Catholic apologists gathered in Steubenville over the weekend. Look what happened:

Participating in the annual “Defending the Faith” conference as a speaker, as I have for more than a decade now, is truly one of the high points of my year. I absolutely soak up all the energy and fellowship and palpable Catholic piety that pervades the 1400 or so who attend. It’s always a great opportunity to see and catch up with old friends, to make new ones, and to recharge my spiritual and intellectual batteries by immersing myself in the sheer delectation of Catholic apologetics in the company of those who are enthusiastically committed to explaining, defending, and sharing the Catholic Faith.

Some folks might wonder if we Catholic “apologists” are in constant communication with each other, meeting regularly to coordinate (some might say, “plot”) our stratagems for conquering the world. Not so. Everyone is so busy that we’re lucky to see each other once a year at an event like this one. It’s great. And I’d like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to attend “Defending the Faith.” If you love Catholic apologetics, you won’t be sorry! I hope to see you there next year.

STEUBENVILLE, OH—”When friends and colleagues find out we’re Catholic and ask us, ‘Do you really believe all that?’ and we respond, ‘Yes, I do,’ a new moment begins,” said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. “Our yes inherits all the grace of every yes uttered throughout salvation history. Our ‘yes’ is an echo of the fidelity of faithful men and women in every time and place.”

Nearly 1300 conferees packed Finnegan Fieldhouse at Franciscan University of Steubenville’s 20th annual Defending the Faith Conference “Be Transformed By the Renewal of Your Mind,” July 30-August 1.

Co-hosted by Franciscan University theology professors Dr. Alan Schreck, founder of the conference, and Dr. Scott Hahn, founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the conference attracted people from 39 states and 8 foreign countries, including India, South Africa, and Portugal. Participants were drawn by a unique opportunity to sit at the feet of some of the greatest apologists laboring in the world today.

Speakers were clear eyed about the challenges facing the Church.

“We simply cannot confine ourselves to strategies of neutrality,” said Cardinal Rigali, who opened the conference with a keynote address titled “His Name Is Jesus. “The skepticism of today arises out of a lost sense of meaning. Our friends and family are told the undeniable yearning in the human heart is only a superficial emotional affect.”

“The skepticism we face is not merely resistant to Christians, it is hostile to Christians. It seeks to relegate Christians to the corners of society,” said Cardinal Rigali, former papal chamberlain to Pope Paul VI.

“Over time, unaddressed, this skepticism erodes the foundations of faith and results in a practical atheism. The subtle atheism of today seeks to divert, misdirect, and deny the deep longing for God that slumbers in every human heart. “The theme of this year’s conference is an urgent call, dear friends, to embrace the fundamental calling of each human person.”

To share that call to Christ with others, we need to prepare to answer opponents to the faith, said Patrick Madrid, editor of Envoy magazine, in his keynote address, “The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism.”

“We have to be willing to engage in these discussions, even with atheists,” said Madrid. “If we don’t, many more people will be lost.” He read aloud a sample of the atheistic reaction to T
he Godless Delusion, his recently published argument that atheism is false. “‘There is no Christian,'” Madrid quoted, “‘as obnoxious, as smug, as conceited, as vain, as dense, as repellent, as chillingly impervious to reality, as oppressive, as mean, as cruel, as unethical as a Catholic.'”

“You can see what we’re up against,” Madrid concluded. “I believe that we’re heading into a storm, probably very soon. If this storm breaks on us, people may break from Christ.”

Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, expressed a similar concern in his Holy Hour homily on Saturday night. “We may be in the middle of something more dangerous to faith than persecution: indifference, being cold, not being Catholic at all,” said Father Groeschel, author of In the Presence of Our Lord.

But he offered a remedy. “Never allow anything else in your life to come before the Eucharist,” he exhorted. “Let’s return home with a fervent Catholic Eucharistic belief and hope, because Christ is with us, and he calls us to be with him.” (continue reading)


  1. Susan L

    Patrick, is this held in Steubenville the same time every year? I'd love to go next year and bring a friend.

