformation churches and suggests that full ecclesial and ministerial reality is dependent, not on apostolic succession in the episcopal office considered by itself, but by integrating a given church into the communion of all the local churches. More recently, David N. Power has developed a similar view based on a theology of eucharistic communion. He argues that the question of ministry is not reducible to an issue of the power to celebrate, but to a lack of the fullness of visible communion.[18]

If the individual bishop comes to be part of apostolic succession by being in communio with the whole ordo episcoporum, then it might not be too much to suggest that one of the greatest gifts the Catholic Church might offer to the whole church of Christ is to facilitate other churches becoming part of the communio, and in the process, gaining itself a fuller, more "catholic" communion with other Christian communities. Will the Catholic Church be able to move in this direction? At this point. a further obstacle has arisen from the new reality of the ordination of women.

2 The Ordination of Women

The ordination of women has complicated immeasurably the question of the Catholic Church's recognizing the ordained ministry of the Reformation churches. I suspect that the real inability of the Catholic Church to move towards reconciliation is rooted here, for in spite of the consensus on ministry and apostolic succession that has emerged through the dialogues, the question remains, how can churches that cannot accept the ordination of women enter into eucharistic communion with those that do? Indeed, Pope John Paul II and the Archbishop of Canterbury recently acknowledged that the ordination of, women in some parts of the Anglican Communion represents an "obstacle to reconciliation."[19]

But if the ordination of women is a question that must ultimately be resolved by the whole church, it may already be having a particular ecumenical impact. Many of us have encountered Catholic women preparing for ordination in other churches. Most Protestant seminaries and divinity schools have at complement of such women, and at the university where I teach I have several times had the painful experience of watching an outstanding woman graduate and leave the Catholic Church to seek ordination in another.

I have often wondered what this phenomenon means for the church, both Catholic and universal. For me one thing is clear: these women are not leaving the Catholic Church because they have suddenly become Protestant in their theology or in their religious imaginations. One friend who made such a move--at considerable personal cost--refers to her present stance as one of "incarnational ecumenism." Perhaps the presence of these women in other churches will contribute towards a deepening of their sacramental and eucharistic consciousness and in the long run hasten the movement towards reconciliation. But in the meantime, the inability to agree over the ordination of women remains a major, perhaps insurmountable obstacle to the Catholic Church's entry into the third stage of the ecumenical movement.

3. A New Catholic Apologetics

Finally, another potential obstacle is represented by the Catholic neoconservative movement. The last decade or so has seen the emergence of a new Catholic apologetics, much of it defensive and even polemical. In part it represents a protest against contemporary Catholic theology. And in part it is intended as a response to those fundamentalist and evangelical communities which have been so successful at attracting Catholics into their congregations.

Who are these new apologists? Some are faculty members at established Catholic institutions of higher education, for example, Peter Kreeft and Ronal d Tacelli, S.J. at Boston College, Thomas Howart at St. John's Seminary, Brighton, MA, and Mitch Pacwa, S.J. at Loyola University of Chicago; others are at neoconservative Catholic colleges like Franciscan University of Stubenville or Christendom College in Fort Royal, Virginia, and still others are involved with a host of neoconservative organizations, mail order ministries, and publishing houses.[20]

One of the most popular in Catholic parishes today is Karl Keating, director of a lay organization called Catholic Answers which publishes a monthly journal of apologetics, This Rock. Many of these apologists, as in the early part of the century, are converts, among them Dale Vree, Peter Kreeft, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Thomas Howard, and Sheldon Vanauken (d. 1996), all of them associated with The New Oxford Review. In speaking of their conversions, they express a common concern for the state of contemporary Christianity, pointing in particular to the ordination of women, the increasing acceptance of homosexuality and abortion, and the lack of an authoritative magisterium in their former Protestant churches.[21] They are part of a spectrum of neoconservative Catholicism.

