Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Question: What will the "New Evangelization" yield?

The question comes to us from the undercover correspondent we keep on retainer, Guy Noir - Private Eye, who asks, even more starkly: "Will the 'New Evangelism" ever produce recognizable faith?"

That may sound a bit bleak, given the fact that a fairly large swath will likely be claimed for the "New Evangelizaton," which includes the likes of the significant numbers of those who would attest that their lives have been impacted in a positive way by what is largely termed the "renewal" of the last few decades (happening places like Steubenville, for example).

But I'm not sure that's exactly what Noir has in mind. I'm guessing that he's thinking of the virtual collapse of Catholic overseas missions since the mid-20th century and erosion of the zeal that animated those efforts since the early years of the Church right down through St. Francis Xavier's time -- namely, the conviction that the unevangelized in all probability cannot be saved apart from the Gospel. Here's what Noir was thinking about: David G. Bonagura, Jr.'s article, "Can Faith Survive in the 'first world'?" (The Catholic Thing, March 22, 2015). Excerpts:
... history shows that Catholics have had massive success evangelizing whole peoples when they were compelled by two deeply held beliefs: a profound love of Christ to the point of martyrdom, and an understanding that those they encounter cannot be saved unless they accept the Gospel.

Our Lord promised that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church, but that was not a guarantee to keep souls within her. A distressing number of first world residents have heard of the Gospel [heard hear suggests understood, gotten it] but have not listened to it.
Noir comments: "This is rather shocking in how it makes quiet assertions seemingly oblivious to the example of reigning clerics who seem to deny them by pastoral example. The bolded lines, what leaders even believe these things?"

Hard words.

This also reminds me of what John Lamont wrote (New Blackfriars, Vol. 88, 2007) concerning a missing element in Vatican II:
The trouble with the Council's approach to mission is that although it stresses that Catholics must seek to convert unbelievers, it gives no adequate reason for doing this. It does give Christ's command to evangelize as a reason, but it gives no proper explanation of why that command is given, or of the good that the commandment is supposed to promote. This, of course, means that the command is unlikely to be followed; and it has in fact been largely disregarded since the Council.
In other words, Lamont writes: "[The Council] made no reference at all to unbelief rendering salvation doubtful." Or, in still other words: completely missing was a sense of urgency about the possible damnation of the unevangelized.

Again, hard words. Do we still believe them?

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