The Wrong Voice for the New Evangelization

Philadelphia’s new archbishop has gotten some notice for his “catechesis” at WYD. at the Bench, Deacon Greg peeled off a snippet from his chat with young people. It confirms why I think he’s the wrong sort of bishop to be at the vanguard of a new evangelization. But you readers would probably expect I would say that. Here’s why.

Exceptionalism is a narcissistic trait.

(W)ith relatively few exceptions, the mass media tend to cover these disputed issues with a combination of ignorance, laziness, and bias against traditional Christian belief.

Archbishop Chaput is right to cite the lack of expertise over a malice against Christianity. But religion fares no differently from any number of scientific disciplines or the humanities, or social sciences. The mass media (and bloggers are no exception) are deeply ignorant about a whole host of things: astronomy, evolution, genetics, history, non-Western cultures, philosophy, non-Western religions, geography, meteorology, and the list goes on and on. Worse, many disciplines suffer from intentional ignorance. Witness Governor Perry’s attempted dodge of evolution this week: not only was he uninformed about what his own state doesn’t teach, but he doesn’t seem at all curious about it.

Is Catholicism special for being the locus of popular ignorance? Hardly. And we have the persistent witness of the hierarchy who persists in ignorance about even basic theology.

There’s not a problem with not knowing. The problem is when people profess to know something, and they don’t, thus deceiving others. Seekers, inquirers, and others who are trying to find out about the Church should go to believers. All we can ask the secular media to do is print our contact information and events correctly.

The secular media is good at one thing these days: sniffing out a scandal, especially a juicy hypocritical one. For that work in the sphere of bishops covering up grave sin, I welcome their input. Good for them to come after us. Good for bishops and others willing to stand up to the pressure and give faithful witness in the face of very bad news.

I don’t think the optimism of Vatican II is misplaced, even today, and even if it has gone out of fashion with some prelates. The purpose of the Church’s optimistic hopes for relating to the world is not predicated on people being convinced by our being nice. And the antagonism shouldered by high-profile prelates like Archbishops Dolan and Chaput is precisely what we don’t need to embark on a New Evangelization.

Sadly, these guys come off itching for a fight. And that’s not coming from the big, bad, biased news media. That’s from their own blogs and from Catholic reporting.

In our dealings with the world, we need calm, serene, unflinching honesty. But honesty does not need to wrap itself in the mantle of needless aggression. That may be the way of secular politics. But it is not the way of the Gospel.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to The Wrong Voice for the New Evangelization

  1. Liam says:

    The New Evangelisation needs the voice of a magnificent sister of the the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (the order founded by Mother Cabrini) I heard preach in a parish about 5 miles from my home last evening. (And yes, she did preach the homily, with the enthusiastic approval of the somewhat traditionalist-leaning young celebrant.) This sister is only about 5 years older than me, and her homily wandered as a formal matter, but she had the rapt attention of the congregation, because the wandering form revealed a much greater substantive unity. I have not witnessed such a compelling presence since the Dominican sisters who taught me in CCD in the decade after Vatican II – it was such a balm to witness such a Vatican-II kind of presence after so many decades of dryness. I felt so blessed, and I know from listening to people in the long line to talk with her afterwards that I was hardly alone. And the young celebrant had no narcissism in him – he was fully appreciative of her and her mission (here and in South America and the Caribbean).

  2. David D. says:

    While I agree that a Catholic twist on “playing the victim” is not a particularly effective means of evangelizing (or dealing with the abuse crisis for that matter), it is not at all clear to me that this is what the Archbishop was doing. It strikes me as unreasonable to casually dismiss his claims as unfounded and symptomatic of some sort of personality disorder. I’ve always taken it as a given that the MSM is hostile towards the Church. That being said, I’m under no illusion that I would somehow be a better Catholic if that hostility did not exist.

  3. Bill Kurtz says:

    As a onetime reporter for a diocesan newspaper, I have seen many of those publications cease to be NEWSpapers, sliding either into gooey sentimentality or agitprop. I’m not familiar with Chaput’s paper in Denver, but if that’s his idea of Catholic media, one can hardly count on it to be informed. As has been noted, clerical sex abuse wasn’t exposed by EWTN, or diocesan house organs.

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