A Review of Renew 2000 Materials

by Brock Fowler


A critique of Renew 2000 Session I and Session II materials.

Larger Work


Publisher & Date

Original, February 25, 1999


In our parish, there was a wide-spread dissatisfaction with the Session I Renew 2000 participant booklet, "God, a Community of Love"—even as there was enthusiasm over meeting together as small groups. The complaints were general: as a team leader having reviewed the materials in detail, I decided to try to put into words possible reasons for the unease of so many,(1) along with some comments on the current Session II materials.(2) Doing so is difficult: the problems are subtle ones of tone and vocabulary. In fact, the greatest problem of the materials was what they didn't say

Strong points. As one would expect—and hope—there's much that was good about these materials: they contained a variety of activities, stressed daily application, and highlighted some great Scripture quotations! They call us to reject materialism, care about social justice, and to be faith-centered! Some of the text was quite good, such as:

· "A major trend of our time has been the movement from a society in which Christian values are fostered above all else to one in which secularism is predominant. At this moment, the end of the 20th century, we no longer have the cultural and social supports of a Christian milieu" (p. 3).

· "Like the early disciples, we are faced with a culture that does not readily accept the values of Jesus…" (p. 29).

And so we should expect the materials to help us be a sign of contradiction to our secular culture in the way that Christ was (p. 22), and to draw its ideas and vocabulary from the sacred rather than the secular!

Secular vocabulary: a problem? As I was reading the materials, I often felt like I was back at Unity School of Christianity—a New Age-ish church where I spent some time on my way to becoming a Catholic. At various times, I was reminded the vocabulary that I heard former Catholics use while explaining why they left the Church, or from ecology spirituality (which is New Age/pagan, and goes by various names), or from those feminists who propose that the Church is a patriarchal instrument of oppression. It is important to use the language of faith, rather than a secular vocabulary, in a renewal effort aimed at the Catholic in the pew:

· Catholic theology is the fruit of centuries of prayer, study, and meditation—and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! The teachings of the Church are carefully worded: change the wording and you risk confusing, and possibly departing from, the theology. When talking to those of a secular mindset, the language of faith enables us to respond outside the shallow values and false choices carried by secular language: to propose to them a more beautiful vision!

· Martin Luther King and Bobby Seale(3) were both fearlessly fighting the same injustice (racism): but they used different vocabularies—Dr. King the vocabulary of faith, and Mr. Seale the vocabulary of the radical left. Since words carry ideas, one could have accurately predicted at a very early point where their rhetoric would lead them: firm but loving confrontation, in the case of Dr. King, and hate-filled violence in the case of Mr. Seale.

· Although we need to be made uncomfortable during our spiritual journey (e.g., with our sins), discomfort can also be a valuable warning. As the vocabulary changes, we usually find the theology usually does as well. For example, when I am in a group of people who speak of "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior," I am wary and alert concerning the ideas that I am hearing—which is a good thing!—even though I, emphatically, accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior!

In the same way, vocabularies which come from philosophies which deny that the Church is who she claims to be (denying/minimizing the role of the Holy Spirit in the teachings of the Bible/Church), are vocabularies that we should not become comfortable with—especially during this era in which so many Catholics have a tenuous understanding of theology and philosophy.

Computers make it much easier to determine with some precision—from a vocabulary—the sources from which a writer drew his ideas.(4) I was able to do word and phrase searches of massive amounts of text that provided considerable verification of personal impressions gathered over the course of my life, and interesting insights.(5)

More than one agenda? Almost inevitably, secular language brought in secular ideas, and secular agendas could be seen in what was stressed and what was minimized or left out altogether.

