Interview Series with Thomas McKenna 2022 - Catholic Action For Faith and Family

Cardinal Newman the Catholic Apologist

Our third and final interview in the Catholic Action Insight series on St. John Henry Cardinal Newman features the famed Catholic apologist, Karl Keating, speaking to Catholic Action President, Thomas McKenna, about Newman’s influence on his intellectual formation as a Catholic. Cardinal Newman also provided much of the inspiration for founding the world’s preeminent Catholic apologetics organization, Catholic Answers, based in San Diego. 

Mr. Keating takes us on a very personal tour of his own embrace of Cardinal Newman as a Catholic Apologist. In fact, Newman was the most well-known defender of the Catholic faith in his day, not only because he arrived at his conviction through a thorough study of Catholic history but also because his conversion cost him everything: friends, positions, and influence. Newman went against the grain of so many of his former colleagues who rejected his honest discussion of the issues on which Anglicanism was founded.

Of particular importance to Karl Keating’s understanding of apologetics were these Newmanian influences: 

  • His Essay on the Development of Doctrine (1845) which was published on the very threshold of his conversion to the Catholic Church; 
  • The historical veracity of Catholicism which he found to be the only Church that could claim to be the One Church Christ founded; and
  • His perceptive understanding of the roots of sacramental teaching as well as papal authority and the hierarchical structure of the Church; among many other issues.

Keating found Newman’s methodologies and arguments to be persuasive even with non-Catholics in the apologetics ministry. He relates how his own blockbuster apologetics book, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, (now, incredibly, 30 years on the market) owes a great debt to the zeal and intelligence of one of the Church’s newest saints, who, in addition to having one of the most brilliant minds in history, was also humble and holy. 

At the end of the interview, Thomas McKenna sums up the reason for our CAI series on Cardinal Newman by noting, “We all need to be apologists for the Catholic Faith.”

Cardinal Newman would certainly respond, “Amen!” to that.


Cardinal Newman's Idea of a University

Catholic Action President, Thomas McKenna, reprises his discussion with guests Dr. Edward Short and Karl Keating in this second video in our CAI series on the life and legacy of one of England’s greatest converts, St. John Henry Cardinal Newman.

In the first video our interviewees discussed the various aspects of Cardinal Newman’s legendary writings and accomplishments. In this 7-minute interview, we get to listen in on the experts discussing Newman’s greatest impact on the Church, which Dr. Short says is Newman’s educational legacy. This is particularly evident in his famous seminal work of educational philosophy called The Idea of a University

Dr. Short and Mr. Keating lay out the main aspects of the Cardinal’s view of education, especially:

  • How his idea of education is rooted in the views of the Medieval schoolmen;
  • How this vision was the foundation of the Oxford/Cambridge system (Oxbridge) which dates back the Middle Ages and was founded by Catholics;
  • His frustrated attempt to set up a Catholic University in Ireland based on these principles;
  • Why the Catholic philosophy of education is so different from the modern, secular version that reigns today;
  • The reason why religion is not just another subject to study in a curriculum but is the very soul of the educational process; and 
  • How, ironically, Newman’s ideas have become more influential over Catholic education in America than in his native land.

In this shorter video (less than 8 minutes) our interviewees provide the viewer with a concise explanation of how and why Cardinal Newman was not only a leading influence on education in his day but continues to influence Catholic models of education in the US and beyond.


The Ongoing Gift of Cardinal Newman

In this first of three interviews, Catholic Action President, Thomas McKenna, discusses with our guests Edward Short and Karl Keating, the life and legacy of one of England’s greatest converts, John Henry Cardinal Newman. It is a wide-ranging discussion that shines a great deal of light on a figure who may not be very well known, even in the English-speaking world, but whose influence on that world is enormous. 

In this video you’ll hear about Newman’s writings and accomplishments, which are the stuff of legend:

  • His prodigious intellect and intellectual journey to the Catholic Faith by way of his study of the Fathers;
  • His foundational works of theology and apologetics such as the Essay on the Development of Doctrine (1845) and his intellectual autobiography, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (1864), among others;
  • The burning issues of his time that are also critical issues for the Church in our present day: refuting the idea of a “primitive church” and the “branch theory” of Christianity; 
  • How he managed the ecclesiastical controversies of his day which may be templates for our own work of defending the Church; as well as
  • Recommendations for getting more familiar with Newman’s thought and spirituality.

There is hardly a more valuable introduction to Cardinal Newman’s charism than this discussion by Edward Short and Karl Keating, who are knowledgeable about the great man and are well able to articulate his real value to the Church.

