Just posted to our Web site, an analysis of the upcoming synod on the new evangelization from James Gorman and Robert S. Rivers, C.S.P., of the Paulist New England Outreach Ministry:

This month the world’s bishops will gather for a Synod dedicated to the new evangelization. The preparatory documents for the Synod refer to a promise of “renewed missionary activity” and some in the church are hoping that these efforts will help capture the spirit of the New Testament evangelization. Yet we have some worries about the pastoral implementation of this enterprise. We suspect that the recent emphasis on evangelization is merely an attempt to draw those who have left the church back to an institution of the past.

The U.S. bishops’ web page on new evangelization states that, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, “only 23% of U.S. Catholics regularly attend Mass once a week.” Focusing on this fact is a mistake. In our experience of helping parishes to implement evangelization plans, congregations too often narrow their focus to “getting people back into the building.” An evangelization effort must be broader than that.

The sole resource on the U.S. bishops’ web site for new evangelization (Disciples Called to Witness) devotes only six lines to works of charity and justice in four pages about methodology. The initiatives suggested by the bishops are directed to people already in the church: prayer and popular piety, Sunday Eucharist and effective preaching. The Catholics Come Home web site, an initiative endorsed by many dioceses in the United States, asserts, “It is our job … to invite our fellow brothers and sisters home to the Church.”

Are we pessimistic? No, but we are skeptical. Although the Spirit can surprise us with breakthroughs, the evidence of recent years offers little encouragement regarding the prospects for the new evangelization—at least as currently envisioned by church leaders.

Read their full analysis here.

Tim Reidy

 

Comments

Mike Brooks | 10/6/2012 - 2:21pm
From the post: 

"Two-income families, the loss of the “traditional” stay-at-home mother and the disappearance of time for at-home religious formation have rendered church life as we know it irrelevant.
*****
'Church leaders do not appreciate that a ministerial model addressing the needs of a previous generation has become irrelevant—particularly for those between the ages of 20 and 45. The church is broken, not today’s society or individuals within it."


Jesus was born into a society whose ways were much different from what he was teaching.  No doubt that those who did not like what he was preaching told him that he was foolish for trying to change that which already was; that if he wanted to get followers, he should change with what society seemed to want.  But you know what ultimately happened?  Society changed to meet what he was teaching.

Society, particularly in the last 50 years, has indeed changed drastically, and all the while the Church, notwithstanding its concesssions in Vatican 2, advised against those changes, because it knew how those changes would adversely affect society.  So now, stay-at-home motherhood has become either a luxury or given up for a better standard of living; two-income families are the norm; divorce and voluntary single-parenthood are prevalent; boys want to marry boys; and the Church, not society, is broken????  Ridiculous.

Like Jesus, the Church should stick to its message and its traditions, not allow the lost flock to dictate the direction of the shepherd.  If our lives have rendered our religion irrelevant, then maybe, just maybe, we should alter our lives.
6466379 | 10/5/2012 - 7:29pm
How to Evangelize? Excuse me for being so non-erudite amid all the lengthy and scholarly postings, but in answer to the directive ''How To Evangelize?'' how about trying a SMILE! Who was it that said he could never be Christian (Catholic) because they are morose, never smiling. Was it Nietzsche?
Anne Chapman | 10/5/2012 - 1:16pm
Copied from comments to full article linked to by Mr. Reidy.

It is interesting that nobody is commenting on this story, either here or on the blog. So, as one who chose to leave active participation in the Roman Catholic church five years ago for an Episcopal parish (I did not ''fall away'' nor am I ''lapsed''), and so am among the ''targets'' of the ''new evanglization'', I will jump in, using some excerpts from John Allen's article on the Synod, which, Allen says, some describe as ''...an expensive talk shop''.  Sounds like a pretty accurate description.

The authors of this article seem bent on pursuing a course that will produce little fruit, because it seems that they too ignore the elephant in the room - the real reasons there are tens of millions of disaffected Catholics. It's not the medium, it's the message. And there is not one mention of that in this article - these good men seem to be clueless about the reasons that even ever-growing numbers of older Catholics who have spent a lifetime in the church are defecting in their 50s, 60s and 70s. ''As gray-haired individuals gathered on Sunday mornings among a greatly reduced number of our contemporaries, we wonder what is wrong with those who are not there.''

