It was 1991. I was in college, an enthusiastic Evangelical Protestant. My roommate was a just-as-enthusiastic Catholic. Inevitably this led to many theological debates, such as whether we are assured of our salvation, the meaning of baptism, and the role of Mary in our salvation. I have warm memories of that time in my life, for it was truly life-changing for me.
As I think back to those days, the background always seems cluttered by various resources from Catholic Answers. My roommate would leave pastel-colored Catholic Answers tracts lying around our dorm, as well as back issues of This Rock. At times I would pick them up out of curiosity, not realizing the impact they were having on my own spiritual pilgrimage to the Catholic Church. As I became more friendly to Catholicism, my roommate gave me a copy of Karl Keating’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism. Along with the cassette tape of Scott Hahn’s conversion (which I listened to while watching dinosaurs walk by the window), Keating’s book was the most influential resource in my conversion to Catholicism.
I thought of this as I read Keating’s announcement of his retirement. Keating has been phasing himself out of day-to-day operations at Catholic Answers for a while, but now he is officially gone. It marks an end of an era.
When Keating started in the late 1970’s, Catholic apologetics was as dead as Richard Nixon’s presidency. No Catholic engaged in apologetics; the practice was considered anti-Vatican II and not in keeping with the spirit of the times. After all, isn’t apologetics just a relic of those terrible pre-Vatican II triumphalistic times? Keating didn’t see it that way. He considered apologetics a necessary part of Christ’s command to evangelize the world, and he embraced it enthusiastically. Eventually he founded Catholic Answers and made apologetics his full-time profession, and Catholic Answers a juggernaut. In so many ways, he single-handedly re-legitimized Catholic apologetics.
It’s impossible to know the impact Keating has had on the Church, but it’s unquestionable immense. So many non-Catholics—and in particular, Protestants—have come to understand the truth of Catholicism from the work of Keating and Catholic Answers. I haven’t always agreed with Keating over the years (in particular, I think he overemphasized the impact and danger of Traditionalist movements in the Church), but I’ve never questioned the tremendous good he’s done. Without his work, I’m convinced there would be a lot fewer Catholics today.
It was a great honor to recently have a book published by Catholic Answers, the organization that had such an impact on my own conversion, and an organization founded on the vision of Karl Keating. To me, it was giving back to an organization that gave so much to me. It’s quite possible I wouldn’t be Catholic today if Keating hadn’t decided to step out into the deep.
Thank you, Karl Keating!