Reform rollback or emerging ‘sane modernity’ – Evangelical Catholicism triumphant, Vatican watcher states
Romano, the official Vatican newspaper. It argued that the phrase “subsists in” was intended “to reiterate that the church of Christ, with the fullness of the means instituted by Christ, perdures [continues, remains] forever in the Catholic Church,” anticipating almost word-for-word the Vatican’s conclusion two years later.
Father Becker is an intellectual architect of the evangelical Catholic school, and his article drew on a dissertation written under him at Rome’s Gregorian University by a young German scholar named Alexandra von Teuffenbach, one of the first to draw on the diaries of Jesuit Father Sebastian Tromp, a theological expert at Vatican II. Father Tromp helped pioneer the term “subsists in.”
None of this means the Vatican is claiming that only Catholics can be saved. The congregation stated that other Christian bodies can be “instruments of salvation,” and there’s nothing in the document to roll back Vatican II’s teaching that non-Christians can also be saved “in ways known only to God.” Yet evangelical Catholics reject suggestions that all religions are equally valid; ultimately, they insist, salvation comes from Christ, and the church is the primary mediator of this salvation. This belief remains the basic motivation for missionary work.
The evangelical footprint
Thirty years of bishops’ appointments by John Paul II and Benedict XVI have ensured that a broadly evangelical outlook is shared by much of the church’s leadership. In a 2005 interview with National Catholic Reporter, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, former president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, said that his generation accented Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II document that called for Catholicism to embrace the “joys and hopes” of the modern world. Today, Fiorenza said, more bishops are drawn to Dei Verbum, the document on revelation, with emphasis on maintaining Catholic identity.
In the United States, evangelical Catholics may be a minority, but an undeniably dynamic one. Sociologists Rodney Stark and Roger Finke published research in the mid-1990s suggesting that dioceses with a strong emphasis on traditional Catholic identity generate more priests. Comparing 10 dioceses identified by a cross section of experts as either “traditional” or “progressive,” they found that traditional dioceses outperformed progressive ones in terms of ordinations by a factor of about three to one.
Anecdotally, one could cite multiple eruptions of evangelical Catholic energy, from the Communion and Liberation meetings in Rimini, Italy, which annually draw more than 700,000 Catholics committed to challenging secularism, to World Youth Day, an international Catholic youth festival centered on the pope that routinely draws crowds in excess of a million and is one part liturgy and one part rock ’n’ roll. The expansion of evangelical-tinged Catholic media and an ever-growing host of Catholic blogs reflect this trend, as does the proliferation of Catholic schools and colleges marked by evangelical fervor. Former Domino’s pizza magnate Tom Monaghan is building an entire Florida town, Ave Maria, that might be described as the world’s first planned evangelical Catholic community.
In a 2004 Communio piece, Portier of the University of Dayton argued that a disproportionate share of undergraduate and graduate theology students and parish ministers are drawn from the evangelical camp.
Evangelicals may not drive other views out of the church anytime soon, but the impulse is clearly more than a top-down phenomenon radiating out from Rome.
With this one-two punch of grass-roots ferment and official support, the Vatican’s latest expressions of evangelical Catholicism feel less like the dying ripples of a wave that has already crested and more like harbingers of things to come.
- - -
John L. Allen Jr. is National Catholic Reporter senior correspondent.
- - -
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the National Catholic Reporter (www.ncronline.org), a Catholic Online Preferred Publishing Partner.
- - -
Join the conversation in the NCRCafe (ncrcafe.org), the National Catholic Reporter's interactive and participatory new Web site that allows a community of people to read about and respond to the issues shaping our church today.
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More U.S. News
- Violent Tsarnev friend killed by FBI after blaming Tamerlan for unsolved murders
- Eric Garcetti becomes Los Angeles' first Jewish mayor
- 12,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Moore, daunting road to recovery underway
- US Supreme Court Accepts Religion Case: Will Legislative Prayer Survive Religious Censorship?
- In the Wake of the Moore Tornado: What Can we Learn from the Disaster?
- Priests for Life: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Most Significant Legislative Step Forward
- Homeless man whose face was eaten away in cannibal attack recovering
- Court sides with Obama, Osama death photos can remain secret - for your own good
- Largest Burmese Python caught in Miami-Dade County
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?