Examples of Problems

Domination/dominion, animals, the environment, and us. P.15 (emphasis added):

Over the past centuries, many of us have looked upon the earth as an object we have tried to 'dominate.' Today, we're facing an ecological crisis. We're coming to understand we're part of a living universe; our challenge is not to dominate but to live in right relationship with all of creation. As we come to greater understanding of our relationship as part of this 'living universe,' we hear all the clearer our call to reverence and respect life in all of its forms. We're not human beings isolated from our home, Earth, but rather people very much in relationship with Earth...We are all challenged...To live in harmony with all creation.

This section uses more the vocabulary of ecological spirituality than Christian vocabulary: vocabulary matters! Contrast this section with CCC 2415-2418 (emphasis added):

...Animals, like plants and inanimate beings, are by nature destined for the common good of past, present, and future humanity. [Genesis 1:28-31 is cited, where God tells Adam and Eve: "…fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over…all the living things…"] Man's dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires religious respect for the integrity of creation... Animals are God's creatures….By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. God entrusted animals to the stewardship of those who He created in his own image. Hence it is legitimate to use animals for food and clothing. They may be domesticated to help man in his work and leisure. Medical and scientific experimentation on animals, if remains within reasonable limits, is a morally acceptable practice since it contributes to caring for or saving human lives.

There are subtle, but important, distinctions between the two:

· Unnecessary confusion is caused by Renew 2000 condemning "domination," when the Bible and the Catechism explicitly note our "dominion" given by God and seem to authorize domination.

· The ambiguous wording of the Renew 2000 materials ("to reverence and respect life in all of its forms" and "live in harmony with all creation") could be read as requiring vegetarianism or forbidding medical/scientific experimentation on animals, without clarifying language such as found in the Catechism.

· "Living universe" is not in the Bible, Catechism, or other Christian books that I searched, but it is a term one often hears in connection with New Age and pantheistic type discussions. (At the end of this discussion, participants were instructed: "If it is possible, go outside and stand in a circle [to reflect, share, and pray]." Fairly or not, this struck many participants as New Age and they found it offensive: no group in our parish did this exercise, and one group was so offended that they stopped using the materials altogether at that point.)

Ambiguous language with a New Age sound continues in Session II, p. 33 (emphasis added): "Jesus uses what is `of Earth' (mud, saliva, water, the touch of a hand) to begin the healing process [of the blind man]. It seems that Earth itself is a part of the healing process for us."

The Renew 2000 materials are not a sign of contradiction to the ecological and New Age spirituality that has sprung up in our country. By way of contrast, the Catechism and the Bible also challenge us to the highest standards for caring for the environment and animals, but at the same time, they directly contradict ecological spirituality by making clear the distinction between the Creator and the created, that humans have been granted dominion—with all the responsibility that implies—and that animals are not people too.(6)

A concern for animals, but not unborn humans? Abortion is the most serious moral issue of our time—a primordial evil in a culture of death: yet, the word "abortion" is not used even once in Session I.(7) Lots of other problems were mentioned. We were urged to "Take some action this week to show a greater love and care for all of God's creation (i.e., …the environment, animals, etc.)." Other problems deemed worthy of mention included: anxiety; worry; brokenness; stagnant and lifeless institutions; the sick and the elderly; racism; sexism(8); materialism; haughtiness; self-righteousness; domestic violence; division; hunger; homelessness; injustice; inability to relate; etc. But the authors could not seem to find it in their hearts to raise concern about the unborn.

Session II materials continue the emphasis on most anything except sex related sin. When the word "abortion" was finally used (p. 29), it was only parenthetically in a list of "life and quality of life issues."

