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.