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Ave Maria Radio CEO Al Kresta with LifeSiteNews co-founder John-Henry Westen
Steve Weatherbe

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INTERVIEW: Ave Maria Radio’s Al Kresta urges courage, clarity on Church leaders

Steve Weatherbe

February 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Al Kresta, the CEO of Ave Maria Radio and host of the syndicated Kresta in the Afternoon radio show, is urging Catholic priests and bishops to teach Catholic doctrine with courage, clarity, and kindness, despite hostility of the popular culture.

“Expect people to misunderstand you. Be as kind as you can but never back away from Church teaching,” he told LifeSiteNews co-founder John-Henry Westen at the recent Legatus awards event, adding that unpopular Church teachings on sexuality are not “arbitrary impositions. … It’s for human flourishing. It’s for good. God created us to experience Him in this age and in the age to come.”

Raised in a Catholic family which practiced but rarely discussed the faith, Kresta rebelled through high school and graduated “with a suspended sentence for heroin possession hanging over my head.” The rebellion continued as he spent five years as a street musician while he explored a “New Agey” concept of Jesus. Then reality set in and he started university, and began studying the New Testament at the same time.

He realized “this was clearly not the Jesus” of the New Age. … He’s  not who I thought He was.” In March 1974 after a series of “providential encounters… the grace of my baptism kicked in,” he said, and Kresta embraced the New Testament Jesus.

But when he sought counsel from Catholic priests he found them uninterested in doctrine so instead he became an Evangelical Protestant and eventually a pastor. Pastoring kept him asking questions about “the nature of the Church, how do you arrive at finding doctrine?” which led him to reconsider the Catholic Church, rediscover  Peter and his special role in founding it, to believe in the Real Presence and finally, to accept “that Jesus wills visible unity for his Church.”

By now a popular Christian radio host, he quietly returned to the Church and brought his wife and five children with him. In 1997, Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s  Pizza and Ave Maria University, signed him up to start Ave Maria Communications, which soon was producing his talk show, Kresta in the Afternoon, now syndicated by EWTN.

Kresta believes that Catholics are woefully under-catechized in doctrine and, in his interview with Westen, indicated that both the laity and many in Church leadership are unprepared to weather the clash which Church teachings are bringing with the popular culture.

Kresta cited several studies that showed “Less than 10 percent of American Catholics… would see themselves as dynamic Catholics or intentional disciples” and asks, “What other institution could maintain a vibrant mission if less than 10 percent of the membership” was committed to it.  “It is absolutely essential that our priests and bishops understand how bad that is.”

Kresta believes Church leaders must enter into a new relationship with the laity, treating them as adults who deserve to hear hard doctrines and can be expected to behave as “disciples of Jesus Christ.”

But sadly, Kresta said, while some priests and bishops are actively teaching and leading, others are afraid to. “Our biggest problem is the fear that I think some of  our leadership have: I don’t know what it is, if they are afraid of being snubbed, afraid of not being liked.”

Then there are leaders who appear to be undermining teaching. “Some German bishops who chide and chastise those of us who defend the teaching of the Church,” said Kresta, “they say you’re not being welcoming enough” to homosexuals and the divorced and remarried.

His response: “If you know how to do it better, show me. But if you think doing it better means denying what the Church teaches then you are no longer teaching as a Catholic.” Kresta said the Church should “go out of its way” to affirm the good intentions of those seeking reconciliation with the Church. “But at some point, “you’re going to have to say, ‘We disagree. You’re not in a position to receive Holy Communion.’”

Asked for advice to young Catholics wanting to witness, Kresta said, “Avoid stridency and anger. … Expect people to misunderstand you. Be as kind as you can but never back away from Church teaching.” Clearly Kresta expects the same of the Church’s bishops and priests.

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