Friday, January 16, 2009

Bishops' Support of Lay Catholic Apologetics: Refutation of Anti-Catholics' Ridiculously False Contentions

By Dave Armstrong (1-16-09)

Anti-Catholics make relentless potshots against Catholic apologists and lay Catholic apostolates such as Catholic Answers, and this nonsense that it is somehow opposed to bishops and the magisterium is a very tired lie.

One tires of explaining over and over and over how lay Catholic apologetics works; how it is thoroughly approved by the Catholic Church, and how all of the major apostolates have theological oversight from bishops and other clergy. To hear our (mostly anti-Catholic) Protestant critics describe it, you'd think we Catholic apologists were a bunch of loose cannons running around, completely independent and without oversight or checks and balances (in other words, a lot like many Protestant ministries).

Rarely are these charges ever documented. It's considered fashionable to simply make the accusation and spread it around, by means of mere hearsay and second- and third-hand rumors and innuendo, and the herd mentality that sadly predominates in so many Internet venues. But to document the contrary (i.e., the truth of the matter) is quite simple indeed.

As I have noted many times, the three most prominent Catholic apologetics magazines: This Rock, The Catholic Answer, and Envoy, were all begun and edited by cradle Catholics: Karl Keating, Fr. Peter Stravinskas, and Patrick Madrid, respectively. They had never gone through a "fundamentalist" phase (the charge we often hear), because that is primarily a Protestant thing: and a tiny subgroup at that (though many anti-Catholics delight in pretending that this is the case with your average or typical Catholic apologist). I never did myself. This becomes rather annoying after years and years of this trumpeting of false propaganda, like a mantra.

Another favorite tactic of anti-Catholics is to pit the pope and Catholic theologians against lay Catholic apologists, as if the pope is orthodox and we apologists are not (or we are -- what else? -- anti-intellectual "fundamentalists"), when in fact we agree.

"Private judgment" per se has nothing to do with "fundamentalism": let alone of the late 19th and early 20th century anti-intellectual, Know-Nothing variety. It came in with Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms in 1521, when he made himself a higher authority than Holy Mother Church. Once one denies the infallibility of the Church this is what happens. It's called private judgment.

The fact of the matter (man, I slipped again! sorry for being so factual . . . ) is that all the major apostolates have the oversight or at least enthusiastic recommendations of bishops. Catholic Answers, the largest of these, states that "our work has the approval of many bishops in the United States and other countries," but a list is not provided. On the other hand, surely if, for example, a bishop appears on Catholic Answers Live, this clearly implies a support and cooperation with the efforts of Catholic Answers. Otherwise he would not participate. And support in this latter sense is very easy to document. For example, from the Catholic Answers Live radio show (calendar going back to 1998):
Archbishop (Abp) Elden Curtiss 4-1-98 / 11-23-98 / 11-22-00 / 4-17-02 / 6-15-02 / 2-23-04 / 10-20-05 / 12-20-06 / 4-14-08
Abp Justin Rigali 4-15-98 / 8-23-99 / 4-11-01 / 8-20-02 / 9-15-03 / 8-8-08 (by then a Cardinal)
Bishop (Bp) Colin Campbell 4-30-98 / 8-27-98 / 2-25-02 / 5-19-04 / 2-15-08
Bp John J. Myers 5-15-98 / 12-18-00 / 3-23-05
Bp Fabian Bruskewitz 8-26-98 / 5-24-99 / 9-30-99 / 2-28-00 / 6-5-00 / 9-27-00 / 1-1-01 / 1-14-02 / 4-9-03 / 12-17-04 / 12-8-06 / 1-24-07 / 1-1-08 / 11-17-08 / 12-24-08
Bp Robert Brom 12-2-98
Bp Edward Slattery 3-1-99 / 9-1-99 / 2-27-04
Abp Charles Chaput 3-4-99 / 4-5-01 / 11-5-01 / 11-12-04 / 10-10-05
Bp James Timlin 4-8-99 / 2-15-02 / 6-27-03
Bp Thomas J. Tobin 6-10-99 / 9-13-99 / 12-10-01 / 9-29-03
Abp Edwin O’Brien 7-21-99 / 5-31-04 / 5-30-05 / 5-29-06
Bp Thomas Doran 10-14-99
Bp Charles DuFour 10-20-99
Bp Patrick Ahern 11-10-99
Abp Roberto Gonzalez 2-2-00
Abp Michael Sheehan 7-3-00 / 8-6-01 / 7-16-04
Bp Robert Vasa 10-17-01 / 9-15-04 / 8-16-06 / 7-18-07
Abp James Keleher 11-19-01
Abp Eusebius Beltran 6-17-02 / 2-14-03 / 2-28-03 / 7-31-06
Bp John D’Arcy 2-3-03 / 8-8-05 / 4-18-07
Abp Timothy Dolan 4-14-03 / 12-12-08
Bp Robert Morlino 4-23-03 / 12-5-03 / 12-1-04 / 10-18-06 / 5-16-08
Bp Salvatore Cordileone 6-11-03 / 11-7-03 / 3-23-04 / 7-23-04 / 10-8-04 / 12-10-04 / 2-24-05 / 4-14-05 / 6-1-05 / 12-21-05 / 3-3-06 / 5-3-06 / 7-19-06 / 11-29-06 / 9-21-07 / 11-21-07 / 2-15-08 / 5-16-08 / 7-23-08 / 10-22-08 / 1-14-09
Abp John Foley 8-6-04 / 9-20-06 / 1-24-07 / 3-23-07 / 5-18-07 / 6-15-07
Abp Raymond Burke 8-16-04 / 2-21-07 / 8-17-07
Abp Joseph Naumann 9-10-04
Bp Thomas Olmsted 11-19-04 / 2-3-06 / 5-26-06 / 5-18-07
Bp Samuel Aquila 2-2-05
Bp Donald Wuerl 9-7-05
Bp Blase J. Cupich 10-19-05 / 9-21-07
Maronite Chorbishop Richard D. Saad 2-1-06
Bp Sarhad Jammo 3-15-06 / 8-17-07
Abp Cyril Bustros 4-5-06
Bp Richard Seminack 7-19-06
Bp Robert William Finn 8-11-06 / 10-8-08
Bp John W. Yanta 9-8-06
Bp Joseph Younan 9-20-06
Bp James Wingle 2-23-07
Bp Robert Baker 3-23-07
Bp Ignatius C. Wang 10-24-07
Bp Allen Vigneron 2-11-08
Bp Joseph Estabrook 5-2-08 / 5-26-08
Bp Robert Carlson 2-25-09

