The Doctrinal Note from the CDF was issued this morning. The presenters were Cardinals Levada (Prefect of CDF), Diaz (Prefect of Propaganda), and Arinze (Prefect of CDF) and Archbp. Amato (Sec. of CDF).
There are a few points in the Summary Points made by Card. Levada which the average reader might need a hand with. What follows is NOT the document itself, but the summary provided.
Here are my initial thoughts as I read.
My emphases and comments.
DOCTRINAL NOTE ON SOME ASPECTS OF EVANGELIZATION
1. The Doctrinal Note is devoted principally to an exposition of the Catholic Church’s understanding of the Christian mission of evangelization, which is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the word "Gospel" translates "evangelion" in the Greek New Testament. "Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to proclaim the Gospel, calling all people to conversion and faith. ‘Go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16,15)." [n. 1]
2. The Doctrinal Note cites Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Letter "The Mission of the Redeemer" in recalling that "‘Every person has the right to hear the Good News [Gospel] of the God who reveals and gives himself in Christ, so that each one can live out in its fullness his or her proper calling.’ This right implies the corresponding duty to evangelize." [n. 2] [Human beings are made in God’s image and likeness. They are made for God, which means they are made for the Truth. Since that is so, and since we are all in this together, all people have at least some obligation to help people to the truth, or at least not to lead them astray. The Church, however, has a divine mandate to bring people to God/Truth and some members of the Church have an official duty to do this.]
3. Today there is "a growing confusion" about the Church’s missionary mandate. Some think "that any attempt to convince others on religious matters is a limitation of their freedom," suggesting that it is enough to invite people "to act according to their consciences", or to "become more human or more faithful to their own religion", or "to build communities which strive for justice, freedom, peace and solidarity", [This is what many people want the Church to become: merely an instrument of social change and improvement, thus stripping the Church of its supernatural dimension.] without aiming at their conversion to Christ and to the Catholic faith. [Does this not hark to the reaction of some Jews about the Good Friday prayer in the traditional Missale Romanum?]
Others have argued that conversion to Christ should not be promoted because it is possible for people to be saved without explicit faith in Christ or formal incorporation in the Church. [Which we know is true, since God is not limited in saving whom it pleases Him to save. However, as St. Augustine explains, He can saved even the non-baptized, though we don’t understand how.] Because "of these problems, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has judged it necessary to public the present Note." [n. 3]
II. Some Anthropological Implications
4. While some forms of agnosticism and relativism deny the human capacity for truth, [They also deny that there is objective truth.] in fact human freedom cannot be separated from its reference to truth. Human beings are given intellect and will by God that they might come to know and love what is true and good. [See what I wrote, above.] The ultimate fulfillment of the vocation of the human person is found in accepting the revelation of God in Christ as proclaimed by the Church. [Therefore, the fulfillment of a human life is to become a Catholic? This would follow, since the fullness of revelation lies with the Catholic Church, and no other. Fullness of membership in Christ’s Mystical Body is in the Catholic Church.]
5. This search for truth cannot be accomplished entirely on one’s own, but inevitably involves help from others and trust in knowledge that one receives from others. [This brings in the point of the relationship between intellect and authority, reason and faith. St. Augustine would quote a line from the Septuagint version of Isaiah, "Nisi credideritis, non intellegetis… Unless you will have first believed, you cannot understand." Our reason/intellect brings us only so far. Then authority/faith must complete what the reason alone cannot reach.] Thus, teaching and entering into dialogue [again, the presentation of authority and invitation to use reason…] to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not inappropriate encroachment on human freedom, "but rather a legitimate endeavor and a service capable of making human relationships more fruitful." [n. 5] [That is a little odd: "not inappropriate encroachment" suggest that this is "appropriate encroachment". The word "encroachment" here must probably be taken to be less negative than it might on the surface sound to modern ears. In a sense, every act of bringing people from error to truth, or fuller knowledge of truth, is an forray into another person’s freedom. When we cross over their personal boundary to make a case, we encroach "appropriately". If we cross that boundary to compel or force, we encroach "inappropriately". This is the best reading I can make of that odd phrase.]
6. The communication of truths so that they might be accepted [This is another phrase which my Latin background suggests could have more to it: we must present truths also in such a way that as a consequence they are accepted…] by others is also in harmony with the natural human desire to have others share in one’s own goods, [I have in mind the natural generosity of an very young child, who will spontaneously hand a beloved toy to someone. They want it back. But they momentarily share it. The fact of original sin is also demonstrated in children when their desire to seize the possessions of others overwhelms them. On the one hand, our nature was made to be and remains good. On the other, the Fall left wounds in our soul.] which for Catholics includes the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Members of the Church naturally desire to share with others the faith that has been freely given to them.
7. Through evangelization, cultures are positively affected by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, through evangelization, members of the Catholic Church open themselves to receiving the gifts of other traditions and cultures, for "Every encounter with another person or culture is capable of revealing potentialities of the Gospel which hitherto may not have been fully explicit and which will enrich the life of Christians and the Church." [n. 6] [Here is an important point for liturgy. What is true inculturation? There is a constant simultaneous two-way interchange going on between the Church and the world. The Church shapes a people and the people shape the human dimension of the Church. So long as what the Church has to give gets logical priority, this exchange is sound and fruitful as it should be. That is true and authentic inculturation. When what the world has to give obtains the logical priority, the inculturation goes terribly wrong. This is quite obvious in, for example, Church architecture and sacred music. Card. Ratzinger made a distinction about music which is "für das Volk" and music which is "von dem Volk"… "for the people … from the people". The former can function to entertain merely while the later expresses something about the culture and identity of the people. When shaped by Catholic truths, that music which is "from the people" can be taken up by the Church, wedded to sacred texts and used in the sacred mysteries. This is one of the reasons why Summorum Pontificum is so important. Pope Benedict is trying to re-root our Catholic identity in our Tradition. We must strengthen our identity lest we be overwhelmed in the constant exchange with the world and so that we, as Catholics, have something by which we can shape the world around us.]
