Catholics on the Evangelical Trail
You state that "Postmodern 'spiritually' is for seekers," while "Evangelical Catholicism is for finders." Can you elaborate?
Postmodernism is about your truth and my truth, but never about the truth. Evangelical Catholicism, like all Great-Tradition Christianity, is about being found by the One who is the way, the truth, and the life, and clinging to him. Postmodern spirituality is about man's search for God. Evangelical Catholicism, like all Great-Tradition Christianity, is about God's search for us, and our learning to take the same path through history that God is taking.
What can be done to engage Catholic clergy and laity who are in a "diminished state" of communion with the Church?
Engaging them. Most of the time they're left alone in their confusions. It's a clear responsibility of bishops to invite doctrinally wayward priests into a full communion with the Catholic symphony of truth, as it's a clear responsibility of pastors to do exactly the same thing with wayward laity. Of course we're all "wayward" in an important sense, and that's why sacramental confession is an essential part of Evangelical Catholicism. But ignoring deep doctrinal and moral confusions is an abrogation of responsibility by pastors, be they priests or bishops. Shepherds engage with love; but they engage.
What are the primary areas of confusion about the mission laypeople have in the church?
The Catholic Church in the United States (and Europe, and Latin America) is going to go through a season, perhaps 20 years long, of a real shortage of priests. Thus many of the administrative tasks that priests now normally perform in parishes are going to have to be taken up by trained laymen and laywomen. So the administrative side of Catholicism will wear a more lay face in the immediate future, by necessity. But this is not the primary lay mission in the church. The primary lay mission in the church is to be the presence of Christ in the world: family, neighborhood, business, culture, public life. The challenge here is to get every Catholic thinking of himself or herself as a missionary: someone who enters "mission territory" every day. Getting a paycheck from the church isn't what Vatican II meant by "lay mission," or what John Paul II meant by everyone in the church putting out "into the deep" [Luke 5:4] of the New Evangelization. The Council and Blessed John Paul meant us all to be witnesses, inviting others into friendship with Jesus Christ.
In light of your conviction that the "Bishop of Rome is, above all, the Church's first witness—the witness whose own witness strengthens the witness of all the brethren," what qualities do you hope to find in the new pope?
A man of profound, transparent, and charismatic faith, who conveys the adventure of Christian discipleship through his person as well as by his words. A man of extensive pastoral experience, who can speak across and through different cultural experiences and who has demonstrated a capacity to make postmoderns soaked in the juices of irony and cynicism think again. A man with good judgment in people, who can find the collaborators he needs to reform the church's central bureaucracy and make it an instrument of the New Evangelization, not an impediment to it. A man of natural resilience, amplified by grace, who can bear the burden of the papacy without being crushed by it, physically and emotionally. A man of openness and curiosity who seeks information and analysis from outside the normal ecclesiastical channels. A man of strategic vision who can see around corners and over walls, who can discern possibilities where others find only obstacles, and who can thereby plant seeds for the long term, content to let the harvest be reaped in God's good time. A man of courage, who is not beset by problems or crumbles beneath them, which must include the courage to be a disciplinarian when necessary. A man of some linguistic facility. It's a tall order, I know, but it's been filled before and it can be filled again.