They partially answer their own question - their own myopia -  ''First, most of us concerned with evangelization are constrained by our own experience. The church we have known works for us.''

Now - authors - have you asked your gray-haired peers why they are no longer in the pews? If you do, what attitude do you bring - one of listening or one of judging? 

Read what you wrote ''...  what is WRONG with those who are not there?''  Maybe there is nothing ''wrong'' with those who are not there - maybe those who are not there left because the Roman Catholic church as it has evolved over the last few decades, especially under the current and recent papacy, no longer convinces them that this particular religious institution is the ''best'' teacher of how to live a christian life  - as taught by Jesus himself, but too often, it seems, ignored by the PTB in favor of a lot of man-made rules, interpretations etc that it now DEMANDS be ''assented'' to by all Catholics in order to be ''real'' Catholics. 

From John Allen's article.

1. ... liberal critics would argue that if the church is serious about reaching disaffected Catholics, better missionary strategies alone won't cut it. What's required, ... is reform in church teaching and practice: ...the real evangelical problem in the West isn't with the sales pitch, but with the product. That's a view unlikely to be expressed, ... on the synod floor.

The Synod will produce nothing new - since they won't even discuss the real reasons millions and millions of Catholics have left active participation in the church in Ireland, the UK, Europe, in N. America etc.  

2. On the right, some have long been convinced that the church's missionary enterprise has been fatally hobbled by ''ecumenical correctness,''... an unwillingness to flatly tell other Christians, followers of other religions, and nonbelievers, that they're wrong and Catholicism is right.

So, will the church continue its retreat to the triumphalist past - perhaps convincing more Catholics that the church is on the road not just to pre-Vatican II but maybe back to the 19th century, and so they might as well just throw in the towel now.  

3. ..., some middle-of-the-road Catholics ...quietly grumble that the best thing the Vatican could probably do is to get out of the way. Recent scandals, meltdowns and PR disasters, from the Holocaust-denying bishop contretemps to the sexual abuse crisis and the leaks scandal, they say, all have made the work of evangelization more difficult. Care to take bets on anyone saying that out loud during the next three weeks?


See comment for #1.

It seems the ''new evanglization'' will have about as much impact in the US as did the ''Fortnight for Freedom.''  Barely a ripple, by preaching mostly to the choir. 

The ''bleeding out'' will continue because the PTB are not open to ''changing'', they are not open to listening (even to the Holy Spirit it seems), but seem hell-bent on shoring up their own power and distorted understanding of their ''authority''.

 And just as the PTB are not willing to change, most of those who have left for ''real'' reasons of faith and belief (as opposed to just ''drifting'' or ''laziness'' or  poor homilies, they don't like the music, Father was mean to them or whatever) will not be convinced to return by a superficial campaign such as the ''new evanglization'' appears to be.  Sending the ''message'' out by using social media technology does not change the message. For those for whom it's all about the message - about the ''teachings and practices'' of the Roman Catholic church - superficial communications campaigns just won't cut it.

As much as the official church would like to believe it, the Roman Catholic church does not own God, it does not have a monopoly on religion nor on ''truth'', and it seems to understand almost nothing about the true nature and underlying reasons for the current hunger for a real spirituality that is not met by the 1000 page catechism of ''must believes'' and ''must dos'' and endless statements from Rome and chanceries so emphasized by the current ''leadership'' of the church.

p.s. Before some of the young neo-trads jump in shouting loudly about how they think that all the retro stuff will rebuild the church and they can hardly wait for all those ''gray haired'' people to just die and get out of the way, hold off - all of the studies show that the defections are highest among the young adults - especially among young women who tend to be the deciding factor in church-going - and they show that these young adults (the majority) will not be returning in the numbers that returned in previous generations after marriage and parenthood. Marriages in the church are way down, infant baptisms also, even though the numbers of marriages and births in the society at large are stable or growing. The very vocal young neo-trads are actually but a small minority of their age cohort.
6466379 | 10/9/2012 - 6:29pm
Anne #8 regarding #5 – Hi, pleased you found something useful in my simple “Smile” post.

