15 October 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the New Evangelization

Bear with me as I try to make some sense out of the Holy Father's remarks yesterday at a general audience with members of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, as reported in Zenit.

I do not intend any disrespect to the Holy Father; I merely want to report and comment with my own opinions. You can feel free to not assume any "tone" to my words.

OK, here are some excerpts from his remarks, which you may read in full at the link. First, on identifying the problem, the good:

In our time we often witness an attitude of indifference to faith, regarded as no longer relevant in man’s life. New Evangelization means to reawaken the life of faith in the heart and mind of our contemporaries. Faith is a gift of God, but it is important that we Christians show that we live the faith in a concrete way, through love, concord, joy, suffering, because this elicits questions, as at the beginning of the journey of the Church: Why do they live like this? What drives them? These are questions that go to the heart of evangelization, which is the witness of the faith and charity. What we need especially in these times are credible witnesses who with their life and also with the word render the Gospel visible, reawaken attraction for Jesus Christ, for God’s beauty.

Absolutely true-- what good could we do for the souls of men if Catholics lived an authentic and integral faith, witnessing to the salvation of Jesus Christ? Catholic witness was the instrument of God converting the pagan empire of Rome. And we have another Rome here. But what we see from ourselves, as the Holy Father rightly points out, is indifference to the faith. True, that.

In that context, I was a bit befuddled by what he said next:

So many people have fallen away from the Church. It’s a mistake to put the blame on one side or the other, in fact, it’s not about talking about fault. There are responsibilities in the history of the Church and of her men, in certain ideologies and also in individual persons. As children of the Church we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II, stripping ourselves of useless and harmful things, of false worldly securities which weigh down the Church and damage her true face.

I want to go through each sentence here.

So many people have fallen away from the Church. It’s a mistake to put the blame on one side or the other, in fact, it’s not about talking about fault.

I think there is sense in not making things worse by casting blame instead of trying to fix things as best we can. But this is different than the need to identify causation in order to correct course where necessary.

There are responsibilities in the history of the Church and of her men, in certain ideologies and also in individual persons.

Call me gun shy, but I wonder just what are the "certain ideologies" that he means. In light of past statements about triumphalist Catholics with their triumphalist liturgies, I get a little nervous. Maybe the next sentence will cast some light...

As children of the Church we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II, stripping ourselves of useless and harmful things, of false worldly securities which weigh down the Church and damage her true face.

So, we must continue with more of the same, continuing down the path of Vatican Council II, casting aside useless and harmful things (the Mass? If not, what exactly?), of false worldly securities (doctrines?) which weigh down the Church and damage her true face.

Really? If the suggestions I posit in the parentheticals aren't what the Holy Father means, than what does he mean? Seriously, help a brother out here. Because recall his words during the infamous America interview:

If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal “security,” those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists — they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies.

As for needing more Vatican II, what does this exactly mean? If one wants to address the problem of fallen away Catholics, and the actual falling away occurred after the Council, after the destruction of the Church's liturgy, after the cessation of traditional catechesis, is the best solution to try another decade of the same thing, or worse, to accelerate and increase the destruction?

To ask such a question is to answer it. This is the definition of insanity.

After identifying the need for evangelization, the Pope turns to strategies:

In the Church all this, however, is not left to chance or improvisation. It calls for a common commitment to a pastoral plan that recalls the essential and that is “well centered on the essential, namely on Jesus Christ. It is no use to be scattered in so many secondary or superfluous things, but to be concentrated on the fundamental reality, which is the encounter with Christ, with his mercy, with his love, and to love brothers as He loved us. A project animated by the creativity and imagination of the Holy Spirit, who drives us also to follow new ways, with courage and without becoming fossilized! We could ask ourselves: how effective is the pastoral
[plan?] of our dioceses and parishes? Does it render the essential visible? Do the different experiences, characteristics, walk together in the harmony that the Spirit gives? Or is our pastoral [plan?] scattered, fragmentary where, in the end, each one goes his own way?

Yes, we must encounter everyone, because God created all and loves all and wills all to be saved. And calling for a coherent pastoral plan is great. But I simply don't know from his words what is "essential" and what is "secondary" or "superfluous". Yes, Jesus Christ is the Essential, but what does that mean in this context? Are we to go out and preach Christ without making reference to His Church-- His Body, the One Church He founded and which He calls all men to join, and outside of which there is no salvation? If so, what exactly does that say for the 30,000 denominations who preach Christ (in some form) without making reference to His Church? We're all OK and it doesn't matter if you are Catholic? Because if it doesn't, then what is the point of the Holy Father's office? And if it does matter to be Catholic, doesn't it have to mean something to be one?

