|The Evangelical Nature of Catholicism|
|Written by Michael Fones|
|Monday, 23 April 2007 11:27|
A post from Sherry via her trusty, smug, Mac-using minion:
There was a kerfuffle all weekend at Fr. Dwight Longenecker's blog over his post on his experience at the Evangelical Catholic Institute the weekend before. Fr. Mike and I also attended the Evangelical Catholic Institute (I spoke several times) - as did Cardinal Avery Dulles, who gave one of the keynotes.
There seems to be two issues: 1) simply the term "evangelical Catholic" which is perceived by some as off-putting in and of itself; and 2) the fear that focusing on calling Catholics to a personal relationship with Christ, to intentional discipleship, is somehow a rejection and/or minimization of the role of the Church and magisterium. If we lay down our catechism for a moment, we are repudiating doctrine and revelation and the authority of the Church's teaching altogether and becoming Protestant.
What is, alas, no longer surprising for me, is to see clergy and lay people that I know to be devoted to Church teaching and meticulous about teaching with the Church being dismissed as covert dissenters because they are talking about the same thing that Pope Benedict has spoken about so movingly: personally following and entrusting one's life to Christ.
At the Institute and ID, we don't ever use the term "evangelical Catholic" because of its potential in our situation in the Protestant hotbed of the US to be understood as saying that the evangelical is not an intrinsic part of the Catholic faith and has to be borrowed from elsewhere and "tacked on".
But if we are going to be fully Catholic, we have to wrestle with the irreducibly evangelical nature of the Catholic faith - the mission to proclaim Christ to every person, every culture, every society. Protestants didn't invent the evangel or evangelism. They got it from us and then majored in it.
One commenter in the debate mentioned above pointed out this reality: The term "evangelical" is used 482 times in the documents of Vatican II and in papal and material teaching since. No reality spoken of 482 times in authoritative magisterial teaching can be dismissed as marginal, sectarian, or non-Catholic.
For instance, as in the Decree on the Laity, 31, doctrine and the evangelical are not, in any way, seen as opposed.
a) In regard to the apostolate for evangelizing and sanctifying men, the laity must be specially formed to engage in conversation with others, believers or non-believers, in order to manifest Christ's message to all men.(5)
Since in our times different forms of materialism are spread far and wide even among Catholics, the laity should not only learn doctrine more diligently, especially those main points which are the subjects of controversy, but should also exhibit the witness of an evangelical life in contrast to all forms of materialism.
The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 41
"married couples and Christian parents should . . . imbue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues."
The "evangelical" is also clearly declared to be part of the priestly office (Decree on the Life and Ministry of Priests, 2,
"Their ministry, which begins with the evangelical proclamation, derives its power and force from the sacrifice of Christ."
And a critical part of the Church's mission to the world (from the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church, 24,:
"By a truly evangelical life, in much patience, in long-suffering, in kindness, in unaffected love (cf. 2 Cor 6:4ff.), he bears witness to his Lord, if need be to the shedding of his blood."
The irony is that in defending ourselves against recent history (to a community that is 2000 years old, the 500 year span of Protestantism is a johnny-come-lately.) we can find ourselves rejecting as "foreign" something that is Catholic to the core, that is absolutely essential to the faith, and dates back to St. Peter's sermon on Pentecost (Acts 2).
"'Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.'
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, my brothers?'
Peter (said) to them, 'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.'"