A “renewed apologetics and catechesis” can help young people who are tempted to leave the church due to convictions “that religion is opposed to science or that it cannot stand up to rational scrutiny, that its beliefs are outmoded, a holdover from a primitive time, that the Bible is unreliable, that religious belief gives rise to violence, and that God is a threat to human freedom,” Bishop Barron said in his speech, also called as “intervention”, to the synod Oct 4.
“I hope it is clear that arrogant proselytizing has no place in our pastoral outreach, but I hope it is equally clear that an intelligent, respectful, and culturally sensitive explication of the faith (‘giving a reason for the hope that is within us’) is certainly a ‘desideratum‘ (‘desire’),” he said.
Bishop Barron earlier told the synod that his work as founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries confirmed that inadequate education about church teaching is among the “crucial stumbling blocks to the acceptance of the faith among young people.”
Among the major religions, he explained, “Catholicism was second to last in passing on its traditions,” and the “army of our young who claim that religion is irrational is a bitter fruit of this failure in education.”
While some may view apologetics as “something rationalistic, aggressive, condescending,” he said he would propose a new way of explaining and defending religious doctrine that “would not be imposed from above but would rather emerge organically from below, a response to the yearning of the mind and the heart.”
The works of St Thomas Aquinas, for example, often emerged from lively debates over disputed questions “that stood at the heart of the educational process in the medieval university,” he said. “Thomas was deeply interested in what young people were really asking. So should we.”
He also told the members of the Synod of Bishops that, without “denigrating the sciences,” a renewed catechesis can show young men and women that there are “non-scientific and yet eminently rational paths that conduce toward knowledge of the real.”
Bishop Barron said the beauty of faith as depicted in music, art, architecture and liturgy as well as the compelling lives of the saints can also provide “a powerful matrix for evangelization.”
The church, he said, “must walk with young people, listen to them with attention and love, and then be ready intelligently to give a reason for the hope that is within us. This, I trust, will set the hearts of the young on fire.”
At a presynod interview the bishop opined “I absolutely believe that this Synod is more significant than the previous two, for it is about the future of Catholicism. I don’t know any issue more pressing now in the life of the Church than addressing the problem of the massive attrition of our own people, especially the young. Those professing no religious affiliation have become a veritable army in our country, and their numbers are especially strong among the young. By some estimates, 40 percent of those under thirty claim no religion. How to re-engage the “nones,” and to prevent the rise of future “nones,” should be, in my judgment, priority one in the Catholic Church. – CNS/Wordonfire