When I look at my coming years as a priest, the devotion and discipleship that I hope to foster is often framed by this developing notion of Evangelical Catholicism. In these first few months, I more clearly see that my priestly vocation must be aimed at developing such Catholics. So what are they? Evangelical Catholicism isn't a whole-sale adoption of American Protestantism but rather marked by three aspects
- A strong reaffirmation of traditional markers of Catholic belief, language and practice. Examples include the revitalization of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, reassertion that Catholicism alone possesses the fullness of what it means to be "church," and rejection of theological tendencies that would put Christ on the same level as other saving figures;
- Bold public assertion of those markers of identity;
- Personal embrace of those markers of identity, as opposed to simply imbibing them from traditional Catholic cultures, neighborhoods and families.
Allen offers two other understandings of this movement in contemporary Catholicism. One isn't worth much, but William Portier, a professor at the University of Dayton has some great insights. His understanding comes through his experience with college students whom:
"conventional wisdom and my peers would call conservative," he said. "They liked to go to Eucharistic adoration, and they didn't think the pope was a freaking idiot. They'd wear t-shirts that said, 'Top Ten Reasons to be Catholic.' Yet they also did all the things my liberal colleagues would want them to do, like going on service trips and being worried about the poor...These students have been converted [to a strong form of Catholicism.] They've been intentionally drawn to it from out of the maelstrom of pluralism," Portier said. "It's not because the pope said so, or some action of coercion by authority. They've been attracted to it, in evangelical fashion."The second explanation is from David O'Brien, a professor Holy Cross College. His explanation is an incomplete vision of evangelicalism, in any denomination or vision. O'Brien reduces it to a by-product of America's pilgrim roots, when Allen has elsewhere identified Evangelical Catholicism as an international phenomenon. Further, O'Brien robs evangelicalism of its personal dynamism- such as Portier's observation that the young want to encounter Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Portier makes the most sense as he connects the need for a solid individual identity before one can engage others, suggesting that
"Catholics can't meaningfully engage the broader culture without some clear sense of who they are or why they're doing it. "I don't see how people can be concerned about ecumenism, social justice, interreligious dialogue, or any of the other issues that liberal Catholics would love, unless they're located somewhere," Portier said. "That doesn't have to be a fortress, but it does have to have some kind of theological shape."
[Which seems like a basic reality of interpersonal communication, right?]
I agree with Allen that we are seeing what he calls Evangelical Catholicism. He is right on the mark to express the return of many to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII (frequently called the Latin Mass) as an effect of Evangelical Catholicism. This is a returning to the heart- the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. I also think this Evangelical Catholicism, in its reaffirmation of traditional markers, public assertion and personal embrace is precisely the fruit the Second Vatican Council wished to foster- as asserted by Pope Benedict in his December 2005 address to the College of Cardinals.