A concern for animals, but not the human family? The breakdown of the family is causing our children, and our society, incalculable suffering and harm: but we find no concern raised about this problem in either session! On p. 23, we learn what we are supposed to empty ourselves of: "…all our needs for power, prestige and possessions..." Very good! But the triad of sin (power, wealth, and sex) is missing something here. Sex is directly connected with the future of a people, which is why nations in the process of decay exhibit a wide-spread disordered sexuality. In this age of divorce, adultery, artificial birth control, premarital sex, pornography, immodesty, etc., the materials never challenge us to respect God's perfect plan for sexuality, and to reject our culture of Aphrodite!(9)

Problematic Trinitarian phrasing. Although the concept of God the Father was handled well in Week 1, problems develop after that. One could question whether the word "God" should have been used repeatedly (even in the same sentence) to avoid using masculine pronouns, especially in view of the fact that the Catechism did not (e.g., CCC 199, 201, 203-214, and 216-221). And "Father" would be a better term than "Creator" when discussing our ongoing relationship with Him. But the serious problems began on p. 19, where—by using "God" (instead of "Father")—we are left with disturbing language:

...Jesus was a man full of love and compassion and he had a deeply personal awareness of God. [Was Christ not God Himself? Then why say he had a "deeply personal awareness" of Himself?] He was a healer who was grounded in a profound experience of God. [Was Christ not God Himself? Then obviously he would experience Himself.] Jesus was in constant contact with God [How could he not be in constant contact with Himself, if he was, and is, God?]; he often went away to a lonely place to pray; his whole life was focused on God. [His life was focused on Himself?]

This passage is, at best, profoundly ambiguous even though the next paragraph does make passing mention Christ's Divinity.(10) Presumably, the authors were trying to describe the relationship of the 2nd Person of the Trinity (the Son) to the 1st Person of the Trinity: but the 1st Person of the Trinity is called the "Father," not God—"one God in 3 Persons."(11) If you go back and reread the paragraph substituting "Father" for "God" you can see what a difference it makes!

But even reading the paragraph that way seems very odd: in Catholic theology and (especially) spirituality, we don't hear the relationship among the persons of the Trinity described as "a deeply personal awareness," "a profound experience [among them]," or "in constant contact." Rather, Catholics speak in wonder about the inexhaustible flow of love—a level of love beyond what we can imagine. Even with the use of "Father," we would have been offered a very shallow understanding of Trinitarian unity and love!(12)

On p. 22, the materials repeat the problem: "God so loved the world that God sent Jesus to save us and free us." Is the meaning here that Jesus sent Himself, or that Jesus is not God?(13) When talking about the Trinity, the term "Father" (and/or "Son") is irreplaceable. It is the term Jesus used, and we are to imitate Christ. It is the term He taught us to use ("Our Father who art in heaven…"), and the term used in our baptism. Avoiding it only results in a mess.(14)

That God is our Father is one of the most radical teaching in Christianity! Because of that, we are all brothers and sisters! Because of that we have an inheritance laid up in heaven! Because of that, we share some of the Divine nature! Because of that, judgement is not a legalistic courtroom, but a family room! Because of that, us being lower doesn't make God higher: a Father is not threatened by, but honored by, the goodness of his children (thus there is no need for a "doctrine of total depravity"). And so on. And in this era of earthly fathers not always living up to their obligations, we need to hear the good news about the one Father that NEVER lets us down!(15)

A (trendy) therapeutic view of sin?(16) For example, the "Focus of the Session" on p. 22 is oddly worded:

Jesus freely said to 'yes' to his suffering and death, becoming the sacrificial victim who has redeemed our brokenness and made all things new. He has truly liberated us from our anxieties, fears and competitiveness and saved us from the consequences of our sinfulness. Will we say 'yes' to this victory the Jesus has won for us?

Jesus came to save us from sin, not just the consequences of our sinfulness, and to mention sin last of all is frankly sad. "Our brokenness" was that we were sinful, not merely anxious. And if ending "competitiveness" was a goal of Christ's mission, somehow it went unmentioned by both Bible and Catechism(17)—again, we are offered the wisdom of the age rather than the wisdom of the ages and the wisdom of God.

"Brokenness" allows—perhaps even encourages—a passive view of our sinfulness: our brokenness could be viewed as coming from external sources, such as our parents, institutional/social sin, etc. But note the acceptance of personal responsibility in the Penitential Rite: "I confess…that I have sinned through my own fault (strike breast)…"(18)

Session II, a Lenten program, continues its tendency to flinch from the concept of sin:

· On p. 9, "addictions" are tied in with sinfulness.