In this context I would like to stress the importance of catechesis, as an instance of evangelization. Pope Paul VI already did so in the encyclical Evangelii nuntiandi (cf. n. 44). From there the great catechetical movement has carried forward a renewal to surmount the break between the Gospel and the culture and illiteracy of our days in the matter of faith. I have recalled several times a fact that has struck me in my ministry: to meet children who cannot even do the Sign of the Cross! Precious is the service carried out by the catechists for the New Evangelization, and it is important that parents be the first catechists, the first educators of the faith in their own family with their witness and with the word.

And then, the Holy Father cites the need for catechesis. Yes! But how can our catechists and our parents hand down the faith if they don't receive it first? (cf 1 Cor. 11:23). And if the Pope correctly notes the utter lack of catechesis since Vatican II, how can continuing to follow this path be of any good effect?

The entire speech, at best, does not tend to clarify what the New Evangelization is all about or what it should do.

Summing it all up, I contend that we are in strange times indeed.

Pray for the Church and for the Holy Father. If you can spare a prayer for me, too, I would appreciate it.


Anonymous said...

The words of the Holy Father are the words of our Lord made flesh. As mere mortals, there are any number of things that we can neither comprehend nor understand. To imply that you have powers that other mortals lack is a bit over the top.

True Believer

thetimman said...


I don't think your statement is necessarily accurate. If all words of every Holy Father in every context on every subject were "the words of our Lord made flesh", then we'd be on trouble. All utterances of the pope would be dogma.

I don't think I need to come up with examples of ineffective or sinful popes to prove my point. It is mere common sense.

Is the pope smarter than I am? Most probably. Is he holier than I am? Most certainly. Does he have the assistance of the Holy Ghost in a particular way? Sure.

You might as well criticize St. Paul for resisting Peter or St. Catherine of Siena for rebuking the Avignon pope.

Jane Chantal said...

Well said, Timman.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

To my knowledge, the Doctrine of Papal Infallibility only dates back to 1870, but does involve issues of both faith and morality.

Excuse me for having a consenting viewpoint, but I believe the Holy Father speaks ex cathedra. I am not a cafeteria Catholic, nor do I believe that Catholics are free to believe whatever doctrines they choose to believe while disregarding others.

True Believer

Anonymous said...

IMHO, Of all the gobbledygook we have heard coming from Vatican City since PIUS XII (including Vatican II,) this is the worst so far.
It appears to be purposeful, designed to cause the chaos and scandals it is causing.
May God help us and our only hope at this point is the Holy Rosary! Mempoit

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Great post, Tim. Also, I wish there was some way to "like" your last comment.

- Bud

thetimman said...


The Pope can speak ex cathedra, and when he does he is infallible through the guarantee of the Holy Ghost. Bit he has to invoke this; the last time he has done so formally was 1950 with the Dogma of the Assumption.

I do not say that all of his words should not be treated with respect, due to his office. But when not speaking ex cathedra, he may err. That's the definition from Vatican I.

You and I can therefore disagree about the meaning, wisdom and import of his remarks to the plenary assembly quoted in my post.


excalibur said...

Then you might as well embrace Bishop Fellay now and be done with it. Seen his very recent statement(s)? Every man a Pope over parsing His Holiness to death on conservative blogs is unfruitful.

If there is truly anything to oppose then God will raise a Saint Paul or a Catherine of Siena. But only old what's his name would raise ten thousand voices and the resultant cacophony.

No Church teachings have been changed.

Yet how many consider the Novus Ordo invalid!? Of course it isn't invalid. It may be sloppily done many places, that is another matter. But it most certainly valid and demanding only the Old Rite because the Novus Ordo is invalid is something I believe His Holiness was speaking against rightfully so.



Anonymous said...

The first pope St. Peter († 67) gave us the general principle of disobedience to, and resistance of, corrupt hierarchies and their commands when he was forbidden to preach Christ by the apostate Jews. When there is a conflict between the will of a religious superior and God, we are to obey God.

“But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God, rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

The Doctor Saint Thomas Aquinas O.P († 1274) used this incident as an indication that all superiors are to be disobeyed should their commands be against the Will of God.