 Compounded by difficult teachings often inadequately explained, and poorly digested and assimilated, dour, sour, Catholic (Christian) faces successfully force people away from  foundational truths, to more joyful havens of foundation chips of truth  that come in many shapes. If only she/he had smiled bringing assurance, reassurance , ready tools  that cut away difficulties, inadequacies, preventing the “intellectual and spiritual  acid reflux” that send people running to more joyful, smiley resting spots.
 Relationally, the  “Smile” of spirituality not intrinsic to religiosity but can be helped by it, reflects the Spirit’s Gift of Joy, which is not the same as the Gift of Happiness, the latter having to do with things like adequate housing, food, salary all things material. Whereas, the Gift of Joy is rooted in the soul, where God resides, having nothing to do with the happiness of materiality and is present even in distress, Joy of Spirit made visible in a “Smile.” Really! 


 Often the “Smile” becomes   savior of good women and men who become more or less involuntary drifters tossed by the waves of Catholic (Christian) indifference, who cry out to Jesus as did Peter and in that moment find deliverance. Teresa of Avila once prayed, “Oh God, from sad-face saints deliver me!” So, everyone, for Christ’s sake, SMILE! A pretty good way to evangelize.
 
 
ed gleason | 10/5/2012 - 2:26pm
Ann C. describes well the walking away.

Here is an example of the presence stance on ecumenism'
As reported today in the SF Chronicle
.
"The Rev. Marc Andrus, the Episcopal bishop for Northern California and a strong same-sex marriage supporter, reported that he was snubbed when he showed up for the cathedral service, which came three days after Andrus had written an open letter offering a spiritual home to any Catholics who felt disowned by the archbishop's views.'

he was left in the basement while others was escorted in ...so he went home.
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SF-archbishop-jokes-about-recent-DUI-arrest-3918064.php#ixzz28Rw0nmJv

The Orthodox bishops and  Cardinals and a horde of bishops made it to the sanctuary.
so the snub did not go back beyond the 1100s.  
Tim O'Leary | 10/8/2012 - 7:59pm
Anne #11
You said in #2 “The 'bleeding out' will continue because the PTB are not open to 'changing'…” and in #8 “they could learn a lot from the Anglicans if they only would open their minds a bit” and “the RCC is not going to change anything about its current teachings nor its of power structure anytime soon” and “it is often those who have studied the gospels the most, who have studied church history and church teachings the most who have decided that they can no longer stay.”

So, it is pretty clear that your diagnosis is that what caused people to leave the Church is the message - that it doesn’t change its doctrine or its organization and that a close reading of the gospel and church history and Church teachings will push people out. That last point is pretty telling. The RC Church is a false Church, as judged by the gospel and its history. You couldn’t have been any clearer.

Or have I still got your diagnosis wrong? Well the Anglicans/Episcopalians do change their doctrine, so I think it is not off point for me to bring that up as something close to your desire for change. I did read the much more balanced article from John Allen, by the way.

My response in #10 was all about the change you complain is not happening in the RC Church, and my view that your prescription was exactly the wrong thing for us Roman Catholics to do. Yet, in #11, you repeat that I am not addressing your points. How strange!

As to the likely success of the “New Evangelization” I addressed it on another post to you earlier today. Here it is again: “As regards prospects for success, the 'new evangelization' efforts - meaning the outreach to those in the West who have left the Church of their youth - might fail. It is like the Lord's parable on sowing seeds in Mark 4. Even some seed of the Lord's falls on barren ground, or in this case, shallow soil. Many evangelical efforts in history have failied, but the Church always seems to grow, even if in different places.”

Why can’t you accept that I believe your diagnosis is false, and your prescription is false? The Church would lose millions more, especially in the underdeveloped world, if it didn’t “keep the faith,” in my opinion. And don’t try to hide behind the word “change” as if it didn’t have content. If you reply to this post, please focus on the details of the change you think would need to be seen to the message, and don’t be coy.
Bill Mazzella | 10/5/2012 - 12:11pm
The forever problem is the Empire church does not want evangelization. It wants authority and domination featured in the Sacraments administered by priests who alone have magical powers which seem to be divorced from justice and Matthew 25, however much lip service has been given to that determinative chapter. In fact the hierarchy has always taken movements or evangelization in the church and sought to codify them under its control. This happened with the religious orders as Canon lawyers
forgot the spirit of the founders while strapping its members with unnecessary legalisms. In our time the pope censure the great evangelizer and head of the Jesuits, Arippa, by insisting more on obedience and overlooking the great work of a great leader. In the same way the hierarchy killed the modern charismatic movement so that too many charismatic groups became lifeless as right to life groups or militant orthodoxy.

