Not every book George Weigel writes is on a subject above his pay grade. He is, in fact, a very good writer, often well-researched, and sometimes very clever. The first book of his I read was Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), which I thought very good -- excellent, in fact; and I have read many articles by him since, first in the pages of Crisis
Magazine, when it was still a print magazine, and then in First Things
and National Review
, which fairly impressed me.
The book in question here, however, is entitled Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church
(New York: Basic Books, 2013), and my first reaction before reading the book is to ask myself, Now what in the blazes is that supposed to mean: Evangelical Catholicism? Is this yet another attempt to re-invent the proverbial wheel? or to produce a fast-food version of the Real Thing called McCatholicism
Whatever it is, if George Weigel has produced it, you can be sure that it has the corporation's brand name and seal of approval on it. He would see to that. The man is well-connected (Just read his biography). In the retrospective issue of First Things
after the death of Fr. Neuhaus, there were photos in which you could see the young Weigel together with Neuhaus, with William F. Buckley, and a host of other major movers and shakers. He wrote a massive biography of Pope John Paul II, and, of course, he is also (let me pause just a moment here while I clear my throat) Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
But I digress ... Here, of course, our concern is liturgy, and the following is a taste of what Weigel suggests Evangelical Catholicism envisions by "Deep Reform" in the liturgy, which comes in a secion entitled "Reform, Not Nostalgia" of Chapter 7, "The Evangelical Catholic Reform of the Liturgy":
The reform of the Church's liturgy in Evangelical Catholicism is emphatically not an exercise in nostalgia: nor does it begin from the premise that the Novus Ordo of Pope Paul VI--the form of the Roman Rite developed by the Concilium for the implementation of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy--was a serious mistake. There were certainly grave mistakes in the implementation of the Novus Ordo liturgy. Thus Evangelical Catholicism welcomes the revival of the Missal of 1962 (the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) for its capacity to inspire a more dignified celebration of the Novus Ordo. But the evangelical Catholic liturgical renewal of the twenty-first century will be built from the Novus Ordo, particularly as embodied in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, not from a return to the preconciliar liturgy.
For a small minority of Catholics, the Missal of 1962 offers a way of prayer most conducive to the worship they seek to offer. For the overwhelming majority of Catholics, however, the reform of the reform will be an ongoing reform of the Novus Ordo as outlined above. That reform will be retarded, not advanced, by exercises in liturgical nostalgia that, by seeking to re-create an imagined past (which is, in truth, barely recognizable as the 'past' that Catholics who lived in the 1950s would recognize), fail to set an appropriate course for the future. This kind of ill-informed nostalgia cannot contribute to the development of Evangelical Catholicism in the twenty-first century; the reform of the reform of the liturgy will not be advanced by a return to the use of the maniple, or by the widespread revival of fiddleback chasubles, or by a proliferation of lace surplices and albs, or by other exercises in retro-liturgy. (p. 168)
The end of this sentence carries an endnote. As I said, Weigel is very clever; and
his pièce de résistance
comes in this endnote (n. 11, p. 274). He writes with delicious (but undoubtedly altogether charitable and not the least bit malicious) irony:
How anyone can imagine that the abundant use of lace in liturgical vestments advances the reform of the priesthood as a manly vocation is one of the minor mysteries of early twenty-first century Catholic life.
There is so much Weigel get's wrong here that many contemporary Catholics are simply clueless about, it will be fun to see who wins at the carnival game of throwing the ball that hits its target, releasing the victim into the barrel of cold water. Like I said, he's one clever cookie. Happy aiming. Enjoy yourselves, but be charitable.
[Hat tip to E. Echeverria]
: ... and sometimes it appears that even Francis agrees with Pope George