An excellent article from One Peter Five.
Today, someone sent me the latest column at First Things by American Catholic writer and papal biographer George Weigel, entitled “WYD-1993: The Turning Point.”
I am not, in general, a fan of Weigel’s work, which I find by turns dull and frustrating – often both. This column is no exception, and yet it serves as a potent illustration of something very much worth talking about: that so-called “Conservative Catholicism” is illusory – a self-imposed, often starkly tone-deaf deception designed to maintain an incredibly destructive lie: that the Catholicism you’ve been given your whole life is the real thing, and therefore, worth conserving.
The obviousness of how threadbare this illusion has become makes itself clear when Weigel suggests – in August of 2018! – that the American Catholic Church entered a halcyon period following World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. While the rest of the American Church is currently reeling over changes to its catechisms and another horrifying round of sexual abuse allegations – including those made in solidly “conservative” dioceses like Lincoln – Weigel dons his rose-colored glasses while he cheerfully writes:
WYD 1993 was not just a triumph for John Paul II, and for now-Cardinal Stafford and his team; it was a turning point in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States, and its effects are still being felt on this silver jubilee. Before WYD 1993, too much of Catholicism in America was in a defensive crouch, like too much of the Church in Western Europe today. After WYD 1993, the New Evangelization in the United States got going in earnest, as Catholics who had participated in it brought home the word that the Gospel was still the most transformative force in the world. Before WYD 1993, U.S. Catholicism was largely an institutional-maintenance Church. With WYD 1993, Catholicism in America discovered the adventure of the New Evangelization, and the living parts of the Church in the U.S. today are the parts that have embraced that evangelical way of being Catholic.
Really, Mr. Weigel? Have you checked the news?
Are we not in a “defensive crouch” today? Has Catholicism, which has been in steady decline in the United States for decades, seen a resurgence nobody has bothered telling us about? Is the clerical CYA racket evidenced by the McCarrick case (and others) not precisely the worst kind of example of U.S. Catholicism as “institutional-maintenance Church”?
And yet, Weigel is not entirely wrong about World Youth Day. He’s just wrong about why it mattered. As I’ve written before, I was a participant in that very same World Youth Day in 1993. I was fifteen years old, and had begun falling in love with the Church I had grown up in as my adolescent sense of truth being something worth pursuing deepened. Even now, 25 years later, I remember standing in my grandmother’s living room, taking the call from my pastor on her yellow rotary phone, hearing the news that I was one of two people from the parish selected to go to Denver.
But as I wrote in 2016, World Youth Day represented a turning point for me, too….
There is, in fact, only one type of Catholicism. Catholicism as it always was: a Church founded by Christ and anchored by the apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit in an unbroken chain of succession for nearly 2,000 years in which doctrine and dogma remained consistent and undisturbed, even though heresies great and small threatened to overturn them; a liturgy and devotional life that developed organically, as imperceptibly as a giant oak; a Church Militant nurtured by all these things and in turn nurturing the culture and the civilization that sprung from it.
There is something else, too: an ersatz Catholicism. Catholicism as it has been since 1965: a revolution of novelty that leaves no aspect of the Church’s life untouched, that has created conflicts and contradictions that cannot simply be papered over through fantasy terms like “the hermeneutic of continuity” and has made the experience of the average parish-going Catholic something that would be unrecognizable to his counterpart from a hundred – or a thousand – years earlier.
Conservative Catholicism is false because it seeks to conserve something that is not real: a forcibly orthodox interpretation of a fundamentally heterodox epoch in salvation history. Conservative Catholicism is the theological equivalent – not to put too fine a point on it – of a man who pees on your leg and tells you it’s raining.
For the first time in a long time, an increasing number of people are suddenly realizing that their legs are wet, but the sky is clear.
Retrieved August 14, 2018 from https://onepeterfive.com/weigel-world-youth-day-and-a-conservative-catholicism-that-doesnt-exist/