Weigel’s ‘The Next Pope’ has a crimped, Americanist vision of papacy

National Catholic Reporter

July 6, 2020

By Michael Sean Winters

George Weigel’s latest book, The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission, is a thin one at only 141 pages. But it is thin, too, in the sense that what it communicates is either a repeat of Weigel’s earlier themes or a recantation of ideas — some of which are true but banal and others are misleading and given to caricature. The only real novelty is the degree to which he casts aspersions on the current pope with catty insinuations without sufficient courage to say plainly where he thinks Pope Francis has erred.

Does anyone argue against this claim of Weigel’s when he writes, early in the book: “Jesus Christ and his Gospel are the reason the Church is. And because of that, the proclamation of that Gospel and that Christ must be at the center of what the Catholic Church does.” Yes, of course this is true. Does anyone doubt it?

Weigel almost immediately descends into caricatures of the various approaches to evangelization. He writes, “At this moment in Catholic history, in which some deny that God’s revelation judges history and suggest that the flow of history and our present experience judge the truths of revelation, it is important to remember how robust the Second Vatican Council’s defense of the reality and the truth of divine revelation was.”

Who thinks history stands in judgment of revelation? To frame the contemporary debates within the church this way is not an instance of putting one’s finger on the scale, it is a misframing of the debates.

After a beautiful quote from Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, Weigel writes, “The next pope must understand this and teach it to the entire world Church.” Is there any chance he won’t?

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