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The major project of the Year of Faith is the New Evangelization. It’s a year to relearn how to be fishers of 21st century men and women.

This Election Year makes it clear that we have a lot of learning to do.

After Nov. 6’s results, old certainties are now uncertain: It used to seem that people were generally pro-family on social issues. It doesn’t seem so now. You used to be able to say that voters had never agreed to redefine marriage; it was always imposed by courts. You can’t say that now.

So, what happened? How did we lose the culture so completely? Here are a few ideas that emerged from a Gregorian Fellows session at Benedictine College.

1. The fish won’t come to our favorite spots anymore.

We can no longer count on inertia to do our work for us. The seekers are no longer knocking at the door of the Catholic Church for answers. It’s not enough simply to know our apologetics cold; we need to learn how to pierce a cloud of cynicism that considers us irrelevant and provoke the questions ourselves.

It’s a lesson our opponents learned long ago.

Those who fought to redefine marriage certainly don’t count on inertia. Read the comments on any Catholic blog post defending marriage and you’ll see what I mean. The opponents pour in, pressing their arguments  for same-sex “marriage.”

Then, visit a website that promotes homosexual “marriage,” and look in the comments for an articulate defender of marriage posting there.

Pick your favorite quote about the battle for ideas to sum up the problem. Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Yeats: “The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.”

I realize that many Catholics have certainly done a lot more than “nothing.” But it is worth asking: Have we been trying to seek out the lost where they actually are, or are we trying to order them back in line from a distance?

2. Use a lure the fish like, not the lure you like.

In a post the week before the election, I noted that the president’s re-election campaign had begun to assume the snarky, cynical tone of the Huffington Post. “Is he hopelessly out of touch or am I?” I asked.

On Nov. 6 the answer became clear: I am the one out of touch.

So I need to relearn the lesson a wise man taught me when I was first looking for work in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s: Don’t live in a bubble. Read the arguments of your side with a critical eye, and read the arguments of your opponents with an open mind.

Too often, we read to reassure our assumptions instead of reading to correct our presumptions. This leaves us unable to relate to what others are feeling, unable to use a language they recognize, unwilling to treat opponents with decency and fairness, and impotent to convince others of anything but our own cluelessness.

Here’s a challenge: Read the blogs and essays of the anti-family side. A superficial reading will make you say “What are you thinking?” in despair. A deeper reading should make you say, “Oh, that’s what you’re thinking. Here’s what you’re missing,” with understanding.

When souls are at stake, Christian owe the world that second response.

3. Fishing isn’t hunting.

As Vaughn Kohler pointed out at the Gregorian earlier this year, there’s a reason Jesus told us to be “fishers of men” and not “hunters of men.”

Christians are right to feel a certain righteous rage against people who are denying a whole class of people the right to life, destroying the family, and taking away our religious liberty: These people are destroying America. But Christians are missionaries in this world. We are also meant to feel compassion and empathy: These people are destroying themselves, too.

There are those who are rightly culture warriors: Lawyers, politicians, public figures, and others. But most of us are missionaries, living among the ones we need to catechize. If we adopt the attitude of a warrior, we will fail as missionaries.

We have to move from culture warriors to New Evangelizers if we are going to make headway for Christ in the culture.

We remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

We forget that Jesus so loved the world that he sent us.


Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.



  • Greg B.

    People are pro-family on social issues – they just include the families of gays and lesbians – much to your dismay. And as long as you refer to thise families as “evil”, you will rightly be labeled a bigot as you travel toward irrelevance at breakneck speed.

  • Elisa Kolk

    Hey Tom, thanks for this. It dovetails nicely with some thoughts I had this morning and a serious conversation I had with God. I shared it publicly on Facebook, and I’d love it if you (and other readers) would check it out.

    In essence, to what you said, I think we need to think bigger. I feel strongly we need to pray for a miracle – on the order of the Conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus. And then, like you said, we’ve got a lot of work to do. :)

    • Donna in SC

      Really liked your prayer. After I got over the disappointment of the election I had similar thoughts about prayer and about praying for our leaders. There are so many miracles that have happened through the prayers of saints. More prayer really is the answer, I truly believe God will lead us in the right thing to do.

      • Elisa Kolk

        Thank you Donna. If you’ll be so kind as to pray along with me, I’d appreciate it. And if you’d like to hit “share” on facebook and share it, I want it to reach as many people as I can.

  • NOM lies

    Don’t you think that denying gay couples thousands of legal rights associated with our marriage laws actually destroys their families? Your suggestion is the same as telling nazis that they should go make some comments on those friggin jew sites.

    • Elisa Kolk

      No – because most if not all of the “legal rights” you speak of are actually not denied them.

