R.R. Reno suggests two competing currents for the future of Catholicism: one emphasizing an "ecumenical imperative," and another a little too consumed by the "Catholic presumption of self-sufficiency." Not to "read deeply in Protestant theology and to draw upon its traditions of worship, hymnody, and piety" is foolish, Reno says. But ultimately a "conviction that our future comes from within provides an important freedom"—one that resists vacillating trends from both the secular and Protestant realms.

I think this is more or less correct (although I'm not sold that deep study of Protestant theology as such is prima facie essential). And the author's further point, that both progressives and traditionalists (or whatever) can, when they lose sight of this, latch onto reactionary stances in almost any direction, is well put.

What I'm less certain about is whether Reno offers a convincing alternative to the "complacency" he warns against as a natural danger for "intramural" Catholicism.

Reno likens the methodology of Vatican II to George Weigel's "evangelical Catholicism," insofar as each emphasizes an outgrowth of, rather than a reaction to, the Roman Church. The question remains, however—and Aaron Taylor touches on it here—whether a focus on outgrowth per se is really enough, or whether something indispensable is grasped only through its circumstances. Faith as a "fundamentally personal encounter" for Weigel is, according to both Taylor and John Cavadini, an inversion of sound ecclesiology and a Catholic understanding of the sacraments. (There is certainly room for a "personal encounter" as Pope Benedict famously showed in the first lines of Deus caritas est, but that pertains specifically to "being Christian"—i.e., a member of the Church, the totus Christus.) On the other hand, something very different occurs with Vatican II, which Reno compares to "evangelical Catholicism" through its lack of Protestant references. And to downplay this difference is to downplay quite a lot.

The division we're given between an "ecumenical imperative" and a "presumption of self-sufficiency" might be descriptively helpful, but it can't be normative. That's because ecumenism has no intelligible basis outside of a presumption of self-sufficiency; and imperatives require sufficiency to work.

To return to Reno's initial concern—the "danger of complacency"—it seems that viewing this division as anything other than descriptive is the real genesis of the problem. It's how we get to conclusions (I'm still not sold) that "not to read deeply in Protestant theology...is foolish." A very real complacency creeps in, here, when the causes of a more evangelical age of the faith are not fully considered. It's not very helpful to say simply that the Church's future arises from within without saying from within what. According to Taylor and Cavadini, Weigel gets at least some of that part wrong. And it doesn't look like Reno gives much room to sort it out first before committing to "evangelical Catholicism" as a salutary model.

I find it interesting that "evangelical" has some predicative value alongside "Catholicism," but that it falls flat in less determined phrases. "Catholicism should be more evangelical" sounds about right, but "I'm an evangelical Catholic"—something's off. (The same is true for almost any other adjective, including "radical.") There's another layer of analysis that's missing, one having to do with how far we can predicate upon the "really real" and how helpful frameworks are in identifying such things. Those aren't questions being asked here, as the descriptive-normative conflation shows. Although they're hinted at quite a bit elsewhere, and I suspect they'll see more light in days to come.

Andrew M. Haines is the editor and founder of Ethika Politika, and co-founder and chief operating officer at Fiat Insight.