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Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church

by George Weigel

Pub Date: Feb. 5th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-465-02768-2
Publisher: Basic

A call for pride, sincerity and depth in Catholic life and community.

Weigel (Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism, 2007, etc.) falls short in this sweeping, yet shallow call for “deep reform” in the Catholic church. The author argues that Counter-Reformation Catholicism, after a three-century reign, has been slowly dying in the face of modernism. The church of today had its genesis with the election of Pope Leo XIII in 1878, who began reforms that led to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. As the Catholic church grapples with a rapidly changing world, Weigel writes, it must finally shed the remnants of Counter-Reformation Catholicism and fully embrace Evangelical Catholicism, “a counterculture that seeks to convert the ambient public culture by proclaiming certain truths, by worshipping in Spirit and in truth, and by modeling a more humane way of life.” The bulk of Weigel’s book examines how this new Catholicism can be applied to the episcopate, priesthood, liturgy, laity, etc. The author makes many important points, and his call toward a deeper spirituality and sense of mission in Catholic life is laudable, but he is stunningly silent on many important issues. Although he does not ignore the clergy sex scandals of recent decades, he glosses over them. “Fidelity and deeper conversion to Christ…not ‘reforms’ ” are called for to solve such problems, an answer few would accept as practical or comprehensive. Likewise, he does not address the drastic shortage of clergy and gives little thought to the emerging role of the third-world church and their particular needs and points of view. Weigel’s call for reform is based in attitude more than in structure, which may fall flat with many readers interested in “deep Catholic reform.”

Long on evangelism, short on reform.