I have written several posts here about Jason and the Callers’ apparent ignorance of the regular Roman Catholic world (as opposed to their knowledge of Denzinger). I now understand that the trail of Protestant-turned-Roman-Catholic apologists is as long as the Phillies are behind the Nationals. For instance, Patrick Madrid has made a cottage industry in the publishing world of what Bryan Cross has done with the testimonies at Called To Communion.
But Mark Shea’s recent interview in America reveals how long, how American and how unremarkable to the papacy that line of convert-turned-apologist-and-blogger is:
Other people call me that, but I don’t think of myself as an apologist. Catholic apologetics in our culture is often addressed to Protestant evangelicals, where a lot of people from a Protestant background like Scott Hahn, Jimmy Akin and Steve Ray try to explain to our former friends why we became Catholics. There is a huge wave of American converts who owe a debt to people like Karl Keating who reached out to us in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Francis hasn’t indicated any particular interest in this trend, but neither did John Paul or Benedict. It’s a strongly American Catholic thing. But Catholic Answers has made an impact around the world, as young Catholic lay evangelists from around the world often email me to say they’ve been downloading our stuff and using it in a variety of ways.
As far as I know, no pope, including this one, has ever undertaken to address this particular apologetics subculture. There is no Letter to the Apologists from the pope. Nor do I expect there to be or feel the need for one. I don’t expect Francis to have a particular impact on the apologetics subculture, other than being a shepherd and teacher we take as a model, and I’m O.K. with that. But I think what Pope Francis has done, at least for people like me who try to defend the faith, is give us a new opportunity to defend the pope from Catholics who fear him—and that’s a weird experience for me! I never thought I’d find myself in the ironic position of having to defend the pope from fellow Catholics who loved John Paul and Benedict. Right now, much of the apologetics writing I do is to support Pope Francis when he teaches things the church has always said, but which for some reason we haven’t really grasped until now, and which strike dark fears into the hearts of Catholics who, well, really ought to know better.