Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church, George Weigel.
The Good Old Days may never have existed, but surely there were better days. Worse days, too. It is also not certain that these days are the best or worst days, nor is there any guarantee that only delights or horrors await us in the future.
Yet it’s hard to find anybody involved in the Church, and even those outside of it, who isn’t keen on reform. However it is now, most suspect, isn’t ideal. Things need fixing. Traditionalists desire antiquarianism and imagine “that the remedy for chaos and confusion…is a return to the Baltimore Catechism” without realizing “that the cultural circumstances in which [it reigned] no longer obtain.” Progressives suffer from “Catholic Presentitis—a lust for ‘relevance’ according to post-modern culture and intellectual canons”.
Weigel spanks both traditionalists and progressives and makes himself seen to be doing it early so that neither side can dismiss his pleas as partisan. But it’s clear that except for gently needling some ate up (that’s some military lingo for you) Lefrebvrist’s, “much more consequential” is the “psychological schism on the left (in which large numbers of Catholics have ceased to believe and process what the Catholic Church believes and professes, but have remained formally, or canonically, within the Church’s boundaries).” This is particularly so in Catholic academia where the game appears to be denying dogma in the cleverest way possible.
Weigel has directions for polishing every facet of ecclesiastical life, from catechism classes to pope picking. Some rubbing is gentle (“consider younger men for the office of bishop”, replace “trashy liturgical hymns”), some require more elbow grease (correcting the liturgical calendar to avoid “biblical insanity” and to insist butts are placed in pews when required), to still others which need (to complete the overworked metaphor) harsh rasps (insistence on celibacy, forbidding men “oriented” towards males the priesthood to avoid future abuse scandals, and to start talking like you believed what you were saying).
About that last requirement, here is a quick quiz. What is the common thread among these phrases, all in common use?
- “Catholics believe abortion is wrong.”
- “The Church teaches that Jesus was both man and God.”
- “According to the catechism, salvation can only be found in the Church.”
- “The Pope agrees that marriage is only between one man, one woman.”
None of these proposition contain a definite claim of truth. It might be true that “Catholics believe abortion is wrong” but it does not follow from this that abortion is wrong. Neither does it follow that marriage can only be one-biological-man, one-biological-woman because the Pope likes it.
If one wants to claim that abortion is wrong, then the best way to do it is to state, “Abortion is wrong.” That is clear, distinct, and unambiguous. If somebody asks why, it can be proved by saying (for example) “Abortion is the killing on an innocent human life and the killing of an innocent human life is wrong.” The basis for the argument is set.
If you want to claim the divinity of Jesus, then say so shorty. If it is true that salvation can only be had via the Church (i.e. the Body of Christ), then say it plainly—especially from the pulpit and in the seminaries. “It is not a truth for Catholics only, or for Christians only, but a truth that demands of its very nature to be shared with everyone.”
The central reason for the Great Divide, Weigel suggests, starts with the split on the gnostic line: knowable reality versus pleasant stories. “The most prominent example [of] the New Gnosticism is the sexual revolution, which sexualizes everything while concurrently insisting that maleness and femaleness are social constructs—not givens that reveal deep truths about the human condition”. This will ring true to any close observer. But if this is so—if sexuality is a social construct—one wonders where the social constructs arose. What were their templates? Nature? Biology? These can’t be so: they are denied. Skip it.
Weigel is a Big Name, so it’s likely his book will at least be noticed (but perhaps not read) by the Powers. Whether it’s heeded is anybody’s guess.