When I was first ordained, I studied apologetics. It is equipping yourself with the best answers to questions of what and why you believe. Apologetics was practiced by St Paul and is best represented by the biblical passage of 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
For the first years of my priesthood, I defended the faith mostly from Protestants who disagree with doctrines such as Mary, purgatory, the Mass, the sacraments, as well as refuting reformation principles, that the bible does not support. Relatively easily done because biblical presentations show how biblical the Catholic Church is and where her doctrine never contradicts sacred scriptures. I was not called anti-Protestant or bigoted for teaching the truth of the faith with gentleness and respect.
Later the apologetics changed to focusing on the new atheists (actually nothing new), humanists, agnostics and secularists. I had to learn to defend fundamental truths like the existence of God, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the death of Jesus and His bodily resurrection, the existence of the Holy Trinity, the supernatural world of angels and saints, heaven, hell, purgatory and life after death. We defended the existence of sin and the need for atonement and a savior.
The questions asked were not new, so the answers came from Church history and those who have defended the faith before. Answers always can be found that are reasonable and clear though the questioner may not fully receive them. Reason and faith rule all apologetics. When you can show reasonably what and why you believe, there can be a dialogue. It is when reason is absent, and it is totally driven by a faith that there can be no dialogue. This was Pope Benedict’s insight when speaking about a terrorist faith that has no reasonable foundation. In these discussions on the existence of God, I was never called a bigot for simply dialoguing with an agnostic about faith and reason and showing how reasonable it is to believe in God.
Where are we now? We are desperately in need of new apologetics on human sexuality. We need to use reason and faith like all apologetics to counter the confusion. People don’t understand the treasures in the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
If someone says to you, I left the Church or I am not Catholic because I don’t believe what the church teaches. What do they generally mean? Most likely, they are saying I don’t believe in the sexual teaching of the Church. It is not the doctrine of the incarnation or the virgin birth that people are struggling with, but the human sexual teaching of the Church. So typically, if someone asked you the reason for your hope in the vision of the human person, you would share the teaching of the Church on human sexuality with gentleness and respect, showing that the teaching of the Church provides for the best of human flourishing. But the truth is, most Catholics and even many priests are not equipped to do this.
We are mostly silent as the secular culture wins battle after battle, promoting a vision of the human person in contradiction to what the Church believes and reason can defend. From sex outside of marriage to same-sex marriage, from divorce to contraception, from abortion to reproductive technologies, from modesty to pornography, from homosexuality to transgender identity, we don’t know how to speak to others about these issues. We need to share what the Church teaches, thus sharing the hope it provides our time.
The Church has a truth for our time that can bring hope to the moral chaos that surrounds us. Someone once said to me they felt like we are living in a bizarre parallel universe where right is now wrong, up is down and men are women and women are men. This universe came upon us at lightning speed, and the moral compass needed to deal with these confusions of the human person is challenging to find. A real issue is how to explain to children and teens the teachings of the Church to help them surf through these stormy waters.
Kids right now are dealing with every sexual issue imaginable, and many TV shows and movies are promoting certain sexual positions that contradict the solid and reasonable teachings of the Church. Often, if you do begin to explain with gentleness and respect the Church’s teachings on these sexual issues, you are met with an unreasonable response and name-calling.
What to do? Well, I suggest a book for those interested in forming children in the teaching of the Church and the above issues enumerated. I find this book most helpful because first, it takes every issue in three parts. First, the book presents the concrete teaching of the Church on these issues. Second, it teaches parents how to speak to a child and then how to speak to a teen about the same issue. The book is “Made This Way, How to Prepare Kids to Face Today’s Tough Moral Issues,” by Leila Miller and Trent Horn.
We are searching to find an anchor and a direction for our culture. It can’t be different than the created beauty of the human person in line with the purpose and design of the creator. Silence is not an option these days. If we don’t speak up or teach our kids, then the world will, and they will not have the firm foundation to build a life of moral clarity and happiness. We need new apologetics that is willing to fight for our right to share the vision of Christ and His Church. The theme should be silent no more. Yes, there is a need to save the world, and we can’t lose this purpose of the Church. Preach the good news in every season, so the saving vision of Christ can touch our hearts, home and even our sexuality. John 8:32 says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”