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Bishop Kicanas' 'both/and' evangelization

Gerald Kicanas of Tucson is one of the U.S. bishops at the Synod on the New Evangelization, and he spoke with Vatican Radio's Philippa Hitchen (who also had a nice chat with Rowan Williams) about the so-called "new evangelization." Kicanas' words are characteristic of him, but especially well put, and much-needed, I thought:

What Im talking about at the Synod is the importance of works of charity and justice as fundamental to the new evangelisation. When people see the good the Church is doing, experience the love the Church is presenting, this is the most people way that people encounter the Lord...There are some who begin to challenge the Churchs social teaching and doctrine, yet its endemic to all that the Church says about human life that flows from our faith and belief in God.it was quite inspiring for me to hear our Holy Father choosing to reflect on these two words, confession and charity the two go hand in hand, we have to profess our faith but we have to live our faith with courage and commitment to those who are struggling...Sadly I think for some people there is this tension between pro-life and pro-justice but for a true believer in the Lord there is no such distinctionso a pro-immigration Catholic has to be concerned about the unborn and a person who is concerned for the unborn has to concerned about people on the margins who are living less than decent lives.our Catholic social teaching is a tremendously rich heritage that we have that I hope will continue to live and maybe this Synod will be an inspiration to stir the embers of our social teaching and live it more completely.."

Let us hope.

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Imagine if we had a few more bishops like Kicanas or like Cupich? Imagine if we had a few more/any American cardinals who thought or spoke like this? We had them 50 years ago (read Vat II). And as people of hope, we can hope again

Imagine if Bishop Kicanas were now president of the US conference! Which he should have been. I can never forget the stunned look on Cardinal George's face when the surprise vote was announced and his spontaneous gesture of patting Bishop Kicanas on the shoulder.

I admire Bishop Kicanas a lot, indeed I am grateful to him as he was my bishop when I entered diaconal formation, and I always cheer when a bishop stresses the importance of works of charity and justice as strongly as Kicanas has here.What's more, I agree with what I think he is saying in part here, which is that the church is never more appealing than when it is engaged in works of charity and justice.But ... allow me to register, if not an objection, at least a request for clarification.In my view, it would be an error - a category error - to equate evangelization with works of charity and justice. They are not the same kind of thing. Not only is it possible to be good at one and poor at the other, it's arguable that this has indeed been the experience of the church in the US: it has been relatively good at works of charity and justice, but relatively poor at evangelizing.I wouldn't want to see the church patting itself on the back that it has solved the problem of evangelizing American culture, and evangelizing its own members, by engaging in works of charity and justice. In my view, the challenge for the church in the US is to sustain or improve its ministry in charity and justice, AND transform its evangelizing - take evangelization to levels and places it has never been before. I think that many, perhaps most, American Catholics recognize that works of charity and justice are a necessary part of discipleship. But I think that not many American Catholics recognize that evangelization is a necessary part of discipleship. That is what needs to change.

Jim, may I ask if you listened to the veteran Vatican Radio correspondent Philippa Hitchens's full interview with Bishop Kicanas? He had only twelve minutes after all. And he focused principally, though certainly not exclusively, on his own forthcoming talk at the Synod where each bishop gets, I think, five minutes to speak. In that brief span Bishop Kicanas has decided to concentrate on one major theme, a theme very much influenced by his being the US bishops' chairman of Catholic Relief Services.Still, I believe in the compass of a twelve-minute interview focusing on a five-minute speech he went a good deal further than saying the work of evangelization can be primarily carried out through the Church's works of charity and justice.Your call earlier this week for more expressions of joy on this site with regard to our Catholic Christian faith was appreciated. But perhaps gentleness too.

Jim Pauwells: "I think that many, perhaps most, American Catholics recognize that works of charity and justice are a necessary part of discipleship. But I think that not many American Catholics recognize that evangelization is a necessary part of discipleship. That is what needs to change."I think the bishop's point is you can't have one without the other. In fact, there's nothing worse for evangelization than separating it from the other two, which -- unfortunately -- churchmen too often do.

David, thanks for highlighting that contribution. Don't you think that journalists like you have a role to play this week, by bringing the voices of the best bishops out to the media and trying thus to amplify their effect? The silly extremists (mostly from the US, I'm sorry to say) usually get so much publicity with their stunts. If during the synod a place of honor was given to the ones who show common sense and a desire for dialogue, would it be possible to thus give them more influence?

