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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Dec 13, 2019
Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.
“Catholicism, by which I mean real Catholicism, is a fighting faith,” writes David Carlin for The Catholic Thing. To which I would add that Catholicism is, or should be, an offensive rather than a defensive force. As followers of Christ we are not charged with preserving our own position. The Great Commission requires us to move always forward, capturing new ground (or rather more souls). Church history shows that when the Church is not actively engaged in the work of evangelization—when we are preoccupied by the effort to ward off threats, as unfortunately we are today—the faith suffers. We are, as a faith, much better at offense than defense.
Nevertheless I admire Carlin’s essay, “How Not to Defend a Castle,” because he correctly identifies the specific challenge that the Church confronts today. We are not, as a rule, fighting against Christological heresies. When a new acquaintance tells you that he was raised as a Catholic but drifted away, because “I had some troubles with what the Church teaches,” you don’t immediately suspect that he is a monophysite. No, the odds are overwhelming that he could not reconcile himself to one or more of the Church’s teachings on sexual morality.
That’s undoubtedly where the fight is fiercest, Carlin observes. And if you are a competent general, you reinforce your troops at the point of the sharpest attack. You certainly don’t ignore that sector, in the vague hope that the enemy will go away. “And yet,” writes Carlin, “that’s the option that the Catholic Church in the United States has chosen in recent decades.” A strained, embarrassed silence on questions of sexual morality prevailed, even as Church leaders grab headlines by speaking out on political issues. ….