The New Catechetical Movements and the New Evangelization

Authored by Jason Gale in Issue #34.1 of The Sower

New catechetical movements are underway, especially movements to serve the new evangelization. There is a renewed effort being put forward in the area of catechetics from all over the world. A number of the “new movements” themselves have a strong commitment to catechesis. Another example of a “catechetical movement” is the Amicitia Catechistica, or ‘Catechetical Friendship’, of Franciscan University in the United States, Maryvale Institute in England, and Notre Dame du Vie in France. These three institutions have a special devotion to the work of catechesis. If we take a quick look at the recent history of catechesis in the Church, we can see this renewal has been gathering pace for a while.

The picture is a complex one, with solid tracks of renewal alongside wrong-turnings. Even before Vatican II, alongside many healthy currents of renewal, other fundamental shifts were taking place in the areas of philosophy, biblical interpretation, theology, and liturgy. Some of these trends encouraged an anthropocentric outlook. In the area of philosophy, for example, this can be traced back at least to the period of the Enlightenment. Once philosophy removed classical metaphysics from the equation, theology and liturgy also suffered. In his book The Mass and Modernity, Fr. Jonathan Robinson identifies what happened in the liturgy. “The liturgy is no longer primarily the worship of God, but a celebration of our needs and ‘our own life experience’.”[i] He quotes Cardinal Danneels, a progressive Belgian bishop who wrote, “It is the liturgy which must obey us and be adapted to our concerns, to the extent of becoming more like a political meeting or a ‘happening’. We are celebrating our own life experience!”[ii]

Msgr. Michael Wrenn, a special consultant for religious education to John Cardinal O’Connor, writes of this period,

“Basically what occurred in catechesis was a shift from God to man; from supernatural faith to more human concerns; from proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ and everything that follows from that to espousing a purely human kind of effort featuring a struggling humanity trying to save itself by political means from oppression and injustice.”[iii]

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