An evangelical Catholic is, quite simply, a Catholic who is evangelical. That is, an evangelical Catholic is a member of the Roman Catholic Church who is loyal to the pope, faithful to Catholic doctrine, observant of the sacraments, and possessing a desire to spread Catholicism into new areas.
George Weigel, author of Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, gives a more detailed definition: “An evangelical Catholic is a Catholic who has absorbed the deep reform of the Church that was begun in the late 19th century under Pope Leo XIII, a reform that was accelerated at the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) and given its authoritative interpretation for the 21st century by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Evangelical Catholics understand themselves as members of a communion of disciples, formed by friendship with Jesus, by Word, and by sacrament, for the fulfillment of the Great Commission” (“Pope Francis Is an Evangelical Catholic, Catholic Theologian Says,” an interview with George Weigel in the Christian Post by Napp Nazworth, http://www.christianpost.com/news/pope-francis-is-an-evangelical-catholic-catholic-theologian-says-92247/#ThsKIgerKzRLLPDS.99, accessed June 6, 2016).
Many people see the word evangelical and assume that evangelical Catholicism represents a doctrinal shift that brings Catholic creeds into closer alignment with the catechisms of evangelical Protestantism. But it’s a false assumption. As Weigel writes, “Evangelical Catholicism is not a substitute for Roman Catholicism” (Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, George Weigel, Basic Books, 2013, emphasis his). Evangelical Catholics still equate oral tradition with the Bible, still obey the magisterium, and still mix works with grace in seeking salvation. What makes them “evangelical” is their goal of re-packaging the Catholic faith and presenting it in a modern context, taking into account the world’s changing conditions. Ecumenism is a major priority for evangelical Catholics.
A recent pope promoted evangelical Catholicism as a way to open people up “to a full sense of human existence.” Pope John Paul II wrote, “Great riches are waiting to be discovered through an intensification of the missionary effort of each of the lay faithful. Such an individual form of apostolate can contribute greatly to a more extensive spreading of the Gospel” (Christifideles Laici, 28).
The Vatican II Council did not change Catholic doctrine. Evangelical Catholicism is still Catholicism. The serious doctrinal disagreements between Catholics and biblical Christians remain.