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  1. July 8, 2009 5:17 pm

    This is an excellent critique of Weigel, thoroughly documented and admirable in its measured tone. (I could not have maintained such a tone–especially when treating the implicit character assassination of Benedict that drives Weigel’s “argument”).

    Weigel’s piece was so obviously written for precisely the audience you note–the National Review and D.C. Catholic neo-con contingent–that I am almost positive it was a conscious misrepresentation on his part intended to confirm the existent beliefs of his largely fawning readership. Weigel *knows* that a signed encyclical has the force and meaning which you describe above, and yet he *still* insinuates that this is not so, that there are gold sections and red sections. He is, quite simply, lying to his readers.

  2. July 8, 2009 5:28 pm

    Excellent job.

  3. July 8, 2009 5:35 pm

    Excellent post. I really hope Weigel retracts his article. He is basically encouraging dissent not to mention the slanderous tone of his article. His bishop should sit down and talk to him. We should never judge another person’s motives or what’s in their hearts, but it would be a gesture for him to take the article down.

    On the other hand, Weigel’s employment depends on Catholicism being wedded to the Conservative agenda. If that breaks down, then his employment is at stake. A very dangerous place to be for any conservative or liberal Catholic. Faith is supposed to bring us freedom and expand our world view not shrink it while being subservient to political ideologies.

  4. July 8, 2009 5:45 pm

    An excellent analysis. You might add (as I noted in my “First Thoughts on Caritas in Veritate“) that one of the sections that Weigel clear believes to be non-“Benedictine” is the first chapter, where Populorum progressio plays the largest role. And yet that chapter is classic Benedict—an exercise in the “hermenutic of reform,” interpreting Populorum progressio (like Vatican II) not as a break from the past but in the light of tradition.

  5. Brendan permalink
    July 8, 2009 7:31 pm

    My less than charitable opinion of George Weigel has always been that he is 75% neocon and 25% Catholic with an unfettered ego bordering on arrogance. I believe this piece proves me correct. And don’t expect him to retract it. It would be much more in character for Weigel and his fans in the Neocon Alternate Universe to attack anyone who dares to attack him (for attacking the Pope).

  6. July 8, 2009 8:30 pm

    Needed to be said, and couldn’t have been said any better. Thanks for this.

  7. July 8, 2009 9:03 pm

    “On the other hand, Weigel’s employment depends on Catholicism being wedded to the Conservative agenda. If that breaks down, then his employment is at stake. A very dangerous place to be for any conservative or liberal Catholic. Faith is supposed to bring us freedom and expand our world view not shrink it while being subservient to political ideologies.”

    I suspect that Weigels thoughts had little to do with being fearful of conservative reaction sice the “Conservative agenda” is quite varied and the various conservatisms are often in quite vigourous deantes with each other. For that matter I have found to day that many conservatives were critical of Weigels tone in that article for what it is worth. I hope for the record that Weigal things more about what he worte and I suspect much fo the problem is he wrote this without thinking too much. It was a huge article to write after just having the Document in his hands for a just a few hours. SInce the Aemrican Bishops did not have it I can’t believe he had it for days on end

  8. July 8, 2009 9:21 pm

    jh,

    Yes, you’re right. Conservatism has many facets and it is manifested in many different ways. My point was that he is definitely not a liberal, but aligns with the right.

  9. July 8, 2009 10:19 pm

    “My less than charitable opinion of George Weigel has always been that he is 75% neocon and 25% Catholic with an unfettered ego bordering on arrogance. I believe this piece proves me correct. And don’t expect him to retract it. It would be much more in character for Weigel and his fans in the Neocon Alternate Universe to attack anyone who dares to attack him (for attacking the Pope).”

    Well Brennan I am not sure about that. Of course I am not sure what a Neo Con is nowaday since it seems to be thrown out there with a depressing increasing frequency as some slur and on the right this is seen even more sadly

    That being said I suspect or have a gut feeling Weigels problem is with the current head of the Ponticia lCouncil for Justice and Peace in which I have to admit sometimes says things that are not too helpful and inflames situations. So that might be a part of it.

    Weigel is a good example of what I saw on the left and the right and of course in the secular media yesterday. That is people have to have a opinion or story out there in minutes and don’t have time to relfect of investigagte. I am not sure how the Vatican can counter this problem but it sems to happen all the time.

    I note last Firday a hilarious entry on the US Bishops Communication blog that was asking anyone outh there to shoot them a bootleg copy. I think this all has to be reexamined. It would be Bishops and the Bishops Conferences to be up to speed on the day of in this modern communications world. Of course dodne of this is helped that most Media is cutting their religious reporting and people that cover that beat are usually very bad at it. At the very least they seem to have a very small roloedex of people to call on when these things happen

    • July 8, 2009 11:15 pm

      JH,

      I do agree with you on the trend we saw yesterday where various Catholic bloggers and pundits seemed to feel a need to issue their opinions on the new encyclical as early as possible. I saw Deal Hudson’s post at Inside Catholic and American Papist cutting and pasting what he thought were the most important paragraphs within a couple hours of the encyclical’s release. By noon CST, posts and articles were up all over the place. Hardly enough time to discern the most important features or digest the encyclical’s content. Most of these early posts were rather idiosyncratic, leaving us with little insight into the encyclical’s meaning. Sometimes I wonder if there is more value placed on being at the cutting edge of Catholic events than on understanding their depth and force.

