George Weigel: Sailing the conciliar seas

Professor WeigelMost regular readers of these pages have long been convinced that Catholic neo-conservatism is a religious pathology that presents as spiritual blindness; i.e., an inability to see that which is in plain sight, inevitably leading to a denial of objective reality.

Even so, it is useful (if not amusing) to occasionally consider additional evidence attesting to this fact as it becomes available.

With this in mind, today we are going to take a look at the latest musings of George Weigel as posted on the First Things blog under the title:

The Catholic Church doesn’t do “paradigm shifts”

Weigel defines the term under discussion as follows:

A “paradigm shift” signals a dramatic, sudden, and unexpected break in human understanding—and thus something of a new beginning.

He then asks rhetorically, “So are there ‘paradigm shifts’ in the Church?”

The obvious answer to this question is, of course, no.

Weigel goes on to explain that the “evolution of the Church’s understanding” of divine revelation is not to be confused as a “paradigm shift.” He writes:

And as Blessed John Henry Newman taught us, authentic doctrinal development is organic and in continuity with “the faith once . . . delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Catholic Church doesn’t do rupture: that was tried 500 years ago, with catastrophic results for Christian unity and the cause of Christ.

OK: Anything that meets the definition of “paradigm shift” provided simply isn’t Catholic; it is more akin to a revolution, and failure to recognize it as such can only lead to catastrophe.

Where Weigel and I (and clear thinking Catholics everywhere) part company is in his disagreement with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, who, he tells us, “recently described Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family, as a ‘paradigm shift.’”

In Weigel’s view:

But whatever he [Parolin] may have intended, the cardinal cannot have meant that Amoris Laetitia is a “paradigm shift” in the sense of a radical break with previous Catholic understandings. For the Catholic Church doesn’t do “paradigm shifts” in that sense of the term…

Forget Cardinal Parolin’s intent. The better question concerns what Amoris Laetitia actually is; is it a “radical break with previous Catholic understandings” or not?

This question can be asked another way:

Before Amoris Laetitia, is there even one shred of evidence to suggest that the Church understands that God occasionally asks us to persist in mortal sin because the Divine Law is, at times, impossible for us to keep?

Weigel himself would answer no.

Even so, he insists that Amoris Laetitia, the text of which plainly expresses precisely this “understanding,” does not represent a “radical break,” and if you think that’s a perfect example of neo-conservative blindness, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

He went on to claim recourse for his denial of objective reality to the author of Amoris Laeitita:

… and 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.

In spite of his severe disorientation, even Weigel cannot fail to acknowledge that there is a major problem in the Church with respect to Amoris Laetitia; one that does indeed fit the definition of “paradigm shift.

He writes:

The pastoral implementation of Amoris Laetitia mandated in Malta, Germany, and San Diego is quite different than what has been mandated in Poland, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Portsmouth, England, and Edmonton, Alberta. Because of that, 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).

One wonders, did Weigel fail to mention Buenos Aires deliberately, or is he so entirely disoriented that it genuinely did not occur to him to reference the only “pastoral implementation” guidelines that can boast of inclusion in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and this thanks to Francis?

In conclusion, Weigel writes:

Something is broken in Catholicism today and it isn’t going to be healed by appeals to paradigm shifts. In the first Christian centuries, bishops frankly confronted and, when necessary, fraternally corrected each other.

Don’t be confused; Weigel isn’t suggesting that Cardinal Burke should get on with the “formal act of correction” of Francis that he promised well over a year ago. He is simply suggesting that the bishops of Poland should somehow correct the bishops of Malta, for example.

As for Francis, Weigel has absolved him of any all responsibility in this matter; as if the popes of the first centuries sat mute while controversies raged around them. And this from what many consider to be one of the brightest conservative minds of our day.

The bottom line here is simple:

Anyone who eats, sleeps, and breathes the Second Vatican Council, like George Weigel most certainly does, is ill-equipped to recognize a “paradigm shift” from that which the Church has always understood; even when it is staring him squarely in the face.

The reason is simple; his very concept of what it means to be Catholic is firmly rooted in the most dramatic, sudden, and unexpected break from tradition that the Church has ever experienced.

This is the same reason why the protestations of Cardinal Burke and Bishop Schneider, et al. will ultimately amount to nothing in the face of the Bergoglian menace; all concerned have, even if unwittingly, taken leave of the Barque of St. Peter and are happily sailing away from the one true Church aboard the Conciliar Catamaran with Francis as their Captain.


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