Defending and Explaining Catholicism In and Out
of (Voting) Season
A conversation with
Karl Keating, founder and president of Catholic Answers
IgnatiusInsight.com: What made you and the folks
of Catholic Answers decide to create the Voters
Guide For Serious Catholics? What was your goal?
Karl Keating: The goal was to help Catholics apply the Churchs
moral teaching when they entered the voting booth. Over the years weve
received thousands of e-mails indicating that there was confusion among
serious Catholicsthose who are trying to be good Catholics--and
so we wanted to give them the Churchs teaching in a way that was
very usable. We didnt see anything out there that they could use,
that would help them narrow down the issues when it came to a particular
proposition or candidate.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What has been the response to the Voters
Guide so far in general and by bishops?
How many do you expect will be
distributed by the time the election takes place?
KK: Among lay people there have been two distinct reactions. Catholics
who are apparently knowledgeable in their faith are welcoming the Voters
Guide and giving us compliments and praise for it. Catholics who are not
adhering completely to the Churchs teaching are complaining about
it. This morning, for example, I received four or five e-mails from Catholics
saying, "How dare you tell me how to vote!" They dont
accept the Churchs teachings on the five non-negotiables. The think
they can be good Catholics while ignoring Church teachings. We receive
more and more of those responses as the Guide goes out, but that
fine. The Guide is putting nominal Catholics on the spot and forcing them
to think about what the Church teaches.
Ive not heard from bishops directly. Some bishops, such as Archbishop
Burke in St. Louis, have endorsed the use of the Voters Guide in
their dioceses. No bishop has publicly criticized or "disendorsed"
the Voters Guide, but some lesser diocesan officials have protested
the use of the Guide. For instance, the legal counsel for one Midwestern
diocese wrote a letter in opposition to the Guide, but he was hardly a
disinterested party. For three elections running he has given the maximum
allowable financial contribution to a pro-abortion Congressman, a man
who has received a 100% rating from NARAL. I presume the lawyer interpreted
the Guide as working against the Congressman he supports.
The Voters Guide is reaching a lot more people than we initially
expected. We estimate it will be seen by fifteen million people by Election
Day. Ive received lots of calls from major newspapers, such as the
New York Times and the Washington Times, wanting to know if wed
like to place a full-page ad in their pages. The New York Times said that
a full-page ad is normally $138,756 but that it would give it to us for
only $42,000 [laughs].
IgnatiusInsight.com: Catholic Answers has been criticized for the Voters
Guide. What are some of the common criticisms?
KK: As I said, some people say, "How dare you tell me how
to vote!" Others claim that we leave out important issues that have
equal weight with the five non-negotiables, issues such as helping the
poor, the death penalty, and economic issues. Theyre mistaken, but
in their minds they have those issues on the same level as the non-negotiables.
Were also told that the Guide is an attempt to endorse a particular
candidate over another. But it isnt.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Youve worked in apologetics for more than
two decades. What is the state of Catholic apologetics in North America
now compared to the mid-1980s? Are critics of apologetics mostly based
in the world of academia?
KK: Catholic Answers was incorporated in 1982, and this year marks
twenty-five years that Ive worked in apologetics. Back when I started,
apologetics hardly existed. I was not aware of any apologetic groups in
For many years Catholic Answers was a one-man operation.
Today there are dozens of apologetics groups, some regional and some national.
So apologetics is much more widely done than a quarter century ago, and
the stigma that used to be attached to apologetics has largely been overcome.
I dont think the academic world is particularly opposed to apologetics,
although to some professors who are nominal Catholics apologetics always
will be considered anathema. The most interesting switch of attitudes
has been among clergy. They were more opposed to apologetics in the early
days than they are today. Opposition today comes from those who are bothered
by the success of the New Apologetics because that success points to their
own failure, especially the failure to win converts. What these people
do is endorse apologetics, then redefine what apologetics is, and then
eliminate the kind of apologetics that works. For example, Fr. Thomas
Rausch, who has been very critical of me and of the New Apologetics, admits
that among his students he never has had a convert.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What have been the biggest challenges youve
faced as an apologist and as head of an apostolate over the years?
KK: There are two: personnel and money. Good apologists are hard
to find, whether they are people who can go out and do speaking or who
work in the office. They need to have a good knowledge of the Faith and
an ability to convey it in a winning style, with humility and depth. There
are people Id like to have on staff, but we dont have the
funds to bring them on. I could double our apologetics staff if we had
IgnatiusInsight.com: What changes and new challenges do you think apologists
will face in the next ten to twenty years?
KK: There will be more of an emphasis on two groups: the unchurched
and nominal Catholics. Catholic Answers started with answering Fundamentalists
and their attacks on the Church. We werent so much trying to help
Catholics come to a right understanding of the Faith as we were trying
to help them defend the Church from attacks.
That work continues, but
it is proportionately smaller than it was years ago. We are working more
to reach non-Catholics and nominal Catholics, using the Voters Guide,
Catholic Answers Live, and other means. We want to be more in an offense
and less in a defensive mode. We will be telling people the country needs
to be Catholic and that the Catholic Faith is the solution to our problems--the
only real solution, as others wont hold up.
IgnatiusInsight.com: If you could give two or three pieces of advice
to those interested in apologetics, what would they be?
KK: First, read voraciously. Read the books I list at the end of
and Fundamentalism. Then read even more widely. Second, start
doing apologetics at the parish level. You need to be put on the spot;
you need to go public in some way. Finally, if you are successful at both
of those, call me!
IgnatiusInsight.com: Are you currently working on any books or projects?
KK: [Laughs] My progress is so slow that if I told people I was
working on a particular book they might end up thinking that it will come
out this millennium, so Id better not say anything for attribution.
Keating is the founder and president of Catholic Answers. In 1988
he published Catholicism
and Fundamentalism (Ignatius Press), the first book to deal extensively
with challenges posed by "Bible Christians." Other books followed:
Catholics Really Believe, Nothing But the Truth, The
Usual Suspects, and Controversies.
Guide For Serious Catholics (Catholic Answers)
Answers vs. Catholic 'Choice'" (Ignatius Insight.com)
American Catholic Voter: 200 Years of Political Impact by George
J. Marlin (Ignatius Press)