By Raymond De Souza, KM
Who does not remember the action-packed first Indiana Jones movie — Raiders of the Lost Ark — that delighted adventure and archeology-lovers in the early 1980s?
The idea of finding the Ark of the Covenant — the most sacred object in the ancient world — did certainly attract the attention of millions who were — and still are — puzzled about its loss in the Old Testament. The first Indiana Jones movie certainly did a great deal to reawaken the curiosity and desire among many to know what happened to the mysterious Ark.
The challenging tune chosen for the movie (especially the trumpets, in my opinion) added a touch of enthusiasm second to none in the search and finding of the missing Ark.
I saw the movie for the third time in the mid-1990s, in New Zealand. Of course, I knew that it was entirely fiction, and yet it gave me the idea of revitalizing the search for a lost Art — the lost Art of Catholic Apologetics “down under.” That is, thinking with clarity about the objective Truth, putting logic at the service of the Catholic faith in a culture soaked with relativism.
I had the privilege to do so in the Diocese of Christchurch, in New Zealand, counting on the blessing of the ordinary of the time, the Most Rev. Basil Meeking. Later on, in Australia, again with the support of the ordinary, the Most Rev. Barry Hickey, archbishop of Perth and metropolitan of Western Australia, I continued the promotion of Catholic apologetics in the archdiocese and beyond. The motto was “re-evangelize the baptized,” as John Paul II said in Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
Here in the United States, in my capacity as director of the Office of Evangelization and Apologetics of the Diocese of Winona (the Most Rev. John Quinn is the local ordinary), I am once again privileged with the opportunity to help the local Church in the promotion of the New Evangelization of Faith and Reason — Catholic Apologetics.
(By the way, I was told that the Winona Diocese is considered by many locals to be the solid pedestal of orthodoxy upon which Minnesota is built — but of course people in other dioceses in the 10,000 Lakes state may have a different opinion.)
From St. Justin Martyr in the second century to Scott Hahn in the 20th, both cradle Catholics and converts to the Church have found joy and delight in defending the faith handed down to us by the apostles.
Perhaps the most pressing factor that revitalized apologetics is the “dictatorship of relativism” that is confronting the once Christian West, a dictatorship that was denounced by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at the homily of the Mass of the conclave that elected him Pope. On the same occasion, he also taught that “Catholics cannot remain immature in the faith, as they run the risk of being tossed away here and there by any doctrinal wind.”
Accordingly, those who believe that teaching the truth does not require refuting error fall prey to the trap of religious liberalism, because no Christian formation, especially in our days, is adequate without apologetics.
Since the cultural and moral ravages of the 1960s, when the Sorbonne Revolution coined the slogan Il est interdit d’interdire (“It is forbidden to forbid”) — followed by the crisis of faith in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council — an unbridled, euphoric, and misguided ecumenism has penetrated virtually every sphere of Catholic endeavor. As a result, the defense of the faith has been largely ignored, if not altogether abandoned.
In the words of William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “The development and use of apologetics — a system of explaining and defending the truths of faith — largely went out of fashion with the Second Vatican Council, but is still needed today because Catholics in every age are called to explain the reasons for their faith and their hope” (April 29, 2010, address at a conference on “A New Apologetics” at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University in Rome).
A great many Catholics today suffer from an unprecedented identity crisis. Mainstream media, peer pressure, and lack of formation are some of the factors causing a near-exodus of Catholics to other religions, such as the many branches of Protestantism, New Age, Islam, or just plain agnosticism. It is tragic that some of the basic tenets of the faith, such as the Divinity of Christ, the Real Presence, the Magisterium, and the role of Mary are seen by many as the opinions of a dying generation.
A New Apologetics
On May 15, 2002, John Paul II taught the bishops of the Antilles in their ad limina visit that: “It is essential in your particular Churches to develop a new apologetics for the people, so that they may understand what the Church teaches and thus be able to give reason for their hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15). For in a world where people are continuously subjected to the cultural and ideological pressure of the media and the aggressively anti-Catholic attitude of many sects, it is essential for Catholics to know what the Church teaches, to understand that teaching, and to experience its liberating power. A lack of understanding leads to a lack of the spiritual energy needed for Christian living and the work of evangelization.”
Grace abounds in the darkest times. Alongside the crisis, the Church has also seen the astounding growth of new movements of apologists: staunch men and women stand up to reaffirm the defense of Apostolic Tradition, the orthodox interpretation of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Magisterium.
The Lost Art of Catholic Apologetics has become increasingly popular today among lay Catholics, especially in the United States. Catholics in general are called to be proud to be a part of this new wave of missionaries — to reconquer America for Christ the King.
All Catholics must be empowered to believe, love, understand, proclaim, and defend the perennial doctrines preached by the apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the words of John Paul II, Catholics “cannot settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity.” He described them as “cafeteria Catholics.”
I am proud to be a part of this renewed effort with The Wanderer, and I invite all of our readers to make good use of the weekly articles in this new section of Catholic apologetics, to stand up for the faith and be counted among the new apologists of the third millennium. Let us put on the Armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) and earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 1:3).
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(Raymond de Souza is director of the Evangelization and Apologetics Office of the Winona Diocese, Minn.; an EWTN program host; regional coordinator for Portuguese-speaking countries for Human Life International (HLI); president of the Sacred Heart Institute, and a member of the Sovereign, Military, and Hospitaller Order of the Knights of Malta. His web site is www.raymonddesouza.com.)