The Diocese of Charlotte has just implemented a program produced by Renew International, called “Why Catholic?” Like all of Renew International’s materials, prima facie impressions of the materials are positive. However, Renew International was founded by a coalition of Call to Action AmChurch types bent on remaking the Church in their own image. This can be seen from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Critique of the Original Renew Program (the original Renew Program was produced in 1986), as well as from the background check of Renew 2000 contributors that came out with the subsequent program: Background Check of Renew 2000 Contributors Reveals Renew 2000 Texts Laced with Call to Action Names. An index of links critical of the heterodoxy of Renew 2000 can be found at Revealing the Truth about Renew 2000, and Dr. Regis Martin, S.T.D., Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (who was one of this year's speakers at Lenoir-Rhyne College's annual Aquinas-Luther Conference), in a review of one of the leader’s manuals, concludes that it is “seriously impaired in its content, and in its tone or spirit, alien to the ancient and Catholic faith we profess in the Creed.” First, he says, it fastidiously avoids mention of the Fatherhood of God. Second, there is a persistent tendency to divorce the Christological significance from the historical Jesus, so that the ‘Christ of faith’ has nothing to do with the ‘Jesus of history.’ Third, there is no mention of Original Sin and its treatment of the whole subject of human sinfulness is woefully inadequate. And much more (see Renew 2000 Commentary by Regis Martin, S.T.D.). (This is only the tip of the iceberg, as you will see if you explore these links.)
Renew International now appears to have garnered the backing of the USCCB, which features it on its webpage under the heading of the “Secretariat for Evangelization” in its listing of National Catholic Evangelization - Programs. The Bishop of Charlotte, Rev. Peter J. Jugis has approved and encouraged the use of the Renew International program, “Why Catholic?” for use in parishes throughout his diocese (Karen A. Evans, "Why Catholic? Why Not? New Program Offers Adults Chance to Explore, Expand Faith" [pdf], Charlotte News and Herald, May 19, 2006). Our priest is now endeavoring to recruit me as one of many faciliators in our parish to impliment this program in many small groups throughout our parish.
I would not relish dragging my heels about something so positive as a catechetical initiative. I pray regularly for the catechetical renewal of the Church. Yet if the program is designed by revisionists whose devious aim is to use their small group approach to refract ecclesial focus, to undermine magisterial authority, to democratize the Catholic message, to continue the AmChurch decentralization of Catholic Church in America, to continue the process of protestantizing and revising the Church and detaching her from the only moorings she has in her own traditions, I wonder how I can work within the program.
Some of the Renew-sponsored programs, I'm quite aware, present a very attractive front. One, in particular, for which title I'm inclined to have a soft spot is "Theology on Tap," although I've never been to an official Renew-sponsored pub theology session.
I note that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has implemented a 3-year Renew International program from the US in his Westminster archdiocese of London, England. I also note that the London Oratory announced that it would not be taking part in the program. ("Who Wants Priestless Parishes?" CWN, August 2003)
Mary Jo Anderson, in “Buried in the Fine Print: An Inside Look at RENEW 2000,” suggests that the programs materials are deeply flawed, but ends with a quotation from a priest implying that they could still be made use of fruitfully in competent hands. This leaves me flummoxed: Why approve deeply compromised materials? What are these people thinking? Is it as if we have no competent writers to produce uncompromised materials?
If any of you are familiar with the Renew programs, led me know what you think.