CDF Doctrinal Note on Evangelization: a look at the Summary

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.




I. Introduction

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".]

V. Conclusion

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. 

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Different says:

    This is very interesting…Father, do you have any idea why this was released? Is this something that had been long “in the works”?

    I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this is being released to assist in bringing the SSPX back into the Church. It seems to be an effort to explain some of the points of Vatican II that they find problematic.

    Of course, no matter what the motivation, this is very helpful and will do good things to battle some of the indifferentism that has become quite popular.

  2. Berolinensis says:

    I wonder why they have only released this summary and not the note itself. I don’t think this is a common practice, or is it? When will they make the note publicly accessible?

  3. Jason says:


    I’m guessing maybe it hasn’t been translated into English yet.

  4. danphunter1 says:

    The big problem with this document revolves around the CDF interpreatation of proselytize.
    The bishops will begin to use this supposed battle between proselytism and evangelisation to find every loophole in the world to not attempt to convert all men to the Church.
    The decline in conversions to Catholicism is due to society’s abandonmentof a theocentric outlook, and the attractions of the “civitas hominis’ for the present generation, but ecumenism is also to blame for in this day it is alleged that all churches are more or less the same.
    Proselytism is condemned and in order to avoid it, people avoid criticizing errors and giving clear expositions of true teaching.
    The Catholic missions always and everywhere proselytized.
    Is it now wrong?
    Other denominations are advised to maintain their identity on the ground that there will eventually be a spontaneous convergence of churches.
    Conversions to Catholicism cannot but decline if conversion ceases to be regarded as a passage from one kind of thing to something very different, a matter of life and death for the individual concerned.
    God bless you

  5. berenike says:

    Yes, eucumminism (“yew …”), not ecumenism!

  6. schoolman says:

    We will have to wait for the official “note”, however, this summary given by the Vatican Press Office seems to allow, and as Fr. Z had noted, for two senses of the term “proselytize”. The “negative” sense has to do with a notion of “proselytize” that involves coercion or some other lack of due respect for the human person and in his excercise of responsible freedom.

  7. schoolman says:

    Vatican Radio gives us the following note of interest:


    Dominican Priest, Father Joseph Augustine Di Noia, is CDF undersecretary, says that the document first began as a project under the then prefect Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in attempts to clarify one fundamental problem: “The fundamental problem is a pluralistic theology of religion which essentially states that all religions are equally valid in leading a person to salvation, so that the Church and Christ cannot claim that Christianity has some special path to salvation, but that each path is valid for people let’s say who are born into it culturally or socially . That fundamental error was addressed by the document Dominus Iesus, but now the missionary implications are being addressed in this document”

  8. schoolman says:

    The following is the “intervention” by the Secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Angelo Amato regarding the “note”. Is there anyone who can give us some of the juicy nuggets from the Italian:



    L’annuncio di Gesù Cristo celebra la libertà umana

    1. Nella sua Lettera enciclica sulla speranza, il S. Padre Benedetto XVI scrive: «il Vangelo non è soltanto una comunicazione di cose che si possono sapere, ma è una comunicazione che produce fatti e cambia la vita» (Spe salvi, 2). Questa affermazione pone subito al centro della nostra attenzione una grande verità: il cristianesimo, prima ancora che una dottrina, è l’annuncio della presenza fra noi della persona di Gesù Cristo, di colui che è il Salvatore dell’umanità e del cosmo.

    E Gesù è anche al centro di ciò che la Chiesa vive, propone ed annuncia. Anzi è proprio la riscoperta quotidiana e grata della presenza di Gesù Cristo fra noi – di colui che è l’unico vero Signore “buono” della storia (cf. Spe salvi, 3) – che rende necessario, oggi, come duemila anni fa, l’annuncio a tutti gli uomini di una salvezza che non cessa di rendersi vicina ed accessibile all’uomo. È la presenza salvifica di Gesù Cristo la grande speranza che sta al cuore della speranza ecclesiale e che muove la Chiesa incontro al mondo.

