First of all, I wish to thank His Grace, Archbishop John J. Myers, for the invitation to give one of the Gerety Lectures during the year of celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Foundation of Immaculate Conception Seminary of the Archdiocese of Newark. I also thank Monsignor Robert F. Coleman, Rector of the Seminary, with whom I was privileged to share some years of the study of Canon Law in the 1980s, for his assistance in making the arrangements for my presentation and for the warm hospitality of the Seminary.
While I am honored to make some modest contribution to the work of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History, I am particularly pleased that my contribution is part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Immaculate Conception Seminary. The seminary is the heart of a diocese. As Our Lord Himself made clear, from the very beginning of His public ministry, by His call of the Apostles, the life of the Church depends upon the service of worthy shepherds who act in the person of Our Lord, Head and Shepherd of the flock, in every time and place. The Bishop who gives his first and best attention to the seminary will thereby give a true shepherd's care to all the faithful entrusted to him by Our Lord. My presence with you, this evening, is meant, in a particular way, to express heartfelt [End Page 4] congratulations to the Archdiocese of Newark, whose faithful have so steadfastly and generously supported the work of the Archdiocesan seminary, and to underline the fundamental importance of the continued support of Immaculate Conception Seminary for the life of the Church in the Archdiocese, now and in the future.
My presentation responds to the work of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History by addressing the present situation of the Church in a totally secularized culture and the response of the Church to the culture of our time. The response is a new evangelization. After treating the question of the new evangelization, in some depth, especially in the teaching of the Venerable, soon to be Blessed, Pope John Paul II, and of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI and of Pope Benedict XVI, I will give particular attention to the state of the Church's canonical discipline and its irreplaceable role in the work of the new evangelization. While the presentation addresses a number of particular phenomena in the recent history of the Church, it seeks to interpret those phenomena within the perspective of the organic life of the Church, handed down to us, in an unbroken line, from Our Lord's consecration and commissioning of Saint Peter and, with him, of the College of the Apostles. While the question which I am addressing pertains to the life of the universal Church, I trust that its application to the life of the Church in the United States of America will be sufficiently evident, so that I serve faithfully the purpose of the Archbishop Gerety Fund for Ecclesiastical History.
The Call to the New Evangelization in the Magisterium of Pope John Paul II
The pontificate of Pope John Paul II may be rightly described as a tireless call to recognize the Church's challenge to be faithful to Her divinely-given mission in a totally secularized society and to respond to the challenge by means of a new evangelization. A new evangelization is teaching the faith through preaching, catechesis and all forms of Catholic education; celebrating the faith in the Sacraments and in their extension through prayer and devotion, and living the faith through the practice of the virtues, all as if for the first time, that is, with the engagement and energy of the first disciples and of the first missionaries to our native place.
In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, "On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the [End Page 5] World," the Venerable Pope John Paul II described the contemporary situation of the Church in the world with these words:
Whole countries and nations where religion and the...