Open Letter to George Weigel

Please check out this wonderful open letter over at Solidarity Hall. It stands out for both its clarity and its charity. At a time when Catholics all over the world are rejoicing in the election of a new pope, Weigel retreats to a neocon journal to inform us that the pope will not be “Paul Krugman in a white cassock”. Well no, George, I don’t expect the pope to emulate a secular Jewish Nobel prize-winning economist whose main argument is that the Keynesian understanding of the economy has been vindicated by the Great Recession! George really needs to get beyond the narrow domestic walls of his American mindset.

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  • emmasrandomthoughts

    “George really needs to get beyond the narrow domestic walls of his American mindset.”

    Indeed. I think that American Christianity would become infinitely better if we could all do that. I remember a comment on a blog once about the argument about working vs. stay at home moms and which one was spiritually superior or sinful. The commentator said, “This argument wouldn’t make sense in the vast majority of the world. In many places, a mother wakes up, wraps her feet in newspaper, wraps her children’s feet in newspaper, and they all head down to the local dump to dig through the garbage, in the desperate hope that today her children will be able to eat.”

    Kind of put things in perspective.

  • dismasdolben

    The Right Wing, a.k.a. “Traditionalists” are howling their anger over the election of Pope Francis. This appears at one of their blogs. I hope it is true:

    ”In 2005 Benedict XVI gave a lecture on Mohammedanism at Regensburg University, at which he had taught for a time early in his priestly career. While quoting from an obscure medieval text, declared that the Prophet Mohammed, founder of the Islamic faith, was “evil and inhuman”, enraging the Muslim population and causing attacks on churches throughout the world before an apology was issued.

    Reacting within days to the statements, speaking through a spokesman to Newsweek Argentina, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio declared his “unhappiness” with the statements, made at the University of Regensburg in Germany, and encouraged many of his subordinates with the Church to do the same.

    “Pope Benedict’s statement don’t reflect my own opinions”, the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires declared.“These statements will serve to destroy in 20 seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years”.

    The Vatican reacted quickly, removing one subordinate, Joaquín Piña, the Archbishop of Puerto Iguazú, from his post within four days of his making similar statements to the Argentine national media, sending a clear statement to Cardinal Bergoglio that he would be next should he choose to persist.

    Reacting to the threats from Rome, Cardinal Bergoglio cancelled his plans to fly to Rome, choosing to boycott the second synod that Pope Benedict had called during his tenure as pontiff.

    “The only thing that didn’t happen to Bergoglio was being removed from his post”, wrote investigative journalist Horacio Verbitsky in his column in left-wing daily newspaper Página/24. “The Vatican was very quick to react,”

    18 March, 2013 07:29

  • Brian Martin

    While Mr. Weigel is clearly an intelligent man, he too often lets his opinion or perspective carry the way over facts. His attempt to paint the abuse by priests as primarily an issue of homosexuality as opposed to pedophilia in order to flog a favorite target…homosexual priests, was enough to significantly diminish his credibility in my humble opinion.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    I agree with and understand the impetus for your post vis-a-vis Weigel in light of Pope Francis’ election. I further get the desire to put a fine point on it all, given Weigel’s views. But I merely want to register an outsider’s view, so to speak, about this nexus of emotions.

    Somehow, It fills me with the greatest ennui to contemplate the utterly predictable coming acrobatics of people like Weigel in working overtime explaining and contextualizing EVERYTHING that Francis will produce. As great lover of the discipline of intellectual history, one of the less palatable sides of it is the eventual realization of some essential human silliness at the heart of human deliberations. It is not that we can’t improve and limit the amount of silliness and pure contradiction. Yet to me it seems that this can only realistically happen if, and only if, we admit from the git-go that NO position or view or even deepest religious experience or conviction, will be enough to keep things clean from this essential prevaricatory tendency of human rationality. So prepare yourself not for what MSW predicted– that Weigel will soon express “palpable unsease”. Not prepare thyself for the bizarre and wallflower-clever vortex of every Papal word that might seem to reject their very raison d’être. Thisis just what we human beings do, if we are not smart and authentic enough to grasp the essential folly.

    For the tragic part will be, that indeed, Pope Francis is actually giving some indications that he has the spiritual mojo to actually do something good for the world. If he even does a bit of it, you Catholics are going to have a lot more popularity than you have now. I happened to see a sermon he gave at a Mass at St. Anne’s Church, and when he spoke with conviction of the “abyss of God’ mercy” it was with a power that actually made one think this fellow actually had some spiritual sense of what that meant. Instead of the detritus given off verbally from the theological machine of “catechetics” that so many previously have engaged in habitually and seemingly inexorably. My point is, it does seem real, and there is chance that something significant will happen.

    Of course, that was what they said when Pio Nono first took office. Historically speaking, it can go in reverse in short order.

    I can well imagine a more dystopian scenario where, in confronting the “immovable object” of the Curia, he becomes a de fact new Pope Adrian the Eighth.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    I meant Adrian VII.

