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.”

K of C: Young Catholics interested in faith, but open to relativism

I am always way leery of polls or surveys done by special-interest groups or groups with a clear point of view.

Almost every time, the poll happens to show public support for whatever point of view the group has or promotes.

That’s life, right?

So when I got an email promoting a “new survey of young Catholics” from the Knights of Columbus, I expected to open a press release proclaiming that all is right with the Catholic world from the point of view of young Catholics.

But no.

When I clicked on the email, I got this headline:

“New Survey of Young Catholics Shows Promise and Challenges for the Catholic Church: Believe in God, interested in the faith and clear on personal morality, but see morality overall as relative”

The release explains that high percentages of Catholic Millennials (ages 18-29) believe in God, see religion as at least “somewhat important” in their lives and believe that “commitment to marriage is under-valued.”

At the same time, pretty high percentages accept the kind of religious relativism that Pope Benedict has railed against.

61% believe “that it is all right for a Catholic to practice more than one religion (although 57% of practicing Catholics disagree). And 82% of Catholic Millennials see morals as “relative” (with only 54% of practicing Catholics disagreeing).

Supreme Knight Carl Anderson says: “It is very important for the Church to understand the outlook of the next generation of adult Catholics. Catholic Millennials support Church teaching in a wide variety of areas, including contentious issues like abortion and euthanasia. In other areas, the cultural relativism that Pope Benedict XVI has spoken so much about is very evident, and it confirms the wisdom of his attention to this question as central to the New Evangelization.”

So, congratulations to the K of C for being direct and honest and producing a poll that seems to jive with what’s going on out there.

Muslims pass Catholics in numbers

There are now more Muslims in the world than Roman Catholics, the Vatican’s newspaper has announced.

But there are still more Christians overall…

Here’s the AP summary:

By ALESSANDRA RIZZO
Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Islam has surpassed Roman Catholicism as the world’s largest religion, the Vatican newspaper said Sunday.

“For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us,” Monsignor Vittorio Formenti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. Formenti compiles the Vatican’s yearbook.

He said that Catholics accounted for 17.4 percent of the world population — a stable percentage — while Muslims were at 19.2 percent.

“It is true that while Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer,” the monsignor said.

Formenti said that the data refer to 2006. The figures on Muslims were put together by Muslim countries and then provided to the United Nations, he said, adding that the Vatican could only vouch for its own data.

When considering all Christians and not just Catholics, Christians make up 33 percent of the world population, Formenti said.

Spokesmen for the Vatican and the United Nations did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment Sunday.