What is internal apologetics?

I was listening to an old episode of Catholic Answers and the topic was discernment. It was mentioned that internal apologetics was needed for discernment. Although I never really grasped what internal apologetics meant. I would like to know what it is and what it involves or maybe even what idea is involved with it.

Thank you.

In life we are often faced with the necessity to apply our faith to various situations and to discern the best course of action. Sometimes the answer may seem clear-cut, but upon reflection and the application of the faith, more options appear.

For example, you are invited to a family wedding in which your family member is a fallen-away Catholic and his fiancee is unbaptized. After having lived together for several years, they now plan to be married on a ski slope at a mountain resort by the fiancee’s brother who plans to obtain a one-day license to preside at the marriage. Can you attend? Should you attend? (And please note that these are vastly different questions.)

The automatic answer offered by sincere Catholics who have heard through various sources that one may only attend Catholic weddings is “No! Of course not!” A Catholic who has learned the art of applying knowledge of the faith to the situations of everyday life will know that the answer is “Maybe; maybe not.”

There are a number of considerations to be thought through in this situation in order to come to a decision:

[list]Has the fallen-away Catholic actually left the faith or is he merely lapsed in his practice? If he has actually left the faith, especially by a formal act such as joining another religious body, he is no longer formally bound by Catholic marital law. If he is lapsed but still considers himself Catholic, he must obtain two dispensations from his local bishop: a dispensation from cult, in order to marry a non-Christian; and a dispensation from form, to be married in a non-Catholic ritual. Unless he obtains those dispensations, the Church will not consider his marriage valid. If he does, it will presume it to be valid (although not sacramental because one of the parties is unbaptized).[/list]

[list]Although it is certainly grave matter and highly inadvisable to the success of the marriage, cohabitation outside of marriage is not necessarily an impediment to marriage. In fact, marriage can be considered one of the means by which to rectify a potentially mortally sinful situation.[/list]

[list]If the fiancee’s brother is duly recognized by the state to preside at a civil marriage, and if the couple has a dispensation to be married outside of the Catholic ritual (a dispensation often given when one of the parties is not Catholic), the Church will presume that the marriage is valid and will recognize it to be legal in the eyes of the state.[/list]

[list]If the marriage is irregular in some aspect – perhaps the lapsed Catholic refuses to bother with obtaining the necessary dispensations – will your attendance at the event give scandal by the appearance that you, as a Catholic, believe the marriage to be valid?[/list]

[list]Finally, and most important, to date the Church does not explicitly forbid Catholics to attend weddings such as the one in our hypothetical example. Here we are back to our questions of “Can?” and “Should?” The Church entrusts to the lay faithful the obligation to do what they can to uphold the Catholic vision of the importance of valid and/or sacramental marriages; to do what they can reasonably do to be channels of grace to lapsed family members; and, lastly but not least importantly, to testify to Christian truth before an unbelieving world. Even if you can attend such an event, it is possible that you should not. But it is also possible that an event you can attend is also one you should attend in order to maintain family relationships necessary to being a channel of grace to your family. But this is something only you, who knows your family dynamics better than an outsider, can ultimately decide.[/list]

[Continued below]

[Continued from above]

Without knowledge of the considerations involved and an ability to internally sort through one’s options by applying what one knows about the faith, it is possible to risk giving scandal in another way: If you don’t know your faith and don’t have the ability to apply it to day-to-day life, you risk giving people the wrong impression about what the Church requires. In the hypothesis we’re considering, if you boycott an otherwise valid marriage, giving the explanation that your reason is “Because the Church says so!” then you risk that your lapsed relative will believe that the Church presumes his valid marriage to be invalid and be further alienated from and resent the Church. In other words, an uninformed judgment on your part might be a stumbling block to his eventual return home.

In short, internal apologetics is important partly because it helps us to make decisions that will impact our own souls and also other people’s understanding of and acceptance of the Church.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.