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No optimism, much hope

I must confess that I’m not full of Pentecostal joy as I consider the next 12 months.

(Image: Simon Hurry/Unsplash.com)

While history is always full of surprises, including happy ones, I must confess that I’m not full of Pentecostal joy as I consider the next 12 months.

World politics are likely to be grim. The Russian bear will continue his aggression in Ukraine, perhaps kinetically. China will intensify its pressure on Taiwan after the Winter Olympics (during which the communist regime’s massive human rights violations will not receive nearly as much media attention as the BLM movement did in 2020.) Democracy will erode further in Latin America. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes will weaponize refugees and migrants, inventing new forms of human trafficking to destabilize the West. The European Union will continue to insist (as it did recently) that limitations on the killing of unborn children constitute “gender-based violence” because abortion-on-demand is a “fundamental human right” that “cannot be subordinated to cultural, religious, or political considerations.” The World Health Organization will remain an obstacle to getting at the truth about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Will life in these United States be calmer? I doubt it. In the run-up to the November midterm elections, each party will demonize the other as a mortal threat to the Republic. Crackpot conspiracy theories will flourish on the Internet and in social media. The obscene national debt will mount. If the Supreme Court does its constitutional duty and consigns Roe v. Wade and Casey v. Planned Parenthood to the historical dustbin where we find Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson, 51 arguments over providing legal protection to the unborn will unfold across the country; those debates are unlikely to be any more rational than those involving other bitterly contested culture war issues. And as the President’s cognitive incapacities become more unmistakable, the possibility of a constitutional crisis looms.

What about the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church? The Barque of Peter seems headed into even stormier seas. Roman disaffection for the Catholic Church in the United States (which is based on a grotesque caricature) will express itself in unpleasant ways. Throughout the world Church, liberal Catholic authoritarianism and bullying will intensify; so will apocalypticism at the other end of the Catholic opinion spectrum. “Synodality” will remain undefined, but a “synodal process” of “listening” will continue and the voices of Catholic deconstruction will probably dominate the discussion — as they certainly do in Germany, where a “Synodal Way” that would make Martin Luther cringe voted last September to debate whether the Church needs an ordained priesthood. And the Vatican, one suspects, will continue to disappoint those who pray for its return to a robust defense of the basic human rights of all.

Pondering all this, I recently called a friend and said, “Give me some good news.” To which he immediately replied, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

Exactly.

It’s always good for the Church to make that basic confession of faith, but especially when the shadows are lengthening across the historical landscape. A good way to root ourselves in the first Christian proclamation — “Jesus is Lord” — is to revive the ancient custom of announcing the date of Easter and the other moveable feasts of the Church year immediately after the Gospel is read or sung on the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Here’s the formula that the priest-celebrant or deacon would use this year, taken from the Roman Missal:

“Know, dear brethren, that, as we have rejoiced at the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so by leave of God’s mercy we announce to you also the joy of his Resurrection, who is our Savior.

“On the second day of March will fall Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the fast of the most sacred Lenten season. On the 17th day of April, you will celebrate with joy Easter Day, the Paschal feast of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the 26th day of May will be the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. On the fifth day of June, the feast of Pentecost. On the 19th day of June, the feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. On the 27th day of November, the First Sunday of the Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

No matter what the vicissitudes and trials of history, Christians live in a different time-zone: the time-zone of salvation history. That is the truth to which the solemn liturgical proclamation of those dates attests. And that is why, however shaky the grounds for optimism, there is every reason for hope.


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About George Weigel 401 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 Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), and Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021).

15 Comments

  1. Is apocalypticism not ultimately something to be hopeful about?

    That plus the prospects of Russia liberating Ukraine are reasons to be hopeful

  2. Krauts are almost always pessimistic (except the Bavarians). Must be due to the weather. HAPPY New Year, Georg; we are people of hope.

  3. We can always count on you, Mr. Weigel to be the voice of truth. Thank you for the reminder of He in whom our faith must always be grounded: Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth, now and forever.

  4. When optimists Royal and Weigel coincide on a gloomy forecast for 2022 Irish Derby bookmakers will likely give no more than 6/5 odds for betting on an annus horribilis. “Crackpot conspiracy theories will flourish on the Internet and in social media”(Weigel). Perhaps that depends on the credentials of the clever crackpot to turn a real conspiracy, for example, “getting at the truth about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic” into a convincing journalistic coup.
    +Since I don’t bear the credentials or the responsibilities of the cognoscenti journalist, my advantage is the luxury to sell my own crackpot conspiracy theories with little ado [Atdo old Norse].
    +First, George Weigel gets hands down approval for “Jesus Christ is Lord” as the good news. Next, a borrow of his potential conspiracy theory, “Synodality will remain undefined, but a synodal process of listening will continue and the voices of Catholic deconstruction will probably dominate the discussion”. Conspiracy: a friendly stratagem, collusion, or a wicked machination, intrigue.
    +Depending on the players and their objectives we may label conspiracy whether crackpot or not [even if crackpot suggests wild speculation]. Deconstruction of Catholicism is a mighty forecast. Wild? If Francis is a complete well meaning bumbler then wild. If Francis is a clever reformer [remember Ivereigh’s The Great Reformer] who follows the path laid down by fellow Jesuit Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini SJ for modernizing the Church, and is assisted by a team of clever reformers Fr Antonio Spadaro SJ, Cardinals Cláudio Hummes OFM, Reinhard Marx, Walter Kasper, Blase Cupich, Kevin Farrell then the outcome suggested by George Weigel is the result of a friendly stratagem or a wicked intrigue depending on which conspiratorial flavor friendly or wicked the reader prefers.
    +As a final note if we have multitudes of participants cardinals bishops, presbyters, deacons, laity, social as well as other innumerable scientists, atheists, agnostics, non Christians sans definitive format for Magisterial approval endless and inconclusive what would anyone with an ounce of intelligence expect if not deconstruction of Catholicism. Into a plethora of relativistic opinion both within the Synod and without, the outside world.

