Friday, August 19, 2011

"evangelical" Catholics ...

... Let's chat about the use of the term "evangelical", which here in the Southern US can be perceived as an insult. "Evangelical" is typically associated with charismatic Catholics and their habit of bringing protestant worship practices with them during conversion. To be called an "evangelical" is to be called a "charismatic" and that is something very much frowned upon by "traditional" orthodox, little "o", loving Catholics. Not to be confused with the term "neo-con" Catholic, which I never understood anyway. "Neo-con" is a vague political term usually used by conservatives toward other "conservatives" that don't hold their same opinions and ideologies. Goodness, so many parentheses and labels!

The whole idea of an "evangelical" Catholic, or the use of the term, can turn many people off. However, author John L Allen Jr, looks to define the term another way. Does he succeed? Personally, I think he confuses semantics with ecclesiastical meanings. He writes;

Defining Evangelical Catholicism

“Evangelical Catholicism” is a term being used to capture the Catholic version of a 21st century politics of identity, reflecting the long-term historical transition in the West from Christianity as a culture-shaping majority to Christianity as a subculture, albeit a large and influential one. I define Evangelical Catholicism in terms of three pillars:

A strong defense of traditional Catholic identity, meaning attachment to classic markers of Catholic thought (doctrinal orthodoxy) and Catholic practice (liturgical tradition, devotional life, and authority).

Robust public proclamation of Catholic teaching, with the accent on Catholicism’s mission ad extra, transforming the culture in light of the Gospel, rather than ad intra, on internal church reform.

Faith seen as a matter of personal choice rather than cultural inheritance, which among other things implies that in a highly secular culture, Catholic identity can never be taken for granted. It always has to be proven, defended, and made manifest.
I believe words mean something. You can't just change their meaning to suit your points. "Evangelical" has a very clearly defined meaning. It is a term associated with Protestantism, not Catholicism. If I went to mass one Sunday and starting calling people "evangelical" there would be a brawl.

Aside from the attempted re-defining of a very protty term, the article is excellent and well worth the read. Other points are made; he discusses the lose of our Catholic identity, once referred to as "cultural Catholicism". More parentheses, I know.

What do you think? "Evangelical" Catholics? Yay or Nay?


Lee Gilbert said...


You missed the strategy class.

We take their (everyone and anyone not Catholic) term/ phenomenon/ reality and baptize it, give it some instruction, confirm it and let it loose on the world.

You don't suppose Jesus was actually born on December 25th, or that their weren't some wonderful Catholics who thought that putting Jesus' birthday on the the Feast of Sol Invictus very improper and even outrageous, do you? Wasn't it pandering to the sunworshippers who would stand on the steps of St. Peter's after Mass and blow a kiss at the sun? Might it not cause some controversy in the Church?

No, evangelical Catholics, charismatic Catholics, Jewish Catholics, Anglican Catholics, Eastern Catholics, African Catholics are all great terms and realities, so long as the customs, theologies and activities are all in union with Rome and subject to her discipline and instruction- imho, at least.

The more such cultures, outlooks, and ways of thinking are subsumed by the Church, the better. If it "works," by all means let's go with it.

(btw, in the last paragraph lose s/b loss, right?)

Kimvandapool said...

Well, to be clear, before the term was protestant - it was catholic. The Catholic Church was the first (and only true) Evangelical Church. Our apostles evangelized the world. Just because prots, at some point, took the the word and popularized it as a tag for their particular brand of christianity does not delegitimize the Catholic Church's correct use of the term. They also call themselves "born again" and "Bible believing"... were we not he first and truest practitioners of the faith in those regards as well?

We are right to reclaim all of these terms!

SCCatholic said...

I don't consider 'evangelical' an insult, but then I don't associate the term with charismatics. Maybe I should say not exclusively with charismatics. I think some Catholics don't like the word simply because Protestants use it. Just like some Protestants don't like a crucifix simply because Catholics use it.

I'll refer readers to the description of Evangelical Catholicism my pastor wrote.
Evangelical Catholicism

The Ironic Catholic said...

Evangelical as a term predates the evangelical churches. Think the Evangelists (the Gospel writers)!

I think the term is OK, but it is confusing without explanation. I have a better one I will proffer in a separate post (ooh the cliffhanger!).

And yes, very good article!

Stella Orientis said...

On the one hand, your commenters are correct in asserting that the use of "evangelical" well predates its hijacking by protestants.

On the other, among Christian anglophones there is almost no mistaking that "evangelical" describes a protestant phenomenon when used non-technically (ie outside the circles of academic theologians, biblical scholars, and associated bloggers).

Therefore I thoroughly agree with you Kate: Mr Allen is attempting to put lipstick on a pig. If someone were to describe an "evangelical Catholic", they certainly wouldn't have a liturgical traditionalist in mind. Probably a convert ("Catholic by choice rather than cultural inheritance") and probably a bit of a happy clapper, though certainly likely to be fiercely defensive of their Catholic identity as well.

Frankly, I look forward to when I am an old man and converts are again expected to abandon all of the distortions of false religion they renounce when accepting their place in the one true Church of Jesus Christ (sans "latter day saints").

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

The plural of parenthesis is "parentheses". The latter is pronounced differently from the former, as in "parentheseeze"

Please correct this, or my head will explode.

And next time, look it up.

The Crescat said...

We can't have heads exploding. I made the correction. Thanks.

Theocoid said...

Perhaps "evangelistic" might be more appropriate, since it defines less what one is and more what one does.