  2. Anonymous

    Dear Mr. Madrid, I want to be charitable towards you so I will only say this about your recent article concerning "apologetics" at Sville:The Traditional Latin Mass is a Catholics true inheritance(not the Bugnini mass), John Paul II is not "Great", the Second Vatican Council made no binding dogmatic definitions that a catholic must adhere to, the Novus Ordo Mass is terribly flawed. I'm also a high school drop-out. I guess I am not as smart as you.

  3. Anonymous

    Every Catholic is called to defend the Faith. Aetheists are not the biggest challenge..they at least are honest and proclaim what they are.One can deal with that and respond to it. It is the dissent within the Church…the error that is insideous that is the most dangerous. And THAT is very widespread, right up into the Vatican, in the seminaries, and even among some so-called orthodox circles.And of course, one can not spread the Faith if one is not humble.

  4. Patrick Madrid

    Anonymous 1:47, I don't see what point you're trying to make. Yes, obviously, every Catholic is called to defend the Faith. I wrote a book dedicated to promoting that very fact (Search and Rescue). And the "Defending the Faith" conference is specifically geared to teach and equip every Catholic how to defend the Faith. Perhaps you are just unaware of these realities, otherwise, I see no reason why you'd say what you said.Also, atheists are not the biggest problem? Well, of course. Who said they are? Not I. Not in my post nor in my talk nor in the new book on atheism. I don't know anyone who feels that atheists are the biggest problem the Church faces. They are certainly a challenged, but not the biggest one. So, again, what's the point of including that additional non sequitur?In any case, I'm glad to know that you have the biggest problem the Church faces pegged. That's such comfort for all the clueless people who attend "Defending the Faith."

  5. Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS

    Snarky comments out of seemingly orthodox Catholics are unorthodox in that lack the greatest, orthodox, and truly essential Catholic element of all: Charity. Similarly, a true traditionalist will always speak carefully, ensuring that his speech and conduct are in keeping with the greatest of all traditions: Charity.The absence of charity in the speech of seemingly traditional, orthodox Catholics harms the reputation of all traditional, orthodox Catholics who understand that without charity, we are nothing more than noisy gongs and clanging symbols. Why is it that such comments always seem to come veiled in anonymity? One thing is for certain: No one is anonymous before the Just Judge.

  6. Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS

    My comment, BTW was referring to anon @11:16, Aug 6

  7. Rellis

    I know we more traditionally-minded Catholics can lack charity, but that's only because of forty years of being treated like pariahs by the very people who are supposed to shepherd us. Even to this day, we're treated as nuts by Baby Boomers and other ignorant folk.Do you blame an abused animal for not trusting people after it's adopted? How about a little empathy for abused people? It's only been three years since our Emancipation Proclamation, and we're early on in Reconstruction around here. Not all the former slave masters like the fact that we have our liberty, and have rights to go with it.Also, for those of us who loathe JP2 conservative/bad liturgy/cum-bay-yah Catholicism, Steubenville is ground zero. It evokes a visceral reaction. Pro-life does not have to mean abusive liturgy. This is not 1995.The thing you folks never seem to get about us is that we take Sacrosanctum concilium seriously. For us, the sacred liturgy is the source and summit of the entire Christian life. Those are not just words. If the liturgy is deficient, the entire Christian life is deficient. This is what the Steubenville JP2 Catholics don't understand. They are building in vain, because they build on a rotten foundation of orans position Pater Nosters, Gift of Finest Wheat, and altar girls.

  8. nannon31

    Catholic apologetics can be perfect or it can be intellectually flawed. An example of the perfect is Saint Jerome in "Against Helvidius" on the perpetual virginity of Mary…an essay which must have kept some of the early Protestants in our camp on that issue because Jerome there displays a knowledge of the Bible as to the OT that is breath taking. An example of the flawed is Pope Leo XIII's version of slavery and the Popes found in sections 15 and onward in "In Plurimis" of 1888 wherein he praises the Popes who fought slavery but never mentions the Popes who promoted the "perpetual slavery" of natives who resisted the gospel ( Pope Nicholas V/ "Romanus Pontifex"/mid 4th large paragraph/ 1454…and confirmed by 3 subsequent Popes who again go unmentioned). Many Catholic apologists simply presumed he was correct and simply copied his version of history. It makes us look dishonest. Rome should want to correct the deficient type of apologetics which occurs when history is a factor. It needs a central office in Rome where historians are at least present to fact check lest we look silly and dishonest to the well read.