· "Brokenness" is used synonymously with "sinfulness." P. 32: "We have, as Catholics, the wonderful sacrament of penance and reconciliation in which to share our brokenness—our sinfulness—and received the healing power of God." P. 11: "…brokenness/sinfulness…" (The words are also linked on pp. 9 & 24.)

· The strongest words to describe St. Augustine's sinful life [prior to his conversion]: "he began to live a morally questionable life" and "embraced self-centered values" (p. 15).

· "Self-centeredness" is the most common term used to specify the nature of personal sin, avoiding the fact that we are also making an outer-directed choice: between God and Satan. Although sexual sin is indeed self-centered, it is often not perceived that way, and so that application of such general comments might be missed.

· On p. 33, Jesus' cure of a blind man was discussed (emphasis added): "Those with Jesus are his disciples. Notice their question: `Was it his sin or that of his parents that caused him to be born blind?' (Jn 9:2) They assumed blindness was a punishment for sin. Is that how I image God, as someone who punishes me for my sin? Jesus makes it very clear, however, that the man's blindness was not a punishment for sin; rather, it was `to let God's works show forth' (Jn 9:3). (Pause)" The fact that a birth defect is not punishment for sin sounds like it is being used here to obscure the fact that we are indeed punished for our sins (see, under "The punishments of sin," CCC 1472-1473).

Excessive concern over social, rather than personal, sins? In various places, one could find sections bordering on liberation theology. In fact, the near obsession with social injustice issues(19) contrasted sharply with the silence on abortion and the need for sexual discipline. To give only one small example, on page 19 we're told: "[Jesus] taught with wisdom and confronted unjust structures of his times." Most fundamentally, it was sin, not structures, that Christ confronted; and it was sin, not structures, that Christ came to save us from.

The only two organizations recommended to us by name anywhere in the Session I and II materials are both political in nature,(20) leaving us to wonder why other, non-political, organizations were not also mentioned by name, such as the St. Francis de Sales Society, Missionaries of Charity (who have lay associates), various third orders, pro-life organizations, Knights of Columbus, etc.

The first week's homework in Session II is to "Consider one joint action that you as a small community could take to confront an organization or institution in need of communal conversion. Be prepared to share ideas for this action as well as your personal action" (pp. 12 & 14). This is a spectacularly bad idea. I presume that we are to get into a debate over controversial political issues for which there is no one right Catholic answer, while studiously avoiding trying to understand other controversial issues for which the Church has given us an answer (artificial birth control, the male priesthood, abortion, etc.).(21)

Loaded language was used, without assisting us in dealing with it. For example (p. 23):

[Christ] often acted against institutions whose leaders allowed them to be stagnant, oppressive and lifeless.

This is precisely the language that I often run up against in discussions about the Church. Either the language could be left out—since Christ, in fact, is never described in the Bible as acting against institutions (or structures)—or the authors should help the participants deal with such language in this nation that is overwhelmingly secular, Protestant, or New Age.

In a world torn by division and hatred, the Spirit empowers us to live with tolerance and love [p.32].

"Tolerance" is a word that is often used against the Church: for example, we are told that if we consider homosexuality to be a sin, or oppose homosexual marriages, we are "intolerant."

"Tolerance" does not appear in the Catachism or the Bible; but "tolerate" is mentioned, and that is close: if we are to have tolerance that means that we must tolerate. "Tolerate" is mentioned 9 times in the RSV, but never in a positive context!(22) For example: " is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them"; "a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not tolerate"; "can I tolerate wicked scales?"; "I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers"; "you tolerate that woman Jezebel"; "neither will I tolerate their wicked practices"; and "a daughter of Judah would not tolerate your wickedness."

