Tim Staples was another of the more prominent speakers at the Midwest Catholic Family conference this year. He is one of an increasingly large and influential (within some circles, at least) group of Catholic converts like Scott Hahn, Marcus Grodi, and now Francis Beckwith (who, until last May, had been the president of the Evangelical Theological Society). In Tim's last talk of the conference, "Why Be Catholic," Tim linked the conversions these intellectuals to the success Pope Benedict XVI has had in reaching out to other traditions.
Specifically, Tim spoke about how the Pope's comments about Islam (and this Easter Vigil's baptism of a prominent convert from Islam) incited a great deal of outrage in the Muslim world, but now he is in talks with over a hundred Muslim religious leaders--which would not have come about otherwise. Less prominently, BXVI ruffled the feathers of many within the Eastern Orthodox churches early in his papacy by removing the title "Patriarch of the West" from the list of titles on the "papal resume," based on the logic that he is the head of the whole universal church (this title was instituted somewhere along the way in reference to the schism between Catholic and Orthodox churches). Despite the controversy, this attitude toward the Orthodox churches has been bearing fruit, too: this past Pentacost, an Assyrian (Orthodox) bishop and his entire diocese were brought into full communion with Rome.
Tim's point was this: BXVI is a great example to the rest of us that a lot can be gained by being firm in our convictions. We should be proud to be Catholics and to tell people what we believe without embarassment or compromise. In Tim's words, "It's time for us to stand up and start acting like Catholics!"
Damian Thompson writes here that this attitude on BXVI's part is the crucial difference between now and 1994, when the Anglican Church first allowed the ordination of women, in terms of numbers of potential converts from Anglicanism. Without much pressure from an ailing Pope John Paul II, overly-ecumenical Catholic bishops actually discouraged traditional Anglicans from leaving their church then; now, Thompson suggests, BXVI will make sure that doesn't happen, and the numbers will be much higher.
I think this has a lot to do with the success of the Pope's visits to America and Australia this year (much to the surprise of the media in both places, I think). People--especially those in the Gen X and "Millenial" demographics--are just starved for capital-T-Truth and really respond to someone who says what he believes and believes what he says.
In other news, I hear pro-choice Catholic governors Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Tim Kaine of Virginia are near the top of the list of Obama's potential running mates... hmm