Over the last few weeks I’ve been excitedly following the Synod on the New Evangelization, but I’ve been a little disappointed. Much of my concern surrounds the Synod’s latest focus, Islam, which was sparked by Cardinal Peter Turkson’s macabre YouTube video.
I agree that Islam is important and deserves attention. No doubt it presents many unique challenges for the Church’s missionary and pastoral work. But it does not deserve central concern at this Synod. At best, it’s a peripheral element of the New Evangelization as understood by Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.
This is just one example of how the Synodal fathers have so far missed this movement’s core. As I read through the many speeches and interventions, I’m left asking, where is Paul VI’s emphasis on social communications? Where are the “new methods and new expressions” that John Paul called for? Where are the creative ways of re-proposing the perennial truth of Christ’s Gospel as promoted by Benedict XVI?
I’ve not seen a single mention of new media, and there have been few practical suggestions on how the Church, particularly laypeople, can re-engage those Catholics who were baptized, imperfectly catechized, but never evangelized.
The New Evangelization is a specific movement with a definite end. It’s not a trendy label we can slap on anything “modern” or “new” or “generally spiritually beneficial.” And from what I’ve seen and read, the Synod has stretched its boundaries too far. The wide-ranging interventions read like a litany of pet issues from each bishop, regardless of how little they tie into the New Evangelization.
The problem is that by removing its limits, the New Evangelization morphs from a forceful current into a lazy lake. By including everything, I fear the movement is losing its linear drive. After all, if it concerns everything, it’s really about nothing.
I do have faith its core purpose will be re-discovered, and that the movement will regain its energy. Cardinal Wuerl, the relator-general of the Synod, has a wonderful grasp of the New Evangelization and I’m sure his final report will properly reorient the discussion.
But let’s hope the New Evangelization does not become a lazy lake. It must tighten its focus, become once more a raging, pointed current, because only then can it flood the world with fresh expressions of the Gospel.
(HT: Fr. Robert Barron for the phrase “lazy lake.”)