My thesis about the new ecclesial lay movements in the Catholic Church, with a case study of the Community of Sant’Egidio, can now be found online: Seeking the Face of a Church which goes Forth. A reflection on the role of the new ecclesial lay movements in the Catholic Church, with a case study of the Community of Sant’Egidio. In this thesis (for the master ‘Christianity & Society’, school of Catholic theology, Tilburg University), I look at the new ecclesial lay movements in the Catholic Church from both a theological and a sociological perspective, and I look at the relationship between the movements and the local Church (parish and diocese). I also give a detailed description of the growth and expansion of the Community of Sant’Egidio as a case study, in which I focus on the cities of Rome, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. The shift towards a missionary mode of Catholicism is an important theoretical and theological perspective informing my reflections.
It’s funny how in the week after handing in the final version of your thesis you can suddenly start changing your mind about your story, even though you’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about it for a number of months. In my thesis I offer a critical reflection on the book ‘Sorting out Catholicism. A brief history of the new ecclesial movements’ by the Italian historical theologian Massimo Faggioli. In this critical reflection I draw upon, among other sources, the book ‘Evangelical Catholicism. Deep reform in the 21st-century Church’ by the American Catholic writer George Weigel. In this book, Weigel describes his vision on the shift towards a missionary mode of Catholicism, and the implications this has for all kinds of aspects of Catholic life: the liturgy, the laity, monastic life, the interpretation on the Second Vatican Council and the academic activity on Catholic faculties, the work of priests, bisshops, the pope, etc. It’s a very good book, in which Weigel offers challenging and energetic proposals for the realisation of the Church of ‘the new evangelisation’ as pope John Paul II expressed it. But in the week after handing in the final version of my thesis I started to see a number of points which Weigel neglected (points which Massimo Faggioli identified quite clearly).
A poor Church for the poor
Weigel has an inspiring vision for a challenging, confident but not a triumphalistic and proud Catholicism, a Church which is outgoing and not clinging to its own security. But he neglects the dimensions of care for the poor and positive dialogue with non-Catholic Christians and believers of different religions, and working for peace. It is exactly Massimo Faggioli who points at this in an article on Weigel’s criticism of the policy of pope Francis, which he wrote as a response to an article by Weigel. I also read a a very good article by a member of Catholic Worker about the issues Weigel seems to have with the peace efforts of pope Francis and his vision of a poor Church for the poor.
Missionary ánd dialogue?
But how does this combine? How can the Catholic faith be communicated in a clear and confident way, while also engaging in dialogue with people of other faiths? How to combine evangelization and interreligious dialogue? For now, I’d like to refer to the Catholic theologian Gavin D’Costa, who offers some valuable theological insights as well as personal experiences on these questions (check out his online videos about Catholicism and other faiths, Theology of religions, and his longer online video lecture on The new evangelization and other religions).
(picture: Moses and Aaronchurch of the Community of Sant’Egidio Amsterdam)