When Patrick Madrid started in Catholic apologetics back in 1987, it wasn't nearly as popular as today. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, apologetics didn't jive with the ecumenical spirit of the 60's and 70's, which put more emphasis on what Catholicism had in common with other faiths rather than what set it apart.
Yet along with Karl Keating, Dr. Scott Hahn, and a small group of others, Patrick helped revive the lost art. For eight years, he worked at Catholic Answers, an apologetics and evangelization apostolate, where he served as vice president and helped launch the group's flagship magazine, This Rock (now called Catholic Answers Magazine.)
Since then he's spoken around the world and has written or edited over twenty books, which together have sold almost a million copies. They include The Godless Delusion, Search and Rescue, and Surprised By Truth. His latest book is Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist (Servant Books, paperback, 392 pages.)
Patrick recently launched a new call-in radio show called “Right Here, Right Now,” which you can hear Monday through Friday from 4:00pm-5:00pm ET on EWTN-Radio affiliate stations across the country, as well as on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio.
Patrick recently sat down with me to discuss several things including Catholic apologetics, the new atheism, and his favorite books on apologetics.
(As I explain in the video, the first two questions got cut due to a glitch. However, they're transcribed in their entirety below.)
Watch or download our interview below:
Patrick's Recommended Books on Apologetics
- Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas
- Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed
- Handbook of Catholic Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli
(These are the first two interview questions that got cut out from the video.)
Q: Let’s start by talking about your newest book, titled Envoy for Christ: 25 Years as a Catholic Apologist (Servant, paperback, 392 pages). The book is part memoir, part apologetics. What can people expect to find in the book?
Well, in addition to how you just aptly described it, the greater part of the book is given over to a series of essays I have written over the last 25 years on many different themes in apologetics. Some are in regards to specific religious groups like Mormons, Protestants, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Also, there is apologetics for the culture, so dealing with things that are not religious per se but rather with the pressures and worldviews that are rampant in our culture.
I also wrote a good deal of new material to offset the material that is collected there from previous essays. This new material is largely a memoir including several behind-the-scenes anecdotes and stories which people otherwise would not know about. For example, I write about how I met Karl Keating and Scott Hahn, how I introduced the two to each others, and things we did back in the “olden days” when the popularity of apologetics was still being reestablished.
Q: In your history of being a professional Catholic apologist, which now spans more than 25 years, you’ve heard just about every objection to Catholicism under the sun. In your experience, what is the most common objection people have, and how can we explain or answer it?
If I may define that into two categories, I’d say that among non-Catholics, especially Protestants, at the top of their list would be the notion that Catholics do not follow the notion of sola Scriptura. It’s a Reformation principle which holds that Scripture is formally sufficient for Christian believers and that Tradition and the Magisterium are ultimately unnecessary with regard to interpreting Scripture properly. From that point of view flows so many other errors and heresies and problems, so when you see this issue of sola Scriptura is at the heart of many misunderstandings and problems between Catholics and Protestant it becomes easier then, once you’ve dealt with that issue, to talk about the papacy or Mary or the Eucharist.
Now for Catholics, the number one objection they raise has to do with birth control. Contraception is widely practiced by the vast majority of Catholics who, likely because of ignorance and improper catechesis, never really understood why the Church teaches what she does on this issue. So many of them have the idea that they can dissent from this teaching, ignore it, and go their merry way practicing contraception. Unfortunately, most Catholic couples are contracepting. So that is not only the de facto objection to the Church but it is one that requires good answers so that people understand this is not just something that the Church mandates in order to prevent people from having fun. There are good, solid, urgent reasons why they should not be practicing birth control.
Follow Patrick through his website, PatrickMadrid.com and also through Twitter and Facebook.
What's the most common objection you hear to Catholicism?
Popular Atheist-turned-Catholic Leah Libresco was recently interviewed on CNN about her conversion to Catholicism, and she dazzled viewers with her sharpness and charm. In the interview she explains the important role objective morality played in her conversion, which was also a prime factor for C.S. Lewis' own shift. Watch the interview below:
Elizbaeth Scalia has a great roundup of reactions to Leah's conversion where she asks an interesting question, why so much coverage on Leah?
"Perhaps the answer is this: Leah’s conversion goes against all of the prevailing narratives that dominate secularist thinking. Religion—or at least religion that goes beyond affirming oneself and actually costs something of one—is the “opiate of the masses” suited only to “bitter clingers” and intellectually-dim peasants (except it isn’t and never was); Leah is a brainy, sophisticated Yalie who is neither bitter, clingy nor dim.
Catholicism “hates women” (except it doesn’t and never did) and Leah is a strongly self-possessed, forward-thinking woman.
Catholicism “hates homosexual persons” (except it doesn’t and never has although a new apostolic letter might help make that clear) and Leah identifies as bi-sexual.
Wait a second...hold on, I think I’ve got it! Really smart...female...bi-sexual-identifying. Holy smokes! Leah Libresco has pulled off a narrative-busting Trifecta! She’s a secularist thoroughbred who has nevertheless won the Triple Crown of Cultural Incongruity!"
