I was quite taken aback by this blog on LP Cruz’ blogsite, claiming that “dialoguing with RC Apologists in somewhat superfluous … because the only one really qualified to speak for Rome is the Magisterium itself.” In support for this claim he cites “prominent internet RC Apologist” (of whom I had never heard before) Art Sippo as saying:
While I can appreciate the desire to set good standards in apologetics, most of what we do on this board is colloquial apolgetics and quite frankly NONE of us is qualified to set any standards in defense of the faith. Only the Magisterium can do that and so far, the hierarchy has viewed the diversity of Catholic lay apologists (with some notable exceptions) with general favor.
Nobody can claim to speak DEFINITIVELY for Catholic orthodoxy except the Pope and the bishops in communion with him. We apologists in the trenches may have our disagreements but we are all working for the same end. We need to respect that and not go attacking each other needlessly. Sometimes one needs to speak out, but this should be done only for grave necessity.
I do not think that LP Cruz’ take on these comments is quite fair to the honourable vocation of the Catholic lay apologist.
“Apologetics” is not the same as “teaching magisterium”. The teaching magisterium [ie. the bishops] defines, clarifies, proclaims and teaches the Church’s doctrine. Apologetics is the art of defending that doctrine in various fora, public and private.
It would be clericalism and foolishness of the worst sort for Catholic laity to say “only the magisterium can do real apologetics” and to dismiss the rest as “colloquial apolgetics”. It is true that this attitude is not entirely absent among some Catholics – only the other day after mass a chap congratulated me on one of my letters to the editor defending the Church and said “Why don’t our bishops speak out on this?”. My answer to him was precisely that defending the Faith was as much our job as that of the bishops.
Apologetics is not generally done from the pulpit or the cathedra. It is done from the soapbox, the opinion pages, the podium, and (more and more commonly today) the keyboard. In other words, it is done by lay people in the world. Apologetics is a part of the evangelising mission of the Church, and as such is a valid lay apostolate.
Don’t forget that, historically speaking, the most famous “Defensor Fidei” was a layman, and recognised as such by the pope of the time.
The fact that the Catholic lay apologist is under the teaching authority of the Church is simply to say that he or she is not defending his or her own doctrine, but the doctrine of “him who sent me” (John 7:16).