Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Catholic Evangelism

~from Chiesa by Sandro Magister
The note had been in reserve for a number of years, from when Joseph Ratzinger was still prefect of the congregation. What made it "necessary" – as the introduction states – was the "growing confusion" over the Church's duty to proclaim Jesus to the world.

"This confusion has even penetrated within the missionary institutes," the congregation's secretary, Angelo Amato, lamented in an interview on Vatican Radio. "No more proclaiming Christ, no invitation to conversion, no baptism, no Church. Only social activism."

At the origin of this chilling of the Church's missionary spirit, to the point of its extinction, the note indicates various causes.

Above all, there is the idea that every religion is a way of salvation as valid as all the rest.

Then there is the conviction that proposing Christian truth to others is an attack on their freedom.

Then there is a conception of the Kingdom of God that is not identified in the person of Jesus Christ, but in "a generic reality that overarches all the religious experiences or traditions, toward which these should incline as toward a universal and indistinct communion of all those who seek God."

Then again there is the idea that "the pretense of having received as a gift the fullness of God's Revelation conceals an attitude of intolerance and a threat to peace."

The congregation for the doctrine of the faith has already responded to some of these "forms of relativism and irenicism," with the declaration "Dominus Iesus" in August of 200.

And it has struck against others with the notifications concerning three famous jesuit theologians placed under examination in recent years: Jacques Dupuis, Roger Haight, and Jon Sobrino.

And very recently the United States bishops' conference spoke out on the "significant ambiguities" of a fourth theologian, Peter C. Phan, with a declaration on December 7.

On the positive side, the note from the Vatican congregation urges unconditional obedience to the commandment of Jesus: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).

Although non-Christians can also be saved by God through "ways that are known to Him," Christians still have the obligation of making known to all "the true face of God, and friendship with Jesus Christ," without which there is "obscurity" and "emptiness."

Bearing witness through one's life alone is not enough, the note cautions. And it continues by citing the apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Nuntiandi" of Paul VI:

"Even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified – what Peter called always having 'your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have' (1 Peter 3:15) – and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus."

At the end, the note addresses the question of evangelization "in countries where non-Catholic Christians live, above all in countries of ancient tradition and Christian culture."

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