New Evangelization Stumbling Early?

A feature piece on Cardinal Fischella’s new dicastery in Zenit: they’re asking questions and trying to get some coherence and effectiveness.

(A) cursory glance at guidelines from the meeting shows at least 20 different “definitions” of new evangelization.

Not surprising. I thought Pope Benedict’s adoption of the JPII term wasn’t quite on target from the original intent. The previous pope spoke of “casting into the deep,” and a lukewarm attempt at intellectual engagement of Christian cultures seemed to be rather timid to me. John Paul seemed to me to be speaking of boldness. He might not have grasped the full possibilities of engagement with the world’s cultures, Christian and otherwise, but I thought boldness was more of what we needed. Not a sense of entitlement–we baptized ’em, so they darm well should be ours.

Is that to say there’s not ministry to be done amongst inactive believers or those who have directly abandoned Catholicism? Hardly. But I’m not sure I would call that evangelization. At least in the intellectual sense I see the Catholic commentary on it these days. Cardinal Fisichella:

Despite the fact that in many Churches a profound religious sense continues, which is expressed in a life of faith and of religious traditions, this is not accompanied by a corresponding in-depth support from the intelligence, capable of communicating the richness of the experience and of the patrimony of the faith.

Characterizing the challenge as an intellectual one–if only those poor dumb souls knew what they had abandoned–is both a grave misdiagnosis and a recipe for failure.

The Church has failed to come up with answers to deep human questions of the past century. European and American Catholics especially aren’t besotted with “economic, scientific and technological progress.” If they were, would they be traipsing off to “emotive nature (churches) and fundamentalism?”

Imagine if the PCPNE considered that believers are looking for passion, not emotion. For a clear voice against the forces of evil, not fundamentalism. How would their mission shift if they looked upon lay people as intelligent, fairly aware of the faith, but not completely sold on the hierarchy as a communicator of that faith?

If I were drawing a cartoon of the whole deal, I’d have Cardinal Fisichella sitting at a table piled high with books chatting with other prelates while Cardinals Rigali and Law were tying his shoelaces to the legs of the chair.

New Evangelization isn’t going to happen  from Rome. In order to be an effective, visionary, and inspiring witness, the Church will need to do it in the world. In a way, every Catholic will have to shoulder the burden of it. It’s the only way we can drown out the witness of the antigospel.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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