For those of you who may not be familiar, George Weigel is an uber-Catholic who writes regularly about all things pertaining to the Roman Catholic Church. He has an engaging – if pointed – style and he intends to see to it that Catholics, by golly, get their religion right. And it is apparent from his frequent offerings that George knows what is right!
In his most recent article, “Notre Dame Punts” , Weigel is alarmed that America’s leading Catholic university could have done something so heinous as to squander a free 30 second commercial at last night’s BCS championship game – a commercial that might have reached “the largest audience ever to watch a college football game.” And what would Weigel have advised Notre Dame to promote in that illustrious half minute ad? His answer,
one or another (or both) of the two causes that define serious, culture-forming Catholicism in 21st-century America: the pro-life cause and the cause of religious freedom.
(I don’t know about you, but I am certainly gratified to know that Catholicism is now defined by two causes in the 21st century because they were certainly defined by only one in the last part of the 20th!)
I find that admission to be quite staggering. If we may recall of all the grandiose claims that Rome reserves for herself – i.e. she is the only church founded by Christ whose message comes to us today in “unbroken” succession from the Apostles; she has the only group on earth whose leadership is protected from error by the Holy Spirit; her CEO, the pope, has reserved the right to himself to make immaculate pronouncements – the only two that Weigel finds appropriate to bring to a large American audience are abortion and religious freedom. Those are the defining issues this century.
But it is safe to say that those two issues are historical anomalies in the Roman communion.
The first issue is abortion. Adman Weigel’s recommended copy for the ad Notre Dame “should have” used is thus: “We’re Notre Dame: We help women in crisis pregnancies and we defend the right to life for all, from conception until natural death.” But that is not – I say again, not – the historic view of the Roman Catholic Church. As we have noted here Pope Innocent III defended one of his priests who had caused his mistress to abort. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “We conclude therefore that the intellectual soul is created by God at the end of human generation….” In other words man, the perfect union of body and soul, is not achieved at conception but “at the end of human generation”. When we add to that Pope Leo XIII’s absolute endorsement of Thomism as official Catholic philosophy at the end of the 19th century, it is ever so clear that the Holy Spirit saved Msgr. Weigel from making an egregious and embarrassing historical mistake in his ad. To sum the matter in a way reminiscent of recent U.S. political campaigns, Rome voted for abortion before it voted against it.
And Mr. Weigel suffers from a similar historical myopia with regard to the issue of religious freedom. It must be remembered that Pope Boniface VIII in his infamous bull of 1312 (Unam Sanctam) declared that there is no salvation outside the Church of Rome. Now that is hardly ecumenical language! And it’s hard to describe the murder by Rome of the Waldensians and others as honoring their “religious freedom”. And what of the seven hundred years where the Bishop of Rome oversaw the enslavement of the Jews in the ghettos throughout the Papal States? Was that a concern for religious freedom?
Here is the official view of religious freedom as written by the same Leo XIII:
it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the Church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and Church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced.
According to Leo XIII, Weigel’s position is “erroneous”. The State is to be either united with, or subservient to, the Roman Church and its pope. Period.
Weigel tells the amusing story of an opposing team’s chaplain remarking, in a game against Notre Dame, the God doesn’t care who wins a football game. The then-coach of Notre Dame, in his best Will Rogers persona, replied, “Yes, but his Mother does!” Well, if last night’s 42-14 rout of Notre Dame by Alabama is any indication, she must not care anymore. But maybe she cares enough to keep her university from making blatantly erroneous claims about the history of Catholic teaching.
Maybe their ad should have said, “We’re Notre Dame. We have a history department. George Weigel doesn’t.”
Soli Deo Gloria