      A person can designate anyone they want as a DPOA and DPOA-HC – that means that *anyone* can be their legal representative and make decisions for them when their incapacitated. It just takes a little planning and work (you have to sign some legal documentation) ahead of time. And as a DPOA-HC (Durable Power of Attorney over Health Care) *must* be given health information, that person could also not be denied access to visiting their loved one in the hospital.

      A person can designate anyone they wish to be their heir in their will. They simply have to write a will. Again – takes planning and work but its totally possible.

      A person can designate anyone they wish to take care of their children once they’ve passed on. This gets complicated if the child’s other parent is still alive (they would and rightfully should get custody) but if, for example, one person adopted children, they could designate their “partner” (or anyone) to be the person to get custody at their demise. (insert line about planning/work).

      As far as the “marriage tax break” that is so often touted – that is a VERY recent “tax break” that simply got rid of the tax *penalty* for filing jointly (it used to be that a couple filing individually got a greater tax credit/reduction than a couple filing jointly). This penalty was a disincentive to get married and was *rightly* done away with.

      Finally, the true question is *what is marriage for*? What is the state’s *stake* in keeping track of couples? The state has absolutely no stake, no reason to keep track of who is sleeping with whom or who loves whom. Sex or love is not a reason for the state to get involved. Children are. The state has a stake in seeing that the next generation of citizens is produced and raised to be productive members of society. And (ignoring the question of whether a gay/lesbian couple is equal in parenting to a heterosexual married biological father and mother) no matter how you slice and dice it, no matter what they do, *two men* or *two women* can NEVER create a child together. Ever. It is biologically impossible. Therefore, the state has no reason to regulate their “union” or “partnership” or “love”, no reason to encourage them to stay together (as the difficulty of getting a divorce does), no reason to guarantee that the other partner will automatically inherit (without the legal paperwork) or automatically becomes their DPoA (without the legal paperwork). It just has no stake.

      The people here aren’t advocating that it be ok for homosexuals to be physically abused or fired without cause or denied housing or any other violation of basic human rights. We believe that those with same-sex-attraction are human beings with the same basic claim on dignity as every other human being (including those in the womb), including the right to life, the right to shelter, the right to food, the right to work. We believe they are Loved by God and we welcome them into our Churches under the same requirement placed on everyone else: work to live a sinless life.

      Were we advocating for any of the violations of rights in the previous paragraph, your comment would be logical. But as we are not advocating for what the Nazis did (the Nazis killed Jews, they forced them from their homes and their jobs, they imprisoned them without cause) – we simply advocate for a particular institution that in *all societies* has always been composed of a man and a women (even in polygamy, the vows/promises/obligations are between a man and each woman individually), because in all societies marriage has been about children.

      God Bless You.


        Why should gay couples have to hire lawyers and spend thousands of dollars to (hopefully) get these few rights that you note above? Married couples have access to 1,138 federal rights and usually hundreds of rights at a state level. You’ve listed a handful. That certainly isn’t equal.

        Among those missing are the right to pass your inheritance to your spouse without being charged taxes, the right to file joint taxes, the right to social security survivors benefits. The right to sponsor a spouse for immigration. The right not to be forced to testify against your spouse in a court of law.

        You troll these websites making the same DISHONEST statements over and over. Gay couples do NOT have equal rights when they are banned from marriage laws.

      • paul davis

        Actually, the people on this website did indeed advocate that gay people should be fired from their jobs. Perhaps you just aren’t paying attention. You can’t claim this site isn’t bigoted, when you can scroll back a few months and see that they did in fact argue against the repeal of DADT (and therefore wanted to fire soldiers because they are gay) and even argued that a cupcake shop should be able to refuse to sell cupcakes to gay people. This site is hateful and discriminatory and marriage is just one more are where they want to be able to “stick it” to the gay people.

      • Greg B.

        So you see nothing wrong with one couple having to spend thousands of dollars with an attorney in order to obtain only a small fraction of the rights, responsibilities, benefits, and privileges that another couple gets by paying $20 at city hall?

    • Greg B.

      He doesn’t care about gay families. In case you didn’t notice, he refers to them as “evil” in the above rant.

  • This Catholic

    The reason that you don’t see comments on “pro-gay rights” sites “defending marriage” is that there really aren’t any valid reasons as to why gay couples should be banned from marriage that would withstand any type of scrutiny at all.

