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Cardinal Levada: The Time is Ripe for a New Apologetics
Two day apologetics congress at the Legion’s Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome

cardinal levada
Cardinal William Levada, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Rome, April 30, 2010. Cardinal William Levada, the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was the featured speaker at a congress entitled “A New Apologetics for a New Millennium,” held at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome on April 29 to 30, in collaboration with the Pascal Center.

In his talk, entitled “The Urgency of a New Apologetics for the Church in the 21st Century,” Cardinal Levada began by quoting Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks during his visit to the United States in 2008. In the face of increasing secularism, “the church needs to promote at every level of her teaching—in catechesis, preaching, seminary and university instruction—an apologetics aimed at affirming the truth of Christian revelation, the harmony of faith and reason, and a sound understanding of freedom.”

According to the cardinal, the need for a defense (apologia) of the faith stems from the very mission of the Church to evangelize. “The First Letter of Peter (3:15) provides the classic starting point for the project of apologetics: ‘Always be ready to give an explanation (or defense) to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. But do so with courtesy and respect.’” Apologetics is not only aimed at helping non-Catholics enter full union in the Catholic Church, but also to help Catholics understand their faith better. In this endeavor, there is no conflict between faith and reason. Indeed, solid philosophy provides the Praeambula Fidei (the preparations for the faith), the necessary rational underpinning necessary to receive the faith. With so many attacks on the faith, the time is indeed ripe for a new apologetics.

Cardinal Levada then summarized the shape the New Apologetics should take in the coming years.

“A new apologetics for the new millennium should focus on the beauty of God’s creation,” said the cardinal. “For this apologetics to be credible, we must pay greater attention to the mystery and the beauty of Catholic worship, of a sacramental vision of the world that lets us recognize and value the beauty of creation as a foreshadowing of the new heavens and the new earth envisioned in 2 Peter and the Book of Revelation.”

It is not enough to believe the right things, but Catholics must live them. “The witness of our lives as believers who put our faith into practice by work for justice and charity as followers who imitate Jesus, our Master, is an important dimension of our credibility as dialogue partners in a time of a new apologetics.”

Moreover, “A dialogue about the meaning and purpose of human freedom is essential in today’s culture,” which tends to view freedom in an individualistic and “me-first” way. This attitude prevents it from being “free to respond to the great gift of divine love.”

According to Cardinal Levada, “We need to pursue the dialogue with science and technology. Many scientists speak of their personal faith; yet the public face of science is resolutely agnostic. Here is a fertile and necessary field for dialogue.” In particular, “among the questions that most need attention today is that of evolution in relation to the doctrine of creation.”

Another key theme is “the longing for the good, and its related themes of a natural moral law and of the validity of human reason common to all humanity.” In other words, following the ideas of C.S. Lewis, the Anglican apologist, in his book Mere Christianity, “the innate sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, as proof of a divine author.”

“Finally,” says the cardinal,  “a new apologetics must take into account the ecumenical and interfaith context of any dialogue about religious faith in a secular world.” There is certainly a place for a specifically Catholic apologetics, but “questions of spirit and faith engage all the great religious traditions and must be addressed with an openness to interfaith dialogue.”

Cardinal Levada concluded with a prayer that “as we imitate the zeal of some of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters in proclaiming Christ, we might be able to share with them the riches of the Catholic and universal tradition of faith in Jesus Christ.” The relativization of truth is not way to engage in dialogue, but rather “the desire to know the other in the fullness of his or her humanity.” It should be possible for all to find the all-important truth “that God is love, and that our creation in God’s image and likeness makes all humanity able to love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves.”

Also featured at the congress were presentations by Father Alfonso Aguilar, LC, president of the Pascal Center, Father Rafael Pascual, LC, dean of the School of Philosophy, and Father Florencio Sánchez, LC, the president of the John Henry Newman Apologetics Institute of Madrid, Spain.

For more information (in Italian): click here.



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