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New Evangelization must not be a one-way proposition

The writers argue that "the New Evangelization will remain a stilted and cerebral exercise unless those most invested in its success are willing to take risks."
New Evangelization must not be a one-way proposition
NCR Editorial Staff
International
October 29, 2012
On Oct. 6, 262 bishops gathered in Rome for the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to discuss "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith." One of the gathering's primary concerns, particularly for those leaders of churches in the prosperous North, is how to reach out to disaffected Catholics. That same day, half a world away in Bethesda, Md., researchers for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life were telling a gathering of religion writers that two new markers had been reached in the religion landscape in the United States: For the first time since the organization had begun surveying about such matters, the country was no longer majority Protestant, and one in five American adults now claimed no religious affiliation. Though Catholicism showed no significant drop in overall membership -- thanks in large part to the influx of immigrants -- we also know that Catholics in the United States have been exiting the church in recent years by the millions, the younger ones before they reach age 18. For years now "the new evangelization" has been lurking about in search of its own identity, more aspirant than actual in its determination to be relevant and "new." The awkwardness that surrounds discussion of the elusive term was captured in a wire service story depicting the setting and content of the synod's opening address, delivered by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington. The church must reach out to former members, showing them both the relevance of the faith "without losing its rootedness in the great living faith tradition of the church," Wuerl said. He was speaking in Latin to a gathering of celibate male clerics. He lamented that too many Catholics don't know basic prayers and teachings and don't understand why it's important to go to Mass and confession. His solution: reach out to them and teach them the contents of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Perhaps that's a plan. But it sounds, instead, as if the analysis and proposed solution are as lifeless and lacking in blood and imagination as the church from which so many are exiting. The new evangelization will remain a stilted and cerebral exercise unless those most invested in its success are willing to take risks. Too much of what we hear of "the new evangelization" is a one-way proposition. It's saying, "We have the answers, we know what these poor, lost souls need." By rushing in with answers, we may be missing the questions. The Pew study made clear that the unaffiliated are not angry at organized religion; they just don't want anything more to do with it. Most "nones" believe in God and many call themselves spiritual. At the synod, Filipino Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila noted: "The seemingly indifferent and aimless societies of our time are earnestly looking for God." Is it possible that "nones" can teach us something about God? Or at least can we learn something from listening to their questions? The church's challenge is not to supply answers but to accompany people on their spiritual quests. Full Story:  Editorial: Evangelization requires bishops’ self-examination Source: National Catholic Reporter
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