Make sure to take a few moments today to watch this fascinating discussion. It will leave you inspired and vivified in your faith – which is the very reason why Cardinal Newman took up his pen to leave us such a stunning legacy of spirit and life.


The Preeminent Role of Music in Divine Worship

What is the difference between “praise and worship” music and the sacred music traditions of the Catholic Church? Should we applaud in church when the music is particularly moving? Is liturgical music meant to move our emotions or enhance the words and prayers of the liturgy? 

These are questions that touch our lives every time we go to Mass, and our panelists answer these questions with remarkable insight.

The Eucharist is the highest form of divine worship we can experience on this earth, and music has always been an enhancement to the formal words of the Mass. Sacrament, word, and sacred music together unite us to the rest of the believing Church, not only the universal Church in our day but to the entire mystical Church throughout space and time. 

Unfortunately, even Catholic worship has in some ways been affected by the modern day phenomenon of “megachurches” where there is little scripture, little actual preaching of the Gospel, and lots of entertaining music. But this model is not the authentic way for Catholics to worship. 

We worship God out of justice, not for entertainment. Worship is due to Him because He is God. This means that lack of preparation, liturgical sloppiness, lack of devotion, and secular entertainment models of worship are foreign to the Catholic experience of Mass. 

In essence, the proper understanding and practice of sacred music are more important for our worship today than ever before, since faith is so watered down and catechesis is so weak. Simple practices like arriving at Mass early, preparing one’s heart through the readings, proper attire, and remaining for the final blessing at the end of Mass make great contributions to our experience of divine worship. 

But we can never underestimate the preeminent role of good sacred music in divine worship: it helps us worship like the angels who constantly sing God’s praises in heaven.

Exploring the Sacrificial Essence of the Priesthood

What is a priest? That is the question that Thomas McKenna asks our panelists Fr. John Trigillio and Karl Keating in this amazing interview about the sacred and sacrificial nature of the Catholic Priesthood. It is a question to which the Church gives a clear answer even in times of confusion such as ours.

At its core, the priest is an alter Christus, “another Christ” who serves others not just in active ministry but with his very being. This is the difference between a Catholic priest and a minister in a denomination without an ordained priesthood. As Fr. Trigillio tells the seminarians he teaches: “The life you live as a priest is not your life anymore.” It is a life consecrated through exclusivity (celibacy), obedience to Christ and the Church, and the sacrificial gift of self to God’s people. 

Throughout history, every religion that has had an official priesthood, Christian or not, viewed priests as “sacrificers” whose role was to intercede before God on behalf of others. The sacrificial nature of any priest is fundamental to his identity but more so in the Catholic priesthood, where the priest offer the Church’s sacred mysteries. 

The priest’s role of celebrating the sacraments is always personal and direct. Catholics cannot receive sacraments via zoom calls or over the telephone because the priest’s ministry is immediate and personal in order for it to be valid. By extension, physical participation in Mass, direct confession of sins, personal reception of sacraments like anointing and confirmation are necessary to avoid the privatization of religion which is so common in Christianity today.

The sacrament of Holy Orders is called a “sacrament in the service of communion” for good reason. The Catholic priest truly keeps the Church focused on Christ and authentic worship, without which the Church would cease to be. 

Preserving the Sacred Character of the Catholic Funeral

The Catholic Church changed its position on cremation in the ’80s, but has allowing cremation been for the better? This is one of the numerous questions that Thomas McKenna explores with our panelists Fr. John Trigillio and Karl Keating in this interview about the sacred character of the Catholic funeral. 

The essence of the Catholic burial rite is our belief in the bodily Resurrection of Christ, which is why Catholics uphold the dignity of the human body, from the moment of conception to natural death – and even beyond. If our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul teaches (1 Cor 6:19), then our mortal remains also deserve respect while we await the resurrection of the body. 

Modern Catholic funeral practices often lose sight of this because they are influenced by the pagan attitudes of our culture and are easily watered down by many factors: 

  • A negative view of the human body as something that needs to be discarded rather than with a dignity all its own;
  • Sloppy habits of eulogizing and canonizing the deceased rather than praying for their souls in Purgatory;
  • Skipping the funeral liturgy altogether for financial purposes or carelessness; 
  • Scattering or sprinkling ashes (forbidden by the Church) rather than burying them in a dignified manner.

Often under appreciated is the act of immense charity that takes place at a church funeral where we pray for the repose of the souls of our loved ones. Not only do individual families benefit from having church funerals, but the church community itself performs a corporal and spiritual work of mercy by praying for the dead and offering the consolation of a Catholic funeral. 

Make sure you take a few moments to listen to our two panelists as they discuss our great need for the Catholic funeral and the importance of preserving its sacred character. 

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