Helping tend the "new Catholic subculture"

Russell Shaw explains:

Signs of a new Catholic subculture can be seen in things like a handful of proudly orthodox colleges and universities, media ventures like EWTN and Catholic radio, a growing number of websites and periodicals and a few publishing houses, and organizations and movements that work to promote a dynamic Catholic spirituality — especially a spirituality for the laity. Moreover, these things now are happening with the encouragement of a new generation of bishops and priests who have gotten the message and taken it to heart.

This is all to the good — up to a point. But note that when I speak of the desirability of a new Catholic subculture, I don’t mean a self-regarding, inward-looking ghetto. And let’s face it: Signs of such a thing can already be glimpsed here and there. They seem certain to grow if steps aren’t taken now to prevent it.

Here’s where the new evangelization comes in. It provides the rationale and the incentive to set our sights on something a lot better than a ghetto — on the creation of a new, dynamic American Catholic subculture specifically designed as a source of creative energy for preaching the gospel far and wide, with particular attention paid to former Catholics and nominal Catholics teetering on the brink.

That’s asking a lot: to create a subculture able to foster and sustain a strong sense of Catholic identity without turning in on itself. Evangelization is the key. Can it be done?

I think so.  I hope so.  Read the rest to see what else he has to say.


  1. Brother Jeff says:

    EWTN part of a catholic “subculture”? That sounds like kind of a backhanded insult toward Mother Angelica and all the great evangelization she has done through EWTN.

    I think Mr. Shaw is putting the cart before the horse.

  2. naturgesetz says:

    There are so many Catholics who have been energized by EWTN and other resources. One thing that I think is very important for the new evangelization is for bishops, priests, and deacons to help them to realize that they are called to be holy all the time and everywhere — that in every situation: home, school, community, social gathering, work they are called to make the world the kind of place God wants it to be, and to be full of the joy that comes from being redeemed as they do so.

  3. ron chandonia says:

    Among Catholics who boast of their orthodoxy, I sense a longing for the supposedly good-ole-days of the 1950s, an era when there was still a distinctly Catholic subculture in America, a sense of identity closely tied to the immigrant origins of most American Catholics. It was a world well captured in books like James T. Ferrell’s Studs Lonergan trilogy.

    From an outsider’s perspective, this supposedly “catholic” sensibility was distinctly foreign and narrowly parochial. But that wasn’t its biggest drawback. Its major fault was its distance from the rich and authentic traditions of our faith, its reduction of theology to rigid scholastic formulas and of Christian morality to sexual propriety and observance of church rules like Friday abstinence.

    At a critical moment for Catholics in America, Vatican II called us back to a much deeper and more expansive understanding of our faith. In its wake, our old subculture collapsed, and a new one has yet to emerge. Yet I really question whether the examples cited in this article (“orthodox” colleges and EWTN) are evidence that such a culture is currently in formation. Would John Allen have a place here? How about the blog for America magazine or the Deacon’s Bench itself? No question that we need to evangelize, both within the Church and beyond it into the secular world. But we ought to be sure this time that what we are promoting is really the gospel message.

  4. Brother Jeff says:

    Among post Vatican II catholics who boast of being the enlightened ones and possessing the “real” gospel message, I sense an uncharitable hostility toward the teaching authority of the Church, and also media outlets which try to spread it, like EWTN. Also, was Bishop Sheen “narrowly parochial”? Pius XII? How about all the thousands of saints produced before Vatican II. Were they all part of some “ghetto”?

    I think Naturgeset is absolutely correct to say that the focus at this point should just be on striving for holiness.

    Comparisons, as an old priest mentor of mine used to say, tend to be odious.

  5. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Alright then, so the magic new 3 words “The new evangelization” has appeared again. But here’s the problem:

    The Pope has created a pontifical council for this. However, we’ve seen nothing from the Vatican on specifically what it is, except for mentions in Evangelii Nuntiandi of Paul VI, Redemptoris Missio and Novo Millennio Inenute of JPII, and a little in Verbum Domini. Yes one could read those documents and try to make something out of it, but it could be misinterpreted incorrectly and executed improperly. The Bishop’s synod won’t meet on this matter till next year. There are efforts underway by good lay catholics who have developed schools of evangelization and seminars based on the documents I have mentioned, but yet again, there’s no one key instruction how to do T.N.E.

    The bottom line: There’s no big guidance, documents, or rules as to what constitutes T.N.E and how to go about it properly and legally in the Church. So how are we supposed to go about this truly without imploding upon ourselves, or going the route/too far left or right like ahem, certain INTERNET Lay aposolates? You think that before the Church started to throw this term around they would have had a detailed plan or an encyclical/Motu Proprio saying what can and cannot be done.

  6. Young Canadian RC Male:
    Have you heard about Benedict’s “Court of the Gentiles” venture?
    I think it is a fascinating idea…and hey, it’s a start!

  7. Russell Shaw’s piece really disturbed me. It read like he was saying that we (who’s we?) need to get control of the Catholic subculture. Considering how great (sarcasm fully intened) the general Catholic culture is, I see that as a threat.

  8. T.N.E. ? What’s wrong with the old and tried evangelism ?
    ” And daily in the temple , and in every house , they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ ” Acts 5 : 42
    This is what Charles Spurgeon said of the Romish church in the 1880′s and is true of today. ” Christ is the ” only ” lawgiver and Rabbi of the church. When you put down as a canon of your faith that the ” church ” has right and power to decree rites and ceremonies , you have ” robbed ” Christ at once of HIS proper position as the ” only ” teacher of the church. ”
    The rcc is nothing but ” fake ” christianity that needs a complete overhaul . Too much time spent on the ” social ” gospel and short, feel good homilies that should leave many people screaming : ” But i want to hear about Jesus ” I want to know more about Jesus “.
    “What must i do to be saved ? “.
    IF the RCC has an agenda to ” evangelize ” the whole world i believe it’s barking up the wrong tree !It’s no wonder many Catholics have left the church and now sit in true Bible believing churches where the pastors are truly obedient to the Bible alone and are faithfully feeding the sheep and ” equipping the saints “.

  9. naturgesetz says:

    dymphna — I think Russell Shaw did not mean a subculture within the Church, but a Catholic culture that is forming as a segment of the culture of our country, standing in distinction from the bad elements in much of contemporary culture. In shorty a subculture in the country, not in the Church.

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