Thursday, July 28, 2011
Here is a George Weigel essay, "Benedict XVI and the Future of the West," which I read recently and liked very much. A taste:
year ago, my subject would probably have struck some as counter-intuitive, implausible, even absurd: why would an octogenarian German theologian with little practical experience of political and economic life have anything interesting or important to say about "the future of the West"? Pope Benedict XVI's Westminster Hall address last September ought to have put paid to at least some of that cynicism. For as many Britons conceded after last September's papal visit, the elderly German theologian had indeed given the United Kingdom, and the rest of the West, a lot to think about in his reflections on the relationship between the health of a culture, and the health of the democratic institutions that culture must sustain. . . .
Evangelical Catholicism, in the line of development that runs from Leo XIII through Benedict XVI, . . . takes a rather different stance toward public life than the Catholicism of Christendom (whose conception of Church and State—or, more broadly, Church and Society—long outlasted the 16th-century fracturing of Christendom). Evangelical Catholicism declines the embrace of state power as incompatible with the proclamation of the Gospel: the Gospel is its own warrant, and the power of that warrant is blunted when coercive state power is put behind it, however mildly. Evangelical Catholicism is also wary of a direct role by the Church, as institution, in the affairs of the state. There may be moments when a robustly evangelical Church must speak truth to power, directly and through its ordained episcopal leadership, bringing the full weight of their unique form of authority to bear on a matter in public dispute. But the normal mode of the Church's engagement with public life will not be that of another lobbying group. Rather, Evangelical Catholicism takes its lead from the Second Vatican Council's Decree on the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem), and from Blessed John Paul II's teaching in the encyclicals Redemptoris Missio and Centesimus Annus and the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici: it seeks to form the men and women who will, in turn, shape the culture that creates a politics capable of recognising the transcendent moral norms that should guide society's deliberations about the common good. . . .
I'd welcome, in particular, Patrick Brennan's thoughts about the essay, given that he knows so much more about (inter alia) Pope Leo XIII's writings and thought than I do.