How Jesuit Fr. Spitzer wants to make Catholicism credible for doubting Millennials

How Jesuit Fr. Spitzer wants to make Catholicism credible for doubting Millennials

By Kevin Jones

.- How can Catholics respond to young people’s questions and concerns about faith, science, and modern problems?

Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. thinks a new educational series called Credible Catholic can help.

“The problem of faith and science and evidence is really significant. Just invest a couple hours of your time and you’ll improve not just the faith of your children, not just their sense of transcendent dignity… at the same time they’re going to be a lot happier,” Spitzer told CNA July 25.

Spitzer is a past president of Gonzaga University and frequent commentator on the relationship between science and religion. He has produced seven television series for the EWTN Global Catholic Network. He is the president of the Garden Grove, Calif.-based Magis Center, which aims to revitalize Catholic and Christian belief among contemporary Americans.

The Magis Center has helped develop the Credible Catholic series, which has seven presentation modules specially dedicated to common intellectual challenges to faith.  The Credible Catholic presentations can be viewed directly from the Credible Catholic website or downloaded.

“Our hope is to turn the tide of Millennial unbelief,” Spitzer said.

Surveys from the Pew Research Center show a “steep decline” in religion in the U.S. among younger generations. Self-identified religiously unaffiliated “nones” numbered 39 percent among the age 18-29 demographic in 2016, up from 23 percent in 2006. If the trend continues, this proportion will grow to 50 percent in the next five years, the Credible Catholic website said.

Credible Catholic contends religious disaffiliation is being driven by “secular myths”: the idea that science has proven that God does not exist; the idea that suffering proves God does not exist; the idea that humans are just like other animals, made of atoms and molecules, with no proof of a transcendent “soul”; and the idea that there is no proof that Jesus was special or divine, and no proof of his existence or Resurrection.

Father Spitzer has selected seven Credible Catholic modules as essential. They deal with evidence of the soul from medical science; evidence of God’s existence from science; proof of God’s existence from philosophy; and proof of Jesus’ resurrection and divinity. Other essential topics address the question “why be Catholic?”, the nature of true happiness, and why an all-loving God would allow suffering.

The modules aim to address the stated intellectual reasons Millennials are leaving the Church.

When young people leave their faith, a significant minority give up belief in God entirely. Among this group, half do so “because of a perceived contradiction between faith and science,” Spitzer said.

In Spitzer’s view, young people are being strongly exposed to “a raft of pretty superficial arguments for atheism.”

“They’re easy to address, and there’s a ton of evidence to do it with,” he added. “Once you give all this evidence, it makes the faith look more credible than anything they might have heard from their friends in high school or their professors in college or especially on new media.”

In Spitzer’s view, young people seem particularly affected by “a malaise that is arising out of the problem of suffering.”

“The kids just can’t figure out if there is any good that can come from suffering, and why a good God would allow it,” he said. This is an age-old question, rather than a scientific problem, but “it has a really good answer.”

The Credible Catholic modules are designed with the goal that no special training is needed for them. Presentation guides aim to help a presenter lead the module. Individual guides and student workbooks are also available,

At present the Credible Catholic series is a set of 20 modules that serve in a complementary role to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The modules help explain difficult concepts and cover materials addressing issues that affect society today.

“You want to invest in your child’s happiness in moving him out of superficiality to a life of real dignity and leadership for the good?” Spitzer asked. “Just please, invest three or four hours in watching these modules. I swear it’ll make a difference not only to them but to you.”

Other planned programs in the Credible Catholic series will discuss faith and morals; the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults; Marriage and pre-Cana courses; Baptism; and Confirmation. When completed the modules will cover the complete Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The Credible Catholic series is available at the website www.crediblecatholic.com.

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One comment on “How Jesuit Fr. Spitzer wants to make Catholicism credible for doubting Millennials

  1. [A Jesuit brother on a similar topic]

    ‘Embrace science—don’t let the atheists steal it from us,’ Pope’s astronomer tells Catholic Scots

    The Vatican’s top astronomer, issued the call to Scottish Catholics at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre, Edinburgh, when he delivered a talk titled ‘Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer.’

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    BY PETER DIAMOND | JULY 27 2018

    ‘Embrace science and don’t let the atheists steal it from us,’ the director of Vatican Astronomy told Scottish Catholics last week.

    Br Guy Consolmagno, the Vatican’s top astronomer, issued the call to Scottish Catholics at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre, Edinburgh, when he delivered a talk titled ‘Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer.’

