Whatever one thinks of the trend labeled "Evangelical Catholicism" by John Allen in "Big Picture at World Youth Day: 'It's the Evangelicals, Stupid!'" (National Catholic Reporter, August 19, 2011), it seems for better or worse to embody the most palpable drift of mainstream "conservative" Catholicism these days. Allen's analysis is quite perceptive at points, as a reader pointed out to me. Definitely worth a read.
Some of you have already noted this trend on Catholic radio programming across the country as well, not to mention traditionalist Christopher Ferrara's blistering critique of EWTN as "a network gone wrong." In any case, the trend appears to be here to stay.
The strengths of the orientation comes from its willingness to tackle the interface between faith and culture, and the broad appeal of its chatty style and presence in Catholic media. Evangelical Catholics love to talk. They talk about Scripture. They talk about doctrines. They offer arguments to defend their doctrines. They share their conversion stories. They love to appear on talk shows. They like "praise" songs, extemporaneous prayers and couldn't tell you the words to the Te Deum to save their lives. The irony is that if you were driving somewhere and not sure of the radio station you were listening to, you might have to listen for awhile to figure out that it was a Catholic station you were listening to, and not an Evangelical Protestant one.
This, in turn, points to a possible weakness of the orientation: it is thoroughly acclimated to contemporary American religious culture, which has been decisively shaped over the past decades and centuries by a mix of Protestant and secular influences, and one sometimes gets the impression that Evangelical Catholics know next to nothing about pre-Vatican II Catholic tradition, except for a few talking points in apologetics. The question that arises then is: How long can Evangelical Catholics sustain their Catholic cultural identity; or, better, what is left of their Catholic cultural identity? What differentiates them from Protestant Evangelicals, besides a few minor liturgical "externals" and some sort of relation to the pope?
[Hat tip to J.M.]