I was fortunate in recent months to work pretty closely with Austen Ivereigh on the American version of his fantastic book, "How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues" (OSV, $13.95).
If you're looking for ideas on Catholic self-improvement for the upcoming Year of Faith (and New Evangelization) called by Pope Benedict XVI, you could not do better than start by reading this book. (And I am not just saying that.)
For a glimpse of the vision of the engaged, intelligent, confident lay Catholic described in the book, check out this recently published knockout interview with Ivereigh over at NRO.
Here's his answer on why Catholics cannot just "live and let live," and fail to engage the culture on the neuralgic issues:
IVEREIGH: What makes an issue “neuralgic” is the apparent or real clash between what the Church says (or is heard as saying) and the values of wider society, which often turn on the “pelvic issues” — questions of sexuality. It’s what makes for news stories and dinner conversations. It’s what interests people. It’s where we find people turning towards us — often with an expression of horror — and asking us to explain ourselves. It’s where contemporary society and Church clash; it’s where Catholicism scandalizes. And that’s where, simply, the opportunity to communicate exists. Either we’re comfortable inhabiting that zone and learn to speak there, or we don’t communicate at all — or, if we do, we can’t expect to find anybody listening.
Pope Benedict is passionate about what’s being called the “new” evangelization, whose concern is to re-propose, in fresh and positive ways, the Church’s faith and teaching to post-Christian societies that think they know Christianity and have rejected it. Think of a person waving a hand over his face, saying, “Yeah, yeah, we know what the Church has to say on that one” — that’s what modern society is like. You engage people with that attitude by being surprising, by showing how they don’t, in fact, know what the Church says. Then, when you’ve got their attention, you can then tell the real story — the story they thought they knew but in fact didn’t. It’s what in Catholic Voices and in the book we call “reframing.” And it works. We have plenty of examples of radio and TV interviews in which the presenter says to the Catholic Voice: “Now that’s surprising. Tell me more.” The Church’s critic turns out to be dull and dogmatic — performing a role that is almost scripted in its predictability — while the Catholic Voice is fresh, dynamic, and compelling.
Why engage? Because we care — about others, about society, about the common good. And because we think the public conversation is poorer without us.
Read it all.