February 24, 2012


Evangelization vs. secularism

Pope Benedict XVI has increasingly stressed two topics recently, and we are certain to hear more about both of them as this year progresses. They are the “new evangelization” and religious liberty.

Last October, the pope announced that he was convening a special “Year of Faith” in 2012-13 as part of the new evangelization. Its aim is to renew the Church’s missionary energy with an emphasis on getting Catholics to know their faith better in order to share it with others.

Pope Benedict established a new council, the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, last June. He said that the council’s purpose would be to combat the progressive secularization that has overtaken the countries where the Church has long existed. He called it “a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and role of the Church.”

There will also be a synod of bishops from all over the world on Oct. 7-28 to discuss “New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”

It is a theme that the pope has been emphasizing throughout his pontificate, although the term “new evangelization” came originally from Pope Paul VI and was popularized by Blessed John Paul II. All threee popes recognized that something must be done to counteract the secularism that has taken over Europe, and is now spreading quickly in the United States.

Thus, when the U.S. bishops began their ad limina visits to the Vatican in November, Pope Benedict told them that they must respond to the challenges of a secularized culture.

Can anyone be unaware of how secular our culture has become? Religious beliefs and moral values are regularly ridiculed in our media.

There is a precipitous decline in the percentage of married people, and a corresponding increase in the number of people who are living together outside of marriage. Polls show that most Americans reject the Church’s teaching that premarital sexual activity is morally wrong.

Decisions being made by our political leaders ignore traditional Christian beliefs as if they are irrelevant. That is what is happening in the current campaign to convince the public that opposition to

so-called same-sex marriage is discriminatory. There is no consideration given to the fact that unnatural couplings by homosexuals are not the same as the love between husband and wife.

That is also what happened when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued regulations that would force Catholic institutions to provide free abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilizations in employee health plans. Even recent “accommodations” to their original mandate are unacceptable.

That is where religious liberty comes into play. Bishops, university presidents, directors of Catholic Charities and others objected that the government was forcing them to do something that violated their religious freedom.

The people who favor those regulations say that most Catholics ignore Church teaching on contraception. A secularized society pays no attention to such teachings anyway, they say.

The issue isn’t whether some Catholics practice contraception. The issue is whether Catholic institutions, and taxpayers with moral objections, should be forced to pay for those free contraceptives, including abortifacients and sterilization.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, has strongly criticized Sebelius. He told the Cardinal Newman Society, “To the degree to which [Sebelius] proclaims herself to be a practicing Catholic, she is very wrong.”

He said that it is “simply incomprehensible” for a Catholic to “support the kind of measures that she is supporting.”

Cardinal Burke, who is a former Archbishop of St. Louis, was also passionate in his condemnation of secularism.

“It’s a war,” he said, between “a culture of secularization which is quite strong in our nation,” and “the Christian culture which marked the life of the United States during the first 200 years of its history.

“If Christians do not stand strong, give a strong witness and insist on what is right and good for us both as individuals and society, this secularization will in fact predominate and it will destroy us,” he said.

Those people who are reading this must join efforts to combat secularization. Start within your family because that is where children first learn to practice their faith. Teach your children the truths of our religion, and make sure they learn more about them as they are growing up.

Do your best to instill in them the moral values that secularization is trying to eliminate.

Then you will be part of the new evangelization.

—John F. Fink

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