The closest thing in the United States to a self-appointed infallible magisterium is Catholic Answers. They stand atop the Roman Catholic apologetics food chain claiming to be “one of the nation’s largest lay-run apostolates of Catholic apologetics and evangelization.” One need only search available public records to verify this claim. If you want to know what the papacy means, you need only visit Catholic Answers for their interpretation… or maybe not.
Recently Roman Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis made his own assessment of organizations like Catholic Answers: “They have a very light, or possibly sanitized, portrayal of Catholicism, looking to avoid as much controversy as possible” and they are “somewhat milquetoast when it comes to dealing with the more controversial and significant problems occurring in the Church and in the world. ” He laments, “My assessment is that they either don’t know where the real battles are or they know and choose to ignore them, and have more or less settled into a politically-correct apologetic. Except for the abortion issue, I really don’t find much of a clarion call from them” [source].
Mr. Sungenis heads Catholic Apologetics International, which “stands on the forefront of Catholic Apologetics, explaining Catholicism to fellow Catholics and defending it against her opponents.” In the same article, Sungenis makes a telling admission: “Catholic apologetics, by and large, is an undefined enterprise.” Indeed it is. Catholic Answers claims to be the preeminent apostolate for solid information [source]. Catholic Apologetics International though has “the help and intercession of our new patron saint, St. Robert Bellarmine, and in communion with the other great Apologists of our Faith” with the information they provide. That’s a tough choice. On the one hand, one could follow the interpretations of the preeminent apostolate for solid information, or one could rely on an organization being helped by St. Robert Bellarmine.
Perhaps though one doesn’t need to make such a choice. What’s interesting about the criticisms from Mr. Sungenis above is they were placed between positive comments. Sungenis begins by saying,
Let me start with the state of Catholic apologetics today. Overall, I think it is good, at least compared to what it was about 25 years ago when Catholic apologetics was practically non-existent. But I think it could be much better today if we all banded together and used each other gifts and talents instead of competing with one another.
He concludes by saying,
We each have our gifts, strengths and focus. I think God is using us all, but I think He would like to see us all get along much better than we have, and that is what all three groups need to pray for.
These are interesting concessions from Mr. Sungenis, particularly since CAI has questioned the credibility of Catholic Answers throughout the years. Previous to the last presidential election, Catholic Answers heavily pushed their voting guide pamphlet. CAI says of it,
we were deeply concerned about some of its final conclusions. We believe some of these conclusions to be not only dubious in and of themselves, but an assault on the individual Catholic’s conscience and the Church’s collective power to reform society as a whole [source].
These are but a few of the criticisms of CA from CAI. The confusion and quarrels between Roman Catholic organizations is precisely as articulated by Sungenis: Catholic apologetics, by and large, is an undefined enterprise. We’ll continue to see Roman Catholic apologists quarrel among themselves and contradict each other precisely because they make up their own rules. For all their talk of Protestantism being anarchy, they hide the fact that they typically do whatever they want to because their organizations and endeavours are not defined by the very magisterium they claim to speak for.