When sexual scandals rocked the American Catholic Church, many observers and faithful alike called on the church to abandon its tenets on the vocation of the priesthood and sexuality outside marriage -- to, in effect, become more Protestant. Acclaimed theologian and best-selling author George Weigel saw the crisis differently: as a crisis of fidelity to the true essence of Catholicism.
In this well-reviewed book that touched a chord with so many practicing Catholics, Weigel examines the scandal in the context of church history, and exposes the patterns of dissent and self-deception that became entrenched in seminaries, among priests, and ultimately among the bishops who failed their flock by thinking like managers instead of apostles. But, Weigel reminds us, in the Biblical world a "crisis" is also a time of great opportunity, an invitation to deeper faith. With honesty and critical rigor, Weigel sets forth an agenda for genuine reform that challenges clergy and laity alike to lead more integrally Catholic lives. More than just a response to recent failures, The Courage to Be Catholic is a bracing, forward-looking call to action, and a passionate embrace of life lived in faith.
American Catholics divided over the future direction of their church have managed to agree on one thing in recent months: much reform is needed in the wake of the clergy sexual-abuse scandal. Weigel, a theologian and papal biographer (Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II), outlines the shape he thinks it should take in this incisive analysis. More than a problem of clerical misbehavior, he writes, the present crisis is rooted in the church's failure to be faithful to its own teachings. He traces the current woes to a "culture of dissent" that he says was allowed to flourish after the reforming Second Vatican Council (1962 1965), creating an internal schism in the church. After the "truce of 1968," which allowed church leaders to publicly oppose Humanae Vitae, the papal encyclical on artificial contraception, without fear of reprisal, he says it became clear that the Vatican would not support bishops who wanted to maintain discipline among priests and theologians. Weigel lays much of the blame for the sexual-abuse scandal at the feet of the American bishops, whom he chides for acting more like corporate managers than apostles. But his criticism also extends to Rome, where he points to deficiencies in canon law and the Vatican's communications strategy. As expected, Weigel dismisses such reforms as abolishing priestly celibacy and ordaining women priests, but he counters with practical solutions, including changes in the way bishops are selected. This book should stimulate discussion among both progressive and conservative Catholics.