George Weigel is the Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The author of many books, his latest is The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (Ignatius 2020).
Recently National Review Institute and Ignatius Press held a webinar to discuss this book. RJ Carr corresponded with Mr. Weigel to ask several questions on his words in the book and remarks in the webinar.
Mr. Weigel’s responses are in bold.
GW: My book is really about the future of the entire Church, viewed through the prism of that unique institution, the papacy. So I’d certainly welcome discussion of The Next Pope in as wide a variety of Catholic venues as possible. As the book discusses the future of various states of life in the Church — the episcopate, the priesthood and religious life, the lay vocation in the world — many different Catholic forums would, I hope, find it helpful for common reflection.
GW: A lack of effective preaching is certainly one part of the cultural meltdown of the moment. Expository preaching that breaks open the Word of God helps the people of the Church “see” themselves, the world, and our responsibilities in the Church and the world through a biblical lens. That kind of “vision” helps cure the myopia of self-centeredness and the astigmatisms that lead us to misread the signs of the times.
know two metropolitan archbishops, one of Canada and one in the United States, who have reconfigured their entire archdiocesan machinery so that every part of the machinery serves the purpose of evangelization. As for specific examples, I have no hesitation in saying (as I did in an article published on his retirement) that Archbishop Charles Chaput was the best bishop of our time, in large part because of the combination of a rock-solid faith and a collaborative approach to leadership. As for other bishops, I think more of them in the West are trying to figure out how to turn the institutional machinery they inherited — the patrimony of generations — into launch platforms for mission.
GW: What should not be imitated is the apostasy from what the Letter of Jude describes as the faith once delivered to the saints. Too much of German Catholicism seems to want to become a second Protestant Church in Germany. This is apostasy.
GW: I don’t think bishops should be elected by popular plebiscite. But I do think a Nuncio who knows his business would make inquiries of knowledgeable, orthodox, and discreet lay Catholics about candidates for the office of bishop. This happens rarely now, although it does happen from time to time; but it should be a normal part of the process. Moreover, before bishops gather in a provincial meeting to identify candidates for the episcopate (whose names are then forwarded to the nunciature), they should consult knowledgeable and discreet lay people about priests they think might make good bishops. No process is going to be perfect, but expanding the consultation would likely be helpful.
GW: The key is getting people to own their baptism. Baptism is not a family initiation rite or an ethnic ritual. It is the sacrament that configures us to Christ the Lord and makes us friends of the Lord Jesus — who then gives each of the baptized the Great Commission. A few months of preaching and teaching on the full meaning of baptism might be very helpful in empowering people to own their missionary discipleship.
GW: The remarkable growth of the Church in sub-Saharan Africa has a lot to do with the fact that so many Africans experience the Gospel and its affirmation of human dignity as a liberation. Perhaps that’s because Africans are more aware of the evils at work in the world around them than comfortable people in the West, where those evils are often masked. Moreover, our contemporary Western culture insists that faith in Christ and the Gospel is a restraint. We have to show by the nobility of our lives that the Gospel is liberating, not confining. And we have to proclaim in our preaching and evangelization that, in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we see both the face of the merciful Father and the truth about our humanity and its extraordinary God-given destiny.
The Next Pope The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission by George Weigel is available via Ignatius Press.
This article was originally published on Medium