    Per questo la Nota dottrinale su alcuni aspetti dell’evangelizzazione afferma che evangelizzare significa non soltanto insegnare una dottrina bensì annunciare il Signore Gesù con parole ed azioni, cioè farsi strumento della sua presenza e azione nel mondo. L’evangelizzazione coincide, infatti, col farsi portatori di questa speranza, che si fa “carne” per noi nella persona di Gesù e che rinnova la sua dimora in mezzo a noi nella Chiesa. Nulla è, infatti più urgente ed importante, per noi cristiani che essere un’eco credibile di questa presenza e di questa speranza.

    Nessuna obiezione può dunque ragionevolmente frenare od ostacolare l’impeto che dal cuore della Chiesa come fuoco di carità muove i nostri cuori ad annunciare, con parole ed opere, Colui che è la speranza attesa segretamente da ogni cuore: «Tutto il cuore dell’uomo, infatti, attende di incontrare Gesù Cristo» (n. 10).

    2. La Nota intende anzitutto richiamare che questo impeto ad evangelizzare, che proviene dal mandato stesso di Cristo, si radica in una profonda certezza antropologica: la ricerca e la scoperta della verità non mettono in pericolo e non coartano la libertà umana ma la celebrano e ne favoriscono il compimento. E ciò vale, in particolare ed anzitutto, per quella Verità che è Gesù Cristo: «la piena adesione a Cristo, che è la Verità, e l’ingresso nella sua Chiesa non diminuiscono ma esaltano la libertà umana e la protendono verso il suo compimento, in un amore gratuito e colmo di premura per il bene di tutti gli uomini» (n. 7).

    È questa certezza che spinge la Chiesa a considerare la libertà umana come «una risorsa ed una sfida offerta all’uomo da Colui che lo ha creato. Un’offerta rivolta alla sua capacità di conoscere ed amare ciò che è buono e vero» (n. 4), «una libertà che non è indifferenza ma tensione al bene» (n. 10).

    Infatti, nulla come la ricerca del bene e della verità mette in gioco la libertà umana, sollecitandola ad un’adesione tale da coinvolgere gli aspetti fondamentali della vita. È questo «il caso della verità salvifica, che non è soltanto oggetto del pensiero ma avvenimento che investe tutta la persona – intelligenza, volontà, sentimenti, attività e progetti – quando essa aderisce a Cristo» (n. 10).

    3. L’accoglienza di Cristo e la conversione a lui consentono altresì di riconoscere e guardare in modo adeguato l’incorporazione alla Chiesa, che «non è l’estensione di un gruppo di potere, ma l’ingresso nella rete di amicizia con Cristo, che collega cielo e terra, continenti ed epoche diverse» (n. 9). La Chiesa non è una utopia politica, ma germe e inizio del Regno di Dio. Essa è già presenza di Dio nella storia e porta in sé anche il vero futuro, quello definitivo. Si tratta di una presenza necessaria, poiché solo Dio può portare al mondo pace e giustizia autentiche. Per questo la Chiesa è strumento di una vera umanizzazione dell’uomo e del mondo: «Il dilatarsi della Chiesa, che è la finalità della missione, è un servizio alla presenza di Dio mediante il suo Regno» (n. 9).

    Ciò è ancora più urgente nell’ora presente – come spesso ci ha ricordato il S. Padre Benedetto XVI – in cui conosciamo sempre più “diverse forme di deserto”, che nascono soprattutto dal deserto dell’oscurità di Dio e dello svuotamento delle anime, un deserto in cui si trovano tanti nostri fratelli che vivono «senza più coscienza della dignità e del cammino dell’uomo» (Benedetto XVI, Omelia durante la Santa Messa per l’inizio del Pontificato, 24 aprile 2005).

    Proprio l’esistenza di tale “deserto” ci impone di considerare come compito prioritario della Chiesa il condurre gli uomini all’amicizia con Gesù Cristo nella libertà e nel rispetto dell’altrui coscienza. Per tale motivo l’evangelizzazione è «un dovere ed anche un diritto irrinunciabile», «un diritto che purtroppo, in alcune parti del mondo, non è ancora legalmente riconosciuto ed in altre non è rispettato nei fatti» (n. 10).