      • July 9, 2009 5:04 am

        Being no the “cutting edge” however allows you to control the hermeneutic; in this way I think the combination of being on the cutting edge for its own sake to attract readers, but also, the desire to control how news is read so people will follow your interpretation, is all involved with such articles.

        Now one can say I was involved in this — but my excuse is I always do a quote of the week, and I think the encyclical deserves to be on the spotlight this week.

  10. July 9, 2009 5:32 am

    I am indebted to Weigel for introducing me to the work of moral theologian Fr. Servais Pinckaers, OP, over seven years ago.

    But he has been in a period of significant decline, also evident in his flustered response in a recent First Things letters section to a critic of his servile neoconservative analysis of the election.

    I found Weigel’s dismissal of the encyclical’s comments about the “gift” and “gratuity” economy to be particularly insulting to the intelligent reader. Pope Benedict is obviously trying to expand our notion of the economy to include non-profits and non-financial exchanges of goods. These exchanges do not fit well into the constricted technocratic rationalism of pundit economics.

  11. JohnTBissell permalink
    July 9, 2009 6:00 am

    Weigel succeeded in Witness to Hope to Make John Paul II boring. It read like Osservatore Romana pasted together to make a book. When your Faith resides largely in your intellect and never travels to your hands and heart you end up with this kind of scholastic oneupmanship.

    • July 9, 2009 9:27 am

      When your Faith resides largely in your intellect and never travels to your hands and heart you end up with this kind of scholastic oneupmanship.

      Very true.

  12. crazylikeknoxes permalink
    July 9, 2009 10:46 am

    When I first read Weigel’s National Review article, it reminded me of those nineteenth-century German source critics who dissected ancient literature from Homer to the Bible in order to find the true authors.

  13. Michael permalink
    July 9, 2009 11:30 am

    Excellent and copious analysis!

  14. Matthew Kennel permalink
    July 9, 2009 12:10 pm

    One of the things I found perplexing about Weigel’s analysis was how one of his supposed P&J sections – that on “gift” – includes one of the most characteristically Benedictine touches – a reference to the teachings of St. Augustine with a detailed footnote (footnote 88) explaining the origins of this teaching in De libero arbitrio and other Augustinian works. Now, admittedly, someone from P&J COULD have referenced St. Augustine (he is certainly not an unknown writer), but, considering Pope Benedict’s expertise in Augustinian scholarship, this small touch lends credibility to the idea that the section was written by Benedict himself, or, at very least, was redacted under his hand.

  15. July 9, 2009 1:29 pm

    WJ: “This is an excellent critique of Weigel, thoroughly documented and admirable in its measured tone. (I could not have maintained such a tone–especially when treating the implicit character assassination of Benedict that drives Weigel’s “argument”).”

    Well, at least you admit it. :-)

    This is a strong piece, M. J. Andrew. Here’s hoping Weigel is capable of being better than this one essay.

  16. Dale Price permalink
    July 9, 2009 1:33 pm

    That’s going to leave a mark–and it should. Brilliantly done–Weigel has been “hoist with his own petard.”

  17. Blackadder permalink
    July 9, 2009 1:54 pm

    Excellent post.

  18. Scott Elkins permalink
    July 9, 2009 3:02 pm

    Three years ago I spent a full day with George Weigel. My wife and I discussed many topics with him, most of them centered on the faith, his writings and opinions (political and otherwise). I found him to be quite different than how he has been characterized in this article and adjoining responses. There was no indication of anything shallow, unscrupulous or arrogant about him as a man, or in what he had to say. From my time with him, brief as it was, I would have to say that such labels do not apply.

    • July 9, 2009 4:18 pm

      There was no indication of anything shallow, unscrupulous or arrogant about him as a man, or in what he had to say. From my time with him, brief as it was, I would have to say that such labels do not apply.

      Thank you for sharing your personal interaction with Weigel. Though I will remind you that the adjectives “shallow” and “unscrupulous” were used to describe Weigel’s charges against Caritas in Veritate (you seem to suggest that I used them to describe Weigel “as a man”). So while he may, indeed, be a wonderful gentleman–and I have heard this from many people who have met him–there is no question that his review of the new encyclical is brash, unfair, and irresponsible.

  19. July 9, 2009 5:44 pm

    I pretty much agree that the comments he made were bad
    . But I hopw in fairness some of the stupidity and warping this great document on the liberal side gets some fisking. I thing Wiegals comments had to met and I think this forum gave one of the best responses. But at some point someof the distorations on the other side must be met.

