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Ten Controversies Explored

by George Weigel

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-621330-4

A concise catechism of the Catholic faith, with specific reference made to common objections of nonbelievers, by papal biographer Weigel (Witness to Hope, 1999, etc.).

Weigel’s approach is unusual insofar as it proceeds from ten (often highly skeptical) queries (e.g., “Does Belief in God Demean Us?”), meant to reflect prevailing contemporary views, which the author addresses in the course of portraying the outlines of Catholic belief. The influence of Pope John Paul’s thinking on Weigel is evident from the start: He quotes the pope extensively, and he makes use of the pope’s distinctive terminology (the result of his philosophical training as a phenomenologist) throughout. The result, in consequence, shares many of the same strengths and weaknesses that keen-eyed observers have credited to the Holy Father himself: original, bold, and erudite, but also frequently obscure, highly analogical, and sometimes downright eccentric in its meaning. And, also like the current papacy, the author is wont to straddle the fence a good deal—arguing, for example, that the exclusion of women from Holy Orders does not entail a repudiation of postwar feminism and that the (vehemently antidemocratic) political doctrines of modern popes were not contradicted by the Second Vatican Council’s endorsement of religious freedom. But this is a refreshing account all the same, forthright in its unwillingness to gloss over controversial questions and highly original in its reliance on literary works (e.g., the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the novels of Evelyn Waugh) to illustrate moral or philosophical arguments. In its contrast of the “brave new world” of modern technological man to the “better world” of the Church, it is very much a continuation of the underlying theme of Weigel’s biography of John Paul II.

A bit too reverent to withstand scrutiny, this will find a welcome audience among believers but is unlikely to bring many others into their ranks.