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New Year’s Resolutions for Concerned Catholics: A Few Suggestions

More hard news is coming, but there is plenty to be done.

(us.fotolia.com/ ZoneCreative)

During and after the grim martial law period in the early 1980s, many freedom-minded Poles would greet each other on January 1 with a sardonic wish: “May the new year be better than you know it’s going to be!” As 2020 opens that salutation might well be adopted by Catholics concerned about the future of the Church, for more hard news is coming. So let’s get some of that out of the way, preemptively, before considering some resolutions that might help us all deal with the year ahead in faith, hope, and charity.

Financial scandals in the Vatican will intensify. It’s been clear for some months now that the dam of secrecy, masking irresponsibility (and worse), is cracking. So expect more disturbing revelations about corrupt self-dealing, misuse of charitable funds, stupid investments, and general incompetence behind the Leonine Wall.

Vatican diplomacy will continue to disappoint. And the disappointed will include all who care about the human rights the Church proclaims in its social doctrine. Over the past six years, Holy See diplomacy has failed in Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Burma, Cuba, China, and Venezuela. 2020 seems unlikely to see a more robust Vatican defense of human rights. But it will likely witness more extreme Vatican positions on climate change and migrants; as it’s done in the past, that absolutism will help shrink the space for devising reasonable approaches to these issues.

A report on the career of Theodore McCarrick will be issued by the Holy See. The report will please no one. Amid the cacophony that will follow its release, it will be important to remember three salient truths about this tawdry business: Psychopaths fool people; McCarrick was a psychopath;  and McCarrick fooled many people for decades, including wise and holy people, wealthy donors who fell for his “Going My Way act,” and his former friends on the port side of U.S. and world Catholicism.

Aggressive and politically motivated state attorneys general will continue to issue reports on historic sexual abuse cases. The response from cowed Church leaders will be tepid, at best. And what will get lost again – as it got lost after the now-paradigmatic Pennsylvania attorney general’s report – are two realities ignored by too many media outlets, too many institutions with responsibility for the safety of the young, and too many Catholics: that the Catholic Church today is arguably the safest environment for young people in the country; and that, from bitter experience, the Catholic Church has learned some things about creating safe environments from which the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, public schools, and public school teachers’ unions could all learn

And the suggested resolutions?

Resolve to be a missionary disciple at the retail level. Amidst these and other troubles, concerned Catholics constantly ask me, “What can I do?” To which I always respond, “Between now and next Easter, try and bring at least five disaffected Catholics back to Sunday Mass, and try to introduce at least one unevangelized person to Christ.” Retail evangelization is essential to authentic Catholic reform; it’s also deeply satisfying.  Let’s get on with it, irrespective of the troubles.

Resolve to limit your exposure to the Catholic blogosphere. In 2019, many Catholic websites went bonkers. There is no need to click on sites that specialize in all-hysteria or all-propaganda all-the-time. If you want reliable Catholic news, visit the Web sites of Catholic News Agency and the National Catholic Register. If you want sane commentary on the turbulent Catholic scene, go to the websites of Catholic World Report, First Things, and The Catholic Thing. That’s more than enough for anyone. Limiting your blogosphere browsing to these sites, while ignoring the hysteria-mongers and propagandists, will lower your blood pressure while keeping you well-informed.

Resolve to intensify your prayer for the vindication of Cardinal George Pell. This innocent man’s false conviction will be contested before Australia’s High Court in the first quarter of 2020. Pray that justice is done, that Australia’s reputation as a country governed by the rule of law is restored, and that the cardinal is enabled to resume his crucial role in Catholic affairs.

Resolve to deepen your spiritual life by serious spiritual reading. A good place to be start would be a recently published book by Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, OP: Grace in Season – The Riches of the Gospel in Seventy Sermons.

Resolve to thank the good priests and bishops you know for their sacrifice and service. They deserve it.

And may 2020 be a year full of grace for everyone. (We’ll all need it.)


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About George Weigel 278 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Fragility of Order: Catholic Reflections on Turbulent Times (Ignatius Press, 2018). His most recent book is The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform.

14 Comments

  1. After years of disappointments I finally said “enough is enough”. The cover ups by an unstable hierarchy, the disgraceful pedophile priests, the horrible Ireland Magdalene laundries and the apparent Vatican money laundering, and on, and on…

    Marcus Grodi, a former Protestant minister, who asks us to “come home”. How can any evangelical Catholic call anyone say that when the “home” has a leaking roof? The key word here is “trust”. After many years of anguish I can no longer tolerate the lies and misdirection of a church I loved. Now my church and my political party have abandoned me. There appears to be misplaced honor for one by the other. Strange bedfellows!

    How do you vet a priest and a president?

    • Except in the womb of the Virgin, when has the home not had a leaking roof?!

      ´…a church I loved…my church (has) abandoned me.´

      Weak and sinful people may abandon us; we may abandon the Church in frustration. But the Church never will abandon or stop loving us.

