George Weigel

George Weigel

At the recently completed Synod 2019 in Rome, Catholic bishops from South America proposed ordaining married deacons as priests and allowing women to become deacons to reach Catholics in remote parts of the region.

The nonbinding proposal, which passed overwhelmingly, could lead to a historic change regarding celibacy and has stoked an ongoing debate about the direction of the Catholic Church.

Progressives see it as a way forward; conservatives see it as a slippery slope.

Catholic intellectual George Weigel has warned that allowing married priests in the Amazon would have “global consequences.”

Writing in the journal First Things, Weigel asserts that the exemptions would not stop in the Amazon. Bishops from European countries, he wrote, “where the ordination of married men has long been a progressive cause, would request similar exemptions, citing similar pastoral reasons.”

The issue is likely to arise when Weigel speaks at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 601 E. Delp Road. His talk is sponsored by the Order of Malta, Lancaster Region.

A Catholic theologian and author, Weigel is a distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and founding president of the James Madison Foundation. He holds the center’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

He has written more than 20 books, including the much acclaimed biography of Pope John Paul II.

He recently answered several questions about the synod and his latest book, “The Irony of Modern Catholic History.”

You have written that “the dying parts of the Church are those still misreading (Pope) John XXIII.” What do you mean?

Catholic “progressives,” as they style themselves, have spent a half-century or more trying to turn John XXIII into the patron saint of Catholic “Lite.” That is not only a falsification of history, it’s a prescription for church failure, as Catholic Lite never attracts people to (or back to) the church, anywhere. But some people, it seems, never learn.

In your Letters from the Synod in “First Things,” you paint a fairly bleak picture of what occurred. You write that the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith as declared in Dominus Iesus, the relationship of the universal church to the local churches and the very nature of the Catholic Church are at stake. Can you unpack each of these issues for our readers?

Many synod fathers displayed a reverence for “indigenous religions” (which we used to call “paganism”) that seems incompatible with the teaching of “Dominus Iesus” that Jesus Christ is the unique savior of the world.

As for universal/local, the fate of the Anglican Communion, which is dying everywhere except Africa, should be a caution against any attempt to transform the Catholic Church into a federation of national or regional churches.

As to the nature of the church itself, are we a sacramentally enlivened and hierarchically ordered communion of disciples whose purpose is mission and evangelization, or are we a nongovernmental organization in the good-works business? That’s what’s at stake today, after Synod 2019.

You seem to have suggested that Pope Francis is running the church like a nongovernmental organization instead of like a church. Why?

I didn’t say he was running the church that way, but a lot of the people around him seem to think of the church that way.

 A recent Pew survey found that the number of Christians, including Catholics, is declining. What, in your view, can the church do to reverse this trend?

Clean up its house, invite people into beautiful worship, and get back into the business of evangelization.