Christians are called to a higher standard than tolerance! Regarding sin, we are not to be tolerant at all! Regarding sinners, we are not to be merely tolerant: we are to behold in them images of the ever living God! How shallow and silly the secular mindset: shallow because it settles for mere tolerance instead of love, and silly because it cannot tell wrong from right. If the issue of tolerance was to be raised, what a missed opportunity to show the wonderful Catholic difference!

Session II materials continue to use loaded language. For example, on p. 34, we are urged to identify ourselves with the Pharisees for the sake of honest self-examination (emphasis added): "These Pharisees gather the evidence, but they cannot believe because they are too rigid. Because the healed persons does not `fit their narrow definitions,' they choose to throw him out. In what way do I experience in me a self-righteousness or rigid way of thinking? (Pause)"

Many believe that anyone who believes all the Church asks her children to believe is narrow and rigid. We are told that the Catholic view of the family is a "narrow definition" that needs to be expanded to include the full variety of unmarried sexual relationships. Failure to give on this, and many other points, is often called "rigid thinking." Interestingly, the Bible and Church history are full of martyrs who refused to compromise their faith: was that "rigid"?

Power. On p. 27 there is a detailed discussion of how we are fascinated by power in our society. We look for the materials to next explain how, to the Christian, power—per se—is not a legitimate goal! Christianity insists on the importance of weakness and service to others. But the materials say:

The Spirit was sent to give us immense spiritual power. Think about the early disciples of Jesus. . . Suddenly this power overcomes the disciples; they are charged; they are on fire; they are alive; they cannot be restrained; they have tremendous courage. They are free from their own selfishness, from their own inability to relate; they are thrust out into the world to carry on the mission of Jesus. That is power!

On p. 29, we are invited to reflect on the question: "How have I 'tapped into' the power of the Spirit? If I haven't, how could I?" These, and other sections, might leave the impression that God's power is something that we might be able to tap into on our own terms for our own purposes. The wording, although certainly not wrong, is not sufficiently a sign of contradiction to New Age beliefs which suggest that God is an impersonal force that can be used in this way, and it fails to fully challenge us to emphatically reject the desire for power: to die unto the self.


Although Session I materials had some solid, inspiring portions, and Session II had even more, generally the language of the world was used; as a result, some of the ideas of the world crept in as well—too often leaving concerns that we were being called to the secular agenda/vocabulary with a cross pasted over the top of it.

The materials tell us that our society is a predominantly secular one that does not readily accept the values of Christ and offers us little support. And yet is it precisely at the points of Christ's greatest divergence from the messages of the media, and many others in our society, that the materials usually fell silent—but those are precisely the areas that we need to learn more about and discuss!

This is particularly true if we are to evangelize others as was suggested in Week 5 (p. 30). In fact, evangelization is to be the primary focus in Session III!

Before I became Catholic at the age of 40, I met countless people who had left the Church,(23) and I still have many conversations with such people. Some lost the faith altogether; others were looking to fill a void with religion-lite (e.g., New Age). A very many others were attracted to an Evangelical church like the one a few miles from ours: one of their ministers (a former Catholic) told me that 1/3rd of their congregation is fallen away Catholic, and I have heard even higher estimates from some other similar churches—where they are not reluctant to talk in very direct terms of the reality of sin, the Fatherhood of God, spiritual warfare, and the vital importance of being Christian.

What these fallen away Catholics share in common—almost completely without exception—is that they do not really know what the Church teaches and why (although they usually think that they are knowledgeable, and are often quite anti-Catholic). It is almost universally recognized that catechesis has been poor in the Church for the last few decades.