So, the Doctor St. Augustine told us that we should “boldly” resist superiors, including the Pope, “without fear”, when we are defending the Faith.

“It is written: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’ Now sometimes the things commanded by a superior are against God. Therefore, superiors are not to be obeyed in all things.” (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 104, A. 5)

Various popes have also told us that popes can err from the Faith and should then be resisted.

Pope Innocent III († 1216) stated that a pope can “wither away into heresy” and “not believe” the Faith.

“The pope should not flatter himself about his power, nor should he rashly glory in his honour and high estate, because the less he is judged by man, the more he is judged by God. Still the less can the Roman Pontiff glory, because he can be judged by men, or rather, can be shown to be already judged, if for example he should wither away into heresy, because “he who does not believe is already judged.” (St. John 3:18) In such a case it should be said of him: ‘If salt should lose its savour, it is good for nothing but to be cast out and trampled under foot by men.’” (Sermo 4)

Council Vatican I (1870) defined that a pope has no power or right to come out with new doctrines or to change the Faith which has been handed down from the Apostles but only to maintain and preach it.

“For the Holy Ghost was promised to the successors of Peter not so that they might, by His revelation, make known some new doctrine, but that, by His assistance, they might religiously guard and faithfully expound the revelation or Deposit of Faith transmitted by the Apostles.” (Pastor Aeternus, cap. 4)

A pope has the right to do nothing but to maintain the true Catholic Faith, exactly as it has been received. If he attempts to do otherwise, he is to be denounced and opposed along with all the doctrinal innovations he attempts to impose on the Faithful.

Venerable Pope Pius IX († 1878) recognised the danger that a future pope would be a heretic and “teach contrary to the Catholic Faith”, and he instructed, “do not follow him.”

“If a future pope teaches anything contrary to the Catholic Faith, do not follow him.” (Letter to Bishop Brizen)

Viva Cristo Rey!

Anonymous said...

As noted and as usual, I believe that I for one shall follow the teachings and dictates of the Church as annunciated by our Holy Father. I wish all others well.

True Believer

thetimman said...

True Believer,

Me, too.

And, me, too.

thetimman said...


It is one thing to acknowledge that principle, but another to decide when it is necessary to do it. As others have stated, the Pope has not attempted to change anything and has denied no Catholic teaching.

As he is the Vicar of a Christ, he deserves every possible benefit of every doubt. We must hold to the Catholic faith, but must never assume he doesn't, until that conclusion is beyond obvious. We bear any burden of proof.

My point is that prudential matters are open to legitimate and respectful question. Lots of damage can be done before any doctrine is touched.

thetimman said...


You oversimplify. I did not question the validity of the novus ordo. I do not take the side of Bishop Fellay. I do not consider myself to be St. Paul or St. Catherine.

I am parsing some words I think are ambiguous or confusing or problematic. It's just my opinion. I don't agree he made reference to people who think the n.o. Is invalid, because outside of a few sedevacantists, no one thinks so. Certainly not SSPXers. Nor me.

Long-Skirts said...

The Pope said:

"As children of the Church we must continue on the path of Vatican Council II"

"The goal of modern celebrity is to make yourself into the lowest common denominator" - Jack White

George Brenner said...

So we should continue on the path of VCII? ....and exactly where has that path taken us? What has been the results of the last fifty plus years in conversions, holiness, discipline, morals, reverence, attendance at Mass, use of the Sacraments, the sanctity of marriage, homosexuality, sound catechesis and modernism just to name a few. There has been much good in spite of VCII and its catastrophic implementation. The report card has long been graded. The grade has been eternally dismal for this time in church history and must be undone.


George Brenner

Anonymous said...

George Brenner:

There is an honest question as to whether V2 is the cause of the Church's problems today or merely correlative.

SLPS Parent

Anonymous said...

"There is an honest question as to whether V2 is the cause of the Church's problems today or merely correlative."

Concur. It is also true that neither progression nor regression are linear. We are where we are today, and His Will has been done.

In the end, we all have Free Will and the option of obeying the Holy Father or disobeying Him.

Unlike others, I don't find the Holy Father's words to be nebulous or difficult to understand. If you are groping for the meaning behind what the Holy Father said I urge everyone to re-read the text. Sooner rather than later, the Spirit will provide the answers you seek.

And probably unlike many others, my vision of Heaven does not include the image of a departed soul parsing words for hours on end with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. I just can't envision that happenstance.

Good luck to all in their personal search.

As always,
True Believer