By Selina Venier
APOLOGETICS has nothing to do with apologising.
That’s what Sydney’s Robert Haddad hoped to convey to young people at this year’s Ignite Conference.
“Young people might mistakenly think apologetics is somehow about apologising but at its fundamental level, it’s about giving answers to the ‘why’ questions,” Mr Haddad said after presenting an Ignite keynote address.
“We teach young people all the ‘what’ when they do classical catechesis. Apologetics answers all the legitimate questions from Catholics, converts and questioners to give a deeper explanation.
“Legitimate questions deserve intelligent answers … (and) apologetics explains how the ‘what’ is based in scripture and the apostolic tradition of the Church.”
Mr Haddad, author of 1001 Reasons it’s Great to be Catholic, said he encouraged his four children, aged 10 to 17 years, to consider other religions through the lens “of the one, true, faith”.
“The Catholic Church is not a community of blind faith,” he said.
“We are people of faith and reason and we can give explanation to what we believe.
“I give my children an appreciation of the fullness of truth that only the Catholic Church possesses and everything else has to be measured against that fullness.”
As well as educating his children about the fundamental truths of the Catholic faith, Mr Haddad said he did not shield them from the reality of the world.
“I make my children aware of right and wrong, good and bad and what’s out there that’s a danger,” he said.
“I don’t go out of my way to isolate them because they have to stand on their own two feet in the real world.
“I make them street wise, especially about what’s in mainstream media.”
Mr Haddad said mainstream media “is either silent or negative” about the Catholic Church and he hoped young people “don’t fall for it”.
“I want young people to see through what they hear every day (about the Catholic Church),” he said.
“I want them to say, ‘Hey, let’s stop and look again’ because there are many, many great things about the Catholic Church, the untold story.
“I want people to embrace their faith as intentional disciples.”
Inspired by youthful faith at Ignite and attending as a representative of Sydney archdiocese in his role in the “new evangelisation”, Mr Haddad said his passion for highlighting the Church’s beauty and truth stemmed from a childhood of somewhat unintentional faith practise.
“I was born into a Catholic family but had an incomplete upbringing in terms of faith, in terms of Mass attendance and accessing the sacraments,” he said.
“I came to more active faith remotely, because of contact with non-Catholic Christians.”
The law, theology, philosophy and religious education expert promptly recalled when he “committed” himself to Jesus Christ.
“It was May 1979 at Randwick,” he said of an invitation to attend an ecumenical event in Sydney.
“I never had any intention of leaving the Catholic Church, it was just that I’d never had any clear answers on all these controversial teachings, beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church.
“My Baptist friends and Anglican friends at Sydney Law School would ask me about things and I had no answers.”
Mr Haddad, now 53, said he “was enthused to know the answers” and they came somewhat unexpectedly.
“The answers to my questions came through the providence of God,” he said.
“At a friend’s house I found the book, The Question Box, by Fr Conway from New York. I read that book and was astonished at the depth of the answers.”
Mr Haddad said he remembered being impressed by the book’s “scriptural basis and quotes from our Church fathers”.
“These, all together, where overwhelmingly in favour of the doctrine of the real presence in the Eucharist,” he said.
With certainty about the foundations of the “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church”, Mr Haddad travels nationally and internationally to give greater voice to the Church’s authenticity and relevance.
At the helm of New Evangelisation for the Sydney Catholic Schools Office, Mr Haddad leads staff and educators in faith formation and ministry and lectures in Apologetics at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney.
He’s authored many books including the popular Defend the Faith and the newly released Jesus Played Marbles, for children and families.
Unpacking some of the “1001 Reasons it’s Great to be Catholic” to Ignite participants, Mr Haddad focused on the themes of the book’s 10 chapters.
He spoke to the value of tradition by asking, “What mechanism exists in the Church to keep the Church united in faith and morals?
“Councils, the bishops of the world,” he answered his own question.
“The Holy Spirit works in the Church through the mechanism of the councils … (and) councils define a doctrine.
“Doctrines don’t restrict us (as Catholics), they liberate us.”
Mr Haddad said “we live in an age where everything is up for grabs”, and he took solace in knowing the Catholic Church’s teachings were unchangeable.
“At least when I go to a Catholic church I know its teaching will be defined,” he said.
“Certain forms of worship can be changed but teaching cannot.
“I know what we say in the Creed was a development of the first council.
“We take it for granted that this (the Creed) is the faith … (but) councils have given us certainty about Jesus.”
Mr Haddad offered wisdom from “contrasting popes” in Church history, revealing their differences and how culture and practices of the Church evolved.
He spoke directly from the 10 chapters of 1001 Reasons it’s Great to be Catholic, saying each began with a rationale to offer the “why” of its relevance.
“Essentially I wanted to put out a positive message about the Catholic Church,” Mr Haddad said.
“The chapters each explain what’s in the media that’s negative and how what follows put a positive message about the Catholic Church.
“I want people to come to a realisation that what they belong to is something incredibly beautiful.”
Mr Haddad is hopeful of bringing youth leaders and Sydney archdiocesan staff to future Ignite conferences.
“I’m very happy to be associated with Ignite (Conference) and to keep being associated,” he said.
“I’m interested in exploring how the present structures and systems (of the Church) are not igniting our children, they aren’t retaining our children.
“We need these out-of-the-box events to ignite and trigger people into the realisation that they have a treasure.
“Young people can have a new life of faith, joy, hope and love on the basis of coming to know that fullness of truth.”
For more information about Mr Haddadís work go to www.roberthaddadcatholicapologist.com