RENEW and RENEW 2000 

RENEW is a parish renewal program begun in the Archdiocese of Newark in the 1970s under Archbishop Peter Gerety. Promoted through the RENEW International office of the Archdiocese it has spread to hundreds of dioceses in this country and overseas. 

In preparation for the Great Jubilee a second program was established called RENEW 2000. Its literature states,

RENEW 2000 is a thorough spiritual renewal and evangelization process designed for parish life in the 21st century. It incorporates themes suggested by Pope John Paul II for pastoral life in this new millennium and implements his call for a new evangelization.

The RENEW concept envisions small faith communities in which groups of ten or so people meet for prayer and discussion of the faith over a period of months and even years. As an evangelization or re-evangelization method, it was designed to be non-confrontational so as to encourage people to a deeper participation in parish life without feeling threatened by doctrinal or moral  issues. 

However, this approach has been subject to tremendous criticism over the years. Being non-catechetical and non-judgmental it has been accused of being subject to manipulation by those who wish to further dissent within the Church, as they attempt to build up communities at odds with the hierarchical Church. This charge gained even more weight with the publication of the RENEW 2000 materials, which contained contributions from known dissenters, changes of liturgical texts to conform with feminist ideology,  new age prayers and ideas and other heterodox material.

These charges were taken seriously by the former Archbishop of Newark, now Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick, who ordered that the deficient materials be changed. I am not aware of the current status of those changes. In the interim many dioceses have continued to use the materials, with some bishops forbidding the use of the objectionable Leader Books. However, even when these problematic texts are not used, the design of the RENEW and RENEW 2000 programs continue to make them greatly dependant upon the orthodoxy of the local clerical and lay leadership who conduct them, and thus subject to great variability in their implementation throughout the Church.

Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

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