Pope Paul VI: Evangelization Involves Catechesis

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  December 8, 2017   

Catholic Alpha: "Small group leaders are not trying to teach or catechize"

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Guidelines for using the so-called Catholic Alpaha program warns against teaching or catechizing when using the program; but Bl. Pope Paul VI, however, said catechises was part of evangelization.

Published material for Catholic Alpha informs pastors that when using the Alpha program in their parishes to evangelize those "who have been sacramentalized without ever having been evangelized," they are not to teach or catechize them. "Remember, the small group leaders are not trying to teach or catechize. Rather, they are hosting thoughtful conversation," say the guidelines.

Blessed Pope Paul VI, however, in paragraph 17 of his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN) said evangelization couldn't be separated from catechesis or teaching the Faith. In EN, the pope defined evangelization "in terms of proclaiming Christ to those who do not know Him — of preaching, of catechesis, of conferring Baptism and the other sacraments."

The guidelines on Catholic Alpha say teaching the Faith, however, should not be part of the program:

The movement towards deeper and more catechetical content will reinforce the idea that this Alpha is just a class. In so doing, it will decrease the likelihood that those who have been sacramentalized but not evangelized will even experience a life-changing encounter with the person Jesus on Alpha.

In EN Paul VI disagrees:

Any partial and fragmentary definition which attempts to render the reality of evangelization in all its richness, complexity and dynamism does so only at the risk of impoverishing it and even of distorting it. It is impossible to grasp the concept of evangelization unless one tries to keep in view all its essential elements.

Paul VI summed up evangelization as using divine truth to make converts. "[T]he best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims." He further emphasized that the Catholic Church is the one tasked with the mandate to evangelize, and it's not effective apart from her. In paragraph 16 of EN he writes, "This mandate is not accomplished without her, and still less against her." He sorrowfully recalls those "well-intentioned" but "certainly misguided" people who are "continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: 'Anyone who rejects you rejects me.'"

Watch the panel discuss the futility of evangelizing without truth in Friday's Download—Alpha Exposed. This week's topics on The Download include the many errors within Alpha and the offering of Holy Communion to the divorced and remarried, among others.

Catch The Download live, Monday–Friday, at 10:30 a.m. EST at churchmilitant.com. To view every episode, sign up for a Premium subscription and receive hundreds of hours of quality Catholic content.


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