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua 12-14-98
Cardinal Francis George 5-18-00 / 8-2-01 / 4-26-04
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn 6-7-02 / 12-21-07
Cardinal Francis Stafford 9-3-02
Cardinal Avery Dulles 9-6-02 / 8-26-05

I am quite confident that the reader gets the point by now. Bishops support the work of Catholic Answers. They not only support it; they also participate in it as well.

Another way of showing massive support of bishops of the largely lay-led apologetics movement is in noting recommendations of bishops, of lay Catholic apologetics books (on the back covers):

Karl Keating

Catholicism and Fundamentalism

"A valuable resource . . . highly readable and accurate presentation of both historical facts and religious truth" -- Abp. Philip Hannan (New Orleans)

What Catholics Really Believe

"I highly recommend this work to Catholics seeking better to understand our faith." -- Cardinal John J. O'Connor (New York)

The Usual Suspects

"For those who would seek not only the roots but the responses to voices against the Faith, Keating's book is a treasure." -- Cardinal John J. O'Connor (New York)

Scott Hahn

Rome Sweet Home (with Kimberly Hahn)

"A moving story of faith . . . " -- Cardinal John J. O'Connor (New York)

"I am happy to recommend the Hahns' new book. It is inspiring to read of the power of the faith which has gripped this couple . . ." -- Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua (Philadelphia)

"The story of the Hahns' journey of faith into the Catholic Church is a story of sincerity, integrity, and profound human interest." -- Bp. Fabian Bruskewitz (Lincoln, Nebraska)

Reasons to Believe

"An outstanding book." -- Bp. Charles J. Chaput (Denver)

"Scott Hahn offers that explanation in a clear, cogent, and compelling manner, by answering the most frequently raised questions about aspects of Church teaching. It is a must-read for Catholics who want to be able to explain the faith they hold and cherish. This work should be of immense value." -- Abp Donald W. Wuerl (Washington, D.C.)

Patrick Madrid

Surprised by Truth (which includes my conversion story)

"These converts have accepted that faith -- in each case at great cost. What they learned is here distilled in a masterpiece of Catholic apologetics." -- Bp. Charles J. Chaput (Denver)

Does the Bible Really Say That?

