When having a conversation with someone who is ignorant or hostile to Catholic teaching, a reasoned, gentle defense is most effective
You are sitting at your son’s soccer game, enjoying the crisp weather and your boy’s joy for the game. Then you hear someone nearby say “Catholic Church,” then “divorce”; suddenly the hair on your neck stands on end and your body tenses.
You realize that two parents next to you are criticizing the Church; they notice you looking at them and ask, “What do you think?”
Now that we live in a post-Christian world, every one of us encounters situations like this. The Catholic Church teaches certain precepts that are simply unacceptable — antithetical, even — to the modern ethos. Standing by those precepts, we open ourselves to criticism and even attack. Furthermore — and sadly — there are scandals surrounding some Church figures that open Catholics up for easy condemnation.
Be preparedSo what are Catholics to do? How do we respond? What are our obligations in these situations?
In a time of persecution in a deeply pagan culture, our first pope, St. Peter, wrote to his fellow Christians, “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pt 3:15, RSV). This is an oft-quoted Scripture passage, especially among evangelists and apologists, but not quoted as frequently are St. Peter’s next words, “yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pt 3:15b, RSV).
Thus we have the guidelines laid out for how we are to react when our faith is challenged or defamed:
◗ Be prepared to make a defense.
◗ Do so with gentleness and reverence.
So, how do we go about following St. Peter’s command?
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