Why Be So Harsh on George Weigel? Because of What Weigel Said.

Why Be So Harsh on George Weigel? Because of What Weigel Said. April 10, 2014

dfaddf Seen on the 64 line in Rome.
Seen on the 64 line in Rome.

I’ve penned an Immigration Manifesto with Sam Rocha over at Ethika Politika. Our displeasure with George Weigel’s reaction to the actions of the bishops is one important side issues. We might seem to be unduly harsh on the old Neo-Con icon, but he has only himself to blame for it. But George Weigel should also be praised for it.

You’ll see why.

Patrick Deneen in his “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching” is correct to identify the Neo-Conservatives and the Communio Catholics (David L. Schindler is the most recognizable figure from the latter group) as the two groups fighting for the heart of American Catholicism long after left-liberal Catholicism has given up the ghost.

Yet, there is also an important backstory here that spans over a generation (JP2) and at least two continents.

Not too long ago I wrote about a group of young Polish scholars who have started the journal Pressje, which has rebelled against their indoctrination at the Tertio Millennio Seminar. The JP2 generation here in the States was also heavily influenced by Weigel, Novak, and Neuhaus and their interpretation of Church teaching. There was something inspiring about their no holds barred attack on “Cafeteria Catholicism” that either brought us back into the fold, or kept us from leaving it.

I recently wrote an article for Pressje (link in Polish) arguing that something went wrong with the Neo-Cons in the 21st century. Things started falling apart when the Neo-Cons rejected the JP2 and Benedict on the following issues: their environmentalism, their rejection of capital punishment, their opposition to the Iraq Wars, and their severe critiques of real existing capitalism.

If what Weigel et al. have been doing lately isn’t Cafeteria Catholicism, then I don’t know what the heck is.

Michael Sean Winters, author of Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats, perfectly captures the spirit of our generation’s simultaneous indebtedness to and rejection of the Neo Conservatives in a piece he penned several days ago “Weigel criticizes +O’Malley, bishops over border Mass.

What he wrote almost totally mirrors what I wrote for Pressje. Therefore quoting the following passage from Winters will save me the painful exercise of quoting myself:

“It is worth remembering that Weigel has spent much of his public career castigating liberal Catholics for putting their politics before their religion, for adopting a secular lens when a religious lens is called for. He has fretted about so-called ‘cafeteria Catholics’ who pick and choose among the doctrines of the Church. Now, he stands guilty of the same crime he has so frequently accused others of, cafeteria Catholicism through and through. Weigel does not like the offerings on immigration, so he moves on to something more to his taste.”

The JP2 generation has learned the Cafteria Catholic lesson from Weigel well. Only too well.

And this is why we fight.


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