The Magazine

Roman Spring

The fundamental challenge(s) of Catholic renewal.

Mar 11, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 25 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
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Weigel believes that understanding our cultural moment will prompt reforms within the church, and he outlines a detailed plan of action for renewal: (1) Priests, bishops, and popes should more fully embrace their identity as alteri Christi and their role as heirs to the apostles to teach, govern, and sanctify; (2) Catholic liturgy should form a sacred space in a counter-cultural time, allowing beauty to serve as a special on-ramp to friendship with Christ; (3) lay Catholics should embrace vocations in the world but not of it, joyously live out Christian marriages, and “take possession of their unique responsibility as lay agents of the church’s mission to the world”; (4) Catholic scholars should embrace the symphony of truths of faith and reason, to think with the church; and (5) Catholic public officials should allow these saving truths about God and man to guide their policy decisions, remaining sensitive to the difference between first principles and prudential considerations.

Evangelical Catholicism has its limitations. Notwithstanding the recent papal resignation, Weigel’s suggested reforms for the Vatican bureaucracy will cause many a reader’s eyes to glaze. One might quibble with his suggestions for liturgical music reform (we should sing the Mass, not sing at Mass). And he doesn’t devote enough attention to Catholic intellectual life in secular disciplines, especially the social sciences. Acknowledgment of the role evangelical Protestantism has played in fostering Evangelical Catholicism also would have been welcome. 

Still, this book deserves to be read by any serious thinking Christian. Evangelical Catholics are not blind to the manifold failings of the church, but they know and love it too much to give up on Christ’s bride. Though protected by the Holy Spirit, the church is composed of sinners, constantly in need of renewal by a more radical discipleship of Christ. As Weigel notes, “Evangelical Catholicism calls the entire Church to holiness for the sake of mission.” John Paul II and Benedict XVI both knew this. The next bishop of Rome will as well.

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon fellow at the Heritage Foundation and editor of Public Discourse.