Friday, September 6, 2013
I've just finished reading Evangelical Catholicism by George Weigel. The book gives Weigel's suggestions for how the Catholic Church should be reformed based on the two pillars of truth and mission.
Counter-reformation Catholicism (based mainly on learning your Catechism, piety, devotion to Mary and clericalism) worked reasonably well when most people believed in God and went to Church, but it began to appear meaningless (and hence give no real witness to Christ) as western culture became more secular. The Church began trying to tackle this problem as early as 1878 and continued through the Second Vatican Council and beyond.
The Evangelical Catholic Weigel describes is not evangelical in the Pentecostal sense (it's not all about mega churches, Gospel singers, and speaking in tongues). The Evangelical Catholic is the committed, educated in the faith, Bible reading, Mass attending, counter-cultural Catholic that New Evangelisation aims to develop. This is the Catholic layperson Cardinal Newman had in mind. This type of Catholic has their faith firmly grounded in friendship with Christ and consciously seeks to grow in holiness.
The book includes chapters on how the Church should reform the episcopate (bishops), priesthood, liturgy, religious life, laity, theology, advocacy and finally the papacy. Below are a few highlights.
Bishops - Weigel explains that bishops have three main roles (teaching, sanctifying and governing) and that of these roles, governing has taken priority. Many bishops are primarily CEO of their diocese rather than standing in the footsteps of the apostles, shepherding their flock, and safeguarding the handing on of the deposit of faith.
Weigel's solution is to widen the net when it comes to selecting bishops and look at younger priests (in their 40s and 50s) with good pastoring skills. He suggest that both the laity and other priests should be consulted to identify candidates who have grown parishes, made converts, guided vocations, are compelling preachers, have encouraged parishioners to read the Bible or have shown effective leadership as a chaplain in a Catholic college or seminary. Outstanding lecturers, philosophers and theologians should also be considered.
Weigel suggests retiring off unorthodox bishops (this tends to happen when they mess up financially but not when it's their teaching that is in question).
Priesthood - Priests also suffer from being managers rather than evangelists. Weigel suggest less psychological profiling of potential seminarians and more focus on their relationship with Christ and their hunger to lead others to Christ. He argues that when it comes to celibacy a "deepening not a weakening of the link between priestly celibacy and the priestly ministry" is needed. He argues we need more apologists of the calibre, and with the theological training, of Fr Robert Barron. Finally priests need to be taught how to preach. Not to entertain people by throwing in a joke here and there, but to inspire, edify, educate and motivate.
Liturgy - Weigel states that "an extraordinary number of trashy liturgical hymns have been written in the years since the Second Vatican Council". One type of hymn he singles out, is hymns where the congregation speaks as if it were Christ e.g. "Love one another as I have loved you" and "I am the Bread of Life".
He states that "Evangelical Catholic liturgy is certainly 'high'. But it is not precious, and it is most certainly not prissy."
Laity - since the Second Vatican Council there has been a tendency to clericalize the laity (let them take on roles the priest used to do) and to laicize he clergy (treat their role as one parish role amongst many). Lay mission is not about what the laity do in the Church it's about what they do in the world, bringing Christ to others in their ordinary life, at work, college, home etc. The greatest tool the laity have available is the way they conduct their lives.
Weigel is Pope John Paul II's biographer, much of what he says draws on the teaching of John Paul II and also draws attention to how great a pope he was. The book left me wanting to find out more about Pope John Paul II and his teaching. I was tempted to start with Weigel's biography Witness to Hope but I was put off by its length (1056 pages)! Instead I've opted for the DVD Witness to Hope which is on it's way from Amazon.