Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote of his introduction to the Evanglical Catholic Institute. Now Fr. Longenecker is an orthodox priest and I think he genuinely appreciates the mission of evangelization. However this particular group is not without controversy as evidenced by the fur flying in the comment box. Significantly, this group utilizes two speakers who have publicly dissident opinions about women’s ordination and the Church teaching on contraception. Catholic Cultures gives this group a cautionary rating in the fidelity category.
Another troubling aspect to this website is the presence of two people who hold dissident views at their Evangelical Catholic Institute. This is more significant because they only had three speakers at each institute. The first is Fr. Jim Bacik, a proponent of women's ordination who believes abortion should not be criminalized, and the second is Dr. William Portier, who attacks the Church's teaching on contraception among other things in his book "Creative Fidelity".
Interestingly, the presence of these questionable associates does not seem to be the main bone of contention in the rather fiery discussion that ensues. Using the word “evangelical” just pushes some people over the edge. They envision this group’s message as a push for more “fellowship” and “happy-clappy” liturgies. Evangelical is just one of those words that can raise red flags in much the same way “Spirit of Vatican II” does. I do understand this. Often when we have an Evangelical movement pushing us to form a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” it sounds like we become our own “magisterium”. The teaching authority of the Church, the real Magisterium, is left out of the equation. I know I worry that a group that is worried about numbers may be tempted to water down the message and make it more “friendly” in an effort to grow the flock.
Yet we really shouldn’t flee from the word “evangelical”. We are unquestionably called to evangelize. I view this blog as a form of evangelization. Wearing a crucifix or Marian medal is a form of evangelization. Talking about my relationships with the saints is a form of evangelization. Sharing my relationship with Christ, specifically through the Eucharist is evangelization. The key is my evangelization never separates Christ from His Church. I think that is the fear some are trying to express as they vehemently denounce the idea of Evangelical Catholics. They fear the personal relationship with Christ is being touted as something distinct from the Catholic Church.
I am not going to pass judgment on the Evangelical Catholic Institute. I will say that including speakers that publicly oppose the Magisterium does not encourage me to utilize their services. There are many other groups that are completely and unquestionably loyal to the Magisterium for me to waste my time sifting through their materials double-checking their orthodoxy.
I never like descriptive adjectives to precede the label Catholic. We are Catholic—period. Evangelical Catholic sounds like it is something new and different. We have been called to evangelize since the time of the Apostles. Perhaps this group would stir less controversy if they emphasized their Catholicity more. If they were called the Catholic Evangelization Institute they would be less vague about their mission: to spread the message of Christ’s One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and teach others how to do it as well.