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Evangelization: What and When?

How can a robust program of evangelization be conducted if the Church is constantly in meetings — whether diocesan synods, national synods, continental synods or global synods?

Pope Francis leads a meeting with representatives of bishops' conferences from around the world at the Vatican Oct. 9, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the “information meeting” of the College of Cardinals this past Aug. 29-30, there was considerable agreement that evangelization is Catholicism’s prime imperative for the 21st century — a consensus understandably gratifying to the author of a 2013 book with the then-provocative title, Evangelical Catholicism. Within that consensus, however, serious questions remain to be resolved. Surveying the world Catholic scene today, and considering the past decade of ecclesiastical air turbulence, there are four “what” questions and one “when” question to be settled, if the consensus on the necessity of evangelization is to be fruitful in drawing others to, or back to, Christ.

The first “what” question is Christological: Can the Church evangelize if it does not propose Jesus Christ as the definitive expression of God’s self-revelation to humanity and the unique savior of the world? That was the unambiguous teaching of the Catholic Church from Peter’s sermon in Acts 4:12 through the declaration Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus), issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith with the authoritative approval of Pope John Paul II during the Great Jubilee of 2000. Does that conviction remain the foundation of Catholic evangelism and catechesis today? If so, how is the Church to understand the 2019 Abu Dhabi Declaration, signed by Pope Francis, which affirms that the “plurality” and “diversity” of religions in the world are “willed by God”? Is there a tension here, perhaps even a contradiction, that requires clarification?

The second “what” question is ecclesiological: Is the Catholic Church a universal Church with local ecclesial expressions, or is the Catholic Church a loose federation of local Churches, each with its own doctrinal and moral “path” (to borrow a term from Germany)?

World Anglicanism is an example of the latter; and the sorry condition of the Anglican Communion, which finds it difficult to even gather a meeting of its constituent members, is a cautionary tale. Moreover, aren’t the many challenges of evangelization in the 21st century magnified, even exacerbated, when local Churches proclaim different gospels and different ways of life? What does institutional German Catholicism, which appears determined to reinvent itself as the Church of Woke, have to offer to the Church’s evangelical efforts in Africa and Asia? How can a New Model Catholicism that is barely distinguishable from secular progressivism re-evangelize the post-Christian parts of the North Atlantic world? What happens to evangelization when the Church loses its tether to “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5)?

The third “what” question involves the architecture of the moral life: Does the 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), which affirms that some acts are “intrinsically evil” in and of themselves, properly identify the biblical and theological foundation on which Catholic moral teaching rests? Or does the Catholic Church now embrace the moral-theological theory known as “proportionalism,” which understands the moral life as an ongoing negotiation in which the individual conscience navigates among unstable moral norms, changing social standards and personal intentions? Can the Church evangelize if it cannot say, with compassion but also Gospel conviction, that this is the way of righteous living, not that, because some actions are just wrong, period?

The fourth “what” question touches Vatican diplomacy: How can the Church evangelize, especially in cultures and polities hostile to Christianity, if the Vatican seems unwilling to defend its own? The path of “dialogue” taken in Hong Kong and China, with Russia, and in the face of vicious anti-Catholic persecution in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua has produced few, if any, positive results. What is the effect on future evangelization of the Vatican’s reluctance to defend publicly both individual Catholics (like the imprisoned Jimmy Lai in Hong Kong and the imprisoned Bishop Rolando Álvarez in Nicaragua) and the institutional freedom of the Church (as in, for example, the appointment of bishops in China)? Can evangelization succeed if efforts to “dialogue” with persecutors muzzle the Church’s prophetic voice in speaking truth to worldly power?

As for the “when” question, more than one cardinal in Rome last month asked how a robust program of evangelization can be conducted if the Church is constantly in meetings — whether diocesan synods, national synods, continental synods or global synods. Being Pope Francis’s Church “permanently in mission” is not easy to square with being a Church permanently in meetings.  And that problem of prudent time-management is compounded when the meetings in question are conducted on the premise that little or nothing is stable in a Catholicism of “paradigm shifts.”

Evangelization, to be sure: but with what message and by what means?

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About George Weigel 478 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. And, what if the “paradigm shift” is basically about updated translations supplied by modern biblical scholars? Behold, here we have the former and erroneous version from Matthew—as now updated by synodal oracles and their clericalist hand puppets from Germany and Belgium:

    FIRST, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Mt 10:14). And “…thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

    TODAY, the sin-nod Belgian “waffle”: “…thou art synodality, and from this zeitgeist I will synthesize my doormat; and whosoever shalt thereupon inscribe a ‘welcome’ from hell, shall upon rigid bigots stomp the ‘soles’ of their feet.”

  2. “Can evangelization succeed if efforts to “dialogue” with persecutors muzzle the Church’s prophetic voice in speaking truth to worldly power?