    For example:

    1. Marriage is for procreation, and gay couples can’t procreate, therefore they should be banned from marriage: This of course is nonsense. The ability or willingness to procreate has never been a requirement to get a marriage licenses. Infertile straight couples have always been permitted to marry. I know you claim that they are an “exception” rather than the rule, but if straight infertile couples can be an “exception” why can’t gay infertile couples be an identical “exception”

    2. Straight people are better at raising children than gay people: This is the most bizarre argument for banning gay people from marriage that I’ve ever seen. First, it’s simply not true. Second, if the children of gay couples are at such a tremendous disadvantage because of their parents being gay, why in the world would you want to put them at a greater disadvantage by banning them from having married parents. It’s like taking a learning disabled child and making him go to school with earplugs in his ears. It’s completely insane.

    3. Gay people should be banned from marriage so that schoolchildren don’t learn about gay people in school: I don’t even know where to begin. What does gay marriage have to do with what children are taught in school? If you don’t want children to learn about gay marriage in school why don’t you just write a law that says that children can’t be taught about marriage in school. I think we can all agree on this. Marriage should be taught at home. School kids should learn about science and math at school.

    4. Gay people should be banned from marriage so that christians can refuse to sell them baked goods: Honestly, I’ve seen this argument over and over. It’s either the baker in Indiana, an inn-keeper in Vermont, or a photographer in Arizona. They all wanted to deny services to gay people (most weren’t even associated with marriage), and they all were sued for that discrimination. First off, these aren’t Christians. Christ would never have done such a thing. Second, I wonder if you would support gay people banning Catholics from marriage so that they didn’t have to sell them coffee. Insane, isn’t it?

    I’m sure there are a few that I am missing, but I’ve yet to see a coherent argument on what government purpose is actually accomplished by banning gay people from getting a marriage license at City Hall. Perhaps you should fill us in on what comments you would like us to post on those homosexual websites that won’t result in laughter.

    • Donna in SC

      I wish kids would only be taught math and science in school. That isn’t what happens. Kids pick up quickly on what’s going on in the world, didn’t you? Also at our local High School there is a gay and lesbian club. What are parents to do? Everyone can’t home school. As far as business goes I know that Chick fil A hires gays and serves gays but they also support one man one woman marriage.

      But I agree with the writer of this article we have to do more and do things differently. I find hope in people like Abby Johnson who left her job in the abortion clinic but there were Christians who were in contact with her even when she hated them and they didn’t give up and they prayed for her. As for me I decided to devote more time to prayer God will let me know the right thing to do if I spend time with Him.

      • This Catholic

        You still have not answered the question. What valid governmental purpose is accomplished by banning gay couples from getting a marriage license at City Hall?

        • Donna in SC

          I wasn’t really trying to answer the question. I was just commenting on some of the things you wrote in that long post. Sorry to disappoint.

          • Just Bigotry

            I guess there isn’t an answer then.

          • Dominic

            1. Gay couples are not infertile; they are incompatible: completely incapable of having children naturally, i.e. through their sexual relations. In other words, they are impotent, which Catholics believe is a ban on marriage.

            2. You might also ask: if children will be disadvantaged by being with gay couples, shouldn’t we ban gay couples from adopting children in the first place?

          • Mara

            The Catholic stance regarding gay marriage has its roots in the belief that having sex for any other reason than pro-creation is wrong. They have since updated that stance. However, the previous belief is still the root cause of the gay marriage stance by the Church. Having sex for pleasure and enjoyment is still considered a no-no. In other words, human beings are considered to be animals since animals only have sex for pro-creation purposes. The Church expects us to act as animals do rather than recognizing that we humans are an advanced creature capable of sexual relations for reasons beyond pro-creation, such as love, connection, enjoyment and pleasure. It’s amazing how often the Catholic Church treats adults as though they were children and or animals.

          • Ann Roth

            Mara, you are not Catholic and you do not understand the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding human sexuality. Those teachings are best summed up in JPIIs Theology of the Body. Do you have a reference for your statement ” Having sex for pleasure and enjoyment is still considered a no-no. In other words, human beings are considered to be animals since animals only have sex for pro-creation purposes”? You will not be able to do that so I fully expect that your next post will be some other false representation of the Catholic faith or an insult.

      • Greg B.

