Catholic Apologetics



Catholic Apologetics always has been the scholarly justification of the Catholic conviction which is based on the supernatural datum of Revelation. As a principle of knowledge, only this datum makes Catholic theology possible. As a fundamental law of faith and morals, it lies at the very root of the conscientiously-Catholic attitude to life.
It is almost evident that our apologetics asserts its pretensions the most where it finds its best chances in the obstruction of a militant paganism, a fanatical Islam, a recalcitrant endeavour of reform, or a socalled reasoned renunciation of faith. Of course, we have to explain the fruitful apologetical work of Irenaeus, Thomas Aquinas and Petrus Canisius largely from the circumstances of place and time. And the famous apologetical question could only come into being by distinct valuations of the apologetical vocation, when, besides the personal taste of the apologist, the demands of the moment were asking for their own rights.
For us, Catholic Dutch of the twentieth century, the question of the one and only effective method doesn't have the value it could have for the Catholic apologist in, for example, sixteenth-century Germany or nineteenth-century France. The anti-religious trends we have to stop in our days, and the religious convictions against which we have to defend our own ones, usually lack the fierce power of the youthful élan; nevertheless, they are dangerous by the abundance of nuances and the number of their followers.
The shallow non-Catholic world tries to impair the religious conviction of our people by diverting their interests from the highest values and claim their preferences for itself. - "Scientific" heathenism wants to deprive us of the God of our fathers. - And Protestantism in all forms disputes with us the right to serve God in our own way in the spirit of ecclesiastical obedience.
Since, in our country, the most important anti-Catholic trends have acquired form and substance, the vocation of the modern apologist - as opposed to, for instance, Saint Petrus Canisius or cardinal Deschamps - is to come into touch as much as possible with all ranges of ideas. He can't confine himself to defending the treasure of our holy faith against one distinct attack. His defence can't restrict itself to resistance at one front; it has to develop at all fronts together. Because dissentient mentality has taken positions at all sides.
The circumstance that the Catholic Dutchman of our time has to defend his religious standpoint both against the combative supporters of Reformation, who want to measure the religious values with the measuring rod of their personal vision on faith only, and against the convinced unbeliever, who - estranged from God and religion by the superficiality of modern life or by the shortsightedness of self-styled science - won't usually appear susceptible to the supernatural phenomenon before he has discovered within himself a point d'insertion, discharges us from the duty to stand up positively for or against any particular method, and places us explicitly before the task to synthesize within one whole all the good that the distinct apologetical methods contain within themselves.
The CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS that we here offer to the interest of the reading public finds in this synthesis its kleine Prätension.
We hope it has not become a kind of school manual. We have tried to keep this book, as much as possible, free from the bad qualities of a jerky train of thought, which is so unattractive for the outsider, and also free from the jargon of the insiders.
We hope it will become clear that our demonstration intends to be mainly thomistic.
This book presupposes with the reader a conscious love of truth and a certain experience in the domain of speculative thinking.
Therefore, it is quite possible that some Protestant who does love truth but withholds almost every trust from speculative reason, will turn down this Apologetics as "typically Roman Catholic", because he feels it is too full of scholastic constructions of thought and doesn't sufficiently persuade on the strength of faith. Likewise, it is quite possible that the student of an unbelieving science, whose object is the sport of thinking rather than truth itself, will compassionately shake his head over our present demonstration, because he thinks it strives after a reality that is nowhere available.
Yet we have written this book for all people who love truth and are willing and daring to think.
In the first place for the developed Catholic, who is mostly more familiar with the secrets of profane sciences than with the "porches"of faith.
We can't deny there is perceptible nowadays in the circles of Catholic intellectuals a growing interest for the unmistakable significance which Catholic faith, and living this faith, do have for man and society. But apologetical education, especially concerning the philosophical study of the relation between Creator and creature, that is between God and man, leaves much to be desired, if not everything. Half a century ago, monseigneur d'Hulst could write, in connection with a manifest shortage of philosophical education with the intellectuals of his own time: "Avant tout, les savants contemporains ignorent jusqu'aux élements de la philosophie. Ce n'est pas leur faute, c'est le malheur des temps".
His word has lost little of its original validity. We probably owe this evil to the same wrong attitude which is persisting to prevail.
However, we didn't write "CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS" for Catholics only.
We also intended it would become a guide for the non-Catholic, whose religious conviction differs from ours indeed, but who may well have a sincere interest in the way we think to be able to justify our faith and the attitude to life based on it, as the only one God ever approved of. Thus, he can't find it very surprising that we emphasize more what separates us than what joins us. Indeed, an apologetical textbook is not the same as a test of agreement on an interreligious foundation. After all, this Apologetics doesn't intend to be a defence of the Protestant vision on faith or the oecumenical conception of Church, but a defence of the Una Sancta as considered by the Catholic.
Our reformed brother with his great love for free investigation, more than anybody else, will appreciate that the reasonable justification of the Catholic standpoint should often necessitate the resolute rejection of the opposite opinion.
Finally, this apologetics may be able to say something to the unbeliever, if only what Shakespeare gave Horatio to understand so shortly and to the point, when he put Hamlet these words into the mouth: "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Merkelbeek, at the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, 1946.

The Writer


I conscienciously translated the text of the book, except for the following:
I left out all notes, because they mostly refer to writers we don't know any more. If necessary, I incorporated the text of the foot note into the main text.
I retouched the writer's remarks about Maurice Blondel, which aren't important for the main lines of reasoning.
I changed Thomas' third proof of God's existence, so as to bring it into line with a demonstration to modern people, as I think Saint Thomas himself would have given nowadays.
I emphasized Anselm's proof is false.
{{I put between brackets all text parts which the book has printed in small letters.}}

I think the second part of the book of Brocardus Meijer is oldfashioned.
For example, the Church isn't that great nowadays.
Pope Francis is struggling in his attempts to represent Jesus.
He says terrorism and the fight against it is a war between interests. But which interest does an ISIS terrorist represent?
Furthermore, by shouting "Shame!" on the isle of Lampedusa, the pope has encouraged numerous alleged refugees, who look too strong to be refugees, to embark risky little boats and cross the Mediterranean Sea. Even if they survive, most of them can't find work in Europe, and the criminal smugglers of people run away with their money.
Roman rituals are no longer suited to bear significant content. People may be addicted to these rituals after daily repetition from childhood throughout life. Then these rituals are suited to suppress natural inclinations and replace them with obstinacy. For instance, conservative Catholics may obstinately hold that God created only man and woman, whereas the internet makes clear He also created shemales.
I think, the oldfashioned way of imposing on people obedience to some authority will only make this authority ridiculous, because nowadays we easily find contrary information and propaganda on the internet. So all contemporary and former leaders of Islam and Christianity may be ridiculed, and rightly so, because nobody has a special lease of wisdom. Hopefully, internet will give access to all opinions and all criticism, and in the end the most sensible opinions will get the upper hand.

Recently I realized the first part of the book of Brocardus Meijer is oldfashioned as well. It's suggesting that after your death your soul flies to the gates of heaven where Saint Peter will either let you pass and take place in a great amphitheatre to contemplate God, or send you elsewhere.
However, the modern picture is: when you die, the path of your life in space-time reaches its end point. Now God sees the whole space-time at once, including the path of your life. On the other hand, your life path stays there forever, and this means you will in a sense live forever.
In your clearest moments, you will see yourself almost as clearly as God sees you. God will eventually correct somehow whatever went wrong. The more you trust in God, while complying with your responsibilities on the earth, the more you're already seeing Him as He is.

The translator

Maastricht, 2007-2018