Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pope Benedict On The New Evangelization--And Some Thoughts Of My Own

The Vatican has certainly got the poverty witnessing thing down.

Yesterday, as in Monday, Pope Benedict spoke to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.  He had a few interesting takes on some modern issues.  Modern man may be a number of things, but Christian isn't one of them.  The following is from Zenit.org.

Modern Man Is Distracted, Says Holy Father
Says Proclamation of Jesus Needs More Effective Method

VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is expressing satisfaction that his reflection on the crisis in Christian life has taken concrete form in the new Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

But the council, the Pope said today as he addressed its members at the conclusion of their first plenary assembly, has its work cut out for them.

Modern man is "often distracted and insensitive," he observed. "Because of this, the New Evangelization will have to be responsible for finding the methods to make the proclamation of salvation more effective."
The Holy Father's address was one of encouragement as he recalled his June 2010 announcement that set in motion the Curia's newest organization. (Wow, it's only taken a whole year to get this idea off the ground.)

Though secularization has left "heavy traces even in countries with a Christian tradition," he said, the Gospel "is the ever new proclamation of the salvation wrought by Christ to render humanity a participant in the mystery of God and in his life of love and to open it to a future of sure and strong hope."

Proclaiming Christ, the only Savior of the world, might seem more complex today than in the past, the Pontiff acknowledged, "but our task remains the same as at the dawn of our history. The mission has not changed, just as the enthusiasm and the courage that moved the Apostles and the first disciples must not change.
"The Holy Spirit who pushed them to open the doors of the Cenacle, making them into evangelizers, is the same Spirit that moves the Church today in a renewed proclamation of hope to the men of our time." (Hard to imagine those first Apostles were able to accomplish all that with out the supervision of the Vatican curia.)

The "new" in a new evangelization, Benedict XVI proposed, is "intensifying missionary action to correspond fully with the Lord's mandate."

"In the course of the centuries the Church has never ceased to proclaim the salvific mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that same proclamation today needs a renewed vigor to convince contemporary man, often distracted and insensitive," he said. (I thought Jesus said the whole thing was about love.)

The Bishop of Rome said that even those who still maintain a link to their Christian roots need to understand that the faith is not a uniform to put on and take off at will, but rather "something alive and all-encompassing, able to take up all that is good in modernity." (Then why was the Vatican so worried about Bishop Morris wearing a suit and tie, and so indifferent to his pastoral ability?)

He urged the pontifical council members to devise a plan that can help the universal Church and particular Churches, one that is mindful of the lack of formation in younger generations.

And the key to success, the Holy Father reflected, citing Pope Paul VI, is holiness: "It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus -- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity." (Uhhmmm, poverty and detachment?)


I sure hope Pope Benedict doesn't make this whole thing an exercise in dumping old wine into new wine skins.  He can't seriously think that anyone observing the actions of the Vatican curia would believe the line about poverty and detachment, or that there is freedom in the face of Vatican centrality, or that we're witnessing any form of real sanctity.  If he does, he should consider retirement.  The first thing the Church needs, if Benedict is serious about re evangelizing the west, is to live the countersign he wants the rest of us to be.  He should demonstrate a little poverty and in his case, less detachment.  He should demonstrate freedom in the face of the  powers of the world by refraining from being one of the powers of the world.  He's number five last I saw.  He could also stop confusing piety with sanctity.  Just because one beats oneself bloody or wears a cilice, or prostrates oneself in front of the Eucharist, that doesn't mean one has any sanctity.  Benedict's ideas about evangelization would go much further if he himself was the chief witness.

His predecessors, as in Peter, were highly effective at evangelizing because they actually lived what they taught.  They did as Jesus did.  It's pretty easy to get people to think about the importance of the Resurrection if you actually heal people, raise a few from the dead, or cast out a few demons--and then convince a whole bunch of other people they too can do the same.  I don't happen to think writing books has the same immediate effect.  Actually, I personally know it doesn't.  The operative word in the above sentences is THEY did it. 

The power of Christian witness is in community, and that community must be two or more.  Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs.  He said when 'two or more are gathered'. He hand picked twelve men and an unknown number of women to follow Him around.  He was never a solo act until the end--when He was seemingly powerless.  Think of the Garden of Gethsemane when He was at his most powerless and lowest point.  Where were His disciples? They were all sound asleep.  Just in case someone thinks Jesus was alone in the dessert, or at His resurrection.  Think again.  He was not alone.  There were just no humans around.

Christianity is not a solo act about saving ones soul.  It is all about communal witness. Unless Catholicism returns to that original teaching and witness of Jesus,  the new evangelization is not going anywhere.  Christianity was never about saving our own individual soul.  It was about building a collective consciousness and changing the worldOn earth as it is in heaven.


  1. I think that Benedict is not a credible witness for the gospel. He's all about building up the clerical culture and he doesn't seem to have a clue as to who pays for this. Anyway, he cashed in his real authority when, as the archbishop of Munich, he let a perpetrator be reassigned. The end.

  2. As time passes, it appears that the Pope is stuck with a buzz-word and hasn't the foggiest idea of what he or anyone else ought to do about it. He might profitably start by reflecting on what primarily made Europe what it is today (after Peter's era) - wars and Christianizing, often linked. A few other phenomena contributed over centuries, but the Pope and his allied princes and kings with armies did most of the work. It may be that a lot of Europeans have a clearer subliminal sense of history than he does and prefer the direction in which life seems to be moving at present.
    (There's that funny uniform stuff again as you noted recently.)

  3. What makes me shake my head is Vatican II was the direct result of the abomination of European fascism and it's virtual destruction of Europe. How quickly this has been forgotten. It's hard to remember there was a time when the men in the curia had the courage to admit they were part of the larger problem.

    I could take Benedict's rants on secularism if he would be honest enough to admit the Church's role in fascism.

  4. Well Done!

    In line with a long comment I just left at Bill's place, seems to me they are looking to "evangelize" (hoodwink?) the unwary into grovelers to their twisted culture of "courtly love" - which has no basis in the Gospels.

    To quote myself:

    "We have to ask ourselves, IMVHO, if the very structure of the Roman Church is now in question. And that leads me back to the Gospels and the Old Testament, to Paul and the early Church Fathers. And Mothers!

    Where is written that Rome is a dictatorship? What happened to collegiality? Why a focus on sex, court garments, and Latin? The Gospels are in Greek! Jesus spoke Aramaic! Can we not question the entire structure which has grown over the centuries, which the Vatican would have us venerate as infallible?

    It seems that a huge rift has arisen - between the sense of the people (the "little ones" - mind you - whom Jesus blessed as inheriting the Kingdom!) and the lordly aristocratic legalistic loaders-of-burdens who claim to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

    Too much of what Rome claims is based on reasoning that seems very far afield from the Gospel! Other than creeping infallibility, on what biblical and patristic evidence (that is sound) do they base their current emphases? For nuns who follow the Gospel are investigated and harassed. While priests who are wolves in sheep's clothing are protected.

    Jesus told us: "By their fruits you shall know them." And that measure alone is enough to sink the whole Roman ship of state - which appears no more than smoke and mirrors held up by the claim of infallibility - a rickety so-called doctrine put in place by stealth (if you look at the history).

    This is why I'm studying the Gospels!

    P.S. Jesus "spoke with authority" and that is NOT the same as a claim to infallibility."

    Bills thread:


    Fascism. I totally agree. Built on lying, an elite, and a mass of sub-humans taught to believe they are in a never-ending war and can only survive by following the doctrines (er... lies!) promulgated by the elite.

    Time to question the whole Vatican charade!