This leaflet published in Australia is reproduced here in order that English and Catholics on this side of the world may be extremely wary of the content and drive of the whole RENEW Programme. In Australia the leaflet was entitled "Renewing the Crisis of Faith".
RENEW: Be on your Guard
The RENEW programme being introduced in a number of Australian Catholic dioceses will affect the lives - and the faith - of thousands of Catholics.
The programme describes itself as a response to the situation of society and the Church today.
The situation of society is a cause of concern, and even alarm, to many people of all faiths. The situation of the Catholic Church is likewise a cause of concern and alarm to many Catholics....
Parents seeing their children
abandoning the Faith;
In this situation comes RENEW, and it will be grasped by many anxious Catholics and their priests as perhaps a solution to the present crisis.
They will be disappointed because the RENEW "process" is itself part of the crisis.
Despite appearances, the approach on which it is based is the same as that which has undermined catechetics and created dissent and rebellion in the Church.
Catholics faithful to Vatican II and the Holy Father should refuse to take any part in it.
This pamphlet briefly explains why.
THE BACKGROUND OF RENEW
RENEW originated in the United States, where it has come under strong criticism prompting an investigation by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
It was developed in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1978 in the wake of a "Call To Action" conference in Detroit. This conference was dominated by radical elements demanding that the Church ordain women priests, approve of artificial birth control, abortion and Marxism and turn itself into a democratic, non-hierarchical church - to mention just a few of the conference resolutions. (At the end of 1986, RENEW groups in the American Archdiocese of Milwaukee made similar demands.)
The "Call to Action" conference was influenced by an American Marxist, Saul Alinsky, who advocated revolution in the Church. The RENEW symbol of a tree was adopted from his writings.
RENEW has since spread throughout North America and abroad. The promoters of RENEW in Australia have gone to considerable lengths to emphasise that the American programme has been rewritten for Australia, and that therefore criticisms of it do not apply to the Australian version.
But, however the written material is adapted, the basic process of RENEW cannot be changed. And it is the process, based on personal experience, that is wrong.
At the end of 1986, the Committee on Doctrine of the American National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement evaluating RENEW. They expressed some general commendation of its aims, its ability to "reach out" to people, its leadership training and its resource materials.
After giving their recommendations in four paragraphs the Bishops devoted the remaining four pages of their document to criticism of vital, basic aspects of RENEW. The shortcomings they pinpoint are all typical of attitudes and approaches which have led to the current crises in the Church.
However, the developers of the Australian version of RENEW claim the "few" criticisms of the American Bishops are not applicable to RENEW Australia.
THE PURPOSE OF RENEW
The booklet giving an overview of the Australian RENEW programme, entitled "Why, What, How?" states (p. 18) that Pope Paul VI reminded us in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi that the Church's principal task is "to carry on the work of announcing the Gospel of Jesus".
It continues: "This is the central concern of RENEW to enable people to hear this same call".
Now the actual words of Pope Paul VI, quoted in the RENEW booklet, are : "The task of evangelising all people constitutes the central mission of the Church". The Church has always understood her mission of evangelising in terms of Our Lord's command to "go and teach all nations".
The central concern of RENEW therefore, should be to enable people to hear this teaching.
The Australian RENEW programme does not do this. Instead, its whole approach is based on the personal experiences of those taking part and their personal conclusions from reflecting on the Scripture.
"We're here to ... share our life experiences", says the Resource Booklet for Small Group Leaders on p. 39. On p. 13, it states: "The aims of the RENEW Group Discussion process are to provide people with a special sense of belonging and a tangible experience of the Church as a íCommunity of Disciplesí."
Another booklet, "Suggestions for Small Groups", states (p. 3): "Our personal experience of this invitation from God is at the heart of the Christian faith."
(This emphasis on personal and shared experience and the "community" model of the Church is precisely one of the concerns voiced by the American Bishops - which supposedly do not apply to the Australian version.)
The developers of the Australian programme have said that in future resource materials, "an even stronger emphasis will be placed on the teachings of the Church".
But built into the RENEW "process" is a factor that enables sidestepping of the Church's teaching.
"OPENNESS TO THE SPIRIT"
The Australian RENEW programme places much emphasis on the need for participants to be open to one another and "the Spirit".
"We're here to listen to one another", says the Resource Booklet for Small Group Leaders (p. 39). On p. 9: "The RENEW Small Groups offer a fresh opportunity for people… to listen to each other's stories, to listen to the Word". The same booklet (p. 13) tells group leaders: "Effective leadership involves ... contributing towards the development of . . . an openness to the workings of the Spirit within the group.
Saints and spiritual writers throughout the history of the Church have warned of the dangers of believing that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us directly. Our Lord Himself told His Apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring back to their minds those things that He had taught them (Jn 14:26).
In any gatherings of lay people, it is their role not to offer opinions or "experiences", but to remember, just as when we gather for the Eucharist, we remember.
In a lecture in Toronto in 1986, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned : "If we try to think of Jesus without the Church, our portrait is just another projection of our own self. Jesus will be found in obedience to His Church".
Moreover, the RENEW programme states (Resource Booklet, p. 26) that members of groups should "affirm" others' comments even if they do not agree with them, and declares: "We avoid making judgments about people's statements".
In other words, error is to be allowed the same freedom as truth. Under these conditions, there can be little room for teaching.
The RENEW process also employs psychological techniques adopted from humanistic behavioural science - techniques developed to modify and radically change people's values, beliefs and behaviour, so that the change takes place without the person even being aware of it.
On a practical level, RENEW has proved enormously expensive, with a mass of material produced for its three year course. RENEW has cost one diocese in Victoria at least $75,000. Parishioners taking part in planned giving should bc aware that part of their contributions will be going to finance RENEW.
The heresy known as Modernism and condemned at the beginning of this century by Pope St. Pius X denies the objective, factual, historical basis of faith. It denies the supernatural.
Much of the damage to the faith of Catholics in recent years has resulted from the influence of this heresy since Vatican II, in such areas as catechetics, moral theology and Biblical studies. The common element that pervades these areas, as the basis for determining belief or action, is "experience".
In catechetics, schoolchildren are told to find their faith in their "experiences". The Bible itself, we are told, is the fruit of the reflection, first of the Jews, and then the early Christians, on their "experiences". The Resurrection account, for example, is not a factual report of Christ rising physically from the tomb, but a way of expressing Christians' inner "experience" that His presence remained with them. This is not Catholic faith.
The RENEW process basis itself on the "experience" of its participants.
RENEW IS NOT CATHOLIC
Because of this, it can be expected that the results will be the same as in catechetics or scripture studies - an emptying out of the objective reality of Revelation, an ignoring of the Teaching Church and a watering down of Catholic belief.
Faith becomes a personal, subjective feeling; doctrine becomes a matter of opinion; and morality becomes a matter of conscience. The way is then open for the creation of a new, democratic, revolutionary Australian church, free of dogma, hierarchy - and Rome.
The RENEW materials disguise this by the selective use of quotations from Vatican II and the Popes. These quotations give it the appearance of being authorised by the Magisterium.
But the word "Catholic" is notable by its absence. The American RENEW programme has been used happily by Episcopalians, and some liberal Australian Protestants would be equally happy with the Australian version.
RENEW will not only not "nourish faith", as it claims, but will undermine and destroy it.