Rather than concentrating on Matthew 25 the hierarchy looks for the state to do its work with Catholic Conference in each state which are lobbying groups against abortion and same-sex marriage. So the priests are right in the article that evangelization should not be a return to the status quo by a serious effort to revive the spirit in every parish. But that means a reversal from the church of the sacraments to the church of the spirit which the hierarchy does not pursue.  
Anne Chapman | 10/7/2012 - 8:31pm
Tim -''... but that the changes you want in the Catholic Church (in this post...''

And what changes did I say I wanted in the Catholic church in post #2

I did not specify any change in posts on this topic.


 Why is it so hard for you to address that which is actually said rather than what you ''interpret'' as being said - but which was not said?

It is your ''opinion'' that Anglicanism is a ''false'' church teaching a ''false''doctrine. But you have not, as requested, cited sources for these ''false'' doctrines that are official Anglican teaching documents (such as in the Book of Common Prayer etc) nor demonstrated with objective evidence (not your 'opinion'' which is of no relevance) that they are ''false''?

Frankly, your personal ''opinion'' does not equate to ''truth''. It is simply your opinion.

My personal opinion is that Jesus' church does not reside exclusively in the Roman Catholic church. It is also my opinion that the institutional Roman Catholic church and its leaders have strayed very far from the gospels, and very far from all that Jesus himself taught - so far as to be in danger of being thought of as a ''false'' church teaching sometimes ''false'' (man-made) doctrine. I say that this is my opinion - I would never be so arrogant as to claim that my personal opinion is infallible and unquestionable ''truth.'''  However, since it is my deeply considered opinion, in conscience, I had to leave the Roman Catholic church. 

 I am not saying the RCC ''should'' change anything, nor do I have any desire to argue your ''opinion'' v. my ''opinion.''  You have studied the Catholic church and concluded that all it teaches is ''true'. I have studied the same church and concluded that some of what it teaches is not ''true.''  You have your opinion, and I have mine.

The point of my post  - which you continue to ignore - is that the ''new'' evanglization will not succeed with those ''disaffected'' Catholic who left as a matter of belief.

 Do you disagree with this?

 Or do you believe that somehow the ''new evangelizers'' who are teaching exactly the same things that drove people out the door in the first place will be able to put all the ''disaffected'' Catholics under some kind of hypnosis and bring them back in the doors that way?

The thread and my post addressed the ''new evangelization'' - not your personal opinion of the Episcopal church.

Please do not respond unless your response is confined to addressing the topic of this thread - the goals and possible impact of the ''new evangelization'' - rather than your personal opinion of other churches.
Anne Chapman | 10/7/2012 - 6:34pm
Tim, #7

I see your habits haven't changed, Tim - still putting words in people's mouths and then judging them on what they didn't say. I don't post here much anymore, so maybe I have you confused with some of the others here who have a tendency to put words in people's mouths. Anyway, you wrote:

''Is seems to me your basic advice to the Roman Catholic Church is that it become Episcopalian -on fidelity to the Gospel, on teaching authority, abortion, sodomy, the priesthood, the eucharist,''

First - could you please point out in my post where I said anything about these things? Also could you point out where  I ''advised'' the RC church to become ''Episcopalian''?  I don't think I did.

What I actually said is that I now attend an Episcopal church. I said nothing about the RCC becoming ''Episcopalian'' (although, it's true, they could learn a lot from the Anglicans if they only would open their minds a bit - especially about what true fidelity to the gospels means). 

My point, Tim, that you failed to grasp, perhaps because you were too intent on drafting a retort that was not  based on what I really said in the post, is that the ''new'' evangelization is unlikely to lead to a resurgency of Catholic christianity in Europe nor to stop the continuing losses in the US. It is also unlikely to do much in Latin America, either, as the numbers leaving the RCC continue to accelerate.

