Sunday, August 01, 2010

Weigel v. Diogenes on Benedict and the future of progressivism

I just rediscovered a column by "Diogenes" in Catholic World Report upon which I had intended to post something back in June. In that column, Diogenes refers to a column he wrote five years ago, following the election of Pope Benedict XVI, reflecting on how the election would affect Catholic liberals. After his column appeared, a friendly reader commented:
Let's wait 5-10 years and see who's right, Weigel or Diogenes. If Benedict XVI proves to take his role as administrator of the church, or primus inter pares, more seriously than did his predecessor, it is fair to assume that Weigel will win the wager. If not, Diogenes will win, but all believing Catholics will lose.
Diogenes remarks that he would be happy to report that Weigel was right and "your Uncle Di" was wrong, but that in light of the worldwide torrent of criticism directed recently against the Pope -- much of it from Catholic quarters -- he wonders.

What follows in Diogenes' column is the original article he wrote in 2005, completely unaltered. Here are some excerpts:
In a syndicated column that appeared in Catholic diocesan newspapers late in April, George Weigel argued that Cardinal Ratzinger's election as Pope Benedict XVI signified the twilight of Catholic progressivism. As he put it:
It was expected that the Catholic Church would, indeed must, take the path of accommodation: that has been the central assumption of what's typically called "progressive" Catholicism. That assumption has now been decisively and definitively refuted. The "progressive" project is over -- not because its intentions were malign, but because it posed an ultimately boring question: how little can I believe, and how little can I do, and still remain Catholic?
I am not as sanguine as Weigel regarding the intentions of progressivists. After all, they haven't been low-profile church mice quietly pleading for a live-and-let-live Catholicism. While the now-comic 1960s culture of flowers and folk music may incline us to view them as harmless sentimentalists, they were and are revolutionaries, out to replace their old order with a new one of their own devising.
Diogenes asks us to remember how progressivists have taken over most theology departments, some seminaries, some diocesan religious education offices, as well as some religious congregations; and how they have used the "shibboleth issues" of contraception, women's ordination, gay rights, PC language, etc., to hire and promote ideological allies and torpedo others. While Weigel is correct in declaring that progressivists have failed to carry the day and that their religious minimalism has much to do with their failure, says Diogenes, most of us probably know seminarians or grad students or lay volunteers who, because of their orthodoxy, found themselves unemployed before realizing what hit them.
For the same reasons I do not expect progressivists to shrug and gracefully fade off the scene. What is at stake is not a failed literary review, but the meaning of their entire life. In the Bolshevik revolution, the young firebrands of 1910 did not cede authority to the young firebrands of 1980; once having seized power, they couldn't relinquish it, and kept a white-knuckle grip on the Party until it was loosened by clogged arteries. So too in the post-conciliar Catholic putsch, the angry young mustangs of 1968 became the angry middle-ages mustangs of 1988, who became the angry old mustangs of today....
Diogenes also notes that mainstream Catholic liberals "have blood on their hands" by dint of their complicity to a woman's right to an abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973, a temptation hard to resist after casting their lot with contraception after Humanae Vitae in 1968. The aggravating thing, of course, was how this flatly contradicted their professed concern for the voiceless, which is why they detest so deeply any mention of abortion, which "reminds them of their betrayal of the sole element of nobility in their progressivist project."
"Weak men are apt to be cruel," said Lord Halifax, "because they stick at nothing that may repair the ill effect of their mistakes." The ad hoc acts of injustice perpetrated in seminaries and theology departments -- rejections, firings, demotions -- were for the most part tactical cruelties necessitated by the dynamics of revolution: with 40 million casualties behind you, there's no stopping, and there's no going back.
[Acknowledgement: excerpts from Diogenes, "The Reckoning -- Reconsidered," Catholic World Report (June 2010), p. 48.]


Anonymous said...

There may be no natural way to rescue the leaders of the movement, but one must always keep open the supernatural option.

As to the rest of the Catholic populace, I have found that once they see that I don't plan to put them before Monty Python's Inquisition, they can be quite reasonable.

As with many so-called "revolutions", the people weren't consulted, but may be too tired and too confused to know where to turn for help.

And so, to Pope Benedict's program, or lack of it: I have no program of my own, but only to discern Christ's will and do it.