  9. Susan L

    My previous post got lost so I guess I'll keep this one short and simple.I'm a convert. I love the mass. Will I love the Latin Mass? I'm sure that I will. To those trashing the conference and Mr.Madrid, where is your charity? Where is your evidence? If I had to rely on those posters, I'd never go to a Latin Mass. Fortunately, I know better. Charity and obedience to Rome has always been trademarks of saints. And humility. What did I see above? Anger, hostility, resentment over education (?). Hurt feelings. And all this over an apologetics conference? You've got to be kidding!!Obedience to Rome. Love towards one another. Patience. Perseverance in seeking God and learning from his Word. Humility. We're on the same team, remember? The real enemy is working discord among us.Hail Mary, Full of Grace….

  10. Anonymous

    I notice catholics are saying the CC is being persecuted. One lady in a catholic blog said that if they persecuted Jesus they will persecute his church. I understand why catholics leave out the rest of the sentence. Jesus said they will persecute you for righeousness sake. He didnt say they will talk bad about you for having a priesthood that is perverse.They didnt persecute Jesus because he was caught molesting children. Big difference here. Apologetics people use this persecution bit but they drop the subject fast instead of saying why they are persecuted. By the way, catholics arent being persecuted. The CC is under attack for harming children, sorry if you think that is persecution

  11. Tap

    I get tired of everyone pointing out the flaws of the Catholic Church. I am way tired of watching Bishops and Popes apologize for things that happened even 50 years ago, many of us were even born yet, some were young but most certainly none were 'in charge' of any of those situations. The more we apologize for past 'faults and sins' the more the Church is pounced on from all sides from evangelical Christians to atheists. What we need to do is go to Mass and Holy Communion every week, more if you are able, read the New Testament and/or a Catholic book chapter weekly, say the rosary daily, pray for our families and our enemies but most of all stop apologizing! It gives every enemy of the Church an opening to just persecute us more!!!!

  12. Szwajkowski

    I thought the "source and summit" of Christian Life is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ?Sounds like an interesting conference Patrick. I would love to attend such a conference as well.

  13. Anonymous

    The Traditional Latin Mass is said at Steubenville on a weekly basis. Hundreds attend. Students are taught that the Eucharist is the source and summit of their faith to degrees found at only a handful of Catholic college campuses. In the classroom, chapel, dorms, even on the playing field. Check their chapel bulletin on the University's web site in a couple of weeks when classes resume for confirmation. For now, check this from their web site under Chapel Ministry:Because the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life,” you’ll find a full schedule of opportunities to meet the Lord in the Eucharist with our three Masses each weekday, a weekly Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and perpetual adoration during the academic year. You’ll also find the sacrament of reconciliation offered four days a week, solemn vespers on Sundays, praise and worship each Tuesday, and a monthly Festival of Praise.

  14. Tom

    I'm fascinated at how com boxes get co-opted by one off-track comment. Atheism was merely one of many interesting topics at the Defending the Faith Conference. I've attended it 4 times in the past 10 years. The priest abuse scandal was brought up loud and clear at several of them–the issue was not ducked. For 2010 the radar shifted to a relativism among the general public that threatens to undermine the fabric of our nation in a wide range of ways–marriage amendment, abortion, lack of belief in a here-after, all were discussed in main talks and workshops–plenty of other topics too. In short, lots of good information was presented for preserving and defending the faith that was of interest to Catholics of all stripes.