Perhaps I'm not making enough effort to understand, but I don't know what "Catholic evangelization," particularly disaffected Catholics, is supposed to look like. Jim, enlighten us!

I don't know, Jim, where you get this notion. When you set the captives free, you evangelize and it is a distinct of an anointed disciple. Jesus proliferates in saying the blind see and the poor have the gospel preached to them. It was Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement that brought justice to people of color. The church came later . And it was not the bishops. It was Theodore Hesburgh. Law, Mahoney and all those other former justice advocates who became monarchs when civil rights was no longer fashionable. The bishops position on women is still quite deplorable as they seek "attractive, intelligent females." The bishops all over the world are lame in proclaiming the freedom of women. They still bear sceptors of a bygone age and live richly. Taking care of the downtrodden is evangelization of the highest kind. I understand that there are humanitarians who leave God out. But we should never let them coop or excel our solicitude for justice and to set the captives free which is the quintessential mark of discipleship.

The gospels are quite clear: When obligations of religion and charity conflict, the latter must prevail!

The gospels are quite clear on another point, namely, the simplicity of clothing of Jesus (and, one presumes, of his disciples).

By the Way, I am a subscriber. Recently I switched my Commonweal isssue to Kindle. No one seems to know how to list me as a subscriber.

"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.

What exactly is a pro-immigration Catholic?

@Mark Proska (10/13, 4:29 pm) Good question. My guess is it's a someone who connects the following commandments to today's experience:"So you too should love the resident alien, for that is what you were in the land of Egypt." Deutoronomy 10:19" You shall not deprive the resident alien or the orphan of justice, nor take the clothing of a widow as pledge. For, remember, you were slaves in Egypt, and the LORD, your God, redeemed you from there; that is why I command you to do this." Deutoronomy 24: 17-18"You shall not oppress a resident alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt." Deutoronomy 23:9"When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God." Leviticus 19:33-34http://www.usccb.org/bible/deuteronomy/10

I live in AFFORDABLE assisted living developed and continuously supported by the local Jewish community. We have a synagogue on premises. Does 'evangelization' require me to stand outside the synagogue on Friday and hand out leaflet or sermonize as my friends leave? I am confused.

Luke --In the spirit of ecumenism, may I remind us all that Muslims in particular believe very strongly that we are to be hospitable to strangers, and the Jews too accent this command. I wonder why we Christians generally don't seem to see it as clearly as they do.

Luke--Thanks, hard to disagree with any of that. I imagine that an essential element of the command that we not deprive the resident alien of justice would require no special treatment under the law. So for illegal aliens that would mean

Pro-immigrant: or just be like the Good Samaritan who took care of the stranger.

"So for illegal alients that would mean......doing unto them in their situations as we would have them do unto us in identical circumstances."

Joseph--I do not think the "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" commandment requires that we not prosecute lawbreakers because, if we broke the law, we'd (self-servingly) not want to be prosecuted.

Mark, Jesus "broke" laws according to the Romans and Pharisees. So there is a place for going against unjust laws. Think of laws against blacks, Irish and Italians. Etc. Give us a break from your posturing juridicism.

The Bishop is correct of course. In my case while it is easy for me personally to be pro-life, on other issues that may not be so clear, I defer to the bishops and work to bring my own views in line with theirs. If I cannot bring myself to fully understand the why part of something, for example like voting against the death penalty (which I will do this November on the CA initiative ballot), I trust the learned opinions of the bishops. Pope John Paul II was clear enough when he indicated his opinion that in most modern societies, the death penalty was not reasonable, and so I just leave it at that and adjust my view accordingly.

Bill--There's nothing posturing about it. I do not think laws that limit immigration are inherently unjust.

Charity trumps law, Mark.Always.That said, I support a secure border and just steps to try to make it secure. However, as Luke Hill makes clear by his scriptural quotes, we also have a Christian duty to help the "resident alien" (and, no, I'm not referring to an alien possessing a valid green card or government work permit). If an undocumented alien needs my help, I have a Christian obligation to help that person obtain any necessary food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. However, I am not going to report the person to authorities. God knows, they already have enough of a problem trying to catch the "bad guys" who cross our borders without permission.Jesus put charity first.