Keating is a lawyer, not a theologian, but his Catholicism and Fundamentalism is a best seller.[22] The first part presents a useful documented history of fundamentalist anti-Catholicism. In the generally respectful second part he takes on specific fundamentalist charges against Catholicism. But the third part--which shifts from a criticism of fundamentalism to one of Protestantism in general--reveals his lack of sympathy for Protestantism as well as mainstream Roman Catholic theology. While his recommended sources include some classic references, many of them are pre-Vatican II works untouched by the theological renewal that preceded the council. Thus he prefers the 1914 Catholic Encyclopedia to the 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia ("inferior in coverage but adequate"),[23] and recommends the 1953 A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture which uses the Douay-Rheims translation. He mentions 7be Jerome Biblical Commentary, advising that "the orthodox Catholic can skip the more tendentious essays,"[24] and seems to prefer William G. Most's Freedom from All Error. Most is an ultra conservative Catholic apologist who labors to defend positions such as the historicity of the infancy narratives or the idea that Vatican II did not reverse previous magisterial teachings.[25]

Scott Hahn and later his wife Kimberly came to Catholicism from a background in evangelical Presbyterianism. He received a Masters of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell and served as a pastor for a number of years prior to his conversion; afterwards he did doctoral work in systematic theology at Marquette, receiving his degree in 1995. He presently teaches at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The compelling story of his conversion, first taped in 1989, has led to over two hundred audio and video cassettes, released through Saint Joseph Communications, circulating now in many countries, as well as a book entitled Rome Sweet Home. It tells of his turning to the Catholic Church as he discovered that first the sola fide, and then the sola scriptura principle, the two pillars of the Reformation, collapsed in the light of his study of Scripture.[26]

Hahn is particularly effective in discussions with evangelical Protestants since his theological approach is similar to theirs, a straight forward biblical approach which responds to each question with appropriate biblical texts, even offering a biblical explanation for indulgences or the Catholic position on birth control. But he has also done an impressive doctoral dissertation on the biblical theology of covenants. He is one of a growing number of Protestant pastors from evangelical backgrounds, many from Gordon-Conwell, who have been received into the Catholic Church.[27] One of them, Marcus Grodi, now directs the Coming Home Network International, a support group for Protestant clergy and their families moving towards the Catholic Church. Its goal "is to help reverse the deleterious effects of the Reformation."[28] As of December 1996 the CHNetwork had close to 700 members.

If many of the new apologists are concerned primarily with proving the truth claims of the Catholic Church against Protestant criticism, those associated with the New Oxford Review have a broader, more sophisticated focus. They combine a theological conservatism with an evangelical critique of contemporary culture, based on the biblical text, the natural law tradition, and the authority of the magisterium. They write not as theologians but as deeply engaged believers; their backgrounds are in philosophy, political theory, and literature. In their uncompromising defense of the Catholic tradition as articulated by the magisterium on controversial questions such as sexuality, celibacy, and the rights of women in church and society, they offer a strong alternative to a secular culture. They are attempting to articulate for modern men and women an evangelical vision of Christian faith that is Catholic rather than Protestant.

There is something both admirable and appealing about these converts, their desire to be part of one universal church, their frustration with the variety of biblical interpretations in Protestantism, their appreciation of the authority and doctrinal clarity coming from Rome, their astonishment at the Catholic character of the ancient Christian tradition. the wonderful discovery of Christ's special presence in the Eucharist.

But their encounter with the contemporary Catholic Church in its local manifestations is often unsettling for them. They are too ready to see "false teaching" and "disobedience" in contemporary theology or catechetics or to identify orthodox Catholicism with its most conservative expressions, for example, the Franciscan University of Steubenville or Mother Angelica's Eternal Word Television Network.

These new apologists, both converts and cradle Catholics, are relentlessly hostile to contemporary Catholic theology precisely because it is critical. Those doing contemporary theology are dismissed as "neomodernists," while their own approach is consciously premodern. Kreeft and Tacelli specifically call for a return to a medieval understanding of reason.[29]

Their use of Scripture is too often biblicist rather than critical or hermeneutical. Many of them ignore the Bible's complex historical development, use it to proof text doctrinal and moral concerns, and interpret gospel sayings attributed to Jesus historically rather than distinguishing the various levels of the gospel tradition.[30] Karl Keating argues that all the New Testament books were written prior to the fall of Jerusalem.[31] One wonders how many of them have read and assimilated documents such as the Pontifical Biblical Commission's 1964 Instruction on the Historical Truth of the Gospels or its 1994 Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.

