“The phrase ‘New Evangelisation’ was coined to refer to the situation in mainly European countries that have long been Christian at least nominally, but where the practice of the faith is in decline. … The New Evangelisation is a papal initiative which has not only acquired its own pontifical council, but is the subject of a full meeting of the International Synod of Bishops in Rome, now taking place. …”
Editorial, The London Tablet, Oct 20, 2012
If you think that the Roman Catholic Church represents the gospel, then people who have abandoned the Church will be called “de-evangelized” and doing something to regain their adherence will be called “evangelization.” But if you think, as I do, that the dogmatic, ritual and disciplinary structures of Roman Catholicism are in fact the hieratic reproduction of the fundamental dynamics of an ancient theocracy — the nuts and bolts of a massive millennial phenomenon known as the Roman Empire — then you will realize that the abandonment of the Church by the peoples of Europe was actually an act of evangelical liberation carried out in the name of gospel values: justice and compassion, humanity and human community, in rejection of the representatives of class control known as the Catholic hierarchy.
The origins of what the Vatican considers the “modern European apostasy” was that the aspirations of the masses of people for democracy and an end to economic exploitation was rejected by the aristocratic Catholic hierarchy in the 19th century. They did not listen. Some describe it as their failure to side with the working classes, as if it were a question of picking the winning side. I disagree. No such “failure” was possible for they had no other option. They were intrinsically incapable of hearing what the little people were saying. The very raison d’etre, the very inner nature of the hierarchy high and low from time immemorial was to dominate and control the little people whose continued ignorance and self-loathing were essential to their willingness to work in abject submission to their “betters.” The hierarchy, I say, had no choice in the matter. It’s who they were. And even now, for them to listen to the laity would be to stop being what they are. They were created by Catholic dogma, ritual and discipline which, since the days when the Roman Empire re-made Christianity to further its political goals, was organized around maintaining domination by the elite, not listening to the people.
Institutional success is NOT evangelization
To call the recent attempts to “recapture a share of the market” evangelization, in my opinion, reveals that it is really corporate success that is the overarching value here, not the gospel. For wherever there are two or three gathered in the pursuit of justice and compassion, human community and personal empowerment, there is where you will find the reality Jesus was trying to bring into existence, even in the absence of any sign of the ecclesiastical institution. To attempt to “regain a share of the market” by indulging in passionless acts of “listening to the people” recapitulates the large phylacteries and loud cries of those who fasted and gave alms, but did it for their own enhancement in the eyes of others. They were hypocrites. Jesus saw authentic humanity rather in the heart-broken, whose prayer acknowledged how they had failed to be full human beings. But we dare not look there … because we know well that it will mean falling in love again, and soon we will become like them. Success has taken the place of being a human being. But evangelization, I say, is not about joining a church, or the church being a corporate success; it’s about becoming a human being in the bosom of a human community.
Separating from the aristocratic Church in the 19th century was an act of evangelical liberation. Separating from the corporate Church in our time performs the same function. The recognition that the corporate ecclesiastical institution is NOT the Kingdom of God opens to the realization that by identifying themselves and their corporate ascendency as “God’s” work in the world, the corporate managers — the Catholic hierarchy — have become the greatest obstacle to real evangelization even when (and it rarely happens) they “listen” to the people.
Is this assessment too harsh? We should remember that the idea that real gospel values are not necessarily to be found in the Church was introduced by Vatican II itself … when it suggested that the Catholic Church was one of the principal causes of the atheism of our times … when it encouraged Christian unification and the awareness of the “salvific potential” of non-Catholic and even non-Christian traditions. The hierarchical Church identifies itself with bourgeois ideology because it is focused on corporate success. The gospel is not about success, institutional or personal, nor the kind of “listening” that is done to achieve it.
Willis, VA, USA
Nov 6, 2012