Via Pulchritudinis: A Crucial Challenge, part 2

I feel the need to offer a caution on this second paragraph on the “crucial challenge” offered by the “new religiosity and emerging spiritualities.” Let’s acknowledge that non-Christian factors in the modern world are indeed challenging to the mission of the Church. Today, we might count political ideology and the warping of Christianity and Christian symbols to adapt to emerging politics. Even to advocate objectively unchristian views. There are also Christian alternatives to Catholicism that cater to genuine human need: evangelicals emphasize seeker services, worship that makes little to no demands, and have a leg up on Catholic parishes in many important areas: ministry to youth and young adults, making disciples, and even evangelization (where proselytizing has been set aside or minimized).

It is also true that pagan or so-called New Age experiences are a draw:

2) The phenomena of new religiosity and emerging spiritualities spreading across the world are a major challenge for the new evangelization. They pretend to meet the spiritual, emotive and psychological needs of our contemporaries better than the Church and traditional religious formats.

It may be that they meet the needs better, not just pretend to do so. New groups offer a sense of community, of friendship in smaller groups, of a certain personalism difficult to find in large parishes of the South, West, and suburbs, or the smaller, perhaps more tired faith communities of the US northeast or perhaps Europe.

Through syncretistic and esoteric practices they touch the sparks of emotion in people in a communitarian and pseudo-religious dynamic that often stifles them, or deprives them of their liberty and their dignity.[See also the document PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR CULTURE & PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE, Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life. A Christian Reflection on the “New Age”, 21 February 2003]

I think it more accurate to say that some non-Catholics address spiritual needs better than Catholics do. Some, like 12-Step groups, have a particular mission, narrow in scope, that do not impinge on the Church’s mission and may well be a supportive piece in the lives of many believers. Quite frankly, other groups are out for members. Just like churches. And yes, some new leaders have ulterior motives not in keeping with stated values. It is a sad thing that many Catholic leaders, including priests, can be fairly lumped in with that last group. Caveat emptor, y’all.

Reminder: the full document is here.

Image: the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris, By Zachi Evenor based on File:North rose window of Notre-Dame de Paris, Aug 2010.jpg by Julie Anne Workman – CC BY-SA 2.0,

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, evangelization, Via Pulchritudinis. Bookmark the permalink.

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