    Just saying

    • July 9, 2009 5:57 pm

      jh,

      What other side? Any examples? Who is represented by that other side? I don’t think there is a need to always balance a criticism with another one from “the other side” when the critique is fair and directed to a specific person in a specific topic. I don’t even know what the other side means.

  20. mpm permalink
    July 9, 2009 5:51 pm

    I applaud Mr. Andrews for his defense of the unitary voice of the Papal magisterium. A certain dismay at what Mr. Weigel’s “agenda” was in his article was my first reaction too.

    I might ask, however, why Mr. Andrews seems to know just what parts corresponded to which of the two “voices” Mr. Weigel spoke of?

    • July 9, 2009 5:56 pm

      I might ask, however, why Mr. Andrews seems to know just what parts corresponded to which of the two “voices” Mr. Weigel spoke of?

      Weigel tells us which parts belong to which party at the bottom of page 1 and in the bulk of page 2.

  21. July 9, 2009 11:40 pm

    Thank you for setting the record straight. Too many of our Catholic writers have achieved demagogue status and therefore think themselves immune to critique. Again, thank you for an excellent critique of Weigel.

  22. July 10, 2009 2:44 pm

    Bravisimo!! First rate rebuttal!

  23. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    July 12, 2009 12:45 pm

    Excellent work!

    BTW, I love this blog thus far.

  24. July 14, 2009 8:31 pm

    I have been travelling for two weeks and am just now catching up on all the commentary on Caritas in Veritate (which I have not yet read). This is a fantastic post. Thanks.

  25. Tim F. permalink
    July 14, 2009 9:24 pm

    First, I will say that I think Weigel was, as many were, too quick to critique the encyclical. Second I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea as to whether a committee of differing views helped compose it. I don’t think the author of this post or many others calling for Weigel’s scalp do either.

    But on to this post. MJ Andrew, one might from reading it come to the conclusion that you were an admirer and fan of Weigel until that National Review article came out. But only if they had not been reading what you have been posting as Policraticus and Michael Joseph over the past few years. You have been criticizing him rather harshly over the past couple of years on the old version of this blog and at Vox Nova. Sometimes in my opinion even resorting to cheap insults like calling him an “underachiever’. So forgive me if I don’t believe it when you write “Weigel was the last Catholic commentator I suspected would provide an altogether unmeasured and grossly unjust review of the new encyclical.” It might even be that you have been waiting for an opportunity like this to let him have it, having been dismissing him and insulting him for some time now.

    Then there is this “gem” from Katerina,
    “We should never judge another person’s motives or what’s in their hearts, but it would be a gesture for him to take the article down.”

    That’s got to be the most disingenuous thing I have read in a long time. Imagine, stating plainly that you should never judge a person’s motives or what’s in their hearts and then proceeding to go and do just that. For instance this other “gem”:

    “:On the other hand, Weigel’s employment depends on Catholicism being wedded to the Conservative agenda. If that breaks down, then his employment is at stake. A very dangerous place to be for any conservative or liberal Catholic. Faith is supposed to bring us freedom and expand our world view not shrink it while being subservient to political ideologies.”

    I don’t get it. Is his faith subserviant to money or political ideologies? Or did you mean both?

    And then agreeing with this comment which was I suppose directed at Weigel

    “When your Faith resides largely in your intellect and never travels to your hands and heart you end up with this kind of scholastic oneupmanship.
    Very true.”

    FWIW, this comment is true generally and should be a cautionary warning to anyone writing about these things, including the author of this blog post. But in agreeing with the commenator who wrote it and directed it at Weigel, Katerina does indeed judge Weigels heart as never being visited by his faith which is I guess stuck in his intellect.

    • July 15, 2009 5:17 pm

      Tim F.,

      I have been particularly critical of Fr. Neuhaus and Novak in the past (and will continue to be). With respect to Weigel, I have been far less critical of him, and whatever criticism I issue presupposes a respect for his work (I have long considered him to be the most intellectually honest of the three). So I was not being disingenuous in saying that I did not suspect that he would fabricate an outrageous story in order to justify casting suspicion and doubt on elements of the encyclical.

  26. Father Clifford Stevens permalink
    July 15, 2009 3:37 pm

    George Weigel’s disenchantment with the Vatican began in his biography of John Paul II with this statement on the Gulf War: “Just-war reasoning involves rigorous empirical analysis, which was sometimes lacking in the Holy See’s approach to the Gulf crisis.” His knowledge of Just War theory seems to have neglected Francisco de Vitoria’s own classical study of the subject, De Jure Belli, and his statement that the the greatest moralist in the western world was lacking in empirical analysis is not only small-minded, but heavy with ideological bias.

    Father Clifford Stevens
    Boys Town, Nebraska

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