Within the Anglosphere, this facet of Evangelical Catholicism will necessarily cause some reexamination of consciences and political alignments. In the United States, it has already caused a major, and in some cases wrenching, reexamination of the traditional Catholic affinity for the Democratic Party, as that party has embraced what John Paul II called the "culture of death" in the party's radical commitment to an unfettered abortion licence. In Great Britain, the emergence of Evangelical Catholicism is likely to cause a similar reexamination of traditional Catholic alignments with Labour, although it is not clear, from the western shores of the Atlantic at least, where, in practical terms, such a re-alignment might eventually lead. But as the life issues and the challenge of lifestyle libertinism continue to define the great fault lines in the domestic politics of the West, Evangelical Catholicism — which follows John Paul II (in Evangelium Vitae) and Benedict XVI (in Caritas in Veritate) in insisting that the life issues are basic social justice issues — will find itself, irrespective of voting patterns, in a profoundly counter-cultural position, much as the Evangelical-Wesleyan opponents of the slave trade found themselves in a counter-cultural position in early 19th-century Britain.
The Evangelical Catholicism that has been struggling toward maturity in the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI is also a Catholicism with a distinctive public voice — or perhaps I should say, voices. Within the household of faith–inside the distinctive culture that is the Church — that voice is a Gospel voice, and the deepest warrants for the Church's defence of life, of religious freedom, and of the dignity of the human person are found in the Church's sacramental life, and in Scripture and tradition as interpreted by the Church's authentic magisterium. In addressing the wider culture and society, and in the give and take of the democratic political process, the public voice shaped by the culture of Evangelical Catholicism is a voice that makes genuinely public arguments, deploying a grammar and vocabulary that those who are not of the household of faith can engage.
That voice, it should be added, is primarily the voice of truly converted disciples: lay men and women, bringing the universal moral truths learned within the household of faith to bear in their workplaces, their voluntary associations, their cultural activities, and their political lives. The voice of the pastors is not, and cannot be, the only voice of the Church in the public square. The pastors' voice ought to be heard when questions of first principles are at issue (as, to be sure, they are, and not infrequently these days). But when there are legitimate differences of prudential judgment on how the principles of the Church's social doctrine are to be driven into the hard soil of political reality, the principal voices in those debates should be lay voices. The pastors have graver matters to which they must attend.
What have been Benedict XVI's contributions to the emergence of Evangelical Catholicism and to its interface with the public life of the West?
A profound and compelling synthesis of Benedict XVI's contribution to the development of Evangelical Catholicism may be found in the recently-published second volume of his projected three-volume study, Jesus of Nazareth. In this middle panel of his Christological triptych, in which the Pope analyses the biblical texts that deal with Holy Week and Easter, the Evangelical Catholic project is laid out with scholarly insight and catechetical power. For Benedict's intent is nothing less than to bring his readers into a personal encounter with the world–transforming power of the Paschal Mystery through his reflections on the Passion narratives and Easter accounts: the axial moment of human history in which the human drama finds its climax in the suffering, death and resurrection of the Son of God. Here, a lifetime of scholarship is sifted and distilled in service to the essential Christian kerygma, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, as Lord. It is a hard heart indeed that does not read Benedict on Holy Week and Easter without sensing the power of God at work in history, bending history towards redemption.
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