Video: George Weigel on the conclave and the 21st-century church

posted at 9:31 am on March 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, I got an opportunity to meet one of the more public voices of Catholic intellectualism, George Weigel, whose new book Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church I’m presently reading. If John Thavis’ The Vatican Diaries is a must-read for journalists hoping to understand what they see at this conclave (and it is), Weigel’s book is key to understanding the long view of the crossroads at which the Catholic Church finds itself.  While most believe that the transformation of the church came during the Vatican II council in the 1960s, Weigel points back to more than 90 years before, when Pope Leo XIII brought a new vitality and relevance to Catholicism, of which Vatican II was another step.

That’s why people who insist on seeing a progressive/traditionalist or right/left tension in the Church miss the point, Weigel explains, and miss the fact that those tensions are leftovers from a centuries-old reform that Leo XIII, John XXIII, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have moved past.  The Counter-Reformation model of catechetical devotion won’t work in this age, and the church needs a new kind of evangelical model to spread the Gospel:

The book and the interview speak for themselves, but I’ll add a couple of more thoughts about the interview.  First, I’ve only just started reading this book, so I can’t offer a traditional review, but what I’ve already read in non-linear order has been very good, especially Weigel’s arguments about the modern age being a New Gnosticism and its challenges.  You may or may not agree with all of Weigel’s conclusions (so far I haven’t disagreed with any), but he’s a compelling read.

Second, he’s also a pretty gracious host/interviewee.  This was shot in his apartment after he invited me to come do the interview.  Since I’m walking everywhere, and since I’m not familiar with Rome’s quirky-but-charming streets, it took me a little time to get there.  He gave me all the time I needed to do the interview, and gave me a signed copy of his book after finding out I’d bought it on Kindle.

Weigel also contributes to National Review, so watch there for more of his thoughts on this and many other topics.

HAatV-560


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I’m suppose to care about this because?

bgibbs1000 on March 10, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Ed, you seem to have a audio problem with Mr Weigel. Your voice comes across fine.

whbates on March 10, 2013 at 9:49 AM

I’m suppose to care about this because?

bgibbs1000 on March 10, 2013 at 9:39 AM

If you don’t care why are you commenting?

whbates on March 10, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Mr. Weigel always seems to be a couple steps ahead of the majority of Catholics, yet, while reading “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton it seems we have fought these battles before and the Church has always prevailed.

fourdeucer on March 10, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Weigel’s analysis of the detrimental influence of gnosticism on the culture at large and within the Church is interesting.

Lucky for Ed that you got both the interview and a signed copy of the first edition of what is likely to be a classic.

workingclass artist on March 10, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Interesting interview, Ed. Thanks for posting.

simkeith on March 10, 2013 at 10:27 AM

Hey, not everything here has to be about politics and crises. :)

TMOverbeck on March 10, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Mr. Morrissey, if this lengthy quote is out of bounds or does not conform to your rules for commenting please delete it and excuse me.
This lengthy quote from “The Everlasting Man” by G. K. Chesterton is just as germane today as it was in 1925.

“The curious fact is this, that the very heresies which the early Church is blamed for crushing testify to the unfairness for which she is blamed. In so far as something deserved the blame, it was precisely the things that she is blamed for blaming. In so far as something was merely a superstition, she herself condemned that superstition. In so far as something was a mere reaction into barbarism, she herself resisted it because it was a reaction into barbarism. In so far as something was a fad of a fading empire, that died and deserved to die, it was the Church alone that killed it. The Church is reproached for being exactly what the heresy was repressed for being. The explanations of the evolutionary historians and higher critics do really explain why Arianism, Gnosticism, and Nestorianism were born and also why they died. They do not explain why the Church was born and why she refuses to die. Above all, they do not explain why should have made war on the evils she is supposed to share”.

fourdeucer on March 10, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Indeed. Over the years, I’ve notice no change in the truths the Church defends, but I do notice new ways of expressing those truths.

Of course, there are those who think the exposition of those truths should not change, and they have left the Church. Here are a bunch of what I would call “Protestant Catholics” — who are anything but evangelical in their worship:

http://www.olvrc.com/

At this site we discover that unless you are immersed completely at baptism, you are not a Catholic. If you have taken the Host into your hands, you are not a Catholic. If you show up for Mass in shorts, blue jeans, t-shirts, etc., or celebrated the Mass in any other language than Latin and Greek, you are not Catholic. If you have celebrated the Mass in the Vatican II form, with the priest and altar turned toward the people, you are not Catholic. Catholicism stops for these people before Pope John XXIII.

http://www.olvrc.com/documents/Church.Age.pdf

If you belong to the American Catholic Church, your religion came into being in the 1960′s at Vatican II, which was a conclave of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Cardinals, and Protestant advisors.