Lucerna said...

Part of the reason the Catholic Church is so sick right now (and I live in Ireland, where it is very VERY sick) is that we are not evangelical enough--by which I mean, we baptize people without enough concern for whether or not they ever "become a Christian" --a true disciple of Jesus--in the existential sense. We live with far too many un-fulfilled conversions.

Personally, I don't think you are fully Catholic until you are also orthodox, charismatic and evangelical (or evangelistic, if you prefer). Oh, and I should also mention.....ECUMENICAL!

Didja know that the last three popes have been proclaiming a New Evangelization? Didja know that John Paul II said that the charismatic dimension of our faith was co-constitutive with the institutional dimension of the Church? So, seriously....can one be truly orthodox, and reject being a charismatic Catholic, or an evangelical one? I don't think so.

scotju said...

As I understand it, the term "evangelical" as used by the Protestants means,"a church that emphasizes the teaching and the authority of Scripture, esp. the New Testament,in opposition to the authority of the institutional church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenent that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ". All Catholics can agree with the second part of this definition, but we can not accept the first part. Christ instituted the Church to preach the gospel, to administer the sacraments, and to declare what scriptures were canonical. It is impossible for the Church and Scripture to be opposed to each other. So the Catholic Church isn't "Evangelical" in this sense. However, if we mean "Evangelical" in the sense of proclaiming Jesus as saviour, yes, we can say we're "Evangelical". However, I think we should avoid the use of the word because to most people it means some kind of Protestantism.

Anonymous said...

You don't suppose Jesus was actually born on December 25th

Actually, yes I do. I've seen all the arguments against (sheep grazing in winter, census in winter, etc.) and none of them, seperately or taken together, conclusively rule out Dec. 25th. Just because the big "T" Sacred Tradition is most important, it doesn't mean the little "t" traditions ought to junked at the at the first sign of objections.

Courtney said...

On the one hand, I agree with you, because at least in this half of our century in America and perhaps other places in the West (I don't know for sure...), "evangelical Christian" means a particular kind of thing, and while there are definitely Catholics that blend that thing with fervent Catholic belief and identity, it confuses things (IMO) to slap a distinct label on it -- even though I do think that it does describe a particular ecumenical, enthusiastic, but faithful type of Catholic that is very active in the Church these days. My sister and I typically call these (many of our friends and acquaintances) "EWTN Catholics" or "JPII Catholics", (without intending any kind of pejorative sense, I should mention).

That said, that Wiki page you linked is actually very misleading, because there is no neat or simple definition, not even a simple description, of what an "evangelical" means. For example, almost all the things that people would write down when describing evangelical Protestants could equally describe fundamentalist Protestants. Although some evangelicals and fundamentalists, there is a distinct difference in... temperament and outlook, or "emphasis," the word my dad uses to explain every theological or cultural difference Protestants can cook up. A lot of people, especially people who have never been emerged in the evangelical subculture, don't know that there is a difference between evangelicals and fundamentalists, but I think there is -- even if, on paper they say they believe almost all the same things. But modern-day American and American-missions inspired evangelical Christians belong to a particular moment in history, and with all that cultural and theological baggage. Honestly, the only thing I think so-called Catholic evangelicals share with the "real" 20th-century evangelicals is the kind of in-your-face enthusiasm and the sense of optimism and openness towards others vis-a-vis their faith. Obviously there are now certain liturgical trends that have been incorporated with this generation, but almost all the so-called "EWTN Catholics" I know are also familiar and comfortable with, not to mention enthusiastic about, traditional devotions and the Latin mass. They can also share a sometimes simplistic attitude about early Church theology or history, but this is mostly due to their enthusiasm about the Church, not defensive insecurity like some of the traddies I know... The other thing is that 20th-century evangelicals inherited a whole butt-load of particularly Protestant issues -- chiefly a huge anxiety about controlling social conditions and being very Puritanish about drinking, smoking, pre-marital sex and adultery (note: not the whole other gamut of sexual moral issues that Catholics know, at least not openly), being 'that kind' of 'fake/cultural' Christian, etc. etc. Then add a huge amount of American-democracy inspired anti-authoritarian impulses, anti-intellectual tradition, egalitarian, independent isolationist stuff. In any case -- theologically, culturally, historically, liturgically, devotionally, intellectually, Catholic evangelicals bear little similarity -- relatively (we're all Western Christians after all) -- to the evangelicals I grew up with and all the other evangelicals that get called by that name but are very different. So I don't think it's a very helpful marker, both because "evangelical" connotes *so much* that doesn't blend with Catholicism, but strictly in definition means very little.

P.S. Plus, I admit, as a former evangelical Catholic convert myself, when converts announce that they are becoming Catholic but want to identify as an evangelical Catholic (not like "those other Catholics," apparently), I inevitably think -- isn't "Catholic" enough?

Colleen @ ID said...

I just discovered your humor and blog tonight. I popped over to vote a few weeks ago but didn't have time to read then. Very much enjoyed the past 1.5 reading yours and your son's blog. I don't have problem with "Charismatics" or "Evangelicals", nor with Catholics that evangelize. I am ashamed now to admit I was considering Evangelical Catholic for my blog name at one point. Sheesh, i would have alienated people and had no idea why. I just love when Catholics come home and when non-Catholics want to find out more. Then there is that prayer of Jesus, "That they may be one as we are one." Seems like that is call for evangelizing, and that always goes better if one has the gifts of the Holy Spirit and some charisma, which you, mighty Crescat have!