George Weigel Gets It Half Right. And That’s the Problem.

George Weigel Gets It Half Right. And That’s the Problem.

by Christopher A. Ferrara
February 9, 2018

The alarm among Catholics over this pontificate is spreading so deeply into the conservative “mainstream” that even the rather neoconservative (once decidedly paleoconservative) National Review (NR) has joined the ranks of the disaffected. Not because Pope Francis is anti-capitalist, which is the ground on which one would expect NR to take issue with him, but because, with Amoris Laetitia (AL), he is manifestly undermining the Church’s constant teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the related Eucharistic discipline concerning the divorced and pretend “remarried.”

A piece in NR entitled “Francis Gets His Mess” rightly scorns the claim by Cardinal Pietro Parolin — the same Parolin who is engineering the sellout of Chinese Catholics to the evil Beijing regime — that AL represents “a paradigm change” in the Church. Quoth NR:

“Paradigm shifts imply a rupture. Critics of [AL] — they include several cardinals and bishops — say that Pope Francis has called into question the indissolubility of marriage. That would certainly be a paradigm shift for the Catholic Church, given the words of Jesus about divorce in the Bible. The problem for the proponents of this ‘shift,’ as George Weigel has explained, is that the Church ‘doesn’t do paradigm shifts’; if it did, it would cease to be the Catholic Church. It would become more like the Anglican Church, no stranger to rupture and new ways of thinking.

“The new resemblance to Anglicanism is not the old division of High and Low Church in regard to the liturgy, although that is certainly part of the contemporary Catholic experience; you never quite know these days whether the priest will just celebrate the Mass or attempt a late-night comedy routine. The really acute division, which is why it is so serious, is over the interpretation of basic doctrine. In Malta, for example, the rules allowing or limiting Holy Communion for a couple one of whose members was divorced and remarried while the previous spouse was still living would be quite different for the same couple if they were in Portland, Ore. ‘Something is broken in the Catholic Church today,’ says Weigel.”

Speaking of Weigel, it seems that even this resolute apologist for the post-Vatican II status quo of ruinous novelty is waking up to the peril of our situation, although he is not yet willing to identify the ultimate source of the problem. In the article in First Things cited by NR, Weigel rightly observes that “The Catholic Church doesn’t do rupture: that was tried 500 years ago, with catastrophic results for Christian unity and the cause of Christ. So it was unfortunate that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, recently described Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, as a ‘paradigm shift.’”

Weigel laments that, indeed, a “paradigm shift” in the sense of a rupture with constant Church teaching and discipline “is underway… in Malta, Germany, and San Diego,” where public adulterers are being admitted to Holy Communion on the sole authority of AL, whereas it “is quite different than what has been mandated in Poland, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Portsmouth, England, and Edmonton, Alberta” — namely, the constant teaching and discipline of the Church forbidding Holy Communion to people living in adultery who intend to continue their adulterous relations.

“Because of that,” Weigel laments — quite correctly — “the Catholic Church is beginning to resemble the Anglican Communion (itself the product of a traumatic ‘paradigm shift’ that cost John Fisher and Thomas More their heads). For in the Anglican Communion, what is believed and celebrated and practiced in England is quite different from what is believed, celebrated, and practiced in Nigeria or Uganda.”

Just so. Sad to say, however, Weigel still seems to be encumbered by an ideological commitment, emblematic of “conservative” (versus “traditionalist”) Catholicism, to ignoring the role of the papacy in the current ecclesial crisis. According to him, “the Pope himself has insisted that Amoris Laetitia does not propose a rupture with the Church’s settled doctrines on the indissolubility of marriage and worthiness to receive Holy Communion.”

George, George, George. How can the man continue to maintain that Pope Francis denies precisely what he has openly advocated for the past five years: the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion? How can he continue to ignore Francis’ explicit approval of the AL guidelines of the bishops of Buenos Aires, which call for the admission of public adulterers to Holy Communion whenever it is “not feasible” for them to practice continence? How can he pretend not to know that Francis has approved those guidelines as the only correct interpretation of AL in a document wherein none other than Parolin, by Francis’ authority, declares that interpretation to be “authentic Magisterium” — a blatant attempt to defraud the Church?

Weigel goes on to observe the symptoms while missing the diagnosis:

“This fragmentation is not Catholic. Catholicism means one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and unity is one of the four distinctive marks of the Church. That unity means that the Church embodies the principle of non-contradiction, such that a grave sin on the Polish side of the Oder River can’t be a source of grace on the German side of the border. Something is broken in Catholicism today and it isn’t going to be healed by appeals to paradigm shifts.”

Something is broken indeed. And I believe Weigel knows that what is broken is the exercise of the Petrine office by its current holder. It would behoove him to state publicly what he must know to be true and what Catholics the world over have already publicly protested. Being half right in this case is of no help to his reader, for that half-truth hides the whole truth about “this disastrous papacy,” much like a doctor who gives his patient an accurate assessment of symptoms while refusing to tell him that their origin is a brain tumor. In such circumstances, being half right is worse than saying nothing at all.

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