Peter Kilpatrick, McCloskey Dean of the School of Engineering at Notre Dame, spoke and fielded questions on “The Really Tough Questions about Catholicism.”  Kilpatrick began his talk with a list of what he called “apparently tough questions,” which ranged from the Church’s stance on homosexuality to whether science and religion necessarily conflict.

These questions, he said, are worth asking and worth knowing how to answer, but they are not the most important questions a Catholic should ask.

Before he described the “really tough questions” for which the lecture was named, Kilpatrick discussed ideas that he sees as vital to keep in mind when contemplating questions about Catholicism.  Kilpatrick says that Catholics should view tough questions through a “hermeneutic of faith and trust rather than [one of] suspicion,” and that human dignity comes from “who we are, not what we do or have.”  He also noted that sin darkens the intellect, so true understanding requires the freedom to love.

He then went on to Catholicism’s “really tough questions.”  These questions are deeper than the “apparently tough questions,” and include such difficult questions as, “Why are we here?  What is our purpose in life?  How can we know and love God when he is not obvious?  How do I allow myself to be transformed by [God]?”

Kilpatrick went on to explain why Catholics should be able to answer all these questions.  He cited 1 Peter 3:15-16, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence,” to emphasize the importance of answers for evangelization.  Personal witness, he said, matters more than the actual arguments used.  Outside of these practical concerns, it is important for Catholics to understand their faith for their own sakes.

After recommending such resources for further study as the Catechism, video lectures by Fr. Robert Barron, and a book by George Weigel, Kilpatrick opened the floor to questions. Audience members asked questions that ranged from issues of women’s ordination to how we can be sure of Christianity’s truth when so many intelligent people are firmly convinced of so many different and mutually exclusive things.

Kilpatrick gave the Church’s answer to these questions where it has been formulated, often recommending books or articles for further reading.  In cases where the Church has not officially determined an answer, he gave his own understanding of the relevant concerns and identified areas where theological thought should be directed, such as whether and how just war theory changes with new forms of war where the distinction between civilians and combatants is blurred.

Kilpatrick stressed the importance of evangelization, but cautioned against infringing on religious freedom.  “Only propose, never impose—but I’m going to propose!” he said.  He said that his personal approach is to share his beliefs freely with others and to “let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.”

Teresa Anne Gorman is a sophomore philosophy/theology joint major who uses Rover articles as a way of procrastinating on actual homework. She can be contacted at