    The answer is No

    I have read that Pope Francis has placed the Chinese Catholics under the protection (Tent) of Mary. Rather we look to the light of Christ while being guided by the Holy Spirit who teaches us not to collude with evil within ourselves and others and in doing so, we bear witness to the Truth, and this forms the basis of how we evangelize.

    “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live”

    In trust we look to God Alone for our protection. As His true peace is given to us in our faithfulness to Him (Alone) via the light of the Holy Spirit which cannot be taken from us

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

      • Thank you, Dave, for your comment.

        We ‘Trust’ in the authority of the Son. We ask in His Name ‘only’. And in doing so we hold true to these words given by the Holy Spirit to His esteemed mother.

        “Do whatever He tells you”

        And this statement holds true to all who are true to this teaching given by Jesus Christ

        “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the Spirit of truth. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son”.

        His true lovers walk in trust with the Holy Spirit (God Himself) in whatever place or circumstance they find themselves, to ask another to intercede on their behalf would undermine that Trust in God Himself.

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

  3. I was banished from Evangelizing at my own Catholic Parish men’s prayer group. We have Evangelical Converts who only want to talk about how they are saved. I, a Cradle Catholic, have a mountain of knowledge, from my long life of devout Catholic living, but eventually I was not allowed to speak, while my Evangelical Convert co-parishioners went on and on and on about their personal relationship with Jesus. It is amazing how long they can go on and on about the same thing, over and over again. I see a great silencing of Catholic Evangelization in the world, opposite of the image Pope Francis is trying to project. Hear is my Evangelization to Protestants, which I was not allowed to speak of in my own Catholic Parish prayer group.

    Protestantism is ‘Faith Alone’ while Catholicism is, Catechism 2068 . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”

    Once we share the understanding of this huge difference between us, it is only then that reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants can be achieved.

    Possessing Faith in Jesus great enough to Move Mountains, Yet Jesus burns them in hell as ‘Evildoers’

    Matthew 7:21 The True Disciple. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. When that day comes, many will plead with me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ have we not prophesied in your name? have we not exorcized demons by its power? Did we not do many miracles in your name as well? Then I will declare to them solemnly, I never knew you. Out of my sight, you evildoers!

    1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Excellence of the gift of love.
    Now I will show you the way which surpasses all the others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

    John 14:15
    If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

    1 John 5:3
    For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome,

    John 14:23
    Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

    John 15:22
    If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin; but as it is they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me also hates my Father. If I had not done works among them that no one else ever did, they would not have sin; but as it is, they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But in order that the word written in their law might be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without cause.’

    John 5:27
    “The Father has given over to him power to pass judgment because he is Son of Man; no need for you to be surprised at this, for an hour is coming in which all those in their tombs shall hear his voice and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to live; the evildoers shall rise to be damned.”

    Matthew 11:20 Reproaches to Unrepentant Towns.
    Then he began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And as for you, Capernaum: ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.’ For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

    Deuteronomy 7:9
    “Understand, then, that the LORD, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments, but who repays with destruction the person who hates him; he does not dally with such a one, but makes him personally pay for it. You shall therefore carefully observe the commandments, the statutes and decrees which I enjoin on you today.

    Catechism of the Catholic Church; Ten Commandments

    Catechism 2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; The Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”

    Catechism 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    Catechism 2052 “Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?” To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the “One there is who is good,” as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” And he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: “You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.” Finally Jesus sums up these commandments positively: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

    Catechism 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.” God has loved us first. the love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” the commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.…/ccc…/archive/catechism/p3s2.htm

  4. The answer to every one of the questions Weigel raises are as obvious as Weigel’s habitual refusal of identify the source of difficulties in what he always vaguely refers to as “the Vatican.” He knows perfectly well that the misdirection that has crushed the Church’s evangelical mission is caused by the man he got all giddy over in 2013 who garnered support at the conclave by saying the Church is on perpetual mission as though this self-evident precept was a startling insight that no had ever thought of before in Church history. Pope Francis, in reality, is an enemy of the Church’s true mission and has sought to remake that mission in his image for an enterprise of globalist secular utopianism, no matter how much blindness towards resulting human suffering this requires, and no matter how much of a disowning of the deposit of faith, now trivialized stupidly as the “sin of backwardness,” this requires.

  5. Our duty, thanks be to God.

    Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

    Acts 17:24-31 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ …

    Let us proclaim Christ crucified to those God puts in our path. Let us be bold in Christ.

  6. Everyone knows that the Pontiff Francis has zero commitment to “evangelization.” That would subtract ftom what Eminence Cupich calls “his big agenda.”

    Bigger than even the Gospel…very, very big…yes?

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  4. Evangelizáció: Mit és mikor? -

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