Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH GAIN NEW MEMBERS THROUGH PROSELYTIZING OR ATTRACTION?

It is well known that Pope Francis does not want the Church to proselytize in order to gain converts. He states that the Church grows not through proselytizing but through attraction. 

I know that a number of people who comment here are converts from other religions or no religion at all or have come into the full communion of the Church from other Christian denominations. 

I wonder how many became Catholic through the proselytizing of others or the attractiveness of the Church, meaning not just the institutional elements, the trappings, the academic qualities of studying theology or doctrine or the attractiveness of our history but through the example and love of other Catholics?

In the pre-Vatican II Church, we were taught not to proselytize. We we told not to wear our religious medals on the outside of our clothes, but hidden underneath (such as crosses, scapulars and the like). I can remember vividly my father telling me when he saw me wearing my rosary that it wasn't jewelry and that one doesn't wear these kinds of things in public less we offend someone. 

In fact my father would not send religious Christmas cards to friends or family. He sent secular ones. This was his formation in the Church in the pre-Vatican II times. He was born in 1910!

We were always told that people should become Catholic because they wanted to be Catholic not because someone talked them into it. 

The same was true of Catholic education especially in the south where protestants, jews and those with no religious affiliation were welcomed. It was made clear that they would have to participate in Mass by attending, would be taught the proper respect shown to Christ in the tabernacle and that they would have to do all the postures of Mass. They could not, though, receive Holy Communion.

But Catholic school personnel would not denigrate a child's faith or lack thereof and would never baptize a child if the parents would not also come into the Church.

I think of Immaculate Conception School in Augusta prior to Vatican II where there usually was a higher percentage of non-Catholics to Catholics in the school. Many of these children as adults joined the Catholic Church even with its all Latin euro-centric Liturgy. They were attracted to the Latin Mass and to their Catholic friends and families and saw something in these Catholics and their way of praying and living that was very attractive. 

So, instead of wearing our religion on our sleeve or on our chest with huge visible crosses and instead of trying to convert people with our words, how do we make the Catholic Church attractive to those who want something deeper in their lives?

1. The best evangelization in the world (workplace or secular venues) is not the words we use but the life we live and our humility. I think humility, true humility is attractive to others and will draw people to the Church, especially the recognition we are sinners in need of God's love and forgiveness. 

2. Beautiful liturgies and devotions are key. The Mass well celebrated with faithful, devoted and pious Catholics is very attractive to others. Catholics taking their Sunday obligation as well as Holy Days of Obligation seriously is attractive to others. And Catholics who go to daily Mass is attractive to others. The sincere devotional life of Catholics is attractive too.

3. Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of the Church or give assent and do not dissent are attractive to others too. It is ugly to dissent from the Church's faith and morals for the simple reason of integrity. If one is a public dissenter why would anyone want to join a Church were her members are so unhappy with their mother? If one is at heart an "Episcopalian" why remain Catholic and try to re-make the Church in the Episcopal image? How attractive is that? Not!

4. Catholics who are joyful, enjoy life and the good things of this life, and use them in moderation, such as food and alcohol, assure others that the Catholic Church isn't puritanical which is attractive to many people. 

5. Catholics who are generous and not materialistic are very attractive to others too. 

So, what do you think? Is the Holy Father pre-Vatican II in his evangelization techniques or should he push the proselytizing that has begun to occur in the Church after Vatican II similar to what Protestants sects have always done? Just wondering.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

"So, what do you think? Is the Holy Father pre-Vatican II in his evangelization techniques or should he push the proselytizing that has begun to occur in the Church after Vatican II similar to what Protestants sects have always done? Just wondering."

No, Francis isn't pre-Vatican II or post Vatican II. He is a modern Jesuit, which sums up everything. He is a liberal, and like all liberals he thinks he knows better than the Teachings and practices of the Church for the past 2000 years.

As usual you don't address the real problems that people have with this man. NOBODY IS SAYING HE NEEDS TO TELL PROTESTANTS THAT HEY HAVE TO BECOME CATHOLIC IN A SPECIFICALLY WORDED STATEMENT. THATS NOT THE PROBLEM. That is in capitals because you never address the question, because it's impossible to defend the indefensible.

The problem is a pope telling Protestants that it is fine for them to remain Protestants. That isn't merciful, pastoral or kind, it's just liberal. He can be friendly to them, eat with them and be charitable but he shouldn't be giving the impression that all religions are equal because that's a heresy called Indifferentism. And just because he is pope does not give him the authority to change, alter a defined Dogma/Doctrine of the Church. And to purposefully give that impression even if he doesn't officially teach it is sinful and scandalous.

I want to know when he is going to show any charity at all to traditionally minded Catholics. It will never happen because he HATES Tradition/tradition because it demands carrying tha Cross, it's not feel good and emotional it's not complacency.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

If the pope, any pope, said Catholics can be Protestants and it doesn't matter, then yes there is a heresy involved. Keep in mind that Cardinal Ratzinger gave Holy Comminion to the Protestant abbot of Tazaie at St. John Paul's Requiem Mass.

I find it attractive for the Pope to reach out without proselytizing to Evangelicals who are known for their own proselytizing of Catholics and some of whom, actually many, see him as the anti-Christ.

What if the Protestant pastor became Catholic because of the pope's attractive example?

Marc said...

What if the Protestant pastor became Catholic because of the pope's attractive example?

First, such a one would be converting to something that isn't actually Catholicism because Catholicism is more absolutist than the pope is leading people to believe.

Second, such a limited conversion would simply balance out the millions who are leaving the Catholic Church throughout the world for Protestant communities since the Church has seen fit not to differentiate itself from such communities for about 50 years now.

