Dolan: Catholics must be prepared to defend their faith

Archbishop Dolan gave a strongly worded and provocative speech the other morning in Los Angeles that is getting a lot of attention in the Catholic blogosphere.

At the L.A. Catholic Prayer Breakfast, where he was introduced by Cardinal Mahony, Dolan called for new era of Catholic apologetics to help prepare Catholics to defend the faith.

He described apologetics as “the art of credibly, convincingly and compellingly defending and presenting our faith.”

Dolan described an annual rite of September, when Catholic parents tell him that their son or daughter, a freshman in college, has a new roommate or friend who has terrible things to say about Roman Catholicism.

He said that Catholics need a “steady, humble, cheerful confidence, a rational grounding in our Catholic faith.”

They need to be able to explain why “The Catholic Church is the one, true, holy, catholic and apostolic faith.”

He also asked young people in the audience: “Are you prepared to defend your Catholic faith against those who want to take it from you and who will feel they are doing you a big fat favor by liberating you from the shackles of this oppressive, corrupt, superstitious, unbiblical, irrational, anti-Christ church?”

In L.A., Dolan also described the mass exodus of Catholics from their church as the “number one pastoral problem we confront today.”

“People are renouncing membership, leaving the church or joining others,” he said.

In addition to practicing apologetics, he said, Catholics need to emphasize a new model of the church — “The church as our spiritual family” — and to “fess up” to the sinful, human side of the church.

“One of the reasons we have a growing number of ex-Catholics is that they have been shocked, saddened and scandalized by the sinful actions of Catholics, including her clergy and hierarcy.”

It was a passionate talk, which you can watch HERE, and was well received by what appears to be a large audience.

One priest from Alabama cheered Dolan’s call for a new apologetics on his blog: “No one wins a chess match by making one move and waiting to see what the opponent might do. Part of the strategy of great chess player is anticipating the opponent’s move and being prepared for it. We want our young people (who are the laity of the present and the future) to be able, calming and confidently, to deflect all these sad, stereotypical objections with ease. But such ease, even on a football field or in a battlefield, comes only with practice and proper equipment.”

And a Carmelite sister who was at the breakfast wrote of his remarks: “As Archbishop Dolan speaks I am captured by the truth of his words and deeply moved, strengthened in my love for the Church which is weak and broken like me, but outside of which I would be completely lost.”

Dolan was, in the end, typically hopeful and positive. And he did share some good news, too: “Thanks to immigration, the church is still growing.”