". . . a treasure trove of information, insight, and inspiration. His book will be a great help to Catholics who seek to understand and love their faith more deeply." -- Cardinal Edward Egan (New York)

"This is a wonderful, very readable exploration of Catholic teaching and its roots in Scripture. Highly recommended." -- Bp. Charles J. Chaput (Denver)

"Madrid's clear commentaries on church teaching will help everyone understand Catholic belief better . . . I highly recommend this book." -- Bp. Robert J. Baker (Charleston)

". . . a marvelous guide and encouragement for Catholcis to delve more deeply into the riches of sacred Scripture." -- Bp. Michael J. SWheridan (Colorado Springs)

Steve Ray

Upon This Rock

"This book defends Catholic teaching against the opposition . . . A rich documentation, a fine study." -- Cardinal Christoph Schonborn

Mike Aquilina

The Fathers of the Church

"Simply a great read . . . a clear, compelling, accessible primer . . . I highly recommend it." -- Abp. Charles J. Chaput (Denver)

 Someone on a discussion board noted:

Incidentally, all of Catholic Answers' tracts contain the imprimatur of the local bishop. See for example here:

which bears this imprimatur:

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004
Let's take another example: Patrick Madrid's Envoy Magazine. The most recent paper copy I have is Volume 8.2 (Nov/Dec 2008). Right beside the table of contents on p. 3 is the editorial board, which includes four priests. The Advisory Board includes six bishops:

Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, S.T.D. (Diocese of Birmingham)
Most Rev. Dominic Carmon (Auxiliary Bishop of New Orleans)
Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson (Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan)
Most Rev. Charles Chaput, O.F.M., CAP. (Archdiocese of Denver)
Most Rev. John J. Myers, J.C.D., J.D. (Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey)
Most Rev. Edward Slattery (Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma)
The Coming Home Network, the lay apostolate with which I was employed for three years as network apologist and head moderator of the discussion forum, also has similar oversight. As anyone can see on their page listing advisors, thee include two bishops and five very prominent priests, as well as a deacon.

Three of my books are published by Sophia Institute Press. On its website, one can see recommendations of the work of this publisher by many bishops and other notable figures (including Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II).

And that brings us to the question of whether my own work has oversight of bishops. In a direct or formal sense, no. Yet I am employed by an apostolate that has such oversight. I write books for two publishers (also Our Sunday Visitor) that have such oversight. My work in The New Catholic Answer Bible carries the Imprimatur. I've been on several radio shows that have such oversight. I've written for several magazines that have such oversight.

My first book was recommended (in its Foreword) by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. He was one of the most respected catechists in our time, was catechetical advisor to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, and was a close advisor to Pope Paul VI. His cause for sainthood is presently being considered. I have a dozen or more priests who are personal friends and who are enthusiastic about my work. I've taught at my own parish, etc. So I am accountable in all those various ways. Surely if I had committed some serious error and had strayed from orthodoxy, I would have been called on it by now. But it has never happened yet.

Another common charge made against converts who become apologists is that they jump right into their new profession, without proper grounding, or time passed. Is this true in my own case? Did I jump out and start doing Catholic apologetics right after I converted (and I was already a Protestant apologist who had even been on the radio and was a known cult researcher)? Nope. I've already documented this:
Conversion: October 1990

Received into the Church: 8 February 1991

First published article (and first time any Catholic apologetics I wrote was public): Jan/Feb 1993 (in The Catholic Answer)

[2 years + 4 mos. after my conversion]

First time having my writing included in a book: Sep. 1994 (Surprised by Truth)

[3 yrs + 11 mos. after conversion]

First time communicating Catholic apologetics on the Internet: March 1996

[5 yrs + 5 mos. after conversion]

First time having my own website: February 1997

[6 yrs + 4 mos. after conversion]

First time talking on the radio about my conversion / apologetics: 8 September 1997 [audio file / transcript]

[just under seven years after conversion]

First time having my book (A Biblical Defense of Catholicism) published (self-published): October 2001

[11 yrs after conversion]

First time doing full-time "professional" Catholic apologetics: December 2001

[11 yrs + 2 mos. after conversion]

First time having my book published by a "real" Catholic publisher: June 2003

[12 yrs + 8 mos. after conversion]

First time on the lecture circuit: never.

[I have given a few talks to small audiences here and there, though]

[more than 18 years after conversion and counting]

First time on EWTN television: never (have turned down offers to be on The Journey Home about five or six times now)

[more than 18 years after conversion and counting]
We dreaded "lay convert apologists" can repeat facts like these over and over, but does it ever do any good? Not against people who care so little about facts that they will make ludicrous charges (with a straight face) with almost no recourse to them. Whoever couldn't care less about facts and reason while constructing an "argument" will rarely be swayed when their presentation is proven by facts and reason to be mostly imaginary and mythical.


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