Monday, January 16, 2023



I was reading a commentary on Pope Francis’ 10 year insistence that we not proselytize. 

That practice is very pre-Vatican II. 

My father, even in pre-Vatican II times, and he was a traditional Catholic, believed the Catholic Church to be the true Church, did not encourage us to try to convince others who are not Catholic, to become Catholic, especially if they practiced their own religion in good faith. 

He refused to send out religious Christmas cards, preferring to sent out secular ones. This is prior to Vatican II. 

Growing up in the south, proselytizing is a fundamentalist Protestant invention, usually associated with anti-Catholic groups (especially prior to Vatican II) who felt convinced that they had to convert Catholics to save our souls. 

In the south, long before Vatican II, and because we are a minority, we have always had mixed marriages. We required, prior to Vatican II, that the Catholic be married in the Church, although prior to the 1950’s it had to be in the rectory with no pomp and circumstance. Then, sometime in the 50’s, a Church wedding was allowed but no Nuptial Mass, and the mixed couple could not be married in the sanctuary, but outside the altar railing. 

The Protestant had to promise to raise their children Catholic. I know many elderly Protestants who married Catholics in that period, who were the primary parent, who raised their children Catholic, either because the Catholic spouse was disengaged, out of the picture or dead. 

I was taught, prior to Vatican II, that we should never try to talk a Protestant spouse, married to a Catholic, to convert to Catholicism. Never. We were taught that the Protestant on his own accord, not from any pressure exerted on him or her, should join the Church. We would respect their religion otherwise. 

That’s pre-Vatican II. We were taught the best way to attract people to Catholicism wasn’t by what we said, but how we lived our lives. Evangelization is a life of witness, not a life of words and apologetics.   


TJM said...

I guess Bishop Fulton Sheen was mistaken. Good to know that “go forth and teach all nations” has been erased.

Catechist Kev said...

1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and for three weeks * he argued with them from the scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ." 4 And some of them were persuaded, and joined Paul and Silas; as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. (Acts 17:1-4)

1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. (2 Tim 4:1-4)

Good ol' St. Paul. Such a "proselytizer". 🙄

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis has, of course, repeated simply Pope Benedict XVI's declaration in question.

-- Pope Benedict XVI. May 13, 2007 A.D.

"The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction”:"


Mark Thomas

TJM said...

Basically we have a few generations of priests who think we should keep the Good News aka Gospels to ourselves

Brent Stubbs said...

This, unfortunately, appears to be an example of a hermeneutic of rupture. St. Francis de Sales would not recognize this distinction.

What has been decried is bad proselytizing, the kind that does not respect the dignity of the human person and their conscience. However, if the human heart is made for truth, then those who have love for others will share that truth, yes through their actions, but also through their words and arguments. St. Justin Martyr, pray for us!

rcg said...

There is a paradox in the form of a nuance on this point. We must proclaim the revealed Truth and educate others on it. By we must allow them to admit it in their own. That is why children are not confirmed until the age of reason.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Yes, in our southern Catholic schools, some of which are almost half to more than half non Catholic children, we clearly teach the Catholic Faith, but we don’t denigrate other religions or put non Catholic children down. Hopefully we model for them a positive Catholic experience that may lead them to be open about conversion. That is evangelization. Proselytizing is actively going after converts by condemning them if they don’t convert. It is very fundamentalist Protestant, not Catholic.

TJM said...

Fr McDonald,

That is a narrow definition of proselytize - I never associated the term with denigrating other religions. Some people have used the term in the context of offering “inducements” to convert, the so-called “Rice Christians” in Asia but that is just their viewpoint not based on the etymology of the word.

Catechist Kev said...

Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, "that is, *the proclamation of Christ by word* and the testimony of life." For lay people, "this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world."440

This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of *announcing Christ by word*, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful.441 (CCC 905, stars added)