Sunday, July 23, 2006

Please Accept My Apology

My dialogue continues with my non-Catholic friend. His last presentation to me was a list of 19th century Protestant Bible commentaries refuting Peter's primacy, the papacy, and its succession. I countered with a list of quotations from the early Church Fathers proving that the earliest Christians accepted Peter's primacy, his office and its continuity. My letter to him was a much revised version of what I posted last month. I re-read and re-wrote the text several times while making prudent use of my delete button before settling on the final form.

Such apologetic activity is a delicate procedure. How much is too much? My goal is to provoke thought, not anger. In some respects, dialogue with a friend is much more difficult than with a stranger. Friendships can be easily strained, and yet we have a responsibility to share the faith. The Bible says to do so with gentleness and reverence, which is not always easy to do. One's demeanor does not always come across accurately in printed form. Keeping that in mind is paramount.

Our exchanges average semi-monthly cycles. That gives each of us time to calm ourselves, ponder the issues, do research and formulate an answer. While some discussion is done via email, the past few have been in printed form through the U.S. Mail. The reason for this is primarily due to length. Emails twelve to fourteen pages long can be difficult to read. It seems rude to fill someone's mailbox with a large amount of text and then expect that person to print it on his or her own paper. Both of us agree that having the text in printed form is essential for serious study. It allows us to make notes as we read while eliminating the temptation to let the message get buried in an online mailbox.

This particular discussion began when Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, debuted. We have remained on good terms despite the fact that we have firmly revealed our disagreements. Sometimes after sending an apologetic essay, I do sense some peevishness in my friend's initial reaction which usually comes via email. He will usually follow up with a friendly phone call in a day or two. Generally, the phone conversations consist of mostly small-talk, perhaps a mutual reassurance that everything is still okay between us.

Have these exchanges been fruitful? Yes. I'm not going to jump ship and he has shown no signs of coming onboard, but we both have gained insight into each other's faith. We share many common beliefs, and of course, we have many disagreements. My mission is to wipe away any misconceptions about the Catholic Church while presenting the faith in a logical and loving manner. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit.