“How many ways are there to God?”—“As many as there are people.” —Joseph Ratzinger Salt of the EarthI've been struggling with how to describe what I'm trying to do with How Can You Still Be Catholic? I'm coming to the conclusion that it's half-right to call it a book of apologetics and evangelization. Certainly I would be glad if people found it a really effective defense of the faith, and certainly I'd be glad if people converted as a result of reading it.
But the more I look it over in each round of proofing, corrections, and editing, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that what I'm really after is simply strengthening the faith of Catholics and making the faith a little more comprehensible to non-Catholics. After all, a great many people have no idea what Catholicism really is, or what the history of the Church truly has been. So in many ways, the book is simply an invitation to understanding, offering the curious and the open-minded a way to see their questions answered, to discover the reasons why some decently intelligent people remain Catholic in an age in which that seems like such a strange and unlikely choice.
After all, don't we know better? Aren't all the historians clear that the Catholic Church has always been a force for oppression and a menace to the common good? And aren't all the scientists in agreement that the Catholic faith has been disproven conclusively by research and experimentation?
Isn't it all over?
Well, the answer is emphatically no, not yet, not even close. Indeed, we're still getting converts from a variety of backgrounds: female converts, Jewish converts, former atheists, many Protestants, and more. Why are they converting? What could possibly compel them? The answers are as varied as the individuals.
And yet so often the debates and the public commentary seem to assume that there's no reason to still be Catholic, that no one of any intelligence would be Catholic, that the world has moved on in all ways and the Church must eventually depart the stage, disgraced and discredited, that there's not even a fig leaf left here, if only her followers would open their eyes and see ...
We must surely be disgraced, yes, for the Bride cannot expect to be spared the fate of her Bridegroom. But to be disgraced, disreputable, ridiculous in the eyes of the world is a far cry from actually losing grace, from actually being deprived of the divine life in the soul, of the death of the Church and the promises of Christ. The covenants endure, and will do so till the end of the world, and the relationships they've fostered will endure right outside of time. The Holy Spirit abides, and will abide, to the end of the world and into eternity in the heart of the Church, in the hearts of the faithful, the righteous, and the penitent.
Spoiler alert: This universe has a twist in its ending, everyone. Even though we've been told it's coming, we're still going to be surprised.