    The top scientist of the Holy See, who is originally from Detroit, in the US, has worked under St Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and was appointed director of Vatican astronomy by Pope Francis in 2015.

    After speaking to a crowd of 180 people in Edinburgh on Thursday July 19, Br Consolmagno said: “My most important audience when speaking around the world are lay Catholics who are afraid of science or have only been informed of science up until they leave school.

    “They hear too many people who want to bash religion and think they can use science to do it.

    “Catholics should not be afraid of science, instead they should embrace it—don’t let the atheists steal it from us, we started it, it’s ours.”

    The Jesuit revealed that by learning more about science we can learn so much more about God.

    He added: “Religion invented ­science; our universities invented science and gave the justification of doing it by the fact that it’s a way of studying God. I think all Catholics should at least in an amateur sense become more aware of the physical universe and more aware of what’s really happening in science.

    “Real science is this glorious creative fun activity, which frankly you don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy.”

    When asked what young Scots in Catholic schools should do to get involved more in science, Br Consolmagno said: “Scotland has a great history of scientists.

    “In fact, Hermann Bruick, who was a German-born astronomer that worked at the Vatican Observatory in 1936, fled to Scotland during World War Two and years later in 1957 became the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, whilst teaching at Edinburgh University.

    “To young Catholics interested in science I would say embrace it because it is your heritage. To be a scientist is your heritage, to be a Catholic is your heritage and the two really support each other.

    “To my mind there were three great physicists in the history of physics: Einstein, Newton and James Clerk-Maxwell.

    “Maxwell is probably the least well-known but his work created everything we know in the 20th century; he made Einstein possible.

    “He wasn’t Catholic but was a deeply religious person and most importantly he was Scottish.”

    A leading scientist at the University of Edinburgh, Ian Chambers, welcomed Br Consolmagno’s comments stating that science can be a way of serving the Church and wider community.

    Professor Ian Chambers of Pluripotent Stem Cell Biology, said: “Science is like a puzzle, where we can try to find out how the world around us works. But being a scientist need not only be about studying the world. It can also be a way of serving your communities by using your talents to advance knowledge and so help others.

    “I would agree that Church was interested in knowledge and were therefore responsible sponsors of science in order to learn more about the world and travel and preach teachings.

    “It’s important that dialogue is encouraged and developed between the Church and science in a respectful manner in the years to combat the perception that a main aim of science is to bash religion.”

    Br Consolmagno stated that the Church has an obligation to nurture science. He said: “You can find science directly in scripture—not only the Genesis story but as directly as Paul’s letter to the Romans: Chapter 1 verse 20: ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.’

    “And this ties in with St Ignatius’ spirituality of ‘finding God in all things,’ which is why the Jesuits in particular are so often attracted to being astronomers.”

    Part of the reason the Vatican has an observatory was because, in the late 1800s, having a national observatory was a symbol of nationhood, and the Vatican was at the time trying to ­establish that it was a country independent from Italy.

    Since then the Church has nurtured scientists such as Mgr Georges Lemaître, who first proposed what became known as the ‘Big Bang theory’ and who last week was celebrated by Google on its homepage to mark what would have been his 124th birthday.

    Br Consolmagno said he believes it’s more powerful if the secular world picks up on the scientific work of the Catholic Church.

    “The glorious thing is that Lemaitre’s story is getting out there—the fact that Google honoured him on his birthday.

    “And it’s much more powerful when we let the rest of the world discover it than us trying to sell it, not that there is anything wrong with that—it’s just good tactics.

    “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of and lots to be proud of but it works best when ­someone else blows our horn for us.”

    Secular society may well be afraid of the scientific work of the Church according to Br Consolmagno and he said strands of anti-Catholicism in British society are responsible for an ignorance of the Church’s role in scientific progress.

    The Jesuit said he is ‘not worried’ about the secular world ignoring the Church’s contribution to science, saying that ‘in a bizarre way I almost welcome it because it makes me realise the anti-religion world thinks we’re worth being afraid of—and that’s a point of pride.’

    “You find that perhaps a bit in Britain because there is still this sort of anti-Catholicism that is fashionable,” he said. “It’s not fashionable in most parts of the world but it is here.

    “Yet even here one of the most honoured scientists in Britain right now is a meteorite scientist called Monica Grady. She even [appeared on] Desert Island Discs and she is a devout Catholic and scientist.”

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