Surfers, This blog post is part one of a two pat blog on New Evangelization. The Catholic Church hierarchy is working on an evangelization plan for the faithful called New Evangelization. Not much information is available on this program yet, but the information is already being discussed (leaked, as it were). What does this new program mean for you? Good question. Can’t really say much, but what I can say is you will be asked to confront serious challenges.
If you are anything like me when you hear the words confronted with serious challenges you are envisioning Indiana Jones facing the unknown with only sketchy cryptic knowledge to act upon. Okay, guilty of hyperbole. I call it artistic license.
What type of serious challenges will confront us in the New Evangelization program? We can gather more information from a recent speech from the Pope.
Saint Mary MacKillop’s courageous response to the difficulties she faced throughout her life can also inspire today’s Catholics as they confront the new evangelization and serious challenges to the spread of the Gospel in society as a whole. All the members of the Church need to be formed in their faith, from a sound catechesis for children, and religious education imparted in your Catholic schools, to much-needed catechetical programmes for adults. Clergy and religious must also be assisted and encouraged by an ongoing formation of their own, with a deepened spiritual life in the rapidly secularizing world around them. It is urgent to ensure that all those entrusted to your care understand, embrace and propose their Catholic faith intelligently and willingly to others. In this way, you, your clergy and your people will give such an account of your faith by word and example that it will be convincing and attractive. People of good will, seeing your witness, will respond naturally to the truth, the goodness and the hope that you embody.
– Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the bishops of Australia
Based on the words of B-16 we will be facing the challenge of urgently using formation to deepen our spiritual lives because secularization will be rapidly working against our Catholic faith. We will have to keep up the spiritual pace in measures at least inversely proportional to the rapid rate of secularization. We will be called upon to douse the fire of secularization by witness of our faith in word and action. The goodness and hope we embody will need to be both convincing and attractive. Because I have a face for blogging the convincing part seems achievable, but the attractive part…
This “secularization” of the world seems to be a major stumbling block to New Evangelization. Perhaps if we understood secularization better we might understand New Evangelization better, also. What is secularization anyway? Another good question.
What is the classic secularization thesis? Hugh Heclo, professor of public affairs at George Mason University, recently described it this way: “A hundred years ago, advanced thinkers were all but unanimous in dismissing religion as a relic of mankind’s mental furniture.”1 Thinkers like Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, John Dewey and others assumed that the consequences of modernization—that is, the consequences of capitalism, industrialization, the bureaucratizing of businesses, democracy and pluralism, and the dominance of scientific and technological ways of understanding all aspects of life—that the consequences of these movements would not only marginalize religion, but eventually make it simply disappear as a vestige of the past. Religion, they explained, depended on supernatural revelation, miracles and religious authority, all of which are based upon and produce superstition. Modern science, by contrast, encouraged questioning, recognized no authority without empirical verification, and, unlike dogmatism, is self-correcting. To these thinkers, science equipped scholars with a method vastly superior to religion for developing knowledge.
– James Heft, S.M., University Professor of Faith and Culture and Chancellor
Unless you are a science equipped scholar, Professor Heft paints a pretty bleak picture for the faithful. Based on this description it seems that the plans of secularization are to grow through attrition. The proponents of secularism don’t feel that they need to do make any plans. Society will just gravitate toward secularism. Many factors coming together to conspire against the faithful seem to be rather uncoordinated, I mean what entity could coordinate capitalism, industrialization, bureaucratizing of business,democracy and pluralism? Some Catholic leaders do feel that there is some coordination from the secularization side.
The Cardinal called on Christians of all denominations to resist the efforts of such people to destroy Christian heritage and culture… The Cardinal said: “Perhaps more than ever before there is that ‘aggressive secularism’ and there are those who would indeed try to destroy our Christian heritage and culture and take God from the public square.
“Religion must not be taken from the public square.
– Cardinal Keith O’Brien
Are there are also leaders speaking up on behalf of secularization? We will pull on that thread in part 2.