    Ed è questo un compito che è spesso «contrassegnato dal martirio« (n. 8): ma «proprio il martirio dà credibilità ai testimoni, che non cercano potere o guadagno ma donano la propria vita per Cristo. Essi manifestano al mondo la forza inerme e colma di amore per gli uomini che viene donata a chi segue Cristo fino al dono totale della sua esistenza» (n. 10). Sono proprio i martiri, con il dono della loro stessa vita – offerta non per uccidere, ma per donare più vita – che documentano in modo inequivocabile come «la pienezza del dono di verità che Dio fa, rivelandosi all’uomo, rispetta quella libertà che Egli stesso crea come tratto indelebile della natura umana» (n. 10).

    4. Si comprende dunque come questo orizzonte, fatto di verità e di libertà, debba determinare anche l’ambito ecumenico. Anche qui, il necessario rispetto delle diverse sensibilità e delle rispettive tradizioni, non può eludere né l’esigenza della libertà né quella della verità, che sono i presupposti insostituibili di ogni forma di dialogo. Il dialogo sincero, effettuato nella verità, nella libertà e nella carità, infatti, «non priva del diritto né esime dalla responsabilità di annunciare in pienezza la fede cattolica agli altri cristiani, che liberamente accettano di accoglierla» (n. 12). Tale dialogo, infatti, «non è soltanto uno scambio di idee ma di doni, affinché si possa offrire loro la pienezza dei mezzi di salvezza» (n. 12).

    L’unità nella verità, e l’esercizio della libertà nella carità, sono le vie esigenti ma preziose che la Nota intende richiamare all’oneroso e affascinante compito di testimoniare la fede cristiana all’inizio del terzo millennio.

  9. Berolinensis says:

    This is really very strange. While on the Vatican website there still is nothing, the German section of Vatican Radio has the complete text of the Doctrinal Note in the offcial translation here:

  10. Janice says:

    I would have been a bit happier if they’d addressed methodology. Too often, the Church has followed evangelical methods (cf. “Willow Creek” addressed by the Cosmos-Liturgy-Sex blog today), with distressing results.

  11. Berolinensis says:

    The term “proselytism” is described in detail in a footnote. So far, I only have the German version, here it is:
    Ursprünglich kommt der Begriff „Proselytismus“ aus dem hebräischen Umfeld, wo derjenige als „Proselyt“ bezeichnet wurde, der aus den „Völkern“ kommend sich dem „auserwählten Volk“ angeschlossen hatte. So wurde der Begriff „Proselytismus“ auch im christlichen Bereich oft als Synonym für die missionarische Tätigkeit gebraucht. In jüngerer Zeit hat der Begriff einen negativen Beigeschmack erhalten als Werbung für die eigene Religion mit Mitteln und Beweggründen, die dem Geist des Evangeliums widersprechen und die Freiheit und Würde der Person nicht wahren. In diesem Sinn wird der Begriff „Proselytismus“ im Zusammenhang mit der Ökumenischen Bewegung verstanden: vgl. THE JOINT WORKING GROUP BETWEEN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness (1995).

  12. Deborah says:

    Where and in what dictionary is the word “proselytize” suggested as a negative?

    The definitions given online are not negative at all.

    Is the word being translated incorrectly into English perhaps?

  13. Masone says:

    This summary is EXCELLENT. It contains some clarifications of a HUGE importance, both from the theoretical (theological) and from the practical (pastoral) point of view.

    I am very grateful to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to our Holy Father.

  14. Masone says:

    Dear fr Z.,

    regarding the following passage of the summary:

    “[…] teaching and entering into dialogue 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]”,

    you wrote:

    “That is a little odd: ‘not inappropriate encroachment’ suggest[s] 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 a 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”.

    I think we needn’t be too subtle here. The words “inappropriate encroachment” do not imply that there’s an “appropriate encroachment”. The passage simply means: “Teaching and entering into dialogue to lead someone in freedom to know and to love Christ is not AT ALL encroachment on human freedom – which would be inappropriate IN ANY CASE –, but rather…”
    No form of encroachment is appropriate, inasmuch as this word implies an offense to reason, and therefore to freedom, and therefore to human dignity, and therefore to God.

    The words “in freedom” should be noted, too.

