What exactly is the New Evangelization?
Ask even the most consistent daily Mass-goers at a Novus Ordo parish – heck, ask the pastor – and you’ll get lots of tortured expressions and a boatload of disjointed responses, but what you won’t get is a clear cut explanation as to what this all-encompassing program of the Catholic Church in our day actually is.
And make no mistake about it; this “New Evangelization” is by design all-encompassing.
In 1990, Pope John Paul II, who coined the phrase, wrote:
I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church’s energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples. (Redemptoris Missio – 3)
Indeed, this exhortation has been taken to heart as all of the Church’s energies are indeed committed to this ill-defined New Evangelization. With rare exception, it has become the driving force behind pretty much every major decision rendered, every program enacted, and every statement issued by the sacred hierarchy ever since.
NOTE: As for the “rare exceptions” that immediately come to my mind, all of them were committed by Pope Benedict XVI who thereby incited the fury of the wolves from which he ultimately fled. We’ll take a closer look at this in another post soon.
Getting back to the New Evangelization, we see that it is imagined to be the ecclesial “operating system” du jour, and yet, one still wonders what it really is.
For all of mystery that surrounds this initiative, we must admit that the New Evangelization is aptly named in that it really is “new.”
A new what, you ask? A new mission.
The full name of the document previously cited, Redemptoris Missio, is “On the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate.”
Get that? The New Evangelization is a re-orientation of the Church’s “mandate,” that which she received from Christ. The opening sentence of the document reads, “The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion.”
Don’t gloss over what you just read. This opening line places the “New Evangelization” in its proper context.
Recall the citation above, it is to be considered the “supreme duty” of the Church and all of her members, “to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
In other words, the New Evangelization, as its modern day Captains understand it, isn’t simply intended to serve the mission that Christ entrusted to His Church; no, it is to be treated as if it were the mission.
But is it really one and the same mission?
From my perspective the answer is obvious; of course not. Forget for the moment trying to determine what the heck it is, let’s talk about what it is not:
– It’s not about preserving the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine as if it were a great treasure
– It’s not about teaching the objective truths of the Faith with clarity and precision
– It’s not about condemning those errors that obscure the Lord’s saving truth
– It’s not about proclaiming the Kingship of Jesus Christ here present
– It’s not about professing the reality of the Holy Catholic Church as the solitary Ark of Salvation
– It’s not about calling on those who wander in darkness, exposed to final despair, to enter said Ark
In short, it’s not about the mission that Christ gave to His Church; it’s focused on something different.
So what is it?
Here’s my definition:
The New Evangelization is a program of social justice and religious diplomacy that is singularly focused on human dignity.