Apologetics of Compassion

Apologetics of Compassion April 9, 2017



The Catholic Apologists are at war again.

I know, it’s Palm Sunday, I really ought to be posting one of my signature flowery meditations, but I’ve written almost an entire book on the Way of the Cross in the past thirty-two days or so, two meditations a week, and I’m meditated out. I’ll be back in the saddle by Holy Thursday and round out the season with some lovely ones, I promise.  But right now, I’m feeling snarky.  I’m witnessing an apologist firing over the trenches at other apologists and wondering how anyone comes to be an apologist in the first place.

I’ve got one dear friend who’s a Catholic apologist with a reputation for being very peppery, and I’ve got one dear friend who’s a Catholic apologist who keeps getting called an “ultramontanist,” whatever that is. I don’t know because I’m not an apologist.  There is a third Catholic apologist whom I’ve never met personally. He is a political conservative, has a reputation for taking screenshots, and seems to think that the first two apologists have a vendetta against him. I don’t know who fired off the first shot, but I’ve got my suspicions. I gathered that the screenshot apologist had misrepresented the peppery apologist’s position in a blog post, as he tends to do; another blog post was written, and suddenly all three apologists were duking it out on the alleged ultramontanist’s page. They were comparing articles, adding up the number of pieces they had written to defend themselves against the accusation that one or the other of them was “too political” and didn’t spend enough time talking about Jesus. The screenshot apologist seemed to think you were only “being political” if you weren’t a Republican. And by “adding up the number of pieces,’ I do mean literally adding them up. At one point they had exact numbers of how many posts they’d written on which topics. This many hundred times defending Jesus, this many hundred defending (or attacking) TV’s Donald Trump.

It must be strange, being an apologist. I don’t think I’d ever in my life appreciated how strange it must be.

I am not a Catholic apologist. I don’t even know how one goes about becoming an apologist. As far as I know it’s one of those mysterious jobs just appear out of nowhere, like “chastity speaker.” I have great respect for my apologist friends, but it’s not the sort of writing I do, and not for lack of drilling. When I was a teenager, in that insane Regnum Christi youth group, we were regularly rehearsed in what passed for apologetics. We were given scripts to answer questions and then put on skits, with half the girls playing the role of snooty Protestants and the rest of us giving our recited answers. It was a bit of a culture shock to grow up, meet real Protestants and find that they are rational human beings with logical reasons for what they believe. Yes, they know that the words to the Hail Mary are mostly in the Gospel of Luke. Yes, they’ve read and thought about John Six. No, you can’t convince them about transubstantiation by comparing it to a light switch. And that’s where my training in and practice of apologetics ended. My friends have more.

But do you know why I’m Catholic? I’ve had a pretty painful and abusive past, and quite a few of the abusive people I’ve known have not only been Catholic, but hurt me in the name of their faith. There was a lot of spiritual abuse in my household growing up; I separated from my family but ended up in Steubenville, which is not the place to go if you want to escape spiritual abuse. I seem to have a genius for running into abusive Catholics.  Twice in my life, I’ve been so traumatized I was ready to pack it in and leave the Church. Do you know why I am still a practicing Catholic? Want to know the apologetic that was given to me– the argument that convinced me to stay where I was instead of running away both times I was at a crisis point?

Both times, I stumbled into the confessional, and a priest was nice to me.

Once it was a Latin Catholic priest, and once an Eastern Catholic priest. I went and sat in the confessional and cried, and they were nice to me.

The last time it happened, the priest listened to all I had to say; then, with great compassion, he said “Oh. Well, that is very hard.”

Do you have any idea what a mercy it is for a bruised reed like me to have a stranger listen, from behind a metal grille, and acknowledge with real sorrow that my life is very hard?

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