Defense of the Faith

Mission Statement

In the first seven centuries of the life of the Order, the meaning of defense of the faith (tuition fidei) was simple: defense by military force against those who sought the destruction not only of the Catholic faith, of Christendom itself, but all of European civilization, and ultimately the submission of the world.

Today, the charism and duty of the Order have changed. The broader meanings of tuitio provide a guide to fulfillment of that duty in the modern world by the members of the Order: guard, defend, protect, uphold, save, regard, look at, maintain. It could also imply nurture and witness.

On the feast of our founder Blessed Fra’ Gerard, October 13, 1997, Pope John Paul II referred to the Order’s mission to “defend the faith” saying “defending the faith often means, especially in our time, defending the great values that human reason without the light of Revelation risks misunderstanding in their integral and radical nature. These are for example human dignity, the nature of the family and the fundamental right to life.”

A previous Cardinalis Patronus of the Order, Cardinal Pio Laghi, reminded us that in today’s secular world we are often confronted by those opposed to the very foundation of our faith; and we really do need to understand our faith if there is any hope of upholding it.

Our Defense of the Faith Committee assists members to carry out the first of the two promises they make at investiture and repeat daily in the Prayer of the Order: “be it mine to practice and defend the catholic, the apostolic, the Roman faith…

The Committee aims to do this by first of all encouraging our members to participate more frequently in public and private prayer and devotions, where our relationship with God has every potential to approach a whole new dimension. Second, it facilitates educating the members about their faith and about contemporary issues challenging Catholic beliefs in order to strengthen their ability and resolve to defend the Catholic Faith individually. This will also help them be better citizens by keeping in mind the Church’s teachings when fulfilling their civic duties.

An Excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith and understanding

156 What moves us to believe is not the fact that revealed truths appear as true and intelligible in the light of our natural reason: we believe "because of the authority of God himself who reveals them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived".28 So "that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit."29 Thus the miracles of Christ and the saints, prophecies, the Church's growth and holiness, and her fruitfulness and stability "are the most certain signs of divine Revelation, adapted to the intelligence of all"; they are "motives of credibility" (motiva credibilitatis), which show that the assent of faith is "by no means a blind impulse of the mind".30

28 Dei Filius 3: DS 3008.

29 Dei Filius 3: DS 3009.

30 Dei Filius 3: DS 3008-10; cf. Mk 16:20; Heb 2:4.


Excerpts from the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for use in the United States of America Copyright © 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc.—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.  Used with Permission. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Modifications from the Editio Typica copyright © 1997, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Defense of the Faith Programs: A Guide

The dual charisms of the Order are defense of the faith and care of the sick and poor.  The regions of the Federal Association are well-known for their activities in service to the sick and the poor, but regional programs for the defense of the faith are less numerous and less well-known, according to a survey conducted by the Defense of Faith Committee.  In order to encourage regional defense of faith programs, the Committee has prepared the below guide. It provides a very detailed template for regions to follow in order to mount a successful program.  The Committee hopes that the regional Hospitallers especially will find this step-by-step program to be helpful, although the guide is written for any member of the Order or group to propose defense of faith programs.  Regional Hospitallers should feel free to disseminate the guide widely.

By means of the below guide, the Committee hopes and prays that regional defense of faith programs will grow in number and become more widespread.

Please click here to access: "Defense of the Faith Programs: A Guide".

Articles Commissioned by the Defense of the Faith Committee

Physician-Assisted Suicide? Why Not

by John Keown, MA, DPhil, PhD, DCL

The campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and voluntary active euthanasia (VAE) is one of the greatest threats to human life in developed countries.

In the US, PAS is now legal in six states (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, California, Colorado, Montana) and the District of Columbia. In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a right to PAS and to VAE, and in 2016 the Canadian Parliament enacted legislation to accommodate that ruling. In November 2017 the State of Victoria, Australia, enacted legislation permitting both. The Netherlands has permitted both since 1984, Belgium since 2002, and Luxembourg since 2009.

The campaign is particularly strong in the US. Bills to permit PAS are repeatedly introduced in state legislatures. Attempts have also been made to persuade state supreme courts that state statutes or constitutions permit PAS. It is only a matter of time until another attempt is launched in the federal courts to establish a right to PAS under the US Constitution; previous attempts were rejected by the US Supreme Court in 1997.

The need to resist this campaign could hardly be more important or urgent.

The Defense of Faith Committee commissioned this article by renowned scholar John Keown, MA, DPhil, PhD, DCL, who is the Rose Kennedy Professor at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University, to alert the members of the Order about this trend and to provide two key arguments against PAS and VAE.  The Committee urges each member to read this article and to combat the spread of the legalization of PAS and VAE.

Please click here to read the article by Dr. John Keown titled "Physician-Assisted Suicide? Why Not". 

Defense of Faith Speakers at the Annual Meeting

2016: Paul Clement

Current Challenges to Religious Liberty

The Defense of Faith Committee of the Federal Association was pleased and honored to have Mr. Paul Clement speak on current challenges to religious liberty at the DOF Program at the Annual Meeting, October 14, 2016.  This article identifies some of the themes touched upon by Mr. Clement; the expansion of these themes, however, is completely the work of this author and should not be attributed to Mr. Clement.

Please click here to read the full article.

2017: His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC


The Defense of the Faith program, now very much a part of Investiture Weekend, was first added to the agenda in 2010, with Cardinal Wuerl was the first presenter. He returned to speak in 2017, about the role of clergy and laity in the formation of conscience in today’s culture and society. 

Please click here to read his speech.

2018: Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.


The Defense of Faith Committee was pleased to host Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., as its speaker at the 2018 Annual Meeting. Fr. Spitzer spoke in general about science and faith. In particular, he spoke about the Big Bang, near-death experiences and the Shroud of Turin. Many do not know that a priest, Georges Lemaitre, first proposed the Big Bang theory and the theoretical grounds for the expanding universe. Aside from anecdotes, there are scientific studies of near-death experiences that testify to the immortality of the soul. Fr. Spitzer explained the basis for the belief that the Shroud is authentic and how it is tangible proof of the Resurrection.

Fr. Spitzer has a Doctorate in Philosophy from Catholic University and a Master of Theology degree from the Weston School, now the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He has been on the philosophy faculties of Georgetown University and Seattle University. He served as President of Gonzaga University from 1998-2009. Fr. Spitzer founded and heads up the Magis Institute, located at the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, which produces books, articles, documentaries, videos, and new media materials on the complementarity of science, philosophy, and faith—particularly physics, cosmology, philosophy of science, and metaphysics.

You can’t miss his riveting and inspiring presentation.

Please click here to listen his speech.