German bishop: Evangelizing secular society requires sharing ‘the reasonableness of faith’

Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer speaks at a press conference on June 22, 2020 Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer speaks at a press conference on June 22, 2020. | Diocese of Regensburg.

The director of the Benedict XVI Institute in Regensburg, Germany, says a “healthy defense of the faith” is necessary if Catholics are to credibly spread the Gospel in contemporary societies.

Evangelization draws on “the beauty and radiance of faith,” Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer of Regensburg told CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, in an interview published Sept. 1. 

“However, it needs to go hand in hand with a ‘healthy’ form of apologetics, insofar as the proclamation of the faith has never, and certainly not today, taken place in a merely benevolent and affirmative atmosphere.” 

Apologetics “should demonstrate the reasonableness of faith and the hope the faith can give in the face of critical inquiries,” Voderholzer, a professor of dogmatics, said.

“The central questions at stake are: Is it meaningful to speak of God? Can God have revealed himself in Jesus Christ? Is this revelation recognizable, and is it liberating for me? What does grace mean? How do grace and freedom go together? Are faith in creation and a scientific approach to the world compatible?”

Voderholzer emphasized that these questions are shared by most Christians and also expressed “in the commitment to the protection of life, such as in the March for Life.”

He said there was a specific canon of scandals that Catholics often find themselves confronted with: “The Crusades, witch trials, the Galileo case, colonialism, complicity in totalitarian systems, corruption of the Jesus tradition, and recently especially sexual abuse.”

Apologetics does not mean a “defiant denial of the dark sides of the Church, or dogmatism at any price,” the theologian warned. 

“What matters is a knowledge of history, discernment, and the understanding that the ‘holiness of the Church’ does not mean the moral blamelessness of all its members, but the gift of the Lord to communicate his presence, his salvation, precisely in fragile vessels.”

Asked about role models for a “healthy form of apologetics,” the German prelate said he thought of Irenaeus of Lyon, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, John Henry Newman, Henri de Lubac, and also Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI.

“They all know that the revelation of God, which is handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures and the faith of the Church, is self-evident,” he said.

Voderholzer is the founding director of the Pope Benedict XVI Institute, which was created in 2008 to compile and make available both published works and unpublished writings of the theologian, bishop, and pope emeritus. The 16-volume series of Benedict’s collected works is also slated for publication in English by Ignatius Press, according to the institute’s website.

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