George Weigel has lots of counsel for Roman Catholics in the New Year, especially how to endure a church going through a serious crisis on many fronts. None of his advice involves other Christian communions as an alternative:
During and after the grim martial law period in the early 1980s, many freedom-minded Poles would greet each other on January 1 with a sardonic wish: “May the new year be better than you know it’s going to be!” As 2020 opens that salutation might well be adopted by Catholics concerned about the future of the Church, for more hard news is coming. So let’s get some of that out of the way, preemptively, before considering some resolutions that might help us all deal with the year ahead in faith, hope, and charity.
Financial scandals in the Vatican will intensify. It’s been clear for some months now that the dam of secrecy, masking irresponsibility (and worse), is cracking. So expect more disturbing revelations about corrupt self-dealing, misuse of charitable funds, stupid investments, and general incompetence behind the Leonine Wall.
…Aggressive and politically motivated state attorneys general will continue to issue reports on historic sexual abuse cases. The response from cowed Church leaders will be tepid, at best. And what will get lost again—as it got lost after the now-paradigmatic Pennsylvania attorney general’s report—are two realities ignored by too many media outlets, too many institutions with responsibility for the safety of the young, and too many Catholics: that the Catholic Church today is arguably the safest environment for young people in the country; and that, from bitter experience, the Catholic Church has learned some things about creating safe environments from which the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public schools, and public school teachers’ unions could all learn.
That is not a description that should encourage Protestants to convert to Rome. It looks bad.
So what should Roman Catholics do (and those tempted to convert)? The answer is not go to confession, and go to Mass:
Resolve to be a missionary disciple at the retail level. Amid these and other troubles, concerned Catholics constantly ask me, “What can I do?” To which I always respond, “Between now and next Easter, try and bring at least five disaffected Catholics back to Sunday Mass, and try to introduce at least one unevangelized person to Christ.” Retail evangelization is essential to authentic Catholic reform; it’s also deeply satisfying. Let’s get on with it, irrespective of the troubles.
Resolve to limit your exposure to the Catholic blogosphere. In 2019, many Catholic websites went bonkers. There is no need to click on sites that specialize in all-hysteria or all-propaganda all-the-time. If you want reliable Catholic news, visit the websites of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register. If you want sane commentary on the turbulent Catholic scene, go to the websites of Catholic World Report, First Things, and The Catholic Thing. That’s more than enough for anyone. Limiting your blogosphere browsing to these sites, while ignoring the hysteria-mongers and propagandists, will lower your blood pressure while keeping you well-informed.
…Resolve to deepen your spiritual life by serious spiritual reading. A good place to start would be a recently published book by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, OP: Grace in Season: The Riches of the Gospel in Seventy Sermons.
Resolve to thank the good priests and bishops you know for their sacrifice and service. They deserve it.
So to brace for the year ahead, Roman Catholics should become formally like Protestants — they should practice the Great Commission and evangelize, read healthy literature, and be thankful for the good priests and bishops (if they have any).
Would it kill a man who has participated in Evangelicals and Catholics Together since its inception to a kind word about Protestantism as a healthy alternative to Roman Catholicism?
Weigel may not intend it this way, but his position is one of Roman Catholic exceptionalism. Rome is the only true church that can save the world. If you have problems with the hierarchy, teachings, or worship, hunker down. American Roman Catholics may have achieved freedom from British Parliament’s tyranny, but they cannot be so liberated from the Vatican or bishops.
Image (Ave Maria Radio)