8. Any approach to dialogue such as coercion or improper enticement that fails to respect the dignity and religious freedom of the partners in that dialogue has no place in Christian evangelization.
III. Some Ecclesiological [the study of the nature of the Church from a theological perspective] Implications
9. "Since the day of Pentecost … the Gospel, in the power of the Holy Spirit, is proclaimed to all people so that they might believe and become disciples of Christ and members of his Church." [Since this is "ecclesiology", and therefore "theological", they start with the origin of the Church at Pentecost with the power of the Holy Spirit.] "Conversion" is a "change in thinking and of acting," [… a definition of the term…] expressing our new life in Christ; it is an ongoing dimension of Christian life. [So, this is "Christian conversion", not just any generic conversion. Thus, it excludes reduction of the Church and her mission to merely worldly terms, as if the Church were simply an instrument of social change.]
10. For Christian evangelization, "the incorporation of new members into the Church is not the expansion of a power-group, [not a "worldly" goal] but rather entrance into the network of friendship with Christ which connects heaven and earth, [it has a supernatural dimension] different continents and ages." In this sense, then, "the Church is the bearer of the presence of God and thus the instrument of the true humanization of man and the world." (n. 9) [This is in contrast with the sort of "humanization" which neglects or rejects the supernatural origin of man and his supernatual end. One might consider the proposal of some that we need a new Christian Humanism in our ongoing cultural war against the Church. I like to think of the world Dante invented to get at this point in the Paradiso: "trasumanar… to "to pass beyond the human while not losing what is human". In a sense, this is useful also to understand what happens when we bring our human gifts to Holy Church for use in the liturgy.]
11. The Doctrinal Note cites the Second Vatican Council’s "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (Gaudium et Spes) [About which Spe salvi is entirely silent! But I digress…] to say that respect for religious freedom and its promotion "must not in any way make us indifferent towards truth and goodness. Indeed, love impels the followers of Christ to proclaim to all the truth which saves." [Not all truths are saving truths.] [n.10] This mission of love [It is an act of charity to present the truth.] must be accomplished by both proclamation of the word and witness of life. "Above all, the witness of holiness is necessary, if the light of truth is to reach all human beings. If the word is contradicted by behavior, its acceptance will be difficult." On the other hand, citing Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, the Note says that "even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run, if it is not explained, justified… and made explicit by a clear und unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus." [n. 11] [So, please explain to me once again what is wrong with the Good Friday prayers?]
IV. Some Ecumenical Implications
12. The CDF document points out the important role of ecumenism in the Church’s mission of evangelization. Christian divisions can seriously compromise the credibility of the Church’s evangelizing mission. The more ecumenism brings about greater unity among Christians, the more effective evangelization will be. [The implication of this, and other recent documents from the CDF, is that true ecumenism results in all other Christians becoming Catholic. If the Church truly believes her claims, that is the inescapable conclusion.]
13. When Catholic evangelization takes place in a country where other Christians live, Catholics must take care to carry out their mission with "both true respect for the tradition and spiritual riches of such countries as well as a sincere spirit of cooperation." Evangelization proceeds by dialogue, not proselytism. [I really wish they would give a good definition of what this means, without simply letting the term dangle out there. Today, the term "proselytize" is nearly always negative. But how do we distinguish between "proselytize" and "evangelize"? In its root "proselytize" is from Greek pros (toward) + erchomai (I come). So, in the early Church a proselyte was someone who "came toward" the Church, in the sense of conversion to Christianity. In its roots, proselytism is an attempt to convert others to your belief. However, these days, the negative view of proselytism seems to be bound up with coersion, or perhaps offering material aid to the poor in exchange for formal conversion, or inordinate psychological pressure, etc. On the other hand, I have a hard time understanding where the limits of evangelization end and proselytism begins. For example, I have an entry on this blog about an Iraqi Muslim woman who converts to Catholicism. She was attracted because of the material aid the American (Christian) soliders provided, on the one hand, but also because the Catholic priest made her aware of the existence of non-Catholic Christians. Somewhere in that story the boundaries of evangelization are tested. Still, I hope for a good Catholic definition of proselytism.] With non-Catholic Christians, Catholics must enter into a respectful dialogue of charity and truth, a dialogue which is not only an exchange of ideals, but also of gifts, in order that the fullness of the means of salvation can be offered to one’s partners in dialogue. In this way, they are led to an ever deeper conversion to Christ.
"In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term." [n. 12] [So, there seems to be also a positive use of "proselytism".]
14. The Doctrinal Note recalls that the missionary mandate belongs to the very nature of the Church. [We cannot be the Church and not evangelize.] In this regard it cites Pope Benedict XVI: "The proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and the entire human race, [And so, it has logical priority!] called as they are to communicate to all God’s love, which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ, the one Redeemer of the world." Its concluding sentence contains a quotation from Pope Benedict’s first Encyclical Letter "Deus caritas est": "The love which comes from God unites us to him and ‘makes us a we which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is all in all (1 Cor 15:28)’." [The reference to 1 Corinthians 15 is eschatological (concerning "the last things". At the end of all things, Christ will take all things to Himself and submit them to the Father so that God may be all in all. ]
These are some of my thoughts as I read through the summary. I hope they were helpful in some small way.