Searching For Eisenhower Catholicism

weigeldotCommonweal notes George Weigel’s latest essay, “After Notre Dame,” and link the Fort Wayne/South Bend diocesan organ. I found a more web-friendly link that avoids the extra pages of the pdf newspaper.

Dr Weigel took some substantial hits on all sides for his historical-critical approach to the pope’s encyclical, so maybe it’s only fair and balanced he gets a little love this time around. On the other hand …

That the vast majority of Catholics in the U.S. never understood that this entire affair was about the nature, structure, and discipline of the Church, not about politics, demonstrates just how attenuated Catholic identity in America has become, and just how poorly catechized many Catholics are.

Not the poor dumb Catholic meme again. Eric Bugyis and George Weigel seem to have some cultural memory that pre-conciliar Catholics were well aware of the true place of the local bishop in the spectrum of Holy Orders. Am I the only one lacking this sense? I only became Catholic in 1970. My Catholic friends in college will remind you of my cultural disconnect. (I was Bible-literate, and I had never attended a Catholic funeral –to name two examples.) So you tell me: did pre-conciliar Catholics have a clear sense that the bishop wasn’t really a brownnose branch manager? Not that I don’t have my own objections to the state of catechesis, but I suspect the failures significantly pre-date Vatican II. Significantly. Or you could convince me I’m wrong. Feel free.

More Dr Weigel:

Were a bishop to summon the courage to deploy his canonical authority and declare that the University of X can no longer be considered a Catholic institution, he would almost certainly be misunderstood by a large majority of his people as acting politically, not ecclesiastically — as a partisan, not as a shepherd defending the integrity of the flock. That doesn’t mean that such things shouldn’t be done.

More Republican thinking. Aside from reminding the Church about the proper role of bishops, Vatican II also urged collaboration between bishops and other people on any number of occasions. That generally means when bishops are dealing with adults, they treat them like adults. True bishops don’t adopt the rape-and-pillage mentality, and attempt to manipulate while holding the Sherman’s March option over everybody’s head.

Dr Weigel is spot-on about the Long Lent of 2002. Not only hasn’t it ended yet, but there are a number of lay people–many well-catechized–who would like to declare a few bishops no longer a Catholic institution. But you’re not going to see any visitations heading up the hierarchical ladder. More Dr Weigel:

But doing (the “un” Catholic declaration) requires careful catechetical preparation and an effective communications strategy for explaining what was done, and why.

Ah yes. All the poor dumb sheep need is proper catechesis on the conservative way, not to mention the threat of losing one’s job or identity, and we’ll all head back to a nice, quiet, comfortable Eisenhower Catholicism. The final assessment:

(H)ow do things look, two months after the Notre Dame affair? Bullish, for the administration and its wedge agenda. Bearish indeed for those concerned about religious freedom, Catholic identity, and the recovery of episcopal leadership in the United States.

The GOP gets thrashed in an election cycle or two, a bishop and/or a university president bumble a commencement (depending on whom you ask), and suddenly it’s a crisis on religious freedom and Catholic identity? Episcopal leadership? Sure, that’s been in the tank for at least three decades. I can understand that. But what’s with the wingnut talking points on freedom?

I value the conservative/traditional voice in the Church. I really do. I sure wouldn’t want them to take over and shoulder aside all of us other Catholics, but we need them to keep the Barque floating upright. But please: can we stop with the superiority complex here? “If you don’t agree with me, you’re stupid and uncatechized.” George Weigel seems like a smart guy. Maybe he needs to turn in his GOP membership card and decide which master he wants to serve. He seemed to be perkier and friendlier as long as he lived in the wedge, eh?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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12 Responses to Searching For Eisenhower Catholicism

  1. LCB says:

    “More Republican thinking.”

    You just proved his point.

  2. GodsGadfly says:

    Republican thinking? Ever read about bishops before Vatican II? Ever hear a word called “interdict”? Yes, there was an extreme before Vatican II where bishops excommunicated people over minor personal squabbles, but the pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme.

    I mean, forget Obama. As I’ve said many times, Richard McBrien’s blatant heresies should be enough to drop Notre Dame.

    The fact that an open gay rights activist and Communist was a member of ND’s board of directors in the 1970s should be reason enough.

    ND’s refusal to implement _Ex Corde Ecclesiae_ should be enough.

    Land of Lakes should be enough.

    I’ve “only been a Catholic since 1977,” but I’ve grown up seeing everything that made being Catholic something special dumped aside as “Vatican II got rid of that,” even if Vatican II didn’t.

    As for the problems in the American church, they go back to the Carrolls and their complicity with the Freemasons who founded this country.

  3. Todd says:

    “Richard McBrien’s blatant heresies …”

    Prove it, if you would, in a sort of pre-Vatican II kind of way.

    “The fact that an open gay rights activist and Communist ….”