''Disaffected'' Catholics are among the ''target'' groups for the ''new evangelization.''  But, while they may recapture a few ''drifted away'' types here and there (at least for a while - like Anne Rice - who left again when she became thoroughly reacquainted with what the church teaches and stands for these days), they are unlikely to succeed with a significant portion of  the tens of millions who have left the RCC precisely because they do not agree with a whole lot of what it teaches, nor how it is structured.

So, Tim, it was really just simple observation about the likelihood of this inititiative succeeding in its goals. And much of the post came from a column by John Allen - I simply quoted a few relevant paragraphs. Did you read the John Allen column?

You are absolutely right - the RCC is not going to change anything about its current teachings nor its of power structure anytime soon. And those who left because they could no longer stay in good conscience aren't going to be ''recaptured'' as pious  (paying) pewsitters because nothing will change - and, amazingly, the PTB  seem to think (rather naively, but they seldom ask anyone who lives in the real world about these things) that the problem is that we ''disaffected'' Catholics just don't know the gospels and if we only did, we would hurry back. Actually, it is often those who have studied the gospels the most, who have studied church history and church teachings the most who have decided that they can no longer stay.

Bruce Snowden made a couple of excellent points. But, unfortunately, those of us who have left as a matter of conscience over teachings and practices of the church, won't come back for all the smiles in the world, nor all of James Martin's jokes, etc. The teachings will be just what they were, the governance structure also.  Besides, the ''conservatives'' will never smile at the ''progressives'' - they are much too busy judging them to smile at them. If they express any emotion at all towards the ''progessives'', it is usually that they can hardly wait until all those old Vatican II types die or leave.

I don't know why this is, but it has been my experience throughout my lifetime that there is more warmth and joy apparent in the congregations of most not-Catholic churches, and even Jewish temples I have visited, than in the RCC. However, there are churches that are even colder - some of the hellfire and brimstone fundamentalist christian churches, and the dour children of Calvin, like some Presbyterians.
Tim O'Leary | 10/7/2012 - 7:07pm
Anne #8
I did not intend to put words into your mouth, but to interpret what you said, and to respond to it. I agree with your main point that a lot of people have left the Church not because of the ''medium'' but because of the ''message,'' which is the teaching. Since the teaching hasn't changed, those who have left are leaving because they no longer (or never did) believe what the Church believes about itself, in terms of fidelity to the Gospel, the priesthood, the Eucharist, the Natural Law and morality in general. The cry from those who have left is that the Church hasn't changed its teaching to ''keep up with the times'', etc.

My point is not that you explicitly said you want the RCs to become Episcopalians, but that the changes you want in the Catholic Church (in this post and previous posts) would, if enacted, make it nearly identical to the Episcopalian Church.

The Episcopalians have changed, dramatically, in terms of doctrine, almost every decade, by vote after vote at Lambeth Conferences. So, it is true that they are very 'flexible'' when it comes to doctrine. You interpret this as welcoming and open-mindedness. I have no doubt that they place a high emphasis on kindness, civility, and getting along, of tolerating differences (as long as everyone is progressive - CS Lewis would not be welcome there today). But they certainly have a low emphasis on fidelity to true teaching. So, in my opinion, they are a false Church, teaching a false doctrine. Furthermore, as an institution, they are dying, precipitously losing adherents, and will most likely disappear by the end of this century.
ed gleason | 10/5/2012 - 2:47pm
O! I left out that this was at yesterdays  ordination of San Francisco's new A/B Cordileone
John Barbieri | 10/7/2012 - 6:43pm
For myself, i find it much more difficult to try to do the work of love than to talk about it. Behavior will have a much greater effect for good or ill on evangelization than more words will.
Tim O'Leary | 10/7/2012 - 11:25am
Anne #2
Is seems to me your basic advice to the Roman Catholic Church is that it become Episcopalian -on fidelity to the Gospel, on teaching authority, abortion, sodomy, the priesthood, the eucharist, etc. And Ed Gleason seems to want the same thing. Not gonna happen.

Here is the pope's homily on the opening of the Synod today: stresses renewed interest in the Gospel, on personal holiness, renewed faith and charity, marriage and the family.
http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-opens-synod-the-church-exists-to-evangelize