    In the Italian official text, we read: “Così l’insegnamento e il dialogo con i quali si sollecita una persona, nella piena libertà, a conoscere ed amare Cristo non è UN’INDEBITA INTROMISSIONE nella libertà umana, ‘bensì una legittima offerta ed un servizio che può rendere più fecondi i rapporti fra gli uomini’ (5)”.
    Here too, it seems obvious to me that the adjective “indebita” does not limit, but qualifies the noun “intromissione”, so that EVERY “intromissione nella libertà umana” is, by its very nature and in any case, inappropriate and wrong.

    Compare also number 8 of the summary:

    “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.”

    Here too, I don’t believe there’s a “proper enticement”, but I must admit that I’m a little bit confused about the exact meaning of the word “enticement”.
    The Italian reads “istigazione” (“un’impropria istigazione”), which isn’t clear at all.
    It is my understanding that this summary was originally written by His Eminence cardinal Lavada, so the Italian text is probably a translation of an English original.
    Wouldn’t “adescamento” be a better translation?
    Isn’t “enticement” a juridical term, with an obviously negative meaning in criminal law? (I may be wrong, I’m not sure.)

    Many thanks.


  15. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    I am a little disapointed with the introduction when compared to the actual document. You can read the actual document as a PDF here:

    NB it is a PDF if you do not like PDFs do not go, but it is the only place I have found the document in English. The actual document seems much stronger. A few choices quotes:

    With regard to evangelizing non-Catholic Christians:

    “Therefore, the work of ecumenism does not remove the right or take away the responsibility of proclaiming in fullness the Catholic faith to other Christians, who wish to receive it.”

    Also the statement is clear that when a heart turns to God, it is turning to the Catholic Church, sort of like the old theological maxim that all graces received outside of the Church are directed towards the Church:

    “Therefore, every free movement of the human heart towards God and towards his kingdom can not but by its very nature lead to Christ and be oriented towards entrance into his Church….”

    And the money quote in the footnote on the first page where the document mentions the “pilgrim Church is necessary for salvation.”

    “This teaching does not contradict the universal salvific will of God, who “desires that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” therefore, “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for salvation.”

    Certainly, this document is not attempting to settle the EENS question, but it clearly speaking about the DUTY to evangelize ALL people. It is amazing how quickly things are moving since this Pope assumed the papacy.

  16. Matt Q says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for your review of the Note regarding evangelization.

    “Proselytism” is a negative term which usually applies to groups in the United States such as Baptists ( especially the Calvary Chapel folks ), Jehovahs, etc., even Mormons, who will immediately confront you and inform you you are going to Hell if you do not accept their way of thinking. No room for dialogue, no room for matching Bibical quotes regarding what they may be saying, etc. They knock on doors, ride their bicycles, stand on street corners and yell! This is the common definition of “proselytism.”

  17. Christopher Sarsfield says:

    On the term proselytism from the note:

    “The term proselytism originated in the context of Judaism, in which the term proselyte referred to someone who, coming from the gentiles, had passed into the Chosen People. So too, in the Christian context, the term proselytism was often used as a synonym for missionary activity. More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person. It is in this sense that the term proselytism is understood in the context of the ecumenical movement: cf. “The Joint Working Group between the Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches”, “The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling to Common Witness” (1995)”

  18. Janice says:

    With respect to the “gifts” that are offered by those from non Catholic Christianity, I wish there had been more of an effort to define what these are. In many cases, it seems as though non-Catholic Christians wish to bring in their former doctrines, etc. I also wish there had been more of a definition of the method of evangelization. Too many Catholic have adopted the evangelization of megachurches like Willow Creek and we now know that this does not work.

  19. John says:

    Finally we have a document (at least the summary)from the CDF which explains in clear terms the Church’s undersstanding of ‘evangelisation’ (cf. n.2 “”‘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”). The highlighting of ‘hearing’ the Good News of Jesus Christ sheds light on the importance which the Church has alwways attributed to the necessity of ‘proclaiming’ the Good News which of course is coupled with the ‘witnessing of life’. In some parts of the world and even in academic theological discussions it had become a popular notion that it was enough to ‘witness’ to some human values (justice, freedom, peace and solidarity) and there was no necessity for a direct proclaimation.
    I wish to thank God for this intervention of the Church in clearing some confusions regarding this matter.
    Gregorian Univeristy

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