Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Traditionalist Social Critic Kevin Tierney's Seeming Love-Hate Relationship with Catholic Apologetics

 Patrick Madrid. Has he been -- along with Karl Keating and Fr. Brian Harrison --, irrelevant for "almost a decade"?

By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong

This struck me today when looking over a (public) post (6-20-14) from Kevin's Facebook page, in which he severely criticized Catholic Answers for providing a cruise. The line that particularly struck me was the following:

. . . to hear people [speak on the cruise] who haven't done anything relevant in almost a decade speak the same talking points they have been using the past two decades!

That seemed pretty harsh to me, and so I was curious to see who the speakers were. They included Karl Keating, Patrick Madrid, and Fr. Brian Harrison.

Imagine anyone who is at all familiar with the modern apologetics revival and Catholic Answers, saying that Karl Keating hasn't "done anything relevant in almost a decade"?! Same thing for Pat Madrid? These are two of the best and most influential apologists of our time, and I consider Keating literally the "father" of the current Catholic apologetics movement. Certainly Catholic Answers (love 'em or not) has the single largest influence in terms of Catholic apologetics (and very much for good).

Yet Kevin not only thinks neither man has done anything relevant for "almost a decade" (I wonder why he says "almost" there? So in 2004 they were relevant, but not in 2005?), but also that what they have done for the last "two decades" was merely "talking points." I guess that is how Kevin describes apologetics: talking points: as if it were mere political rhetoric or something rambled off that is of little lasting or intrinsic importance. If Madrid defends and explains Sacred Tradition or if Keating explains how sola Scriptura is illogical and unworkable (or any of a host of other topics they write or talk about), this helps no one; does little good, since it is merely "talking points."

Fr. Brian Harrison, too, is a highly respected priest among "traditionalists."

I became further curious to see what Kevin has stated about apologetics in general on his now defunct website, Common Sense Catholicism. Here he is writing on 25 January 2011:

I have never been an “anti-apologist.” I think the apologetics movement within Catholicism in the last 35 years is one of the most important trends in the Church in the 20th century. The apologetics movement has provided a valuable frontline defense against those who seek to attack the Church.

Good; yet somehow Keating and Madrid (two of the biggest names in the movement, by any reckoning) have been irrelevant for the past decade and merely have regurgitated tired "talking points" for the last twenty years? Nuh-uh. That's beyond ridiculous.

There is some considerable irony here, too, insofar as Kevin has recently been doing quite a bit of analysis of how bad communication and ethics are online (see, e.g., his last blog post after he decided to forsake blogging).

Kevin contends that there are too many feuds and wars going on among Catholics online, and that this is scandalous and pathetic. One person puts another down, and perhaps the other responds, and it goes on and on.

Now, how is this trashing of the work of Keating, Madrid, and Fr. Harrison at all edifying, or a counter-example to what Kevin has rightly (for the most part) been decrying? Perhaps he can explain the difference of principle to us.

It's one thing to make a critique of a cruise as too materialistic or whatever. That seems to me to be fair game and a legitimate discussion. But saying that seminally influential full-time Catholic apologists have done nothing of relevance for "almost a decade" is clearly over the top and out of line.

Kevin dramatically (with a big bang) gave up on blogging as a hopeless cause, and then writes this garbage on Facebook three weeks later? I guess he thinks anything goes there . . . Very curious reasoning . . . I condemn untrue personal insults, period, wherever they occur: Facebook, the blog world, the Internet in general,  the paper or broadcast media, on the phone, talking on a bus or in a coffee shop; wherever.

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Mark Alan said...

Hello Mr. Armstrong

This post explains one of the many reasons I left the "radCath" movement. You don't see many hardcore "traditionalist" going head-to-head with many of the protestants as far as debates or evangelization. There is always a double standard among them when it comes to "their faith" the pre-VII Catholic Church.

God Bless you, Mr. Keating and Mr. Madrid and all the other fine people who are at least at the front lines every day. The cruise isn't just about R&R, their are speakers, events, and stops that are used in teaching and showing the beautiful, rich history of our Catholic Faith.

Dave Armstrong said...

I would consider Kevin "traditionalist" (per the title) and not a radical Catholic reactionary; yet some of the hostile attitudes can overlap between the two groups and there is some fluidity.

I have complained for years that both groups (but mostly the RadCathRs) seem to underemphasize apologetics and overemphasize publicly running down the Church. There is also a curious, frequently observed animus against converts.

On the other hand, there are many traditionalists who like apologetics; lots who like my own work; I know that.

Dave Armstrong said...

I meant to include evangelization in what was underemphasized, too . . .

Mark Alan said...

Yes, you are right in many ways about hostility or "luke-warmness" towards converts. Saw it all too often and usually resulted in being driven out of Mass attendance and into the arms of another parish. Sometimes, it's as if they believe you have to be "born a Traditionalist" in order to truly qualify as a "Traditionalist". I received a lot of cold shouldering when I tried to make friends.

dmw said...

I move fluidly through traditionalist and what some would call "neo-Catholic" and also more progressive Catholic groups. In an social structure there is a great deal of self-referentialism, no paraphrase Pope Francis. I don't think this is a trait particular to Catholic traditionalists, though perhaps they are more vocal. They, through the accidents of history, do have more of the Church's more strongly worded teachings and positions on their side.

Concerning the unease some may have toward the institutions and personae of "pop apologetics" in America, I think there is some need to re-evaluate certain methodologies. I cut my teeth as a young man back in the mid-90s on the myriad of Scott Hahn tapes put out by St. Joseph Communications. Today, there is nothing more laughably obsolete than a "tape set" or distributing a single audio cassette talk. I think the veterans of Catholic apologetics are viewed by some as, ironically so, stuck in the past. Yes, there are those today who would still buy a 12-hour set of Dr. Hahn's talks ripped uncontextually from one his undergrad classes and repackaged with a hefty price tag and a flashy title, but those people are aging fast.

Now that veteran apologists, even like you, Mr. Armstrong, are entering New Media and engaging on Facebook and Twitter, I am told by my middle school students that "no one uses that anymore...except my parents!"

I don't know where the future of apologetics might find itself, but I hope it isn't one wherein a Catholic meeting a stranger on the bus might say, "Hello, friend, why don't you visit my blog and learn more about the Church."

Dave Armstrong said...

It's always been the case that Catholics are to use whatever media are available for the glory of God. Whatever helps to get the message out to the largest number and most diverse number of people is a good thing.

If I had an evangelistic opportunity on person I would gladly do that, then at the end tell them about my blog and Facebook and booksite, so they can benefit from 2,550 free blog papers and daily stuff at Facebook.

I don't see why it has to be either/or. It's all to the same purpose: get the message out. Time is short; laborers are few.

Dave Armstrong said...

"on person" = "in person."

dmw said...

Mr. Armstrong, I am not in disagreement with you. My final point was more of the juxtaposition between: "Hello, friend, have you met Jesus?" and, "Hello, friend, have you read my blog?"