Weigel v. Weigel
gregmetzger printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 11:33:28 AM EST
"George Weigel's description of the Vatican office that authored the recent Vatican document on the global economy directly contradicts his own work in his biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope."
In a recent post, Frank Cocozzelli emphasized the importance of standing up to media distortions of Catholic Social Teaching by people generally considered leaders of the Religious Right. I see the same need as Frank and so was heartened when the Washington Post's EJ Dionne did exactly that in an important column last week. Dionne was writing about the Vatican's recent statement on the global economy and the description of it provided by GeorgeWeigel, a man who is, for better or for worse, a key commentator on Catholicism in American secular and religious media. Given Weigel's stature it was significant that he had dismissed the Vatican document as "an uncritical internationalism of a distinctly Euro-secular provenance." Dionne's response to that part of Weigel's article was appropriate, but more important was the way he took issue with Weigel's characterization of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP) which was responsible for writing the document for the Vatican. Here is Weigel's description followed by Dionne's reply:

The document is a "Note" from a rather small office in the Roman Curia...the lower echelons of the Roman Curia [which] doesn't speak for the Pope, it doesn't speak for "the Vatican," and it doesn't speak for the Catholic Church.

Dionne: As it happens, the Pontifical Council is no mere "small office." It has been a pioneer over the years in Catholic thinking about solidarity and justice. And this document is firmly rooted in papal teaching going back to Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II. Pope Benedict's 2009 encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, spoke explicitly of the need for a global political authority to keep watch on an increasingly integrated world economy.
Inside-the-church politics aside, the Pontifical Council's document is important because it reflects an ethical approach to economics shared well beyond Catholic circles. In particular, the council grapples intelligently with the problem of how the economy can be subject to reasonable rules when the nation-states that once enforced such regulations have less and less power, given how swiftly and easily capital moves.

I agree with what Dionne has said, but he could have said much more. What further research shows is that Weigel's description is inconsistent with Weigel's own substantial writing on the PCJP. Consider, for instance, these quotes representing the entirety of Weigel's writings on the PCJP in his landmark biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope--the book, it should be noted, that Weigel's own current high standing in the secular and religious media is a direct result of.

On page 330 of Witness to Hope Weigel describes the then head of the PCJP, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, as "one of the pope's personal diplomatic troubleshooters".

On page 447 he describes Etchegaray's promotion to head of the PCJP in 1984 as "a major redeployment of personnel at the senior levels of the Roman Curia."

On page 512 he notes that the PCJP was given "responsibility for arranging `the who, what, where, and how'" for one of the signature events of John Paul's pontificate--the interreligious World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assissi. On page 514 Weigel goes so far as to note that the PJPC's leadership on the Assissi event stood in sharp contrast to the minor, perfunctory role given to other "senior curial officials".

On pages 558-560 Weigel rightly highlights the significance of John Paul II's encyclical on social justice, Solicitudo Rei Socialis. Weigel defends the document against criticism and misunderstanding on the Right and the Left, while taking special care to note that the development of this document occurred under the strong leadership of Cardinal Etchegaray and Bishop Mejia of the PCJP. Weigel's attempt at a balanced and nuanced analysis of this encyclical and the PCJP's role in its development stands in marked contrast to his analysis of the PCJP's recent work.

On pages 718-719 Weigel highlights the key role played by the PCJP in another of John Paul II's most significant actions--the pope's participation in the United Nation's Cairo World Conference on Population and Development. Weigel points out that in a meeting in which "every ambassador accredited to the Holy See" was called to attend, the PCJP's president was one of just five Vatican officials directed by John Paul to address the ambassadors. When the debate was taken up in New York, it was Monisgnor Martin of the PCJP who Weigel reports made the key criticism of the UN's proposed draft document.

When the crisis in East Timor reached unprecedented levels in 1996, Weigel notes that it was the PCJP's Etchegaray who was sent "off to Jakarta, Indonesia, to try to find a diplomatic solution, by back channel if necessary, to the continuing troubles." (780)

On page 806 we learn that it was the PCJP's Etchegaray who first "broached the question of a papal pilgrimage to Cuba", arguably one of the signature trips of John Paul's entire papacy.

When Etchegaray was promoted to President of the Committee for the Great Jubilee of 2000 and was replaced as president of the PCJP by Archbishop Thuan of Vietnam, Weigel said on page 832 that it was part of a "major reorganization of senior curial personnel" which, in part by virtue of Thuan's Vietnamese heritage, "further internationalized the Church's central bureaucracy and brought men with extensive pastoral experience and demonstrated intellectual interests into positions of leadership."