At the same time they exhibit a fundamentalist understanding of church teaching, one that fails to note the historical context of a doctrinal statement, its degree of authority, and the possibility of doctrinal development or even change. Their textual interpretation, whether biblical or magisterial, and their approach to the development of church authority, structure, and doctrine shows signs of the same non-historical consciousness that one associates with Protestant fundamentalism.

From an ecumenical perspective, the new apologists raise the dilemma of a divided Christianity, with its innumerable competing churches chosen on the basis of personal preference some 28,000 according to Scott Hahn--in a powerful way. They have helped a considerable number of Protestant pastors find a new home in the Catholic Church and brought many Catholics back to the church. But as Peter Huff observes, "many of the new apologists share the anti-Protestant instincts of the preconciliar Catholic revival writers apologists such is G.K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, and Hilaire Belloc. Their approach to other Christian communities is more often polemical than irenic. Rather than seeking to find areas of agreement, as official Catholic ecumenism does, they tend to reject mainline Protestantism, not just for its contemporary pluralism and embrace of modernity, but also in some of its foundational doctrines.

Perhaps more significantly, their traditionalist and often triumphal Catholicism will not help contemporary Catholics, particularly conservative ones, discover the extent to which they share a common faith with their Protestant brothers and sisters. In this sense they are anti-ecumenical. Though they share a concern for personal morality and family values with evangelical Christians, they generally ignore the linking of evangelization with social transformation which is so strong in recent Roman Catholic magisterial documents.


1. In spite of the emerging theological consensus on the nature of ordained ministry, the Catholic Church has not been able to move towards a recognition of ministry in the Reformed churches. Bishop Walter Kasper's rethinking of apostolic succession as a communion in the historic episcopal office has suggested a way of moving in this direction that is in keeping with the Catholic tradition. But the real obstacle inhibiting the Catholic Church's participation in the proposed steps towards a recognition of ministries and sacramental sharing is probably to be found in the ordination of women.

2. From a Catholic perspective, the Lutheran-Reformed Dialogue represents less progress on ministry as their proposals do not require joint ordinations or look forward to a jointly ordained episcopate. However, as Father Hotchkin observes, episcopacy might become a major concern in the future if Lutherans continue their development in that direction.[33]

3. Short of sacramental sharing, there are still many things that Catholics can do together with other Christians. Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism taught that a partial communion already exists between baptized Christians in other churches and the Catholic Church (UR 3). The new 1993 Ecumenical Directory goes further, extending the notion of imperfect communion to other Christian churches; it says that "other churches and ecclesial communities, though not in full communion with the Catholic Church, retain in reality a certain communion with it" (no. 18)[34]

As Jeffrey Gros, associate director of the Bishops' Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs has observed, Catholics are only beginning to develop the structures to hold themselves accountable to those with whom they are in real, if imperfect communion.[35] As Catholics, we need to ask ourselves, do we take our ecumenical partners into account in drafting papal and episcopal texts and make efforts to incorporate them in our decision-making? Do we try to bring an ecumenical sensitivity into our theological and catechetical programs? Do our local churches and parishes have ecumenical programs? Human relationships must come before sacramental ones.

The 1993 Ecumenical Directory recommends a program of ecumenical formation which extends from the parish through Catholic schools and universities, seminaries, and programs for pastoral training or religious formation, all of which should include opportunities for practical experience with Christians from other communities. Often Catholic bishops who have the responsibility to develop ecumenical programs for their churches are more open to ecumenical relationships than their clergy and pastoral leaders.

4. Although very popular in conservative circles, the new apologists seem more concerned with defending a traditionalist Catholicism than with reaching out to others through dialogue. They are too often anti-hermeneutical in their approach to texts, authoritarian, hostile to the idea of doctrinal development, and unable to live with pluralism. Thus they will not be able to help contemporary Catholics come to terms with developments in the church's teachings and changes in its life. Nor will they prepare them for reconciliation with other Christians. Many aim at conversion rather than reconciliation. The Catholic Church deserves better as it enters the third millennium.

(Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, is Professor and Chair of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA)


1. (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1982).

