A problem: Sincere hearts but
I'm one that occasionally listens to people whose philosophy
or moral standard in life I disagree with. Why ? Because
I know they are made in the image and likeness of God
and The Lord always has the ability to plant seeds of
faith in their heart, seeds that I may have overlooked
or not utilized in my heart.
I was recently listening to a C-SPAN program where Justice
Stephen Breyer; hardly a conservative, was taking questions
and giving answers to high-schoolers in California. I
may paraphrase part of the question and answer, but I
believe an essential point can be made from his viewpoint,
a point essential to Catholic apologists who are loyal
to the Holy See and the Magisterial teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church.
A student asked: "Justice Breyer, you said earlier
that some cases are technical in nature and some are
more personal. Have you ever got emotionally involved
in personal issues and how do you step back to only judge
the law instead of the personal situations of the plaintiffs
or defendants ?" His answer was,
"I try not to get emotionally
involved. If you do feel too emotionally involved,
you should disqualify yourself. [He went on to explain
how each Friday they have a round table conference
on the cases they have heard for that week, and before
each Friday meeting they shake each others hands,
in order to foster a sense of unity. (Remember 5
votes/8 are needed for a Supreme Court opinion.)
No 5 votes, no decision.] One thing I've noticed
over time is that if you feel or reveal you feel
terribly emotional about an issue that is very divisive,
people think you're wrong. Don't tell me why that
is, but it's a fact. If you feel too emotional, you'll
You'll say, "Hey, I feel emotional about this,
the world is coming to an end !!!!!
and your listener will also say:
"Hey, ME TOO !!!
Life is short.
When you hear someone presenting
an argument and see that person as very emotional,
you begin to think, it's emotion, not reason, that
is driving him or her. Then you start to think, "Oh, I have other things
to do, I'll talk to you later ....." So, I've
found the more emotional you are the less persuasive
you are. In certain contexts, you are most persuasive
when not emotional. You can still have strong feelings
but try to put them to the side. Try to think about
it. Try to always think that people who are against
this may be in good faith too. What do they think about
it. And how do I really respond to what is their BEST
argument, not their WORST argument. And how do I really
answer. And that requires a little imagination causing
you to have to put yourself in the position of the
other person. And how do I respond to it. Put yourself
in their situation. Thinking that way sort of clarifies
I believe this is a rare situation in which Justice
Breyer has an excellent point, especially when applying
it to the attitude and disposition that Catholic apologists
should have when faith sharing. I was brought up as a
Catholic by birth. The Lord has implanted a love in my
heart for the Eucharist, the teachings of the Church,
our Holy Father: Pope John Paul II, Our Lady and our
Spiritual Mother, the saints, and especially my Catholic
brethren here on earth. I've either been in or heard
of faith sharing conversations where:
- The Real Presence was attacked or misunderstood
- John Paul II was attacked or misunderstood.
- The rosary was attacked or misunderstood.
- Church teachings were attacked or misunderstood.
- Our Lady was attacked
or misunderstood. etc, etc, etc.
I believe Justice Breyer is saying
two important things here. First if you love something,
it is humanly natural to defend what you love, especially
when what you love is under attack. Thus it is natural
to have "strong feelings" on an issue. I believe it's also
important to refresh our memory here: What is the purpose
of Catholic apologetics ? "Apologetics" comes
from the Greek "to give words to", or "to
give a defense for". As St. Peter states in 1 Peter
"Be ready always with an
answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that
is in you. Yet do so with gentleness and fear, having
a good conscience, so that wherein they speak in disparagement
of you they who revile your good behavior in Christ
may be put to shame."
This leads to his second point here. Since Catholic apologetics
is based on REASON, when we start faith sharing and the
issue under conversation gets personal and emotional,
by natural, we get emotional and if we have no rational
answer, we get defensive. Once we get emotional and irrational,
why should any one expect a "reason for the hope
that is in us ?" (End of 1 Peter 3:15) As Justice
Breyer said, "When you hear someone presenting an
argument and see that person as very emotional, you begin
to think, it's emotion, not reason, that is driving him
or her."[Thus the title of this editorial.] Only
when we can listen and strive to understand where the
other person is coming from can we effectively be more
persuasive. But what if we don't have any answers to
strong emotional attacks from the other person ? Our
Lord said that, "The True will set you free." Tell
them, you don't have a good answer now for them, but
you will try to research the question by reading, references
and friends. They will appreciate a human reply more
than one that sounds like it's from a pharisee or "know-it-all".
Their "strong emotional attacks" show YOU that
they are not thinking rationally about the topic at hand. "...so
that wherein they speak in disparagement of you they
who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to
shame." As Catholic apologists we should follow
the example set in Peter's epistle.
My rules and goals for faith sharing:
- Be honest. (If you don't know, say so; if you're unsure,
- Strive to maintain and build friendships, no matter
how harsh the dispute.
- NEVER build a phony friendship.
- If you have a hard time building a friendship,
bring it to The Lord in the Blessed Sacrament
- Agree to agree; and agree to disagree on different
aspects of faith.
As Cardinal Law said when he was Bishop of
"the most ecumenical thing
a Catholic can do is be unmistakably Catholic."
Strive for follow up conversations in
- Clarify unresolved differences.
Maintain and build friendships.
I include myself when I say, the biggest fear we, as
Catholic apologists have, (a lack of knowledge) is JUST
the thing we CAN obtain: Knowledge.
Something to think about maybe?