Mark Generally I tend to agree with your outlook, but what about When I was thirsty you gave me to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me . . . Jesus no doubt chose his words carefully. If He did not mean to include strangers, he would not have mentioned them. Also, what about general obedience to the Bishops and ultimately to the Pope? They do not just say things in order to hear themselves talk. They ponder and consider important matters carefully.I like the story in past Sundays gospel - about it being easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter heaven. I especially liked how Chesterton looked at it (paraphrasing); If you make the camel as small as possible and make the needle as large as possible; if you take the Lords words to mean the least that they could have meant, then the least that Christ meant to say, was that the rich are not very trustworthy.;-)

ISTM there is one fact that is morally relevant that is not being sufficiently considered, viz., that the immigrants often leave their families behind, often for many years. The truly Christian solution would be to work towards reform of the Mexican and other Latin American economic systems where unfair wages are the norm for the poor.Fr, Maciel was Mexican and begged hundreds of millions of dollars from the Mexican rich in order to proselytize -- oops, evangelize, in other countries. It seems to me that the money the rich Mexicans are willing to spend on the education of the poor of other countries would be better spent in Mexico, and in fact justice would seem to require it. Perhaps the evangelization of the Spanish-speaking countries should aim at the rich as well as the poor. With more equitable economic systems the immigrants might not find it necessary to leave their families and homes.

Good luck with that one Ann. The way rich Mexicans deal with things in Mexico is the main reason so many poor Mexicans head to CA and TX. It is a bit like saying that if only the Brits had gone easier on the Irish during the potato famine of the 1840s, then we would not have had so many Irish arriving in New York.Sure, If rich Mexicans changed their hearts and minds to the better, If they listened to the better angels of their nature, Then eventually that would be reflected in a more just Mexican society, which in turn would mean fewer Mexicans heading north. However the average man cannot wait for all that; he must try his best to provide for his family in his generation/timeframe. Rainbow stew will not do for him.We can change our actions/policies so he can go home periodically to see , but I doubt we can change the attitudes and/or actions of rich Mexicans anytime soon.We cannot even change ourselves (collectively) so as to not demand that cocaine be hauled up here, through Mexico, and that alone causes a huge problems for Mexican society. And so in my opinion, the chances of our changing the hearst and minds of wealthy Mexicans so as to improve their society to the point where all is well, is just about zero.

Oops - should have typed "...can go home periodically to see his family . . ."

Ken --My point wasn't that the Mexican immigrants shouldn't come here. My point was that a better, fairer solution for them would be an fairer economic system in Mexico, and Latin and South America.We're all in this together.

I agree with you Ann, that if Mexican society would improve, that would be better for all involved. It is just that the time line for improving Mexican society does not work for a guy (for example) who has a wife and three kids now; he needs the job now, his family needs to be provided for now. He cannot wait ten or twenty years for long term change in Mexican society, and so he heads north. The thing we can do in the short-term (i.e., now) is make it possible for him to go home in the off-season of agriculture or construction or whatever, in order to see his family.

Joseph/Ken--I'm not sure we disagree (though we may). Regardless of whether an immigrant is legal or illegal, we owe him charity (food, clothing, shelter, etc). But does that mean after these things have been provided, it would be wrong to say, if he's here illegally, "Ok, now it's time for you to honor our laws"? I don't think so (maybe we do disagree on that).