    Well, on the other hand, we have bishops supporting General Pinochet. It’s what we get for being a catholic Church, I guess.

  4. GodsGadfly says:

    McBrien:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_McBrien#USCCB_critique_of_Catholicism
    1. His book was actually criticized by the USCCB–hardly a bastion of orthodoxy and tradition itself. Even the heretical magazine _America_ criticized the book.

    2. He supports, among other things, artificial contraception and women’s ordination. I have never heard him say a single thing that even respects traditional Catholic teaching.

    As for the second part, I don’t know enough about Pinochet or the alleged bishops to comment, except to say that that is hardly what “Catholic” means in the name of the Church.

    • Rebecca says:

      Last time I checked having a book criticized by the USCCB was not the definition of heresy. Have I missed something somewhere?

  5. Brendan Kelleher SVD says:

    Two points:
    While George Weigel has received honorary doctorates, he does not have a doctorate in either theology or philosophy.
    GodsGadfly, hiding behind a pen name, should be ashamed at using wikipedia as a source to criticize Richard P McBrien. The foot-notes to that particular article show that it is, in all probability, written by a conservative Catholic. McBrien’s interpretation of Vat.II can be show to be rooted in historical scholarship by reference to the works of John O’Malley, Richard Gaillardetz, Christopher Bellito and Bernard P Prusak among others. The biggest problem with too many Bishops and a significant number of conservative commentators is a failure in historical knowledge. Weigel, though occasionally listed as an expert in Catholic Social Doctrine, is someone who can occasionally be found guilty on this count, and his comments on “Caritas in Veritate” are a case in point. Far be it from him though to read the very competent and critically received history of “Catholic Social Teaching 1891 – Present” written by Charles Curran, another fine theologian written off by conservatives, or the collection of articles on “Modern Catholic Social Teaching” assembled by Kenneth Himes, both published by Georgetown University.

  6. GodsGadfly says:

    As far as Weigel goes, I’m no strong defender of his. His a John Paul II popolator and a Neo-conservative. As a traditionalist and a paleoconservative who understands the difference between a) the doctrinal role of the Pope, b) the actions and personal judgements of the Pope, c) the writings of the man before he became Pope and d) the personal sanctity–or lack thereof–of the Pope, I have no problem honoring John Paul’s achievements while criticizing his very obvious mistakes in judgement and bad example.

    Brendan, I do not “hide behind a pen name”–not entirely. I am perfectly open about my identity.

    What’s wrong with using Wikipedia?

    Having written a number of professional encyclopedia articles myself, I am sick of people criticizing Wikipedia, which is about as reliable a source as any out there: constant peer review. Every encyclopedia contract I’ve gotten has said, basically, “You’d better do your fact-checking right, because we only proofread for grammar, so if there are any errors in this piece, they fall on your head.”

    Read all the published biographies of any figure, and there will be blatant contradictions between them all.

    Charles Curran also supports artificial contraception, so of course he should be written off: he supports what the social encyclical _Mater et Magistra_ calls the most fundamental threat to both social and moral justice.

    The problem with liberal Catholics is your view of history starts with the common mi-interpretation of Rerum Novarum, and really doesn’t start till 1960.

    I challenge you to read the “social” encyclicals that *predate* _Rerum Novarum_: How about the Syllabus of Errors? How about the numerous encyclicals condemning Freemasonry–and the reasons Freemasonry is condemned therein? (besides the “secret society” thing, Freemasonry is condemned for, among others, promoting almsgiving without an explicitly Christian context and promoting cooperation among religions).

    Where does your “historical knowledge” incorporate those documents? Does your “historical critique” of Vatican II incorporate Dietrich von Hildebrand?

  7. Todd says:

    GG, thanks for commenting. I’m not terribly impressed with the dictionary revisionism. Heresy is a serious ecclesiastical charge. It doesn’t mean “people or things conservatives disagree with.”

    I don’t think wikipedia is a problem so much as the source material. Everybody can use a computer to find something or someone to back up their worldview. Always look at the footnotes. Vatican II documents and encyclicals aren’t afraid of quoting Scripture and the doctors of the Church. Not what I see from George Weigel or most brands of pop conservatives.

  8. Pingback: Are Catholics badly catechized? « The Lewis Crusade

  9. RP Burke says:

    Now the George the Lesser is no longer president, and John Paul II is no longer pope, Weigel doesn’t know whose boots to lick. His attempts to remain relevant are an amusing sight.

  10. Bill Kurtz says:

    I lost what little respect I had for Weigel with his despicable column after the election, where he stated that it showed a division between states that were part of the Culture of Life, or the Culture of Death.
    The Culture of Life, as exemplified by unrepentant racist states like Alabama and Mississippi, or Texas, where the bloodthirstiness of the justice system matches the greed.
    (This was where I meant to place this comment, but I goofed up.)

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