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Proselytization Vs. Evangelization

April 11, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

Pope Francis is worried about proselytization. Thank God he is, because the secular left has been doing a great deal of proselytization over the last 20 years on topics such as abortion, transgenderism, homosexual marriage, feminism qua promiscuity, globalization and the like!
Yet that wasn’t quite the proselytization with which Francis was particularly preoccupied. Namely, while on his whirlwind tour of Islamic countries, Francis seems to be confirming an old principle among the Islamic nations that faith cannot be coerced.
It sounds weird to American ears, but in Islam there is a dual purpose at play. Most major sects of Islam do indeed believe that one can coerce belief, whether through laws or institutions.
As the Western world chopped up the Ottoman Empire, an uneasy truce remained between Christian and Muslim communities. In Algeria, for instance, Catholic missionaries would bring medicine and textbooks, building parishes and schools and clinics. The same pattern would continue in Syria, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon.
In this part of the world, freedom of religion means something different than what we know it to be in the United States. Here, freedom of religion is closely related to freedom of speech. In the Ottoman millet system, freedom from religion was seen as paramount to keeping the peace. Christians could be Christians, Muslims could be Muslims, Orthodox could be Orthodox, Jews could be Jews. To push members of a community outside of their faith was branded with the epithet of “stealing souls” and so forth.
Those of you who have done missionary work in that part of the world know how difficult evangelization can be, especially given our charge to spread the Gospel. In Israel, for instance, the state adheres to the old Ottoman understanding. Converts to Christianity on Easter typically volunteer to become Christians; rarely are they evangelized through street preaching or apologetics.
Come back to America for a moment. When Francis tells Morocco “no to proselytization!” it means something radically different to the ears of the Western world, who are at present suffering from a very different sort of proselytization from the secular left.
Thus the visceral reaction from the Catholic right. Indeed, can anyone think of a place in the world that is suffering under the weight of Catholic proselytization? Are packs of Dominicans running around stomping out Albigensian heretics? Are Jesuits rooting out Protestant children from their beds? Are Franciscans forcing their fruitcakes on unsuspecting nephews and nieces?
Of course, the problem becomes when folks conflate proselytization with evangelism. The two are far apart. Evangelism proposes; proselytization imposes. Much as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings reminds us, to adopt the weapon of the enemy only corrupts those who wield them.
That is a worthwhile point, I think.

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Mrs. T— from Minnesota writes about the passing of Lyndon J. LaRouche and her thoughts on his policies supporting the space program, a national bank, no free trade, development and industry, etc.
I will readily admit, my interactions with LaRouche and his supporters have been minimal at best. Once upon a time, I recall seeing an old newspaper with some of his scribbling and thoughts tucked away in a landing at CUA, but barely touched.
Of course, LaRouche seems to be one of those figures in American political history that for a brief moment collected a number of devotees and then faded into oblivion. Mrs. T — does note that LaRouche had no love for the British Empire, which to this Irishman at least offers one contact point.

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Mrs. P — from Idaho writes to remind us of the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s admonishment that Catholic charities — specifically CRS — used to run on the nickels and dimes of the working class and the poor. St. John Neumann as former archbishop of Philadelphia, she writes, warned his fellow bishops never to take government funding for public schools: “Even a nickel, you relinquish control!”
Most of us readily agree that our bishops perhaps spend too much time administrating and not enough time shepherding the flock. After all, anyone can watch the sheep . . . but only the shepherd has the big stick to apply to the wolves.
Of course, given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent predilections to maintain an absolute wall between church and state, one wonders how much longer the old paradigm of “faith-based initiatives” started under the Bush administration in 2000 will last. Once upon a time, Catholic schools begged for public support until the anti-Catholic Blaine amendments (most of which are still on the books) were passed during a wave of anti-Catholicism in the 1880s.
Totalitarianism comes in many guises. One must constantly choose to operate in the world and yet not become of the world. Yet by taking the King’s shilling, too many opt to do the King’s bidding…which is no longer remote cooperation with evil, but something more immediate. All the more reason to prize conscience in a world with so little of it left.

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Color me confused. Atlanta Archbishop Wilton Gregory was just introduced to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as the successor to Cardinal Wuerl by none other than…Cardinal Wuerl.
One might recall that Wuerl was one of the many prelates elevated by the now disgraced (and former) Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, also a former archbishop of Washington. Wuerl himself played the henchman to McCarrick, covering up much of the sexual abuse scandal that McCarrick was putatively sent to clean up in 2002.
Gregory’s elevation to the Archdiocese of Washington is no small matter. Gregory will hold tremendous power in Washington, and he will become the rector of the Catholic University of America. Gregory’s prior affiliations with the heterodox Association of United States Catholic Priests (AUSCP), which has pushed for priestless parishes and the ordination of women priestesses, should be a clear sign as to where McCarrick’s confederates intend the archdiocese to go.
Naturally, perhaps this could be Gregory’s moment to shine and perhaps repudiate the old cabal. This is doubtful, as once again we see the great problem of 2002 continue to metastasize within the Church. These are all McCarrick’s men promoting one another to positions of power, and Rome remains silent.

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For those of you who are still interested, my friend suffering from PTSD and alcoholism is making steady progress. As of this moment, he has been sober for a week and is steadily improving, though he keeps intentionally deferring meeting with a priest.
Above all else, keep praying for him. St. Louis de Montfort used to say that when ten people pray the rosary together, it is as if each person prayed the rosary ten times. Readers of The Wanderer number into the hundreds of thousands, I am sure. So if you are reading this and would like to keep my friend in your intentions, I would be very grateful to you personally.
St. Louis de Montfort, pray for us!

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First Teachers encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly, either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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