One Sunday when I was in Aurora, I almost chose this church to fulfill my Sunday obligation. I’m glad I picked through the website before going there. I went instead to a church quite a bit further away — St. Pius X.

Now, the difference between St. Pius X and my home church of St. Augustine here in Culver City seems cultural, although the forms of celebration are the same — during the Prayer of the Faithful, the evils of abortion were mentioned three times in the one Mass at St. Pius, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard that topic of prayer at St. Augustine.

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Weigel’s analysis of the detrimental influence of gnosticism on the culture at large and within the Church is interesting.

workingclass artist on March 10, 2013 at 10:26 AM

An emphasis on faith alone (in which believing is separated from acting) is at the root of gnosticism.

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM

…and the church needs a new kind of evangelical model to spread the Gospel:

*Ahem* The church had better first figure out just what The Gospel IS before it can “spread” it, don’t you think?

Maybe, just maybe, “new” isn’t what it should be looking for?

Just a suggestion.

Cleombrotus on March 10, 2013 at 11:41 AM

I’m suppose to care about this because?

bgibbs1000 on March 10, 2013 at 9:39 AM

U R N IDIOT. You clicked, you read, you commented. Only you know the answer to the question you ask.

cat-scratch on March 10, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Cleombrotus on March 10, 2013 at 11:41 AM

New, in this sense: From age to age, He gathers to Himself a people. The gathered people will differ in culture and language, but there are certain things in which they will not differ. The ways in which they differ from their ancestors is “new” — all else is “old”.

The Church is of the Gospel and is the manifestation of the Gospel in this world — It certainly knows what It is.

New modes of presentation (evangelism) may be invented, but all must be true to the Gospel.

After all, the Internet did not exist 75 years ago, and yet many modes of communication are now utterly dependent upon it.

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

An emphasis on faith alone (in which believing is separated from acting) is at the root of gnosticism.

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:25 AM

The danger of gnosticism is it’s exclusivity and material relativism which leads to errors and the encroachment of superstition, which leads to confusion and schism.

It’s an ancient enemy almost as old as another ancient enemy…Paganism.

Catholicism in and of itself is simple when approached with a simple heart.

The Gnostics muddy the reality of a vibrant and unchanged faith.

These folks did the same thing in Judaism.

They are a confused lot…the Gnostics constantly shifting from one theory to the next in perpetual flux of gaming the system, so to speak.

workingclass artist on March 10, 2013 at 11:49 AM

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:21 AM

I never took Communion in the Hand (Just seemed wrong to me)

And I always take it from the Priest (Just seems right to me).

Today’s prayer from Father Z’s blog. He has a history of the prayer and links at his blog.

“Something that will slowly but surely become – again- an annual exspectation, is the traditional “Prayer over the people” at the end of Mass during Lent….

ORATIO SUPER POPULUM (2002MR):
Tuere, Domine, supplices tuos, sustenta fragiles,
et inter tenebras mortalium ambulantes
tua semper luce vivifica,
atque a malis omnibus clementer ereptos,
ad summa bona pervenire concede.

MY LITERAL RENDERING:
Defend, O Lord, your humble ones, sustain the fragile,
and by your light always breathe life into
those walking amidst the shadows of mortal things,
and grant them, having been mercifully snatched away from all evils,
to attain to the highest of all goods.

CURRENT ICEL VERSION (2011):
Look upon those who call to you, O Lord,
and sustain the weak;
give life by your unfailing light
to those who walk in the shadow of death,
and bring those rescued by your mercy from every evil
to reach the highest good.
Through Christ our Lord.

I have in mind especially those who are in harm’s way…”

http://wdtprs.com/blog/2013/03/wdtprs-laetare-sunday-prayer-over-the-people-walking-in-the-shadow-of-death-2/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wdtprs%2FDhFa+%28Fr.+Z%27s+Blog+-+What+Does+The+Prayer+Really+Say%3F%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

May God protect those on Pilgrimage to Rome, those covering the conclave for the rest of us and those entrusted to safeguard the Pilgrims waiting for our next Pope.

workingclass artist on March 10, 2013 at 12:04 PM

unclesmrgol on March 10, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Two things, uncle. (I don’t want to start a flame war here)

First, when the Catholic Church figures out that its doctrines and policies and “The Gospel” are not the same thing, it’ll be on its way.

