Deborah Gyapong: An Aussie Catholic's critique of new evangelization efforts

An Aussie Catholic's critique of new evangelization efforts

Brian Coyne runs which has a lively forum on Catholic issues, mostly from a liberal perspective. He has a most interesting critique posted on evangelization. Here's an excerpt. His emphases:

I've been involved in I don't know how many "evangelization endeavours" over the last few decades. In hindsight I think they were all almost a complete waste of energy and time. I don't hold any higher expectations for the present initiatives. I have found myself today wondering why I have reached these conclusions.

In the final analysis I think there are two major but related obstacles at the moment that militate against any evangelization intiatives having even the slightest chance of any success. The first is simply a huge, and still growing, gap about what the final objective of evangelization is. It's this problem that nobody agrees anymore what the ultimate objective in "being a Catholic" or "going to Church", or "believing", or "practising" is meant to achieve.

Related to that — and this is the second problem — the vast majority of people (including priests and even bishops) are not allowed to talk about this BIG elephant in the room i.e. that there is no longer any workable consensus about what the ultimate objective of the entire exercise is. When anybody speaks publicly about any objective they have to be extremely careful to watch all their ps and qs so as to not upset a small, almost fundamentalist sector in our midst who do think they know what the objective is. Over their dead bodies they are not going to allow anybody else to articulate any alternative propositions. Effectively then, and as I have argued in other contexts, we have an entire institution that is effectively "reduced to silence (except for our nutter and fundamentalist fringes)".

None of the subjects that the people who might be prime candidates for evangelization or re-evangelization might like discussed are effectively allowed to be discussed. When you therefore read newsletters or tracts on Evangelization, Re-evangelization or the New-Evangelization, they are virtually all talking this antiquated language that is basically irrelevant to the real issues in people lives today that might make them open to listening to any "wisdom" that Jesus Christ might have to offer us about life or living today.

I can't see any of that changing while Benedict and men like him "control the agenda" at the very top. And this is the real damage that has been caused in a country like Australia in what was done to Bishop Bill Morris. He, like a goodly number of bishops and priests and teachers who do care about these things, was trying to open a dialogue — trying to find the language that might possibly work. But what does Rome do, stamp down on it all like a ton of bricks. A large and intractable problem I see is that the men at the top simply have no experience whatsoever of raising families and having to communicate with young adults today — and here I mean the broad range of adults near the mean of social attitudes. Yes, they can recruit a small segment who are basically naive and green-behind-the-ears, but whenever I see these kids that are favoured by our nutter bishops I just know from my own limited experiences as a parent and as a former teacher at secondary and tertiary level that this sample they talk to are NOT representative of the broad mainstream of young people in society today. Placing hopes in this small gaggle of young people to "go out and bring the Good News to ALL people" is simply delusional thinking. It is never going to work. They themselves simply don't have "the language" to communicate into the broad mainstream of contemporary society.

I probably fall into his "nutter and fundamentalist fringe" category, but to me the objective of evangelization or new evangelization is the same: setting aflame a passion for a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, something kindled by the power of the Holy Spirit when people who love God proclaim the Good News. Coming to know Jesus in this way requires supernatural means, not worldly techniques like finding the language to speak to the culture. Not that there is anything wrong with trying to find a language to speak to the broad mainstream of contemporary society----but I think that has been tried and, well, it hasn't worked all that well, has it?

Jesus placed his faith in a small gaggle of young people--12---and one betrayed him---and look what happened.



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