  15. Hilary Jane Margaret White

    This was some years ago, so things may have changed, but I have been frustrated with the work of the ex-protestant Catholic apologists in their single-minded focus in answering the moribund and inconsequential accusations of fundementalist protestants. As a cultural force on the global scale, these people are, frankly, not worth bothering about. When I was reading apologetics material, I saw that there was almost nothing being done by any of them about the overwhelming threat of post-modern secularism, feminism, pan-sexualism, neo-Marxism…call it what you will. I once sent a note about this to one of these ex-prod-Catho-apolgists and he said, essentially, that it wasn't his problem. He personally wanted to convert his former protestant confreres. Well, ok. But there is a real threat from these people. Take it from me, an Anglo-Canadian living in the EU. The need to defend the Faith, its reasoned arguments against the homosexualist ideology for example, is growing more acute as Catholic practice collapses totally in Europe and more Christians are being threatened with job loss, and in some cases prison, for believing what the Church teaches. I do hope that since I sent that note, about ten years ago, the Catholic apologists have woken up to their more pressing responsibilities. When I was doing the reading, the only person of any worth paying attention to the growing army of frenzied anti-Christian secularists was Peter Kreeft.

  16. hal

    Why does the Obama Nation love Islam more than Christianity should be the question: It is simple They won't defend Christians adequately simple because Muslims accept the leftest belief that a yet to be pushed out of the womb human being is not a human being – so serious Islamists go easy on abortionists because they consider it a victimless crime. However, the premeditated killing of an innocent human being is always perceived by rational human beings as just out and out MURDER! When a man is murdered by a hammer, we do not say he was 'hammered' – we say he was murdered. Now an Abortion procedure is a good life saving medical procedure – and innocent and good thing like a hammer. So why do we say these innocent little babies were 'Abortions'? Planned Parenthood is very happy that you all have mindlessly adopted their euphemisms to cover what is just plain out and out murder. First of all, these babies were murdered, that is the most important thing. Secondly, they were murdered by use of something like a hammer, or medical abortion tools. So everytime you call this murder an "abortion" you are obfuscating the most accurate and important truth that the world needs to hear. There is no rational way we can call the murders of yet to be pushed out of the womb babies as an "abortion procedure". Please, stop calling it merely an abortion – it should be called clearly, "murder by abortion tools". These babies are not even giving the dignity of a burial – their humanness is removed from them so that their death are regarded as less than the death of an animal! But you can't murder an animal, You can only murder a human being (how in the hell can you say that these babies are not Human Beings?) Give these babies who are made into medicines and eaten or thrown into the dump, the dignity of rightfully calling what happened to them the correct name – they were cheated out of everything every human being deserves by cold blooded premeditated out and out MURDER! Please put an end to this euphemism called just an "abortion'. Call it what it is and soon it will be made illegal. The horrible fact is that the majority of people really do not believe that murder by abortion tools really is murder – put them straight immediately.

  17. Anonymous

    You best get a lawyer, since the US Federal Courts have criminalized a big chunk of the catechism (against homosexuality). Today, being Catholic is the same as belonging to the Klan.The American wing of the Catholic Church will be forced to swim the Tiber to the Anglican side to evade jail time and keep their jobs.In my job today, we have to (as in required) affirm and celebrate homosexuality or get fired.As the boss put it, "park your catholic morals at the door, or you will be shown the door!"What irony! Catholicism gains a few thousand traditional Anglicans but loses millions of mundane members.

  18. Diane at Te Deum

    Hilary Jane, I agree that the topics you raise need to be addressed. However, I see each apologist as having his own particular area of interest. This is where their focus lies. And, it could be that the Holy Spirit is choosing to use them in this way.The other thought is that I think there are a good many Protestants who are exploring or learning more about Catholicism. These people who are exploring, at least the ones whom I have met, are not dealing with those other issues, but ones which are more fundamental. I strongly agree though, that some of these other issues need to be taken on. They are not necessarily going to fade with the biological solution. I know some young and middle aged Catholics whose understanding of the faith is not aligned with the Catechism. That having been said, I think they are the least likely to be listening to Catholic Answers or Open Line. In fact, they probably dismiss them since they can't accept the answers. Perhaps the apologists can devote some time to teaching the rest of us how to respond to common errors in the areas you mention. This would help us in our discussions.

  19. Nick

    "You can see what we're up against," Madrid concluded. "I believe that we're heading into a storm, probably very soon. If this storm breaks on us, people may break from Christ."Were these your words or were they out of context? And what did you mean?

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