At any rate, the practical result of this sort of indifferentism is that people become truly indifferent. They could be Catholic or Protestant with little consequence since they both appear so similar.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I guess you are just unable to answer a direct question.


"What if the Protestant pastor became Catholic because of the pope's attractive example?" That would be wonderful,BUT Francis has told them he doesn't want them to become a Catholic. He said he wants them to find Christ in their community and stay there. THAT'S THE PROBLEM.

There is nothing wrong with being kind to anyone but there is a huge problem with a pope telling non Catholics to stay where they are. And I don't care if you quote Pope Benedict. For god sake it isn't like Democrats rationalizing Obama by saying "George Bush did it". You can't be that clueless, you just can't. Wrong is wrong no matter who did or it.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The Holy Father just recently endorse the Anglican Ordinariate's outreach to disaffected Anglicans following on the heels of their formal approval of women "bishops."
So someone is misrepresenting the pope here a clear violation of the commandment about bearing false witness when written is called libel by secular law.

JBS said...

I was attracted to the Church by the piety of the Mexican and Guatemalan Catholics I met in 1980's Texas. Intellectually, it was clear to me that there could be only one Savior and only one Church. But it was the image of pious Hispanic Catholics, such as the laborer on his knees holding a candle before an image of the BVM, or the elderly woman with veiled head whispering prayers as her rosary beads passed her fingers, that won me over.

mgl said...

I didn't know any Catholics before my wife and I set foot in our first Mass prior to entering RCIA. I mean, there was the pleasant lady in our front office whose Catholicism came up once in conversation, but apart from that, nothing. Attraction played no part in my conversion, with the possible exception of the writings of G.K. Chesterton.

So how was I converted? By the Holy Spirit (of course), but in my case he used Internet arguments--almost all of them by non-Catholics--who criticized my ungrounded atheist beliefs and argued me into accepting, first the insufficiency of atheism, then the necessity of God, and finally the truth of the Gospel accounts. Once I'd gotten to the final point, I found myself in much the same frame of mind as Evelyn Waugh, who wrote:

It was self-evident to me that no heresy or schism could be right and the Church wrong. It was possible that all were wrong, that the whole Christian revelation was an imposture or a misconception. But if the Christian revelation was true, then the Church was the society founded by Christ and all other bodies were only good so far as they had salvaged something from the wrecks of the Great Schism and the Reformation. This proposition seemed so plain to me that it admitted of no discussion ... and so on firm intellectual conviction but with little emotion I was admitted into the Church.

You can also read the many, many conversion stories of Jews, protestants, and atheists who were argued (or who argued themselves) into the Church.

Now it's obvious that this isn't everyone's path into the Church. Doubtless a great many people are converted by attraction. But it is simply, baldly untrue that attraction is the only way, and that proselytism is worthless.

Anonymous said...

"So someone is misrepresenting the pope here a clear violation of the commandment about bearing false witness when written is called libel by secular law."

Father, read those crazy interviews that the pope has given to that Italian atheist not once, not twice but three times. It's the pope himself who has said he wants protestants to remain protestants.

JBS said...

mgl, are you sure the intellect is excluded from attraction, and that attraction necessarily involves emotion?

mgl said...

@JBS,

The way the Holy Father uses the terms, attraction does seem to be in serious tension with intellect, perhaps even mutually exclusive.

From his latest interview in the Argentinian Viva newspaper:

"... the worst that can happen is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: "I dialogue with you to convince you." No! Each one dialogues from their own identity. The Church grows through attraction, not proselytism.

Note here that the Holy Father is not, as some suggested after the first Scalfari interview, using the term "proselytize" to mean coercive or overbearing conversion. He explicitly mentions it in the context of dialogue, of an attempt to persuade the other. (The "each one dialogues from his own identity" is more problematic the more you think about it, but leave that aside).

In several other venues over the past 16 months (e.g.), the pope has spoken disparagingly of the intellectual approach as being opposed to the Spirit.

So to answer your question, no. I don't think intellect is opposed to attraction at all. But when you take into account the pope's repeated assurances that he has no intention of converting non-Catholics, along with his disparagement of argument and persuasion, it's pretty clear he believes they're opposed.

Cameron said...

I became Catholic because It Made Sense (trademark)and the arguments of my only Catholic friend were better and more logical than mine. I was a Baptist before that.

Some people will probably say, "ZOMG u must be so unloving becuz u didn't have a radical emotional moment to spark ur conversion... and Vatican II! Hans Kung!!! anonymous Christianity!"

Whatever to that. I think hearing better and more convincing arguments and responding to them positively indicates that a person is already psychologically and emotionally inclined to Catholicism.

Arguments worked well for me, very well. Besides that, I am always open to talking about religion. It doesn't bother me at all, unlike some, who I suspect would prefer to be closet Catholics. Oh and also salaries. I especially don't get at all why some people among those who do the same job are sooooooooooooo afraid of talking about salaries. "It's rude," well why? Are you insecure? Let's talk about money so that pay disparity within the same job, same time of service, same experience and performance will decrease.

JBS said...

For those who do not think the Holy Father believes in the necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation, or that he doesn't desire the full incorporation of all Protestants into the Church, what would you say is his motivation for engaging in dialogue with such non-Catholics?

mgl said...

@JBS,

I'm not in the business of supplying context to the pope's words or actions, nor will I speculate as to his motivations. I confine myself to the observation that his public remarks on the matter over the past 16 months indicate a consistent pattern of thought, and that the alternative, ameliorating explanations tend to require a significant suspension of disbelief.