Church needs ‘new breed’ of apologists—priest

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MANDALUYONG City, Oct. 14, 2014—A Catholic priest discussed the need for apologists with the brains and the heart for interreligious dialogue.

Talking to members of Catholic Faith Defenders (CFD) on Monday, Oct. 13, Fr. Carlos V. Reyes stated the “circumstances of the time that we are living now require a new generation of apologists”.

Fr. Carlos Reyes (Photo: Masol Santiago)

Faith and obedience

The priest, himself an apologist “committed to the faith and obedient to the Church”, stressed that aspiring faith defenders must know how to exploit new methods and explore different approaches in defense of Catholicism.

He added that they must defend the faith in its entirety, something that presupposes acceptance of Vatican II.

“Apologetics must encompass the whole content of Church Magisterium and the methods proposed by the Church through which that teaching is disseminated and communicated,” he explained.

An executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)’s Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue (ECID), Reyes shared these changing times call for apologists who can “uphold and teach Catholic dogmas with charity towards all, who seek Christian unity, and who are in dialogue with persons of various convictions”.

He is aware, however, that many Christians, Catholics and Protestants alike, reject interreligious dialogue.

“The strongest argument favoring dialogue is the Trinity. God is a Trinity of Persons and is a perpetual dialogue between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit. If we were created in God’s image and likeness, then we must be coherent with God’s Trinitarian essence,” Reyes said.

The priest laments there are Catholics who, while they have the best of intentions in defending the faith, unconsciously become offenders in the name of that faith.

‘Un-christian polemics’

He pointed out, “Dialogue is only possible between two parties who have the spirit of dialogue and mutual respect. I just pray that they may arrive at a point where they see the necessity of dialogue while being civil with them. I will certainly not resort to polemics and name calling. It is un-Christian.”

“St. Francis did not go into polemics. Saints who were polemical became saints in spite of being polemical and probably not because of it. Saints like Cyril of Alexandria and Jerome for example. Besides, circumstances are different now,” the priest shared.

He said being debating harshly with non-Catholics does cause them to stop proselytizing, when it may actually give them more excuse to redouble their efforts at converting others.

“Mainline Protestants do not proselytize and I think that this is due mainly to our friendship with them. As for us losing the sheep, it is more a question of how we shepherd the flock. The attitude of some priests and Catholics actually drive people away from the Church,” Reyes noted.

He believes hurt sheep are easier to lure away from the Church, and that a more charitable approach in all aspects of ecclesial life goes a long way.

“People are more receptive to difficult teachings be it dogmatic or moral if the priest or bishop has mass appeal,” said Reyes.

“A better way to put it is: charitable truth and truthful charity,” he added. (Raymond A. Sebastián)

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