The PCJP that emerges from Weigel's years of research into Witness to Hope, in other words, is quite clearly a vital and integral part of the Vatican in general and the modern papacy specifically. There is nothing in Weigel's extensive writing on the former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that would indicate a dramatic change has occurred since John Paul's death in the role of the PCJP--certainly not changes in anyway proportional to Weigel's current description of the PCJP as some hole in the wall outfit that owes its existence to the ongoing leverage of marginal bishops of a quasi-socialist bent. In fact, Weigel's distortion of the PCJP is so severe that some conservatives who agree with Weigel's economic views have begun to call him out on it. For instance, Charles Smith has written a sharp retort to Weigel at the National Post's religion blog:

It is as if [Weigel] cannot bring himself to simply say the Church might have gotten it wrong... So this document, or "note," speaks for no one but a Pontifical Council issues it for the fun of it? How does that work? And how in the world would anyone know that this document does not reflect a point of view of the Vatican...? How does Mr. Weigel know? It is not as if the note came with a warning that said: "Ignore The Contents of This Note. We're From the Vatican But Not Really."... In other words, [according to Weigel] the document was a bunch of meaningless suggestions made for no reason at all ("I know, let's suggest a central world bank for the hell of it!")... I think I am clear now. Do not pay attention to any Vatican document until someone of the calibre of Mr. Weigel explains how we are supposed to read it.

Smith and I don't agree on the merits of the Vatican document but I think we agree on this: What Weigel rightly said in describing the Drudge Report's slanted coverage of the Vatican document applies equally to Weigel's coverage, for it too is "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish."



Display:
This is exactly why I find Weigel so exasperating. He himself is highly selective about picking and choosing what parts of Catholicism to follow. Much of what he chooses is more suited to neoconservatism than religious teaching.  

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 04:20:49 PM EST
And Frank, isn't it frustrating the way that he creates these strawmen? In this case, he even creates a strawman that contradicts with his own writing. Frederick Clarkson is calling it "the Weigel wiggle"...

by gregmetzger on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 07:55:56 PM EST
Parent
It could be that Weigel's punditocractic hackery is becoming so notorious that The Weigel Wiggle may need a definition.

How about: The Weigel Wiggle is the act of pretending one's own scholarship does not exist when it contradicts the cheap political point one wants to make.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 10:12:15 PM EST
Parent



Weigel's never has admitted he was wrong to defend Marcial Maciel. He has never admitted that Maciel was a sexual predator, despite the overwhelming evidence.

by khughes1963 on Tue Nov 08, 2011 at 10:05:43 PM EST
Parent
I thought that he had faced the Marciel allegations and admitted them. I saw him interviewed about it a while back and he was discussing how damaging his immorality was to the Legionares. If you have something different on that, please put up a link. I will look for one as well.


by gregmetzger on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 05:52:02 PM EST
Parent




WWW Talk To Action


Real Religious Liberty is Not Oppression
This is a reposting of an op-ed I recently published at LGBTQ Nation -- FC Real Religious Liberty is not Oppression FREDERICK CLARKSON Senior......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Houston Mayor Ignites Fervor of Religious Right
The best take on Houston Mayor Annise Parker vs. the churches in her city is the story written by Marv Knox in the Baptist......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
Four Stories
LGBTQ Nation   In my first bi-weekly column on religious liberty, I discuss how  "Religious liberty is a progressive and liberatory value, over which......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Christian Right Voter Mobilization -- The Season Finale
One of the secrets of the success of the Christian Right over the years has been that opponents have taken the movement with insufficient......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Sins Of Omission: When Religious Right Leaders Speak, The Whole Truth Is Often Left Behind
When an individual doesn't feel like being absolutely truthful, there are a couple of things he or she can do. One is to simply......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Bishop Finn Under Vatican Investigation
Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has long been a symbol of the ongoing institutional intransigence in addressing......
By Frank Cocozzelli (4 comments)
"The $1-Billion-a-Year [Religious] Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of"
In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily......
By Bruce Wilson (5 comments)
(Un)Fantastic Five: A Remembrance Of Values Voter Summits Past
The Religious Right's annual "Values Voter Summit" (VVS) takes place this weekend. Americans United staffers Simon Brown, Sarah Jones and I will be there.......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
The Christian Right's Voter Mobilization Strategy for 2014
My latest post at Political Research Associates is about how this weekend's Values Voter Summit fits into the Christian Right's wider electoral strategy for......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
NYT's David Brooks to Speak at Antigay Luncheon of Billionaires Who Fund Racist Preacher
Recently, government-encouraged outbreaks of mob violence against LGBT persons in countries from Uganda to Russia, and draconian new anti-gay legislation in those countries too,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
D'Souza's Downfall: Religious Right Favorite Sentenced For Campaign Donation Violations
Yesterday conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza was sentenced to five years of probation and a term of community service for violating federal campaign laws. He......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Short Takes -- Taking Action Edition
Banned Books Week is being celebrated this year from Sept. 21-27.  Yes its time for the annual celebration of the Freedom to Read, sponsored......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Archbishop Schnurr Throws Cold Water on the Ice Bucket Challenge
The Ice Bucket Challenge has been an outstanding success in raising both awareness and research money needed to find a cure for Amyotrophic lateral......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights
[note to readers: this is an excerpt from my first installment in a Twocare.org/Center Against Religious Extremism series that will examine extensive ties -......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Race as Religion
Reading Edith Beer's book, The Nazi Officer's Wife, I ran across an interesting account of her fake marriage license.  She married a Nazi officer......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)

Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (2 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (3 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.