In the process of converting to Catholicism, I was stunned and humiliated about how wrong I was about Church teachings: but I had merely believed what I had heard as a Protestant, what the press told me, and what those raised Catholic had confirmed…which really boiled down to this: the Church teaches dumb things, and for no real reason.(24)

If you try to tell somebody attracted to the New Age that they should consider Catholicism, their first thought would probably be: "Why should I join a church that has so many rules, especially about sex!" A feminist would wonder why she should consider a Church that condemns abortion and has a male-only priesthood. An Evangelical will not be moved by somebody unable to explain even the most basic Catholic doctrine from the Bible. There is nothing in either Session I or Session II to help us address such concerns: in fact, we're given no real understanding of why we're Catholic instead of Protestant or New Age.(25) Indeed, Session II materials begin Week 1 with a picture of a person in a kneeling position associated with Zen Buddhism [and other eastern religions], which was followed up in Week 3 with the whole group being asked to pray a prayer "from the Native American tradition."(26) While this program is primarily one of discussion and prayer, the opportunity to present solid, bite-sized, Catholic teachings should not have been passed up. It would have been much better if the materials had made greater use of the Catachism, and other Church documents, as well as writings from the Saints and the doctors of the Church: writing which has stood the test of time!

Because of the short-comings of the materials—despite their strengths—the Renew 2000 materials do not seems to be suitable as stand-alone materials—indeed, it appears from Sessions I and II that new materials with an authentically Catholic vocabulary should be developed.


1. Of our 5 groups, 3 stopped using the materials altogether—including 2 pre-existing small groups who had years of experience with different materials. One group used the materials, with the proviso that the participants could critique the material—and there was always critiques. In my group, I skipped or critiqued problematic areas. All group leaders expressed dissatisfaction over the materials, and in the participant critique sheets only one person wanted to use the Renew 2000 materials exclusively in the next session.

2. The Session II booklet for general usage is entitled Conversion. Finding God is for young adults (as indicated in its Ch. 4), and will not be comment upon here.

3. One of the founders of the Black Panthers.

4. There are times where it may be appropriate to borrow an alien vocabulary. St. Thomas Aquinas provided a synthesis between the Aristotelian philosophy of his day and the central mysteries of the Christian faith, but Renew 2000 is not systematic theology. St. Paul used a pagan altar to an unknown god as a starting point to speak of Christ (Acts 17:23), but he then went directly to speaking of Christ rather than continuing to use pagan language. For an effort such as Renew 2000, secular language should be the carefully considered exception to the rule, and never the sole language used to explain a principle.

5. Through Logos software and internet resources, I searched about 1 GB of Christian writings, ancient and modern: including the Bible (all popular translations), the Catachism, the Early Church Fathers, St. Augustine, and modern commentaries. Through the Electronic Library (www.elibrary.com) I was able to search an even greater number of publications from more secular sources—covering the whole range of the religious, political, and ideological landscape.

6. While the point might seem obvious, it eludes many. For example, a popular high school biology text (Biology: Principles and Explorations by Johnson & Raven [Austin, TX: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1996]) prominently showcases this quote on p. 415: "Since our genes stretch back in time in an unbroken line to the first lifeforms—just as the genes of mushrooms, bacteria, and rabbits do—it is questionable to assume that we and our domesticated mammals are higher forms of life…We simply exist today because our particular collections of genes, like stacks of chips growing on a roulette table, have not yet exhausted their winning streaks." But when one looks that the people who author such quotes, they never live their lives as though they thought that they were on the level of mushrooms (which, generally, they eat by the way).

7. When "life" was used, the context suggested that they were not talking about abortion.

8. Secular society does propose some good ideas, e.g. that sexism is bad—but even then, without Christ, that good becomes distorted: so (for example) it is often considered "sexist" to be pro-life or to support the Church's teaching on the male-only priesthood. Thus, using a secular vocabulary for even (basically) good secular views must be done with care.

9. Also unaddressed is wide-spread problems caused by the secular notion that our emotions are the standard by why we should measure our decisions (how it feels to us); but emotions can be very misleading—as the Church teaches.

10. Uneven language. Yet, on p. 18 in the "Focus of the Session," we read: "…we accept that Jesus is the Son of God, both human and divine, sent by God the Father..." How clear is that! So why use such problematic language later on that seems to deny the divinity of Christ? And in Session II, pp. 16-17, "the Father" is used in a very natural way twice in connection with Jesus.

