If you read Weigel's latest piece in First Things it sounds like an admission of failure about the magazine's mission.Here's the piece he is referring to: George Weigel, "Fighting on New Terrain" (First Things, August/September, 2013). The entire article is well-worth reading and quite telling; but here are a few excerpts setting the stage:
Which is good because I cancelled my subscription the day after reading it.
The American Founders built “better than they knew” (as the U.S. bishops once put it in the late nineteenth century). That is, they created an admirable structure of democratic self-government, but the theoretical or philosophical foundation on which they built that structure was inadequate, being cannibalized from fragments of Christian patrimony tarted up in (Scottish and English) Enlightenment fancy dress.[Hat tip to G.M.]
That foundation “held” for a long time, thanks to the culture-forming capacities of a mainline Protestantism that, whatever its other faults, nevertheless inculcated a public ethic capable of sustaining American democracy. The last great moment of appeal to that mainline-informed public ethic was the civil-rights movement in its classic phase. But even then the mainline had become the oldline and was on its way to being the sideline. Murray had seen this coming in the 1950s and suggested that the Catholic community, still in possession of those religiously informed natural law truths that were the distillate at the foundation of the American experiment, might move into the vacuum created by the mainline meltdown and become the “lead” community (as RJN [Richard John Neuhaus] put it in The Catholic Moment) in both proclaiming the Gospel and securing the moral-cultural foundations of American democracy.
Thus RJN, and many of the rest of us, implicitly accepted Francis Canavan’s defense of Murray and his criticism of the David Schindler/Communio/“Ill-Founded Republic” critique of the American experiment. The Founders were doing politics, not theology, and in any event the job of formulating and sustaining a public philosophy (which, given American religiosity, had to be “religiously informed”) was the job of a robust civil society, not of government. (This was also, and obviously, a critique of functionalist approaches to the theory of democracy, but that need not detain us here.)
The RJN variant, if you will, on the Murray Proposal was that this new shoring up, this new delineation of a “religiously informed public philosophy for the American experiment in ordered liberty,” would be ecumenical and interreligious in character: thus the unique fellowship of the First Things community and the distinctive style and range of the magazine.... Read more >>