By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY — Catholic apologetics is not what you might think. It is a theology-based defense of the faith, not an apology for it, although the etymological base is the same word in Greek. And Tim Staples isn’t your everyday apologist.
Staples, director of Apologetics for Catholic Answers, was raised a Southern Baptist. He fell away from his childhood faith, but found Christ again during his late teens through the witness of televangelists.
He joined the Marine Corps, and during his four-year tour of duty became involved in ministries with various Assemblies of God communities, later enrolling in Jimmy Swaggart Bible College. In his final year in the Marines, Staples, by then an Assembly of God youth minister, met a Catholic Marine who challenged him to study Catholicism from Catholic and historical sources. For the next two years, Staples was determined to prove Catholicism was wrong. Instead, he studied his way into Catholicism. He converted in 1988, and entered the seminary, earning a degree in philosophy from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Penn. He then enrolled at St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., to study graduate theology. Recognizing that he was not called to the priesthood, he left the seminary in 1994. Staples, now married and the father of four, has been working in Catholic apologetics since then.
Staples was in Kansas City March 19 to present three keynote talks at the Defending the Catholic Family Conference, sponsored by the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan Bishop Helmsing Institute. About 150 people braved a chilly rain to attend the conference, held at Archbishop O’Hara High School.
Staples’ first talk was on the Five Non-negotiables, five issues Catholics recognize as morally wrong: abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and gay marriage. These “deal breakers,” can never be voted for or supported in any way by Catholics. He said that according to Pope John Paul II, these are “acts of violence,” not laws.
“The Catholic family, the family itself, is under assault in society today,” Staples said. “The family is the foundation, the building block, and if the family fails, civilization will crumble.” And is it through the five non-negotiables that society seeks to destroy the family, he said. There are many other moral issues that come in under the heading of non-negotiables, including contraception, the death penalty and genocide, but the five he was referring to are part of the political landscape today, he said.
Staples suggested that in a political election, the best thing a Catholic can do is “do what Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio said. ‘Let your conscience be your guide.’”
Pope Benedict XVI was the subject of Staples’ second presentation. He spoke of how the pope is the incarnation of the documents of Vatican II. “In a little over six years, Benedict has done astonishing things; he has ministered to every aspect of every situation in today’s world. He has resolved age-old conflicts between the Roman Catholic Church and various orthodox communities that had broken away more than 1,000 years ago over semantics.” He engaged them in dialogue, “talking to them,” And he has continued the dialogue with various Orthodox communities, as well as Protestants, Jews and Muslims.
“Can you tell I’m a fan? It’s absolutely astonishing to me to think that I have a ‘papa’ in Rome, me, a father of four in the domestic church. And his example of evangelization with words and deeds … If we knew who we were – we’ve mistaken meekness for weakness, and allowed the current culture of death to run all over us.”
Staples said, “If you love somebody, you’ve got to know him. You can’t have an intimate relationship with a nebulous entity. And part of getting to know that person is to really listen to what he has to say. If you don’t really listen and understand what the other person is saying, you won’t get anywhere.”
His third presentation, The Gospel of Suffering, explored the profound meaning of suffering and its relationship to a Catholic and biblical understanding of justification. Staples explained the theology of salvation from a Catholic perspective, as well as showing how the Catholic understanding of suffering can bring hope and a sense of purpose in a Christian’s darkest moments.
The conference had a number of breakout sessions, with speakers from the Bishop Helmsing Institute, and others leading dialogues. Topics ranged from the importance of teaching virtues to children to Our Lady as a model of motherhood, from discussions on educating children for human love and sexuality to St. Joseph as a model and intercessor for fathers. Other dialogues centered around the pro-life movement and Our Lady of Guadalupe, catechesis, consumerism and clothing.
For information on courses offered by the Bishop Helmsing Institute, call (816) 714-2331 or visit www.calledtofaith.org.