I just received my copy of Catholic Answer’s newest publication, The Essential Catholic Survival Guide authored by “The Staff at Catholic Answers.” I think that basically translates to, “Various articles from This Rock magazine put into a big book.” I do find it interesting that most of CA’s materials are couched in the “rescue/survival” mode, not the “demonstration of the truth” mode. Anyway, the subtitle is, “Answers to Tough Questions About the Faith.” That is what attracted me. Tough questions. Good, maybe something substantive? Something beyond the Catholicism and Fundamentalism level? Well, of course, I was disappointed.
I would imagine this work will seem quite impressive to the lay Catholic. It contains 533 pages of text, and hence seems very “beefy” at first sight, but in fact it is very lightly referenced, and its level of argumentation at times is even below Catholicism and Fundamentalism. If you are looking for any interaction with all of the material produced in books, articles, and debates, since Keating began and CA became prominent, you will be disappointed. As far as the folks in San Diego are concerned, it seems Jimmy Swaggart and Boettner’s book on Catholicism (which you hardly even see anymore) are still the great threats to be handled. I have only looked at some key sections, but it seems the idea is, “Don’t worry about all the responses to our light, fluffy apologetic work: let’s not let our audience know about White or Webster or Svendsen or King or Engwer, the literally thousands of pages of published works let alone the debates…well, others have done (since we generally avoid that these days) that cut the legs out from under all our positions. Our readers will never run into that stuff anyway.” It would be like me putting together a 500 page book on the faith and never getting any deeper in the deity of Christ section than saying, “John 1:1, John 10:30, and Colossians 2:9 is all you need to know.”
My history with Catholic Answers is rather long, as a brief review of the older articles in our apologetics section will bear out. And what continues to amaze me over the years is the utter lack of development of deeper apologetic responses that marks the major Catholic organizations. It isn’t just that they keep saying the “same things.” I considered it a compliment when Van Hale, years ago, after doing a radio program on KTKK in Salt Lake City, said to Rich Pierce and I, “You all are saying the same things you said ten years ago.” That’s good. We preached the solitariness, unity, and sovereignty of God back then, and we still were ten years later. That’s consistency. What I mean about CA is that they don’t seem to take any note of the responses their arguments receive. Their apologetic development started, and ended, in 1985 or so. It’s like they sit over there in El Cajon while their arguments are exploded, repeatedly, with their fingers in their ears, whistling happy tunes to themselves, like, “Don’t Worry, Be Catholic.” Their arguments were simplistic (and inaccurate) then, and now they are just old and crusty and still simplistic and inaccurate and, since they’ve been refuted so often, just a tad bit less than honest. How can any Roman Catholic apologist trot out the same old arguments for the Papacy that have been shredded over and over and over again? How can they talk about the “unanimous” interpretation of the early church on…almost anything, but specifically, as in this book, about John 6, without mentioning how few addressed the text, and beyond that, Augustine’s comments on the passage? It is hard to respect someone who is refuted repeatedly but who just refuses to hear, to listen, or to improve his arguments in light of their failures. But, evidently, given a particular audience, you don’t have to worry about that. They want pablum, pablum sells.

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