Leo XIII, the Pope who introduced the
Catholic Church to modernity
That being said—and remember I think his identification of Leo XIII as the Pope who breaks the train of this Counter Reformation (or Catholic Reformation) Catholicism with its emphasis on catechism and piety, is sheer genius—I also think he is right on with the unsuitability of this catechism and rosary Catholicism for the modern age. (Which is not to say that the catechism, much less the rosary, doesn’t have a place in contemporary Catholicism—only that we have to have a much more deeply rooted and more intellectually sophisticated faith if we are to be anything more than religious idiosyncratists.)
Weigel makes the argument that both the “traditional Catholics” (whom I usually refer to as “neo-trads” because the traditions by which they identify themselves are not part of the Tradition/Deposit of Faith but later customs and pieties) and the “progressives” by which term he means the Catholic-Lite variety we so often find today reading the NCR or going to dour Voice of the Faithful covens held in the borrowed Presbyterian basements, cannot move beyond the “rule-based catechetical devotional Catholicism.” Weigel claims that the one group wants to “tighten up and ratchet down the rules;” the other wants to “loosen the bolts in the name of openness or compassion.” For Weigel—and I agree—both groups are wrong because the rules-catechism-piety type religion is waiting to catch a train that left the station more than a century ago when Leo began serious engagement with the social complexities of the modern world. For the neo-trads: you can’t put the toothpaste back into the tube. And for the happy-clappies—why remodel a house that no one is interested in living in any more? Whichever end of the spectrum from which you are coming: we need something new. That something new Weigel calls “Evangelical Catholicism”—a faith rooted in taking the Word of God to heart in our daily lives and nourishing ourselves with a full sacramental life in the Church. So far I am with him. However—as I look ahead, I see some stormy seas and realize that we have some very different ideas of how the barque of Peter should set these sails of Word and Sacrament. I also can’t help but wonder if George is doing a bait and switch—talking the new game but offering his reader the same old same old. I am seeing hints that beneath the “Evangelical”
language there is little more than catechism and rosary beads.