Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cardinal Dulles

I gave a short introduction in the last post to my interest in the New Evangelization in the Catholic Church. There are perhaps many ideas of how to develop this new approach to teaching and re-teaching the faith. I am excited by the prospects. I read about it a few years ago, when I was a student in theology at Aquinas College. The book was The New World of Faith by Avery Dulles, S.J. (Huntingdon, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2000). On page 111, he explains that evangelization has always been a part of the Christian faith, but there are several reasons that the late Pope John Paul coined the term "New Evangelization."

For one, the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's renewed the call to the laity to be part of the preaching church. In particular, we are called to
join the profession of faith to the life of faith. This evangelization--that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the witness of [our] lives--acquires a special character and a particular effectiveness because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world. (Lumen Gentium, no. 35)

I think this applies to our modern world and the current scientific situation in an interesting manner, and I hope to elaborate in various ways in the future.

Another reason Dulles gives for the "New" part of evangelization is that many Catholics have fallen away from the faith, and should be "re-evangelized." There are young people who were not brought up in the teachings of the Church, and older ones who became disillusioned or convinced that religion is a myth. I think science, or better said the modern mind-set associated with science, it is a big part of this falling away. I think there are good reasons to evaluate what is happening and correct certain misconceptions. Also, we tend to act in ways we don't even realize, and our un-thought-out words and actions give away deeper values.

Some say that it is important that America continue to be first on the scientific forefront. They worry that with the introduction of Intelligent Design theory, we will lose our edge and be relegated to scientific backwaters. We may not be able to continue to produce Nobel Prize winners. Surely it is important to continue the scientific quest for medical cures and other legitiamte needs. But whether Americans win the Nobel Prize or not is certainly not the best reason to motivate our actions.

The new evangelization may mean for some a "re-catechization." I found a great section in the latest Catechism of the Catholic Church (St. Paul Books and Media, 1994). It says:

To adore God is to acknowlegde, in respect and absolute submission, the "nothingness of the creature" who would not exist but for God. To adore God is to praise and exalt him and to humble oneself, as Mary did in the Magnificat, confessing with gratitude that he has done great things and holy is his name. The worship of the one God sets man free from turning in on himself, from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world (sec. 2097).
It is hard to put into words the problem with science and scientists today. Research and inquiry are of course important, and our scientists are smart and sincere. Many scientists are not religious and some of the more vocal ones are outright obnoxious. But many science promoters who say they are religious still come across as caring more about science than religion. It is not the details of science that are the problem here. It is the mindset that says Nobel prizes and even money grants are so important that other considerations must take a back seat.

This does not even take into account whether evolution is right or wrong. It sets the stage for the discourse. Priorities we set show through in our speech and actions, whether we be religious or not.

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