Mark you make a good point. As for legal vs. illegal immigrants, I agree that we do not "have" to do anything about this whole issue. Before I start, please note that I am aware that not all illegal immigrants come from Mexico. However most do and so for brevity, I focus on Mexican indoumentados. You are correct Mark, in that we certainly do not owe Mexico anything. In my opinion this is not about what we "have" to do; it is about what we "should" do.Americans are far and away the most decent, friendly, and tolerant people on this planet. We treat immigrants from all lands better than any other nation on the planet. This is a wonderful part of our national character. Another great characteristic for which we are justifiably known is our sense of fair play.Certainly indocumentados who commit crimes should be deported; on that everyone agrees.However for other "illegals", it is worth bearing in mind that for more than twenty years now (since the 1986 amnesty), many Americans - not just big hotel chains and Argri-business outfits, but many average Americans - have basically given these illegal workers a wink and a nod, and have hired them to pick crops, slaughter beef, mow yards, clean house, paint our houses, care for kids, etc.. Every American that did this knew very well at the time that the person they were dealing with was technically illegal. What were these Mexicans supposed to think? All of them arrive poor, and most have no more than a forth grade education. Most of them are however, quite trusting, hard working, and Roman Catholic. In a word, most are decent people. Obviously we wanted them here; we paid them well (compared to what they were used to), and we were friendly toward them. Americans basically gave them the impression they were welcome and that ultimately whatever problems they had with their work status would be resolved in future. Meanwhile - we implied by our actions that if they just worked hard enough, they could trust that we (the Americans) would make things Ok.Now, twenty plus years on, after their having worked very hard, all the while trusting that we would somehow "make it right", and after many of them have bought homes and land, and have kids growing up here and all the other things that come normally with living life, now we are considering simply rounding up all these folks and hauling them back to Juarez or whatever other Mexican hell-hole they came from, and telling them "next time" they should follow the rules.I do not think that is the type of people we are. I think we are better than that. We are a Christian nation after all. We are not they type of people who would be proud of ourselves for having snookered some of the poorest folks in the western hemisphere into working ten or twenty years at low pay with the implied possibility of a better life, only to toss them out like yesterday's newspaper. Moreover, we owe it to ourselves not to become that sort of people; we are better than that. For fun, look up "Mexican Standoff" in the dictionary; that seems like that.

Ken--I agree with much of what you say, though I might quibble that, because Americans have hired illegals, we are now morally estopped from enforcing laws against illegals--surely the INS has conveyed the message that breaking the law will not be tolerated by all Americans. However, I will concede that any law enforcement against illegal immigration should concentrate on recent violations--I'm not interested in deporting those who have behaved as good American citizens for an extended period of time.

"I think the bishops point is you cant have one without the other. In fact, theres nothing worse for evangelization than separating it from the other two, which unfortunately churchmen too often do."Hi, Beverly, I agree that both are necessary. I was thinking about this a bit this morning. I'm celebrating St. Hedwig's memorial today. The Gospel Canticle antiphon this morning was, "All the world will recognize you as my disciples when they see the love you have one for another." How true that is.Nevertheless, as I said in my previous comment, I believe the church in the US has been better at works of charity and justice than at evangelization. My basic point is that we can't let our works of charity and justice be our only word to our families, our communities and the culture. We need to find fresh and effective ways to share the Good News - ways that go beyond rearing our children and teaching religious ed and feeding the hungry. All of those are necessary and praiseworthy, but they leave huge sectors of our world untouched.

"Perhaps Im not making enough effort to understand, but I dont know what Catholic evangelization, particularly disaffected Catholics, is supposed to look like. Jim, enlighten us!"Hi, Jean, my basic point of view is that faith is spread when it is shared. Sharing our faith with others, at the right time in the right place in the right way, has the power to convert and transform others' lives. And the inverse is true: if we don't share our faith, it doesn't spread, and conversion and transformation don't take place.Someone asked if we're supposed to pass out tracts outside churches and synagogues. My view is that would be a very poor and counterproductive, not to mention offensive and rude, way to evangelize. My own view is that all of us are presented with opportunities to share our faith in our daily lives. When those opportunities arise, I would advise that we be attuned to the promptings of the Spirit, and she will give us the right words to say. That's how it's worked out for me.

Mark, I don't think it's necessary to remind undocumented aliens that they need to obey our laws. They know they are here without legal permission. I also don't think it's appropriate to extend Christian charity with one hand and do the law's bidding (so to speak) with the other hand. It seems to me that a genuinely Christian outreach would be incompatible with giving legal reminders to folks who are already living under the proverbial radar so they can continue to provide for their families in the U.S. and elsewhere. Most of these folks, I suspect, would not be trying to work in our country if decent work opportunities were available in their own countries. **********Jim, I do draw a distinction between the Church of Rome and the Catholic faith. I do share my Catholic faith from time to time with others, but there is no way I could conscientiously encourage seekers to join the Church of Rome, not at this time anyway. I make it a point, in fact, to let others know why I left but Catholic Church but continue to embrace the Catholic faith.

Oops: "...to let others know why I left the Catholic Church..."

Joseph J - I hope you don't mind if I say that I hope you're able to find a way home again some day.

Thank you, Jim.

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.