Evangelical Catholicism enters the public square with the voice of reason, grounded in gospel conviction.
Because it lives under two sovereigns, Evangelical Catholicism is bilingual. The gospel cannot be preached in any other language than its own: a language deeply shaped by the Sacred Scriptures, a language that has been revealed and received and is not to be recast when the culture suggests that the Church do so. Yet in addressing public policy in pluralistic and secular societies, Evangelical Catholicism speaks its second language, which is the language of reason.
The ordained leaders of the Church, and the laity who are Christ’s principal witnesses in the public square, do not enter public life proclaiming, “The Church teaches . . .” When the question at issue is an immoral practice, they enter the debate saying, “This is wicked; it cannot be sanctioned by the law and here is why, as any reasonable person will grasp.” When the issue at hand is the promotion of some good, the first thing they say is, “This is good; it’s a requirement of justice that the law acknowledge it; and here is why it’s both good and just.”
This use of the language of reason is a matter of good democratic manners, of speaking in such a way that our arguments can be engaged by our fellow citizens. It is also a matter of political common sense: If you want an argument to be heard, engaged, and accepted, you make it in a language that those you are seeking to persuade can understand. It is, furthermore, a matter of calling the bluff of those who insist that the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion, euthanasia, and marriage is a “sectarian” teaching that cannot be “imposed” on a pluralistic society.
Evangelical Catholicism draws the will, the energy, the strength, and, if necessary, the stubbornness to continue defending and promoting the dignity of the human person from the power of the gospel. It speaks publicly in secular, pluralistic democracies in such a way that its words can be heard and the truths they express can be engaged by everyone. Only religious and secular sectarians will find a contradiction here.
Evangelical Catholicism awaits with eager anticipation the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory, and until that time, Evangelical Catholicism is ordered to mission—to the proclamation of the gospel for the world’s salvation.
The Church does not have a mission, as if “mission” were one among a dozen things the Church does. The Church is a mission, and everything the Church does is ordered to that mission, which is the proclamation of the gospel for the conversion of the world to Christ. Thus mission and mission-effectiveness measure everything and everyone in the Church.