      This is my Body, given up for you…
      Lord, to whom shall we go?…

    • Unfortunately, as many who leave the Church, you are limiting the consideration of your relationship/ex-relationship to the human/institutional character of the Church. I understand your frustration and I will pray for you and others who are thinking of leaving the Church or who have left the Church. Just remember, the Church belongs to Jesus Christ and the corruption only corrupts the institutional Church, but it can never corrupt the spiritual/supernatural character of the Church. If you believe that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of Christ, you will soon begin to miss your communion with Him.

    • I don’t go to mass for the priest or the bishop. I go for the sacraments. Especially the Eucharist n the Catholic Church is the only church where I can be in the prescence of and recieve Christ.

  2. And here , we have a surprise gift from The Mother , on her Feast day too , of bringing good out of what could have been bad – Holy Father’s words – ‘ by how we treat a womans’body , we can understand our level of humanity .’ – https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2020/01/pope-apologizes-for-poor-example-in-slapping-womans-hand-new-years-eve/
    Those words and what it would take , to hold that ideal in our lives can be a good resolution to also bring unity into the divided areas in the nation as a whole , Catholics ever trying to be more empowered in The Spirit , through Sacramental lives and all that comes with it , to help drive out the powers that enslave persons in fear and anger that makes it difficult for many , to have reverence for body or
    soul .
    Blessings !

  3. My advice is the same Cardinal Raymond Burke gave in The Wanderer a couple of months ago: Be faithful to what the Catholic Church has always taught, even if a significant portion of the current Hierarchy, and even the Pope, fail or refuse to do so.

  4. Non-hysteria, non-propoganda blogs: allow me to add Fr. Dwight Longenecker (hard to beat for sane, accessible, down-to-earth wisdom), Catholic Culture, and Anglican Unscripted (occasionally gets lost in the weeds of Anglican politics but generally very worthwhile).
    Happy reading/listening in 2020!

  5. I agree with almost all of this, especially that McCarrick is a pathological fraud (either a psychopath or a sociopath).

    I certainly agree with all of the recommended Catholic web sites, which I read daily.

    I would add Sandro Magister’s website ‘Siettemo Cielo’ (i.e., “Seventh Heaven” in English, I probably misspelled the Italian), and David Warren’s “Essays in Idleness.”

    Remembering the advice of Ross Douthat, it’s a mistake for Mr. Wiegel to counsel avoiding other web sites in the “Catholic blogosphere,” since none of the above (with the possible exception of Magister) are involved in digging into or trying to report more directly on controversial matters.

    It’s better I think to monitor other sites (for example Michael Voris who is at odds with Mr. Wiegel), and weigh what they say, and use good judgment about hyperbole etc. Otherwise, you’ll never read anything other than narratives. But monitoring “Catholic sites” has its limits too, and last year that excercise certainly reached its limits.

    Remain in the Vine, as apart from Him, we can do nothing.

  6. I find it humorous and near sighted to be told not to read “dissident” news sites. Oh! OK! I’m going to trust you solely. NOT!

  7. Mr. Weigel some of the Catholic reporting in the blogosphere you flippantly disparage have exposed much of the rot that your trusted outlets refused to cover. Church Militant and Michael Voris are doing stellar work exposing corruption. You would do well to follow thier lead

  8. When I read the comments of or listen to a man with Trump derangement syndrome, like a George Weigel, whom I formerly respected when I read all of his books, I’ve learned to go easy on my blood pressure and be amused. In order to justify his hatred, a man needs to contrive or project fantasized virtues onto the persona of a man of whom the world might agree is the opposite.
    Who is George Weigel to risk embarrassing himself before the cocktail party circles of well-educated elitist sophisticates, who are almost universally in favor of sending selected unborn through the meat grinder, but who now finally accept a Catholic pope, a pope who, in a given mood, will characterize concern for such matters as “obsessive,” and whom these secular progressives regard as culturally the opposite of what a Donald Trump represents, the same Donald Trump who, on a concrete level, has saved more unborn lives than any human being in history.
    Authentic conservatives have had enough of prima donna cocktail-party conservatives and this drives them bonkers. Weigel prattles while Rome burns and acts like no one could have known the scale of the corruption, and how crazy are the voices that did. How ridiculous to say psychopaths can fool people. No, they only fool willful moral idiots, all too common among today’s ordained men, and common among anyone involved in systematic group think denial of personal sin. The only intelligent point Catholic dissidents have made in the last hundred years was pointing out that one problem of an unmarried priesthood is the disturbed development inevitable in a man not having anyone in his life to remind him of his capacity for being a fool, especially when he refuses to believe in the foolhardiness of fellow clergy.
    Recently Weigel talked about how Francis might go about preserving orthodoxy in the wake of the Amazon synod, the same Pope who uttered not a word about children buried alive in the Amazon while weeping about wood carvings. This is as delusional as a Rabbi in 1930s Germany preaching for patience, that Herr Hitler will put an end to all the anti-Semitism.
    And now Weigel’s delusional state will allow him to advise us, properly, to witness the faith with the intent to convert, but with a complete absence of irony that the Pope he refuses to fault, while maligning those who do, has called this very mission, commanded by Our Lord, a grievous sin. Protecting the
    unborn and the faith is infinitely more important that protecting the ego of Francis.

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