Mark Shea likes to describe blogger Leah Libresco as "my favorite atheist," and I'm with him. Leah is a fresh respite from the angry, fundamentalist, rhetoric-laced New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.
In contrast to them, Leah is calm and charitable. She's intimidatingly bright and extremely well-read. And she's not afraid to objectively examine her beliefs.
She started her blog, "Unequally Yoked," while dating a young Catholic, using it as a sounding board for arguments about (and against) religion. The blog was eventually picked up by Patheos and grew into a place where other serious-minded seekers could dialogue about the big questions of life. It was truly one of the few online havens where both atheists and believers could converse.
As time went on, Leah inched closer and closer to her boyfriend's Catholicism. She talked with deacons, priests, and Dominicans, and even attended RCIA classes for a while. She read scores of apologetical books and wrestled with the arguments. But the momentum eventually slowed. Her and her boyfriend ended their relationship after two years of dating and she dropped out of RCIA (or, according to Leah, was "kicked out.") It looked like Leah would be forever locked in her atheism as, to her at least, it offered the most compelling view of the world.
But the tide shifted again.
This morning, Leah went public with the news that she's decided to convert to Catholicism, and I could not be more thrilled. I know I've prayed for her conversion several times, always thinking she would make a great Catholic. And with this news, it looks like that will happen.
Today heaven is roaring with joy. I'm sure Leah's forebearers are cheering loudest, those great intellectual converts who have paved the way for Leah and so many others—Augustine, Newman, Lewis, Chesterton, and Edith Stein.
As with most conversions, Leah's will not just be interior. It carries external changes, too. As a digital sign of her inward reality--an online sacramental?--Leah's Patheos blog will be moving from the Atheist channel to the Catholic channel tomorrow. In her last post today at the Atheist channel, she recounts some of the thinking that has led to her conversion:
"I believed that the Moral Law wasn’t just a Platonic truth, abstract and distant. It turns out I actually believed it was some kind of Person, as well as Truth. And there was one religion that seemed like the most promising way to reach back to that living Truth. I asked my friend what he suggest we do now, and we prayed the night office of the Liturgy of the Hours together (I’ve kept up with that since). Then I suggested hugs and playing Mumford and Sons really, really loudly."
If you get a chance, pop over to Leah's blog and offer some encouraging words. Conversion, as I well know, is tough enough from one Christian tradition to another. But when you move from atheism to Catholicism, the critics are ruthless. Undoubtedly the atheists will flock to Leah's blog today with their usual critiques:
- "You were never really an atheist in the first place."
- "Why are you abandoning your reason?!"
- "You don't need to convert to live a moral life."
- "You're just doing this because of (insert name) or (insert vain incentive.)"
But don't listen to them, Leah (as if I had to tell you.) Truth is a master who must be followed wherever he leads--even into unlit rooms and somber chambers. Yet when the lights come on and the music plays, you'll recognize home.
So welcome, welcome, welcome! The Church needs you, Leah, and will be so graced to have you. From one blogging convert to another, enjoy the adventure!
“And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to an end; but that was not to be.”
― C.S. Lewis, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"
After being raised in an atheist household, Jennifer converted to Catholicism five years ago. She's since become one of the Church's most eloquent evangelists and has shared her profound spiritual insights with thousands of people.
I recently sat down with Jennifer to discuss several topics including atheism, writing, blogging, and books.
Watch or download our interview below:
(And sorry for the occasional video hiccup! Our Skype connection dipped in and out a couple times during the chat.)
Download the mp3 here (11 minutes)
1:26- What advice do you have for people with atheist loved ones?
2:23 - Atheist conversions are not always intellectual
3:28 - What's the secret to writing so much?
3:57 - Three keys to writing more often
5:11 - What advice would you give to a beginning blogger?
5:29 - Two tips for successful blogging
6:58 - What are your top three life-changing books?
9:27 - Word association: scorpions
Here are the books mentioned during our interview:
- Jennifer's forthcoming memoir
- The Church and New Media by Brandon Vogt
- He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek
- Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano
- The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
Q: What advice would you give to a mother whose son has embraced atheism?
That's a great question and I hear that question all the time. Every time I give a talk I hear tons of stories like this and so I know it's a big problem. I think the biggest thing I say to people in this situation is to not fall into the mindset that atheism is all about intellectual arguments, that these conversions—or de-conversions, in many cases—are always intellectual........The intellectual arguments are a much smaller part of it than we think they are, and the heart is involved much more than it seems on the surface.
Be sure to follower Jennifer through ConversionDiary.com, her blog at the National Catholic Register, and her pithy updates on Twitter.
If you liked this interview, check out my other discussions with people like Hallie Lord, Dawn Eden, Christopher West, Marc Barnes, and more. And be sure you don't miss future interviews by subscribing to The Thin Veil via feed reader or email.
What's your favorite part about Jennifer's writing?