These materials read in an annoyingly disjointed way: as if there were several people, with various agendas, involved in this project, and they traded language off to reach a consensus.

11. CCC 253. The Church speaks of the "Son of God"—which indirectly includes the concept of fatherhood—but the vocabulary used here departs from the practice of both the Catechism when specifically discussing the Trinity (CCC 232-267), and the practice of Christ Himself.

This language needlessly rendered suspect the wording of the Jesus prayer on page 21: "Jesus, Son of David, be merciful to me, a sinner." I have always read it rendered "Son of God": but this wording can be found in the Bible, and so it would not have raised an issue but for the ambiguity cited above.

12. This odd failure to call us to the fullest beauty of Catholic teachings can be found in Session II. On p. 3, we find that we are to be "…welcoming our own humanness with grateful hearts" and change "…from self-disapproval to self-love." Fair enough—although an odd Lenten meditation with a ring of the increasingly discredited self-esteem approach—but we can hear such advice from a secular humanist as well. But St. Paul offers us even better news than our own humanness: that we are part of the mystical body of Christ (1 Cor 12); "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba! Father! So through God you are no longer a slave but a Son, and if a son then an heir" (Gal 4:5-7). And Christ has something even more noble that self-love to offer us (although he offers that too, in a sense): dying unto the self!

13. Better wording: "God so loved the world that the sent his only son…"

14. In avoiding the masculine, where it is clearly called for, perhaps a message is being sent to men—who are already a minority at most any mass.

15. The materials made some overtures in the direction of the "Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier" formulation: this is also inadequate. The relationship among the persons of the Trinity is "relationship," not function (CCC 255 and 258)—still less should the Trinity be thought of primarily in utilitarian terms of how God benefits us.

16. "When Christians embrace psychological fads in hopes of keeping up to date, they frequently end up behind the curve when the fads turn out to be just that." (From "Faith & Therapy" by Wm. Kilpatrick, First Things, Feb. 1999, which details the problems of the currently popular therapeutic paradigm.

17. I found no condemnation of "competitiveness," per se, in any of the Catholic references I searched, which is probably why Catholic schools have (competitive) sports teams, but I ran into a lot of criticism of competitiveness in college among those that I knew who described themselves as (political) radicals and who were—virtually without exception—scornful of Christianity and the Church.

18. Finally, at the bottom of p. 23, we receive straight talk about the heart of the good news: "by his death, Christ liberated us from sin..."—a quote from the Catechism.

19. Concerns over social sins and justice were expressed on pp. 15, 16, 20-26, 30, & 33-35 in Session I. Although some of the language used was questionable, it is good for us to be told of the Church's teachings on social justice, but that should not cause more counter-cultural teachings to be neglected.

20. P. 42, Session II.

Bread for the World is interdenominational-not Catholic as the materials claim (see www.bread.org). They feed no hungry: they are a purely political organization which lobbies for governmental action.

In fact, their October 1998 newsletter contains an article critical of those who feed the hungry entitled "Food Banks: Kinder…Less Just" (ellipsis in the original): "The world of emergency food providers was kinder than I had expected [?], but the overall impact of their efforts was to make our society less just…Providing emergency food is hard work that effectively absorbs the attention of many of the people most concerned about poverty and hunger in the U.S., diverting them from advocacy and political action [emphasis added]."

In the same issue is "Inspired to Activism": "As the Urban Studies director at Wheaton College, I have new students in my classes every year who have been inspired by a church missions trip or an urban immersion experience…where they have witnessed broken families, teen pregnancies, gangs and all the other symptoms of social dysfunction…Therefore, they believe the solutions to poverty lie in evangelism and various self-help ministries. [In other words, the best thing that you can give anybody is the transforming message of Christ.] …I try to provide my students with exposure to the possibilities for social change, by examining the role of advocacy campaigns, community organizing and electoral politics…Once my students recognize the existence of the systematic causes of poverty and hunger, they are more prepared to consider new forms of engagement [apparently other than evangelism]."

