17 February 2013

Apologetics, Again

This began as a post, moved on to be a comment on something of Ben's and then became a post here again.

If anybody wondered what "post-Christian" meant, then the reaction to the debate on same-sex "marriage" should have shown them that apart from the militant atheism of a substantial number of people in our country, the vaguely Christian world view with which many people still identified a generation ago ("he put C of E down as his religion as that was the church he didn't go to") has been replaced by a mire of moral relativism in which if something that suits me must be good for me, then something that suits you must be good for you, and that condemnation is a uniquely fundamentalist stance, unless it's a moral relativist condemning somebody else's moral absolutism (though they'd probably say they weren't condemning so much as #justsaying - a moral relativist's way of having your cake and your ha'penny).

I noted, nearly four years ago, that post-Christian religion had begun to find its voice, and in less than four years, it seems to have mainstreamed in the Church of  England.  The issue of women "bishops" is to be resolved not within the structures of the C of E, but by ignoring them: if they don't produce a result which secular society recognises as "fair", then the structures are wrong; if Parliament legislates for gay "marriage" then the C of E will have to adapt and conform to a changing society (no doubt to remain "relevant").

We can't be complacent: at Mass toaday I heard a parish priest at Mass saying that we always have the right Pope because the Holy Spirit stops Cardinals voting for the wrong on,e and was told that supporting CAFOD was the culmination of our Catholicsm.

This country, Catholic, non-Catholic, post-Catholic - everyone - needs to be re-evangelised.  Three of us specifically - OTSOTA, Ben, me - have looked at the inter-war Catholic Evidence Guild as a model: not "let's recreate the Catholic Evidence Guild" so much as "look at how profoundly and systematically Catholic evangelists were grounded in their Faith before being sent out into the streets to proclaim their Faith".  I'm putting words into their mouths here, but I think I can confidently say that we have offered a model which, suitably adapted, could be a vehicle for the re-evangelisation of England and Wales, and have issued a challenge to anybody to find something better.

There are two problems which, as things stand, will prevent anything like this happening: the first is the lack of a committed body of people with both the faith and the teaching skills needed to identify, train, and organise the people who would carry this out.  The second is that the people who should be that committed body - the Bishops and their staffs - are unlikely to be interested: they probably think that their RCIA courses have already answered this. 

Ben put it like this:

What I would like to see, therefore, is a programme, made widely (and if possible freely) available that would help lay Catholics throughout the UK to develop as apologists. It seems to me that some of the important elements of this would be:

  • Good spiritual direction and formation;
  • A structured programme of study of the Faith (possibly based largely on resources already freely available), supported by both philosophy and rhetoric;
  • Local support, possibly small groups meeting both to discuss and check their understanding, but also to practice putting it across convincingly and dealing with questions and objections;
  • A wider community of support, where issues can be discussed, and questions raised and answered;
  • A small team to make it happen.

The growth of the Catholic presence on the internet clearly supports some of these well, but others are best done on a local level (subsidiarity and all that!)

This would, of course, be a long term programme; indeed, I think it would need to be a lifelong one, so inexhaustible are the riches of the Faith. But that is no reason not to start; quite the contrary.

So I would like to ask you to pray about this, as I shall do, throughout Lent. And at Easter, I will revisit the topic and if others believe it to be a worthwhile project, explore how we can make it happen. But 40 days of prayer seems to me the best way to start.

Please join us in praying for this.  If you need a focus, imagine how the forthcoming period of Sede Vacante, Conclave, election and inauguration could be exploited by trained evangelists who set out to bring this country back to God.

Update: Marianne's comments in the combox suggest that this might not be as unaffordable as I had thought.  More food for thought as we pray.


Ben Trovato said...

Yes, this is truly important: thanks for highlighting it again. I have added some further thoughts and information over at my blog.

Anonymous said...

What about this?


Anonymous said...

Sorry meant this one, although the other one would be good too


Ttony said...

The problem is that £6825, 15 hours per week study, and the academic formation and inclination are not available to many people who would otherwise make sound apologists. This is a part of the answer, i'm sure, but not all of it.

Keep praying.

Mike Cliffson said...

Amongst other churning thunks a nd slight misgivings, I note your profile of preparation is
as ought to be something right up Opus Dei's street.
I understand there is one; but one swallow, swallowable or otherwise, as twere, doesn't make a summer, and may not be representative of what the flock can do.

Marianne said...

Hi, I am a Maryvale graduate and associate member of the staff,running the two year Maryvale Cerificate in Catechesis at two centres in London- we have centres in the USA,Africa, Ireland etc. Perhaps the course you are looking for, as a doctrinal foundation, is this the Certificate In Studies in the Catechism, 6 modules £80 per module or £55 permodule to audit i.e no submission of written work and therfore no formal qualification. you could then supplement it with additional lectures, materials, etc. Just a thought!!

Marianne said...

Sorry, meant to leave a link, :http://www.maryvale.ac.uk/index.php?id=208
Maryvale provides three residential weekends each year to support those on the course. Local groups can be set up or students may study on their own. I am very familiar with this course- excellent. God Bless.

Anonymous said...

I am a longstanding active member of Catholic Answers. Also, I was a student of Maryvale and pursued Part I of their MCC (Hello, Marianne!).

I would be most interested in support at Parish level as I believe that we walk before we run. What do you propose for Catechetical apologetics in a Parish where unsound catechesis is entrenched? Short of abandoning my Parish, one despairs for support.

God bless

Marianne said...

Hello Sonia! Re support and being in a parish where unsound Catechetical apologetics is entrenched- I think there needs to be some kind of countrywide noticeboard/forum to advertise where sound catechetical/apologetics programmes are being run. Besides my work at Maryvale I also work at parish level as a Catechetical Co-ordinator and present programmes throughout the year for anyone interested in coming- both within and outside the parish. But where to advertise- suggestions most welcome.

Jim said...

I am a Maryvale BADiv graduate, now in the final year of the Apologetics MA which Marianne posted earlier. My dissertation topic is on the American New Apologetics and the aplicability of American materials to Britain.

In our local area, I have used Fr Barron's Catholicism series as well as Jeff Cavins Great Adventure over the last few years.

This initiative sounds excellent and I'd like to help.