        Yeah, high school is way too young to deal with the existence of gay people and the issue of gay marriage:

    • That Catholic

      While I am no expert on this topic, here are some things that came to mind when I read your post. Thank you for coming into this discussion.
      1. You may be right that pro creation has never been an explicit requirement, but its has historically been implied that since the traditional purpose of marriage is to raise children and procreation is a means to that end, it makes sense that couples should ideally be able to procreate, or at least have the potential to do so. By the way the Catholic Church does not allow marriage between infertile couples. As for being an identical exception to the rule, this would make sense if gay couples were more like the rule rather than the exception, but instead it seems gay couples want the exception to become the rule. But there are reasons that are much deeper than this that have to do with the way in which our bodies and spirits are related and have a spiritual purpose and character endowed in them by our loving God, who made even our bodies to reflect His image and remind us of certain qualities of God, namely that He is life giving, that He is relational, and above all he is love. Again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts my brother (or sister). Speaking of what Jesus would do (thank you for mentioning that) would you be open to coming over for dinner or having a phone conversation? I would be honored. 915-252-2126. My name is Moises. Call me anytime and we can arrange something. Your points are good ones and they deserve good answers. Thanks for posting this and I look forward to your call and meeting you!

      • This Catholic

        Oh my! a few things that just prove my point!

        1. The traditional purpose of marriage was the exchange of property. A father sold his daughter in exchange for a dowry. Maybe you should look into history!

        2. The Catholic church does allow infertile couples to marry, unless you think our Priest thought my 82 year old great grandma was going to procreate with her 78 year old husband. ROFLMAO.

        3. Again, straight infertile couples are not able to procreate, never have been. Frankly, lesbian couples are twice as fertile as infertile straight couples. If it’s a matter of who’s more capable of procreating, then we should ban infertile straight couples from marriage and welcome lesbians.

        4. I get it. You don’t want to inconvenience straight infertile couples by banning them from marriage. One, because it’s not politically popular, and two, because it’s easier to discriminate against gay people. Of course, that’s all it is then – discrimination.

        5. I read the traditional Catholic wedding vows. Oddly, they don’t say anything about procreation or raising children. If this were the primary purpose of marriage, it seems like you would want to mention it in the wedding vows. Since it’s not there, it makes it look like you haphazardly decided that since procreation was the one thing gay people can’t do, that you’d use that as an excuse to discriminate against them. Of course, your reasoning is empty.

        Here’s the traditional wedding vows that couples say to each other:

        “I, ___, take you, ___, for my LAWFUL wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

        Now, which part of those wedding vows would a gay couple be unable to fullfill?

      • Thomas Rooney OFS

        We need more of this attitude, brother. Dialogue. As the OP says, missionaries, not necessarily warriors.

    • Mark B.

      1. First, let us clarify that we are speaking in the Catholic framework, so I would take for granted that you believe in the Scriptures for example.

      2. That procreation is part of the essence of marriage can be understood when we acknowledge that sex is part of the essence of marriage. That is why if any one of the couple refuses sex to the other, that is grounds for annulment because the marriage is not consummated. So sex is intrinsically part of marriage, unless perhaps if both parties for some other higher and mutual reasons decide to abstain from it.

      3. Now, the question becomes, is procreation necessarily a part of sex? Yes. Notice that the very first command of God is this: Be fertile and multiply. That’s the first mandate. Also, as Thomism would have it, any created thing has a reason. Now, how do you discover the reason for something. One good way is to study how that thing works. How does sex work if not to produce a new child?

      4. Humanae Vitae is astoundingly lucid about this.

      5. Infertile couples are allowed to marry because they are not by nature incapable of procreation. They are incapable of procreation because of a defect in nature. Gay couples however are by nature incapable of procreation, not because of a defect in nature. A hammer remains a hammer even if the wood is chipped or the head falling off–only it is a bad hammer. (I just realized this is also why Jesus loves sinners, because they are not by nature evil but only because of a defect in nature.)

      • Bigotry REIGNS

        Again. You are inventing reasons to discriminate. Where in our laws does it say marriage is based on nature? It doesn’t say anything about any of this nonsense. You are using your religious beliefs to explain why you want to discriminate. It’s not truthful.


    Thanks, Tom. Just what I needed to hear. I’m certainly guilty of treating the “other side” as if they were the enemies. They’re not. As Peter Kreeft says in his “Culture War” talk (, they are our patients, who we hope to join in Heaven someday.

  • Christine Gockman

    We Catholics need our church and Pope to speak out more and defend our rights.
    Prayer back in school, In God We Trust on money, buildings and everywhere. No more abortion!!!! Please help us, sometimes we feel alone out here. We need more talk from the pulpit! I pray everyday for God’s help!!!!

    • This Catholic

      Yes, nothing says “religious liberty” more than forcing the children of other religions to pray to God on a daily basis.

    • hartow

      We need to hear our priests preaching and teaching the Truth of our beautiful Catholic faith from the pulpit every Sunday. We don’t need talks about budgets and fundraisers, especially on the last weekend before the election. We need our Bishops to lead the way and defend the flocks entrusted to them. Their souls are at stake as well as ours. A good place to start is by denying Holy Communion to ‘c’atholic politicians who bring public scandal.



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