2. John Hotchkin, "The Ecumenica1 Movement's Third Stage," Origins 25 (November 9, 1995), 356.

3. (Geneva: Lutheran World Federation, 1985).

4. (Princeton, NJ: COCU, 1985).

5. "Toward Full Communion and "Concordate of Agreement," Lutheran-Episcopa1 Dialogue, Series III, ed. William A. Norgren and William G. Rusch (Minneapolis: Augsberg; Cincinnati: Forward Movement Publications, 1991).

6. See A Common Calling: The Witness of Our Reformation Church in North America Today, (Augburg, 1993).

7. Together in Mission and Ministry, (London: Church House Publishing, 1993).

8. John Reumann, "Bridging a Historical Impasse: A Lutheran's Analysis of the U.S. Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue, Series III," Ecumenical-Trends, 25/11 (1996) 168, n. 4.

9. Karl Lehmann and Woflhart Pannrnberg [eds.], The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide? (Minneapolis MN: Fortress, 1990).

10. Hotchkin, "The Ecumenica1 Movement’s Third Stage," 360.

11. See Christian Century 40 (June 17, 1996), 62.

12. Ecumenical Movement's Third Stage, 361.

13. Walter Kasper, "Apostolic: Succession in Episcopacy in an Ecumenica1 Context," The Bicentennial Lecture, ed. Rudi Ruckmann (Baltimore, MD: St. Marys' Seminary & University, 1992), 1.

14. Ibid., 3.

15. Ibid., 8.

16. Ibid., 12.

17. Ibid., 15.

18. David N. Power, "Roman Catholic Theologies of Eucharistic Communion: A Contribution to Ecumenical Conversation," Theological Studies 57 (1996) 609.

19. John Paul II and George Carey, "The Next Step Towards Unity," Origins 26 (December 19, 1996) 442.

20. See Peter A. Huff, "New Apologists in America’s Conservative Catholic Subculture," Horizons 23/2 (1996) 242-260.

21. See Dan O'Neill, The New Catholics: Contemporary Converts Tell Their (New York: Crossroad, 1987).

22. Karl Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988).

23. Ibid., 321.

24. Ibid., 324.

25. See William G. Most, Catholic Apologetics Today: Answers to Modern Critics (Rockford, IL: TAN Books, 1986).

26. See Scott and Kimberly Hahn, Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993).

27. See Elizabeth Altham "Protestant Pastors on the Road to Rome," Sursum Concordae/Special Edition 2-13.

28. The Coming Home Newsletter (June-August 1996) 2.

29. Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994), 14-15.

30. See for example, Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, 232; Kreeft, Fundamentatls of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988), 59-63.

31. See his pamphlet, No Apology from the new apologists (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 1997) 13-18.

32. Huff, "New Apologists," 251.

33. "The Ecumenical Movement’s Third Stage," 359.

34. Cf. Origins 23 (July 29, 1993).

35. Jeffey Gros, "Reception and Roman Catholicism for the 1990’s," One in Christ 31/4 (1995) 300-01.

36. Cf. Martin J. Marty, "What is Fundamentalism? Theological Perspectives," in Fundamentalism as an Ecumenical Challenge, ed. Hans Küng and Jürgen Moltmann (Concilium) (London: SCM, 1992) 4-13.

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7 posted on 12/02/2003 11:38:40 AM PST by american colleen
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To: NYer
Read the above and barf - part 3 pertains to the Apologists - Fr. Rausch disses them pretty good.
8 posted on 12/02/2003 11:40:38 AM PST by american colleen
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To: NYer
I've met them all through Bud MacFarlane and

they're all awesome!

You can't help but think great men as these are being raised up to help prepare the way and help prepare souls for some serious tribulations...
They all have warrior spirits for the Faith.
9 posted on 12/02/2003 11:44:06 AM PST by MudPuppy (Semper Fi!)
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To: redhead
From the first page, I was totally absorbed in this book and could NOT put it down! He was so thorough and meticulous in examining every subtle nuance of catholicism looking for an excuse NOT to join. Instead, the deeper he went to disprove catholicism, the greater the convictin that this was indeed the Church founded by Our Lord.

I particularly enjoyed the part where he goes to his dear friend Gerry Matatics for help. As they set out to find errors in catholicism, it is Gerry who ends up converting to catholicism before Scott.

