Friday, 28 October 2011

Evangelical Church / Institutional Church - part 1

Archbishop Chaput

“The biggest challenge, not just in Philadelphia but everywhere, is to preach the Gospel. . . . We need to have confidence in the Gospel, we have to live it faithfully, and to live it without compromise and with great joy.”

Just last week I was asked the question, 'what kind of Catholic are you'? How do you answer that question... Lapsed, cradle, practising, 'good', Maronite, pious, charismatic, 'bad', convert, Sunday morning, traditionalist, Roman, liberal, struggling, zealous, orthodox to name but a few!. In some way or another I think I could put myself into most of them. It's easy therefore to think that there is no value in this question but the kind of Catholic that we are determines the kind of Church that we have. If we box and insulate ourselves into the same 'liberal' and 'traditional' clubs which have existed since the Vatican II then we will be creating, by the Holy Fathers admission, an institutional Church intent on only a self seeking insular mission. What then is the antidote to this trap which has caused a stagnation in the Spiritual life of the western Church? What kind of Catholic must we be then, in order to have a Church intent on only one thing; the Gospel?

Liberal? Traditional? Not what?
Radical, Happy, and Evangelical!!
I want to state my case now for a church as described by Archbishop Chaput above- for the need of an Evangelical Church. Of course, this also means that that I'm stating my case for us (yes, you AND me) to become Evangelical Catholics. For those whose noses are already turned up, let me start by telling you what this doesn't mean. Firstly and most importantly this is NOT a position which advocates rupture with the Church's Tradition or the Magisterium. Secondly, and very importantly, this is not about either keeping things the way they are (simply running an institution), or attempting to roll back the clock to take the Church back to an imagined perfection. Of course this last point should be clarified, because the Church in one sense has always been, and still is, perfect as the Body of Christ, instituted by Our Lord himself. At the same time we must remember that whilst the Bride (the Church((Rev 19: 7)) is one flesh with the perfect bridegroom (Christ), it is also composed of many fallible and imperfect beings who will not reach their intended perfection until after death. 

Without vision no organisation gets anywhere, and the Church is no different. The problem at the moment is that we have no vision, and have lost confidence in the core message of the Gospel and in the transforming potential it contains. Many believers are in fact  positively embarrassed by the Gospel, trying instead to turn the message of the church into other important, but non-salvific, issues such a social justice and and cultural expressions of the Catholic Faith. 

So what is this Evangelical Catholicism if not going back, not staying the same and not something novel? The answer is simple; it's an ever necessary charism of the Church which we must once again rediscover, emphasise and live in a way which is relevant to to the church in contemporary society. It is a vision of the Church  grounded in living and proclaiming the Gospel in both a radical and relevant way which has been seen clearly  in many of the great Saints of the church from St Paul, St Dominic, St Francis, and Blessed Pope John Paul II. In Modern Society of course this in part means a zealous sense of urgency for Social Justice, and for regaining our Catholic identity, but it also requires orthodoxy combined with a deep and through renewal of our own lives and the Church

The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, like both his predecessors has identified that we live in a time in which 'a New Evangelisation is needed'. Nothing but a new and radical living AND proclamation of the WHOLE Gospel Without compromise, and the joy which it brings, will suffice. 

This is Part One, and just an light introduction to the topic. In Part Two we will look at the different ways in which Evangelical Catholicism has been lived in the past in the lives of the saints mentioned previously. In Part Three we will look at the current situation, both in a society hostile to religion and a Church which has largely fell into a state of stagnation and institutionalisation, and the need for an Evangelical Catholicism to respond to this situation with fresh, faithful, and radical ways of living the Gospel. 


  1. I'm just thinking of you by helping you to develop the virtue of patience :)


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