VATICAN CITY (CNS): The rise of “new atheism” and the popularity of books that distort Church doctrines call for a “new apologetics” to explain and defend the Christian faith, United States Cardinal William Levada said.
Proclaiming the good news always involves explaining and defending the faith, tailored to the sensibilities of particular times and places, Cardinal Levada, who is prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said.
The cardinal spoke on April 29 at a conference on “a new apologetics” at the Legionaries of Christ-run Pontifical Regina Apostolorum University in Rome.
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 was still needed today because Catholics in every age were called to explain the reasons for their faith and their hope, the cardinal said.
“If apologetics was criticised and largely abandoned in the wake of the Second Vatican Council for being too defensive or too aggressive, it is perhaps because the admonition to proceed with ‘courtesy and respect’ had too often been ignored,” he said.
Today, with “the likes of Richard Dawkins and his fellow apostles of the so-called ‘new’ atheism addressing thousands on college campuses, with books caricaturing the doctrines and philosophy of the Christian tradition on the best-seller lists”, the cardinal said, “how ripe are the times for a new apologetics!”
Defending the faith did not mean being defensive and, to be effective, it must be well thought out and based on “a renewed fundamental theology where faith and reason, credibility and truth are explored as necessary foundations of the Catholic Christian faith”, he said.
He added that even the most convinced and clever arguments would not be an effective response to criticism of the Catholic faith unless they were accompanied by the personal witness of Catholics living holy lives and helping others.
The cardinal suggested an effective starting point would be to “focus on the beauty of God’s creation”.