The Scott Hahn Conversion Story

10 posted on 12/02/2003 11:45:09 AM PST by NYer (Keep CHRIST in Christmas!)
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To: american colleen
Why oh why is the Catholic Church trying to unite with such churches as ELCA which are pro-abort, ordain openly gay clergy, and are rapidly moving toward blessing same sex marriages? Honestly, this just doesn't make sense and makes me wonder what in the heck is going on.
11 posted on 12/02/2003 11:51:08 AM PST by k omalley
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To: american colleen
Are the Jesuits still considered Catholic?
12 posted on 12/02/2003 12:00:59 PM PST by conservonator (If so accused could they be convicted?)
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To: NYer
I have "The Lord's Supper" as well as a couple of other books by Scott Hahn. I couldn't believe how much I learned ---- how much I never knew about the Mass --- sometimes a convert sees things that we either take for granted or just don't think about unless someone points them out. The big thing I was amazed about is how every aspect of the Mass is found in the Bible.
13 posted on 12/02/2003 12:04:20 PM PST by american colleen
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To: k omalley
Who knows. My ECLA M-I-L is always telling me how similar the Catholic Church and the Lutherans are. I just smile. You know what? If she goes by what happens in most parishes or what she knows from listening to most Catholics, she's probably not incorrect.

I always thought the "Joint Declaration" between the ECLA and the Catholics was kind of dodgy. Lots of words and lots of paper to come to the conclusion that the Lutherans agree that the Catholic Church doesn't teach that you get to heaven by doing good works and then agreeing that Mr. Luther had some legit complaints. Whoopee.

14 posted on 12/02/2003 12:08:27 PM PST by american colleen
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To: conservonator
So sad that so many of them are like Fr. Rausch. The Jesuit Center in Boston is full of Jesuit priests that believe in the ordination of women and have a lot of problems with the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality and sexuality. Two of the three priests who lobbied the Mass legislature in favor of homosexual marriage are Jesuits. Both teach at Boston College.

Have you read "Are the Jesuits Catholic?" by Jesuit Father Paul Shaughnessy?

15 posted on 12/02/2003 12:14:52 PM PST by american colleen
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To: american colleen
Have you read "Are the Jesuits Catholic?" by Jesuit Father Paul Shaughnessy?

Yes, I have, this quote pretty much says it all...

"NONE OF THE MEN I know cares about being a priest," reports a man in charge of theological training. "What matters is being a Jesuit." A spiritual director in his fifties concurs, "If I could remain a Jesuit while joining the Quakers, I could be tempted."

16 posted on 12/02/2003 12:25:28 PM PST by conservonator
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To: american colleen
I couldn't believe how much I learned

Ditto! Their books should be required reading for everyone!

17 posted on 12/02/2003 12:32:31 PM PST by NYer (Keep CHRIST in Christmas!)
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To: american colleen
"Who knows. My ECLA M-I-L is always telling me how similar the Catholic Church and the Lutherans are. I just smile. You know what? If she goes by what happens in most parishes or what she knows from listening to most Catholics, she's probably not incorrect."

My brother and ELCA S-I-L would agree with her as would my pastor who often praises Martin Luthur in his sermons. His only criticism of ML (that I have heard) has been that he (ML) was too impatient.
btw, we sing more Lutheran songs in our church than Catholic hymns.
18 posted on 12/02/2003 12:38:43 PM PST by rogator
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To: NYer
Please feel free to post information on your favorites!

Vincent Lewis’ All Roads Ministry (ARM)

Robert Sungenis’ Catholic Apologetics International

Gerry Matatics’ Biblical Foundations International

19 posted on 12/02/2003 12:58:07 PM PST by Dajjal
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To: rogator
" His only criticism of ML (that I have heard) has been that he (ML) was too impatient.
btw, we sing more Lutheran songs in our church than Catholic hymns."

I have noticed that in the RCC hymnal, there are a number of hymns by old Marty. Kind of confuses me since anything my Martin Luther is on the banned list.

Does this make the RCC hymnal (I know it is not called that, but has been a long day) a banned book?
20 posted on 12/02/2003 1:00:37 PM PST by redgolum
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