Fortress Catholicism vs. the New Evangelization

Fortress Catholicism vs. the New Evangelization January 29, 2013

I went to hear Fr. Robert Barron last night at Holy Rosary in Edmonds, not far from where I live.  He was, as ever, a joy to listen to.  Confident.  Happy.  Full of the best of the intellectual vigor of the Church.  Ready to proclaim Jesus Christ, crucified and risen and present in his Holy Church.  Unafraid of the challenges our culture flings at it.  Happy to have real *arguments* (not just quarrels).  Feeling no need to eye anybody darkly if they had some problem with the Church’s teaching but rather to answer them clearly from the depths of the Tradition and fully engage a world that both hates and longs for the gospel.  Made me want to walk out into the night whistling and singing.  What a fantastically rich Church we have!  How amazingly well-equipped to bring the Good News to a world dying for want of it.

Then I come to the Faithful Conservative Catholic[TM] blogosphere and world o’aggregators such as the anonymous bullies and cowards at Pewsitter and what do I find:

Catholic ex-atheist Leah Libresco comes out for gay marriage … more

So: Code red. Circle the wagons. The enemy is within the gates. The mask is off. The Faithful must huddle a little more closely together and shield themselves from the nightmare of Fake Catholics like Leah who are closing in on the Truly True Church with all their questioning and thinking and all that other modernist stuff. More evidence that the whole New Evangelization is another failure of that AmChurch liberal hero John Paul the Overrated. What this Church needs is a good purging, starting with all those converts. What we need to do is tighten the defenses on the Fortress, batten down the hatches, return to 1956 Cleveland Catholicism when everything was perfect and only allow converts in when they have passed a rigorous ideological exam created by the (anonymous) authors of Pewsitter and similar sites dedicated to the Preservation of the Fortress.

Here’s reality: The Church *exists* to evangelize. That means the Church is, in perpetuity, going to be engaged with people who don’t think with the mind of the Church perfectly and are still learning stuff and thinking it through. If you approach your faith as though it is a Fortress to be defended–as though the promise is “The Gates of Heaven shall not prevail against the world”–and your whole job consists of watching everything go to rack and ruin while you labor in vain to restore the Church to some imagined Golden Age then the joy of the gospel is going to elude you and you will become a particularly pitiable antiquarian, but not a Catholic and not a happy person.

It is, in fact, Hell that is the beseiged fortress. That’s what “the gates of hell shall not prevail” is talking about. We have a Savior who answers the deepest longings and questions of the human heart and a tradition that is, in fact, deeply intellectually satisfying. So the proper and right thing for a Catholic to do when it meets with a lithe and hardy mind like Leah Libresco’s–asking real questions out of a real desire to know and understand Jesus Christ as he reveals himself in his Catholic Church–is to give thanks for somebody who really want to know and understand Jesus Christ and then labor together to engage the questions, confident that the Faith really does have satisfying answers.

The dumb and lazy thing to do is what Fortress Catholics like Pewsitters habitually do: order code red on the Impure, batten down the hatches, and tighten the circle of Truly True Catholicism a bit more tightly to keep out yet another of Christ’s little ones, lest the Pharisees be sullied by contact with the Gentiles.

Give me Fr. Barron’s approach every time.

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