  • Kerberos

    From the link (for which, a great many thanks BTW):

    “In [Weigel’s book’s] Prologue, you [= Weigel] explain what you do not intend by this term: Evangelical Catholicism does not refer to borrowing techniques from the evangelical churches, nor to some particularly American religious ethos, nor to some particular response to the clerical abuse crisis.”

    ## That is a great deal of help – I took for granted that the phrase “Evangelical Catholicism” did refer to the Evangelical type of Christianity. If in fact it does not, to know this helps to avoid confusion. One is not alone in (apparently mistakenly) supposing that the phrase implies that that kind of Catholicism has a close affinity with Evangelical Christianity – an Irish Evangelical booklet complains of Evangelical Catholics for calling themselves “Evangelical”.

    Is Weigel’s understanding of the phrase “Evangelical Catholicism” the predominant or only one in US Catholicism, or, does his notion of “Evangelical Catholicism” represent the mind of one group among many in the USCC ? For the matter of that, is it possible to say whether “Evangelical Catholicism” is even familiar by name to the bulk of US Catholics ? If Weigel’s article – see link – is any guide, it appears to be “Church-ian” in emphasis, rather than Christ-ian; Christ gets two mentions, but is not central to the article. No Evangelical could have written it.

    I don’t see – at least from the link – what is so distinctive about that type of Catholicism as to earn it a specific adjective. Why give it a name at all ? Calling it “Evangelical” – especially with a capital E – is confusing. And the taxonomy of Christian groups & the ethos of each is quite confused already.

    “Indeed. I think that American Christianity would become infinitely better if we could all do that.”

    ## If only more Catholics thought like that. The same goes for us here in the UK, I think. I’m trying to work out what Weigel’s remark about the Pope means:

    “Pope Francis is also deeply committed to the Church’s service to and empowerment of the poor, as he made unmistakably clear in his ministry in Buenos Aires. But those Gospel-based commitments should not lead anyone to think that he will be Paul Krugman in a white cassock. That seems very unlikely.”

  • Kerberos


    “The Right Wing, a.k.a. “Traditionalists” are howling their anger over the election of Pope Francis.”

    ## Some are – but certainly not all. The SSPX isn’t, if the sspxDOTorg site is at all typical of the Society world-wide:

    “With the news of the election of Pope Francis, the Society of St. Pius X prays to Almighty God that He abundantly bestow on the new Sovereign Pontiff the graces necessary for the exercise of this heavy charge.

    Strengthened by Divine Providence, may the new pope “confirm his brethren in the Faith”[1], with the authority which St. Pius X proclaimed at the beginning of his pontificate:”

    There’s a very balanced (and howling-free) article on the Remnant site:

    ## I don’t think anyone will take issue with this (about 1/3 of the way down):

    “Traditional Catholics must have the good grace to wait for our new Holy Father to demonstrate where he is going and what shape his pontificate will take, while resolving to pray for him and encourage our children to do the same in the meantime.

    For its part, The Remnant will present articles such as the following which seek to present an unbiased appraisal of the man, the country from which he comes, and the actions and words of Pope Francis as they unfold from this point forward.”

    IMHO, there are perfectly good reasons to have reservations about the new Pope. One can have them, without denying he is validly elected. If he turns out to be like Pius IX or Pius XII, so much the better.

  • dismasdolben

    Well, my friend, if they aren’t “howling” about him now, I predict they will be, later:

    The era of “Restoration”–of an attempt to repeal aggiornamento and replace it with ressourcement is OVER!

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    Thank you for drawing attention to this article. As I like to do, all I can do is invoke Mr. Burns from The Simpson’s; “Excellent!”

  • Kerberos

    Thanks v. much for the link – this pontificate will be interesting to watch. If he sees no difficulty for the Church in allowing gay unions, that is excellent news.

    The problem, if that so, will be in explaining how this fits with previous Catholic teaching – it might agree with the 1975 “Note” from the S.C.D.F., but the 1986 Declaration of the S.C.D.F excludes the possibility. The late Fr. John Harvey (who was an important influence in the framing of the 1986 Declaration), the founder of Courage, made very clear in his books that he was opposed to gay unions – in view of his long experience of working with gay people, that counts for something. Apologies if you know all this.

    I definitely want gay people to be fully accommodated fully in the CC, rather existing in a sort of shadow world, as at present – but not at a cost that injures the faith of other Catholics. Maybe the U-turns that appear to be taking place in Catholic teaching are needed for the Church to be fully Christian, and not just Catholic; maybe they are “paradigm shifts”; but they need to be persuasively accounted for somehow, in a way that is properly theological, and faithful both to the Church’s Tradition, and her mind. Otherwise many who have had faith in the Church’s teaching are going to feel betrayed, used, deceived. To explain how these shifts are legitimate would be a great act of charity, and a work of spiritual mercy. That is just the kind of things Popes are competent to help the Church with.