Tuesday, August 23, 2011

John Allen Nails It

He reflects on World Youth Day and talks about evangelical Catholicism.

Historically speaking, Evangelical Catholicism isn’t really “conservative,” because there’s precious little cultural Catholicism these days left to conserve. For the same reason, it’s not traditionalist, even though it places a premium upon tradition. If liberals want to dialogue with post-modernity, Evangelicals want to convert it – but neither seeks a return to a status quo ante. Many Evangelical Catholics actually welcome secularization, because it forces religion to be a conscious choice rather than a passive inheritance. As the late Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris, the dictionary definition of an Evangelical Catholic, once put it, “We’re really at the dawn of Christianity.”
Paradoxically, this eagerness to pitch orthodox Catholicism as the most satisfying entrée on the post-modern spiritual smorgasbord, using the tools and tactics of a media-saturated global village, makes Evangelical Catholicism both traditional and contemporary all at once.
This is exactly my experience and my hope for the catholic church. Catholics who have made a conscious choice to embrace the doctrines and traditions of the church. Many liberal Catholics have more of the unconscious cultural Catholic tradition. Everything they love about being Catholic is pretty much exactly the stuff I could not care less about. But inside that huge community there is a growing minority who have seen the beauty and truth of the faith and have been changed forever. Many of them, like myself, used to be evangelical protestants. I had not heard the term evangelical Catholic before but it works for me.

Whatever you call it it is interesting to see a guy like Allen notice is coming. He sees it as something that is coming from Pope Benedict down but also something that is growing at the grass roots level. It is a move of the Holy Spirit to bring the church back from the dead. I know in North America it was never really dead but in Europe it really was. See such huge numbers of young people in Madrid is a sign that renewal is coming. Abuse scandals didn't matter. A pope who lacks charisma didn't matter. Society's growing intolerance of church teaching didn't matter. People come because they believe it is true. The Eucharist is really Jesus' body. The pope is really the vicar of Christ. Confession really is a sacramental encounter with Jesus. Young people around Europe are coming to believe this in greater and greater numbers.

This is a movement that is so old it is new. Post-Christian society can't understand the Catholic faith anymore. So believing what the church has always taught becomes a strange new idea. I mean really believing it. Trying to order your life around it rather than just going through the motions. Even saying you want to be a saint makes people look at you funny. As if being Catholic and not wanting to be a saint made any sense at all.

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