|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
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.