Second, we cannot build a genuine community on the internet. I’m seeing the same thing in the Evangelical church. The emphasis on “new and improved” ways and means to “reach the lost”. Electric guitars, drums, and catchy tunes, were the last generational means to do so and they have failed to either create a vibrant Christian community that rivals the world in its influences, or to dramatically deepen the spiritual lives of those taken in by it.

No, what the church fails to grasp is that it is exactly “the world” that it is embracing when it attempts to forge a “new” approach to “evangelism” since it is “the world” that is changing. The Gospel, the real Gospel, that is, is eternal and unchanging and it doesn’t need new expressions to reach the soul.

What the church wants is an easy way to salvation – seeker friendly – instead of a call to “deny yourself, and take up your cross daily and follow me.” When was the last time your church called you to “suffer” for the sake of the Gospel?

Cleombrotus on March 10, 2013 at 12:17 PM

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/P/POPE_CARDINALS_THUMBNAILS?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-03-10-08-16-36

Question for Ed:

These “top contender” articles……how close were they in 2005 or 1978?

PappyD61 on March 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Who cares what these cafeteria Half a Catholics like Weigel mumbles. Many Catholics consider him a Heretic thus the press loves him.

SANTA on March 10, 2013 at 6:36 PM

As a “lapsed catholic”, the resignation of Pope Benedict and the new conclave have made me pay more attention to my faith. This personal awakening and renewal is perhaps what Benedict was hoping for on a grander scale both for millions of individuals (current, former and never catholic) and the church as the body of Christ on earth. I am confident that the new pope, the cardinals and other church clerics will find the examination of Church conscience during this conclave refreshing and invigorating.

RightTurn on March 10, 2013 at 9:11 PM

I have to admit I don’t quite understand Weigel’s definition of a new evangelical Catholic approach based on the beatitudes and how that transends the split between progressives/orthodox wings of the Church. The essential differences between the two camps is over the importance of moral issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. The Church’s orthodox position and the “rules” that come from those positions are based on the beatitudes…I don’t understand how beginning with the beatitudes rather than the rules is relevant or how it would change anything in Church teaching today. What for example would be the beatitudes impact on the issue of same sex marriage? Frankly, I think one of the last refuges of the progressives has always been their interpretation of the beatitudes…don’t be mean to people and tell them their actions are wrong because it would hurt their feelings… Fuzzy logic.

ironmarshal on March 10, 2013 at 9:47 PM

What the church wants is an easy way to salvation – seeker friendly – instead of a call to “deny yourself, and take up your cross daily and follow me.” When was the last time your church called you to “suffer” for the sake of the Gospel?

Cleombrotus on March 10, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Every Sunday. Next question please?

I look to my Lord, who suffered for me. He does not call me to suffer, but to rejoice in eternal life. To do so means to act as he did, to do what he says. We are reminded of how short we fall in those goals every Sunday, as we ask forgiveness for our transgressions and ask for the strength to prevent them in the future.

Gnosticism in my mind is the complete separation of faith from acts. The gnostic does not care about acts in the world, for they do not view them as having any effect on the spirit. The Christian is called to act — it is part and parcel of his or her faith. Jesus described his winnow for the judgement, and it certainly involves acts.

unclesmrgol on March 11, 2013 at 2:13 AM

I never took Communion in the Hand (Just seemed wrong to me)

And I always take it from the Priest (Just seems right to me).

workingclass artist on March 10, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Ah, but the difference between you and the people at Our Lady of Victory is that you do not view those in the congregation who take the Host into the hand as somehow being non-Catholic.

But it is the Lord, regardless of how it arrives. Scripture doesn’t tell us much about how Jesus physically gave the bread or the wine. It leaves us with the form of the celebration that we call Communion and others call the Lord’s Supper. Do this in memory of Me — he said.

I think that’s the important part of the celebration. Remember Him.

unclesmrgol on March 11, 2013 at 2:28 AM

I used Weigel’s book on John Paul II as one of several references for a leadership analysis completed in school, and ended up reading a large portion of the book while writing the paper — not the most effective use of time. After term, I went back and finished reading it. He has a very unique ability to take what could be very dry material and keep it interesting. I’ll have to check out his latest and see if it draws me in again.

ScaryBiscuits on March 11, 2013 at 2:50 AM