Saturday, October 07, 2006

Open Letter to the Catholic Apologetics Community Regarding Unnecessary and Unedifying Internal Conflict (Guest Editorial)

Over the last two years, I have noticed a disturbing trend of internecine conflict within the Catholic apologetics community. We Catholic apologists are a contentious lot and we enjoy a good argument. Now, though, instead of arguing with the critics of our faith, we are starting to argue amongst ourselves. In many cases the issues at stake have been political or personal and have had little to do - if at all - with Catholicism or its defense against its detractors. In fact, the rhetoric has gotten so out of hand that we are now attacking each other's reputations and integrity.

Enough is enough.

My friend Dave Armstrong has been one of those who has been put under pressure and he felt the need to respond in kind on his blog. Dave has been doing Catholic apologetics for 25 years [correction: Catholic apologetics for 15 years, and Protestant / general Christian apologetics for another ten before that] and has published articles in the Catholic Answers' magazine This Rock along with several books on apologetics. He also maintains a comprehensive apologetics website that is one of the great resources that is available to Catholic defenders of the faith. I have used his site quite often and I have found it an indispensable tool.

The tone of Dave's response concerned me and so I wrote to him. He showed me that he was responding in like manner to those who had attacked him. After some discussion, Dave agreed to unilaterally remove the response from his blog. We agreed that the continued in-fighting was undermining the credibility of Catholic apologists and giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the Catholic faith. Furthermore, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we should be willing to suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel and seek reconciliation instead of escalation of the conflict.

It was in this spirit that I asked Dave to allow me to publish this note on his site calling upon all Catholic apologists to cease and desist with ad hominem attacks. It is entirely legitimate for us to air differences of opinion amongst ourselves and in some cases to discuss issues in the public forum for the good of the Church. But once we have made our views known and discussed them frankly, we should have the grace and courage to reconcile when we can or agree to disagree and move on. There is no justification for continuing the disagreement beyond the issues to make accusations concerning the integrity or motivation of one's opponents.

I am calling upon the members of the Catholic apologetics community to examine themselves and seek the advice of their spiritual directors. It is not sufficient to consider oneself to be "in the right." We must also seek to do what is charitable and what will best serve the mission of the Catholic Church. We must seek the greatest good overall even if it means sacrificing any putative rights or claims with regard to our our own dignity.

I respect the need at times to take a principled stand and I am not asking that we apologists stop doing this. Rather, I am asking that we practice fraternal correction when necessary in the spirit of the Gospel and that we stick to the issues. When we may disagree amongst ourselves, we should do so in a spirit of mutual respect. None of us has the right to set the moral or academic standards for other people. We should all seek to conduct ourselves in a Christian fashion regardless of the way that others may act. Our Lord and Savior advised us to the turn the other cheek and we need to take him seriously.

For my part, I want to apologize to any of our community that may have been offended by comments I have made in the recent past. I have the utmost respect for the members of this informal community: all of whom perform an irreplaceable service to Christ and His Church. I thank Dave for his response to my concerns and for letting me use his site to publish my views. As always, Catholic apologists remain in my prayers. God bless and keep you all.

Art Sippo MD

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