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The updated directory, published Thursday by the Vatican, urges Catholics "to avoid superficial generalizations in order to foster dialogue with Islam."
Instead of evangelizing Jews, it calls for "a dialogue that combats anti-Semitism and promotes peace and justice with Judaism."
"In our contemporary context of religious pluralism," "witnessing" through "friendly and cordial dialogue" is privileged over an explicit proclamation of the gospel.
At a Vatican press conference Thursday, Abp. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, nevertheless insisted that "evangelization occupies the primary place in the life of the Church and in the everyday teaching of Pope Francis. It could not be otherwise."
"Catechesis, therefore, must be united intimately with the work of evangelization and cannot be separated from it," Fisichella said.
But instead of emphasizing the urgency for the conversion of nonbelievers, the directory underscores Pope Francis' call to "a profound ecological conversion."
"Catechesis promotes this conversion through attention to the safeguarding of creation and the avoidance of consumerism," it declares.
The directory also instructs catechists to "focus on acceptance, trust and solidarity for migrants, who, far from their homeland, may experience a crisis of faith."
"Though I have yet to read the new directory to be able to get the true measure of it, the official statements leave me greatly concerned that the humanistic heretics have finally defeated Pope John Paul II," Deacon Nick Donnelly told Church Militant.
"The official statements make no mention of repentance, no mention of individual conversion. They only mention 'ecological conversion,'" Donnelly, a diocesan registered catechist who has written catechetical programs for adults and children, lamented.
Just like the bad old days of humanistic catechesis, which began after Vatican II, the emphasis is almost exclusively on human experience — the digital world, science, bioethics, ecology, migrants — with no mention of the wonder of the Most Holy Trinity, and hardly any mention of Our Lord's Gospel or even His Most Holy Name.
"The official presentation of the directory appears to make human experience the judge and final arbiter of God's revelation. If this represents the directory itself, it is truly devilish," Donnelly, who has had 45 years of catechetical experience, argued.
Archbishop Fisichella told reporters at a Vatican press conference Thursday that the new edition was "essentially the third catechetical directory since Vatican II."
The General Catechetical Directory (1971) and the General Directory for Catechesis (1997) were both issued by the Congregation for Clergy.
"The need for a new directory was born of the process of inculturation which characterizes catechesis in a particular way and which, especially today, demands a special focus," Fisichella said.
"Today the Church is facing a great challenge in the form of digital culture," he remarked. "This premise is perhaps, by itself, sufficient to require a new Directory for Catechesis."
Explaining the meaning of the gospel announcement that leads to salvation, Fisichella said: "The kerygma is an announcement of the Father's mercy directed at the sinner who is no longer considered as an excluded person, but as a privileged guest at the banquet of salvation, which consists in the forgiveness of sins."
A France-based Catholic theologian told Church Militant:
The problem for the new theologians who talk about 'mercy' is that Christianity makes absolutist claims that they find uncomfortable. The authors recognize the swift changes in culture and language brought about by the triumph of relativism over the absolute. But instead of an antidote they prefer to capitulate to it, favoring compromise where confidence is called for, and the political preferences of the progressive Left where a renewal of sanctity and spirit are more urgently needed.
At the press conference, Bp. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, delegate for catechesis from the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, stressed: "The new directory pays great attention to all issues related to the ecological crisis and, as far as catechesis is concerned, refers to the papal encyclical Laudato Sí."
Church Militant earlier reported on Italian ethicist and political philosopher Guido Vignelli's analysis of Pope Francis' six "talismanic" buzzwords which include "dialogue," "pastoral," "listening," "discernment," "accompaniment" and "integration."
The words recur in the Vatican's presentation of the directory as illustrated in Fisichella's "urgent" call to "carrying out a 'pastoral conversion' in order to free catechesis from some chokeholds that prevent its effectiveness."
In fact, the new directory proposes three major principles of action: witnessing, mercy and dialogue.
In speaking of the role of the family, the directory's second part on catechesis calls Christians "to accompany others with closeness, listening and understanding in order to restore hope and trust to all."
Using the central motif of liberation theology, i.e., "preferential option for the poor," the directory states that "catechesis should educate people about evangelical poverty" and "promote a culture of fraternity."
Pope Francis approved the new directory on March 23 — the memorial of St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, a 16th-century promoter of evangelization and catechesis.
The directory, with over 300 pages, is divided into three parts and has 12 chapters. The Italian edition was released Thursday in anticipation of translations in Spanish, Portuguese, English, French, German and Polish.