This should be the rallying cry of the Congregation of the New Evangelization!

God bless,


I am not Spartacus said...

When Pope Benedict replicated John Paul's egregious error of visiting Synagogues and not preaching Christ, that was the signal to me that only a marginal - and prolly temporary - change had taken place.

There is a better chance the next Pope will be a Japanese woman named, Midori, than there is the chance Pope Benedict will offer the EF in St. Peter's Basilica publicly; on a Sunday.

IOW, I think Summorum Pontificum could, very easily, achieve dead letter status depending upon the actions of the next Pope or two.

Seriously, just how serious is the Catholic Church about THE holiest and most important act taken place on Planet Earth at any moment in time - The Mass - if the Pope dares not offer the Immemorial Mass in St Peter's?

Sheldon said...

Not Spartacus,

So you like Midori's CDs too, eh? I agree that the next pope will make a difference in how the legacy of B16 is implemented, to some degree; but I'm not too worried about the motu proprio becoming a "dead letter." Not quite.

The fear of offering the EF mass in St. Peter's is more than anything, I think, simply fear. There is far too much fear of what people will think, when there is nothing to fear but fear itself, at least if one 'fears' God.

Anonymous said...

Once again I am about to show how naive I am but what or who is causing fear in the Pope enough so that he will not say the Tridentine Mass in St. Peter's?


Sheldon said...


In his Inaugural Homily of April 24, 2005, Pope Benedict said, among other things: "Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves."

The criticisms he has leveled against the New Mass as a "banal, on-the-spot product" of "experts" following Vatican II are legion; and he had to muster considerable courage to issue the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum. He presumably continues to offer the Old Mass in private, as he offered it publicly while a cardinal. Yet one can hardly underestimate the weight of opposition against all of this. It militates against everything said by the "angry mustangs" (or "wolves") of the post-Vatican II "revolution" who continue to defend the "Spirit of Vatican II" as a justification for every institutionalized abuse and heresy since the 60s.

Anonymous said...


Here I go again. What specifically does he fear? Surely he has as many people who will stand with him as against him.(?) I can't imagine the angry wolves burning down St. Peter's. Is it a mass exodus from the church, a sort of SSPX of the left that he might fear? In John chapter 6, Jesus lost disciples.


Sheldon said...

This is speculation, Donna, so I very probably have no business hazarding my guesses here. All I know is that in our experience as human beings, there is a great deal of fear of fear itself. Perhaps I should more modestly speak for myself. Why do I engage in self-censorship rather than stand my ground on so many issues. Why is it that in the company of die-hard Democrats I avoid mentioning that I voted for McCain or Bush? Do I think I'll be physically assaulted? Of course not. So why?

At the same time, there may be a certain kind of rationale for some of this hesitation, though I'm guessing again. Why does the Holy Father continue to celebrate the Novus Ordo facing the people when he clearly thinks there is much with both the Mass and the "versus-populum" that is problematic? It may be that, for example, he thinks that so much liturgical change has rocked the boat of the Church in recent decades that he doesn't want to add to the 'confusion', or it could be that his handlers are advising him in those terms. Whatever the reason, despite the fact that he has made some modifications -- insisting that communicants at his liturgies receive kneeling and on the tongue, etc. -- he continues to generally celebrate the Novus Ordo and to do so facing the people (despite his arguments to the contrary).

What if he were to do something more radical? Even short of mandating that everyone receive kneeling and on the tongue, and every priest celebrate "ad orientem," what if HE started celebrating the TLM exclusively, for example? How would the Church react? After 50 years of experiencing the Novus Ordo with priests facing the people and receiving from "extraordinary ministers" standing and in the hand -- and being told that this is what the Church expects -- how would the faithful respond to such a radical change on the part of the pope? A major cadre of bishops might revolt. Who knows? In any case, there would surely be a huge hue and cry from the NCR crowd.

I'm going out on a limb here, but does this make any more sense?

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Sheldon

If not Pope Benedict, who?

If not now, when?

P.S. As a response to your previous comment abut my tedious S/N, I'd like to note that Pope Benedict teaches:


4. …..Jesus was not Spartacus...

I don't recall the Pope writing anything about "Sheldon" in his Encyclicals.


Anonymous said...


Yes, that makes sense. Sigh.