Monday, October 29, 2012

The New Evangelization

Just thinking about the New Evangelization.  There is some question about exactly what we are trying to change. Rocco Palmo quotes Abp Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.
In an assessment likely applicable to much of the Western church, Martin said in a 2011 lecture in Washington that "young Irish people are among the most catechized and the least evangelized."
My wife was raised in Dublin. They do a fair job of catechisis there. I don't know that Dublin is like the rest of the Western church in that regard. Certainly around the year 2000 the mass attendance rate in Ireland was way better than other western nations. That has changed a fair bit but I still don't think Dublin is typical.

What I am concerned about is the idea that catechizing and evangelizing are opposites. We have been there. In many ways we are still there. Way too many Catholic youth programs avoid teaching the facts of the faith in any great depth. Instead they try and help the child or teen connect with God. They do it terribly. They present the faith as a load of sentimental nonsense. Still they do try and evangelize them into that faith. So in that way the idea of doing less catechisis and doing more evangelization has been tried and has been a big failure.

I think that teaching the faith is most of evangelism. We should not just teach it as doctrine. We need to make sure people understand what it looks like when lived out. That is still teaching the faith. That is why the church has saints as well as dogmas. The dogmas are more precise but the saints are more practical. It just can't be one or the other. It has to be both.

When we pick and choose some parts of the faith to make it more attractive to the next generation we always end up doing the opposite. The human heart will respond to the fullness of God's truth. We need to trust that. Often when we don't it is because we don't really believe it ourselves. We want to fix the faith. To help God out a little. So we try and avoid talking about rules. We don't talk about martyrs. We even edit out the stories of miracles. What are we left with? The saints as just a bunch of people who were nice but didn't believe anything in particular. In other words, the saints end up looking a lot like modern liberal Catholics.

That cannot be what the New Evangelization looks like because that is what the Old Evangelization looks like. It is what we need to stop doing. We need to present the faith as it is. We can't fix it. It must fix us. We need to evangelize well by catechizing well. It is not enough to be new in ardor and new in methods. We need to figure out that we have blown the mission by changing the content. That we have taught heresy when we should have taught truth. Sure we need to use new media. Sure we need to show some passion and lots of joy. But the main reason we failed in the past is we watered down the truth. In our schools, in our parishes, and in our homes we didn't teach the true faith to the next generation.

The New Evangelization has avoided saying directly why the Old Evangelization failed. It is not that they were not responding to the culture. They responded in the wrong way. They responded by not talking about the parts of the faith that the culture deemed offensive. Lots of priests and religion teachers are still there. I am hopeful the New Evangelization will change all that but I would be more hopeful if they articulated clearly the mistakes of the past. It seems like we are still trying not to offend. Yes, we would be saying that some people gave their life's work to a form of religious education that did grave harm to the church. Some people would not like hearing that. Still if we want to stop doing something it would happen more quickly if we told the people who are doing it today to stop.

No comments:

Post a Comment