Indeed, evangelism gets brutal reviews on the "Faith Page" in "Voice for the Poor, Voice with the Poor"(in the Nov./Dec. 1997 newsletter): "[W]hen we look at the history of modern Christianity, we find that Christianity was used not to deliver the people, but to dominate the people. Christianity was not brought to the people to empower them but to discourage them. Whenever the oppressor brought Christianity to the people, he brought a colonial, not a liberating, Christianity. If we are to decolonize Christianity, we must stop approaching the poor with the mindset of the dominator and the oppressor." Millions of Christians would beg to differ with this Protestant minister: they have found the Gospel a liberating source of hope. There is a lack of charity here and elsewhere.

But this account is misleading as to the contents of the website as a whole. Clearly there is a strong Christian motivation, and most of the site contents are entirely consistent with the teachings of the Church, and the statements of the American bishops (although loyal Catholics could differ over much of the content, and there is no discussion of the implications of turning to governments that are increasingly anti-life and functionally atheistic). But when Renew 2000 only listed organizations that were primarily political in focus, they should have counted on such problems.

Global Education Associates is a network to collaborate "in common efforts to create a more human world order." What that might mean was not made much clearer by visiting their website (www.globaledu.org), or talking to Renew 2000 headquarters (908-769-5400). A telephone call to the organization itself (212-870-3290) netted only slightly more information: their concerns are systematic change involving alternative governing systems and other macro level systems, and they are a NGO with certain UN organizations such as UNESCO, ECOSCO, and UNICEF, and they have partnerships with a number of religious orders in LCWR. They got into the Renew 2000 materials, because of a personal connection between two religious sisters—one working at Global Education Associates and the other working at Renew 2000.

21. If discussion of such hot button issues were delayed to allow a more gradual approach for those who were not well formed in the faith, that would be reasonable, but that would not explain why:

- We were urged to political action: we have enough Catholic politicians and their supporters who support abortion—formation precedes action.

- We were urged to evangelize: that requires formation in the faith first.

- There were so many language problems (as illustrated by this paper).

22. There is one, and only one, time that any variation of "tolerance" is used in a positive way: 2 Tim 2:24, NAB. This word (anexikakos in Greek) is translated "forebearing" in the RSV-CE, and "patient" in the New Jerusalem Bible. Religious "intolerance" that impinged upon religious freedom was condemned in Tertio Millennio Adveniente, p. 40.

23. I have read that the second largest "denomination," so to speak, in this country is fallen away Catholic.

24. The goal of Session IV is reconciliation with other Christians: unity requires respect, and a greater ability of the Catholic in the pew to give reasons for Catholic beliefs would facilitate greater respect.

25. In Session II, p. 32, there is a quote with bracketed pronouns that serve to "correct" the official Church document to conform to what is usually called "inclusive language." The Church should be allowed to speak for herself. One can have a perfectly orthodox faith and believe that the awkwardness of "inclusive" language is a burden we must bear, just as one may be perfectly orthodox and believe that there should be a reform of the reformed liturgy, or that modern church architecture and music is often impoverished, or that the discipline of the celibate priesthood should be dropped, etc. The Church will change, but Renew 2000 should not be a forum to discuss which direction that change should take in view of all the misunderstandings of Catholicism we find in the larger culture. Rather, it should be an occasion to learn how to better explain current Church teachings/practices to others and deepen our faith.

26. I am not claiming that it is wrong to pray in this position—sometimes I do myself—and the wording of the Native American prayer was generic. But without an explanation as to the reason these imports from other religions were utilized, there was an appearance of indifferentism (syncretism). Besides, do we really want participants to become comfortable saying prayers from religions with fundamentally different theology?

This item 867 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org