Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Brief Defense of Catholic Answers

Michael Voris
When believers fight amongst themselves, the devil must laugh with delight--while the world snickers.  The latest "drama" is Michael Vori's campaign against Catholic Answers.  Not so surprisingly, it follows in the wake of this apologist not being hired for a position with this apostolate--back in 2009, or so.  Does anyone else catch the scent of sour grapes here?

Before delving more deeply into this topic, I should disclose my own little connection to Catholic Answers.  When they published "A Thirst for Reverence", it was greatly appreciated.  In fact, as a Protestant convert, it helped me find my new Catholic voice.  That's not to say I didn't have a few small concerns with the editing of my original article.  It seemed that the positive elements of my Protestant background were downplayed, and the emphasis was more upon on the negative.  Really, though, this was only a couple paragraphs; there could have been valid stylistic reasons for their editorial decisions.

If the only thing you recognize of Catholic Answers is Jimmy Akins' ever-lengthening red're ahead of most.  Still, I suggest this issue of unity is important.  After all, who remembers the 17th chapter of John?

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will[e] believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Yes, unity is terribly important.  As I understand, Michael Voris' attack on Catholic Answers focuses on its financials--specifically the compensation of its big names--like Karl Keating and Al Kresta.  Dave Armstrong and Dwight Longnecker have already addressed most of these issues quite well, but I wanted to weigh in really briefly on the financial side of it.  I see a lot of  financial records in my day job as a governmental auditor, and I can say with complete conviction that a non-profit can be a particularly confusing animal.  

Salaries represent only a one dimensional glimpse into a complex three dimensional organization.  It doesn't show, for example, what is being freely given back to the non-profit.  Appearances are important, of course.  I remember being a little concerned about Catholic Answers' Cruises, for example.  When I would see cruise announcements followed immediately by calls for seemed problematic.  Still, it's important to realize that poor timing doesn't constitute financial impropriety.  The fact is that these events most likely constitute a significant revenue stream.  It may be in poor taste to do appeals on the heels of cruise announcements, but it means nothing in and of itself.

When I was a kid, a Sunday School teacher posed an interesting question.  It went something like this.  If Christianity were a crime and all the authorities had was your parents' check book or bank statement as evidence, would there be enough there for a conviction?  I like that way of looking at the spiritual life--where the tire meets the road, so to speak.  If Catholic Answers wanted to nip this thing in the bud, they might consider releasing a week or two of their General Ledger entries--reflecting a typical period.  They then might offer a detailed explanation of the identified transactions, which would be (in effect) a small sampling.  This might help make it more real for folks, helping them get a glimmer of the real complexities of these organizations.  How is their mission supported by their financial practices?  If they can articulate that and support it with documentation that makes sense to the average Joe, that might make Michael's arguments appear even more silly than they already are.

While transparency and accountability are important to non-profits, however, releasing this kind of detailed response might just encourage those with an ax to grind.  The best thing to do may be to do...absolutely nothing.  It's time for certain people to stop tearing down good organizations for the furtherance of personal agendas.

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