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Catholic Answers, based in El Cajon, California, is the largest lay-run apostolate of Roman Catholic apologetics and evangelization in the United States. It publishes Catholic Answers Magazine, a bimonthly magazine focusing on Catholic outreach, religious formation and apologetics, as well as the website catholic.com. It also produces Catholic Answers Live, a radio show answering callers' questions on a variety of topics related to the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic Answers Live is syndicated on the EWTN radio network.
Catholic Answers operates with the permission of the Diocese of San Diego. It is listed in the current edition of The Official Catholic Directory, the authoritative listing of U.S. Catholic organizations, priests, and bishops.
Catholic Answers was founded in 1979 by Karl Keating in response to a fundamentalist Protestant church in San Diego that was distributing anti-Catholic propaganda in the form of tracts placed on the cars of Catholics attending Mass. Its mission statement explains its purpose:
Catholic Answers is an apostolate dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world. We help good Catholics become better Catholics, help bring former Catholics "home," and lead non-Catholics into the fullness of the faith.
He first started by writing a modest tract titled "Catholic Answers" to counter the arguments he saw in the anti-Catholic tract. He distributed it on the windshields of the cars in the fundamentalist Protestant church's parking lot. Due to the feedback he received from that tract, he published 24 more tracts.
In 1988 he quit his law practice and turned Catholic Answers into a full-time apostolate, with an office and full-time staff.
Catholic Answers had $5.2 million in revenue for the fiscal year ending in June 2012, according to the watchdog organization Charity Navigator, which assigned Catholic Answers 0 stars out of a possible 4 due to low marks for accountability and transparency. The Catholic.com website receives approximately 471,000 visitors per month in an October 2012 estimate.
Apologists currently working for Catholic Answers include Director of Apologetics Tim Staples; Senior Apologist Jimmy Akin; Catholic Answers Live radio host Patrick Coffin; and staff apologists Michelle Arnold, Trent Horn, Peggy Frye, and Fr. Vincent Serpa. O.P. Clinical psychologist Ray Guarendi contributes regularly as a radio guest and speaker.
Catholic Answers Magazine
Catholic Answers Magazine, which was titled This Rock until 2011, deals with various aspects of Catholic theology, practice, apologetics, and evangelization. The magazine formerly published ten issues per year; in 2009, it was reduced to six issues per year. The current editor is Tim Ryland. The first issue was dated January 1990. The original title This Rock referred to Matthew 16:18, in which Jesus tells the apostle Peter: "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." In the January 1990 inaugural issue, publisher and then-editor Karl Keating stated the magazine's mission: "Our desire is to mirror the Rock which is Peter, which rests upon the Rock which is Christ, and to explain clearly and accurately the Catholic faith."
The Voter's Guides controversy
Before the 2004 presidential election, Catholic Answers published the Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics. It was produced both in pamphlet form and as an insert to the newspaper USA Today. This publication promoted five "non-negotiable" issues that were also major political questions in the election cycle. The five non-negotiable issues explained and discussed were abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage and human cloning. The term "non-negotiable" is used by Catholic Answers to describe issues that are "intrinsically evil and must never be promoted by law." Catholic Answers maintains that there are many more "non-negotiable" issues but these were "selected because they involve principles that never admit of exceptions and because they are currently being debated in U.S. politics."
While "The Voters Guide for Serious Catholics" made no endorsements of any candidate or political party, the organization came under strong attack by liberal organizations and Democratic Party candidates as a partisan publication. In 2004 complaints were filed by Catholics for a Free Choice with the IRS claiming that it was in "blatant violation of its charitable status" in an attempt to revoke Catholic Answers' tax exempt status.
An IRS investigation resulted in no action against Catholic Answers; the IRS ruled that the Voters Guide for Serious Catholics could be safely distributed by religious organizations because it did not comprise political intervention:
[Catholic Answers, Inc.] created, published and distributed the "Voters Guide for Serious Catholics" ("VGSC"). The VGSC asserts that it is intended to help the reader vote for candidates for public office in a manner consistent with Catholic moral teachings. The VGSC identifies five issues it deems to be "non-negotiable" issues and instructs the reader on how to narrow down the list of candidates to those who are acceptable based on the non-negotiable issues. The VGSC does not directly or indirectly make reference to any specific candidate, political party or election. Therefore, the content of the VGSC, standing alone, is not political campaign intervention because the VGSC does not support or oppose any specific candidate for public office [Addendum to Letter 3609P, May 2, 2008].
The VGSC is not an official publication of the Roman Catholic Church and was not authorized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The authorized voters guide, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" was approved by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting and was authorized for publication by Msgr. Ronny E. Jenkins, JCD. In it, the Bishops encourage Catholics to seek authorized voter guides such as the VGSC:
- 8. During election years, there may be many handouts and voter guides that are produced and distributed. We encourage Catholics to seek those resources that are authorized by their own bishops, their state Catholic conferences, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- "Catholic Answers Magazine". catholic.com.
- "Radio". catholic.com.
- "Catholic Radio- EWTN Catholic Radio Network". ewtn.com.
- "Apologetics - Official Catholic Directory". officialcatholicdirectory.com.
- "Mission & Vision". catholic.com.
- Tim Ryland (Spring 1996). "Keating for the Defense". Sursum Corda (republished on EWTN.com).
- "Charity Navigator Rating - Catholic Answers". Charity Navigator.
- "Meet the Staff (partial list)". catholic.com.
- "Mark Brumley". catholic.com.
- "Matt Pinto". catholic.com.
- "Jim Blackburn". catholic.com.
- "Starting Out (This Rock: January 1990)". catholic.com.
- "Catholic Answers Shop". catholic.com.
- "Catholic Answers 2016 British Isles Cruise". catholicanswerscruise.com.
- "Products tagged with 'Voting Resources'" (PDF). caaction.com.
- Catholic Answers, "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" (2006), p. 5
- Catholic Answers, "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" (2006), p. 14
- Press release from Catholics for Choice
- "Voter's Guide For Serious Catholics". catholic.com.
- Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship