BY Peter Diamond | December 14 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


‘Catholic lite’ has failed the Church in the West, writer says

The author of St Pope John Paul II’s best-selling biography told Catholics in Edinburgh last week that a ‘watered-down, diet version of Catholicism’ is failing the Church in the west.

George Weigel, a Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading public intellectuals, spoke at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Saturday, December 8 and shared his views of the Church with the audience, while promoting his latest book The Fragility of Order: Catholic Reflections on Turbulent Times.

Speaking to the SCO after the talk, George Weigel said that ‘watered down’ Catholicism has failed the Church in the West.

“For the last 20 years I have been making the argument that what I like to call ‘Catholic light,’ a diet version of Catholicism, does not work.

“It is watered down, uninteresting, uninspiring and has failed across Western Europe especially in Scandinavian countries and others like Germany and France.

“The Church there is not busy and certainly not a place you will encounter an abundance of youth.”



However, he said St Pope John Paul II’s work on new evangelisation has been fruitful across American universities.

“We therefore have to get back to what St Pope John Paul II proclaimed and latterly what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI commented on. This was spoken about at the Synod on Young People in Rome and we were asked to be a listening Church.

“Well we do listen but we also know that young people are not interested in ambiguous Catholicism—there is compelling evidence of this.”

Archbishop Leo Cushley of St Andrew’s & Edinburgh made a similar point in September before he attended the Synod, saying: “We must bring young people to the whole of the Apostolic Faith.

“This is not out of concern with laws and traditions for their own sake, but because this is what will communicate to them the fully Divine personality of Jesus.”


Graduate evangelists

Mr Weigel also commented on the success of ‘Focus,’ a US evangelisation programme at universities that encourages recent graduates to stay on campus and become a ‘missionary’ for a year or two.

He added: “In the States we’re in reasonably good shape and our universities have undergone something of a renaissance period over the last 10 to 20 years.

“We have a programme called ‘Focus’ attached to our university chaplaincies which encourages students who have just finished their studies to undertake a year or two of being ‘missionaries’ within the student campus.

“There is now real vitality within that area of ‘Focus’ and the country now has over 150 campuses where missionaries are helping the university chaplaincies to give something back.”


US Church failings

Mr Weigel also addressed the recent ‘abuse scandals and failures of leadership’ in the Church in the US.

He said that for the next few years American Catholics will be ‘dealing with and understanding how badly the Church was mismanaged by bishops and archbishops from 20, 30 40 years ago.’

The United States in 2018 has been struggling with a number of abuse scandals, most notably that of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who has been accused of abusing minors and seminarians.

His successor as Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl, resigned in October.


New evangelisation

Mr Weigel however believes the Church is now a ‘safe place’ for young people.

“This moment of crisis within the Church is an essential moment of purification in order to become filled with New Evangelisation, moving forward on a human path,” he said.

“The Catholic Church in the USA is a very safe place for young people in 2018 there is no doubt .”


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