    • This was sorted out in 1964-7 at the Pope’s Commission on Population and the UNO Food and agricultural Organisation by simultaneous applications by my father, Oxford University, UK roman catholic group economist, Colin Clark, of observation measurement terms for food supplies (eucharist) and population (marriage) with 100% accuracy. The rest is status unemployment friction.

    • The keeping in uncertainty of belief of covenant non-presumed reciprocity of what we eat (food supplies, eucharist) and who we are (population, marriage) was sorted out in 1964 at Pope St Paul V1’s Commission on Population and the UNO Food and Agricultural Organisation by my father, roman catholic role group economist, Colin Clark. Pope Francis put this education project in sexuality and true love within the family into action on 10 June 2021 in remedying the “worldwide catastrophe” he termed in his letter to Cardinal Reinhart Marx by authorising with absolute power of valid and proper marriage the indictments of Cardinal Angelo Becciu plus nine others for embezzlement of charity donations by helpers of marriage and family and a diplomatic protest note to the Italian Parliament on fraud on religious liberty in marriage by the “Zan” anti-homophobia bill

  5. A dire picture from George Weigel and, because it looks out only 12 months, still too optimistic. I refer, of course, to a “climate” other than political—“climate change” which can be too easily dismissed as the love child of fecund tree huggers. We recall that it was Pope John Paul II, not Pope Francis, who elevated ecology to the level of a moral issue….

    The 29 trillion-dollar national debt? There are more one kind of debt from mortgaging the future against present manufacturing/indulgences. True, Laudato si blunders theologically when it claims that “God always forgives; human beings sometimes forgive; but when nature is mistreated, she [Mother Nature! Pachamama?] never forgives.”

    Forgive? The better phrase could have simply been that “nature, unlike peasants and slaves, does not suffer in silence.”

    So, looking out 12 years instead of Weigel’s 12 months, what about the asserted global tipping point of 1.7 degrees Centigrade—especially when considering such amplifying “feedback loops” as thawing permafrost across the entire arctic, with the added release of enormous volumes of methane sequestered underground for untold millennia?

    Articulating the fit between incomplete and imperfect science and even more imperfect policy definition…might this actually be a Christian vocation! Yes?

    Where does genuine prudential judgment (versus ideology) actually take us? As with the overhanging national-debt crisis, we might also think of the future and ecological end-state, and then work backwards to the present to, you know, maybe figure things out and act accordingly.

    What about how these fluctuations will exasperate Weigel’s global and local politics? Water-short regions? Lost species in oceanic food chains? What about the likely fluctuating limits or boundary conditions of this ecological niche called planet earth? (Boundaries exist after all!)

    Nature is a gift from the Creator, not a sink, and is inseparable from human solidarity. And, after all and regardless of the deniers, the Dustbowl (like Auschwitz) really did happen. With Weigel, it does seem unlikely that any undefined synodality of one-way “listening” will magically manufacture (“synthesize”!) a coherent and unanimous sensus fidei for all of the above and more!

    • Oliver Clark
      JANUARY 7, 2022 AT 7:17 AM
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      This was sorted out in 1964-7 at the Pope’s Commission on Population and the UNO Food and agricultural Organisation by simultaneous applications by my father, Oxford University, UK roman catholic group economist, Colin Clark, of observation measurement terms for food supplies (eucharist) and population (marriage) with 100% accuracy. The rest is status unemployment friction.

  6. As we tread carefully with out focus on Jesus, let not the waves and the storms all around us distract or defeat us. O ye of little faith.

    • This was sorted out in 1964-7 at the Pope’s Commission on Population and the UNO Food and Agriculture Organisation by simultaneous applications by my father, Oxford University, UK roman catholic group economist, Colin Clark, of observation measurement terms for food supplies (eucharist) and population (marriage) with 100% accuracy. The rest is status unemployment friction. To “focus on Jesus” means on his keeping the covenant, non presumed reciprocity of marriage (population) and eucharist (food supplies)

  7. Well, given the appalling behavior of corporate, government and Church “elitists,” there is no need to worry ones head about “conspiracy theories.”

    • Oliver Clark
      JANUARY 7, 2022 AT 7:17 AM
      Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      This was sorted out in 1964-7 at the Pope’s Commission on Population and the UNO Food and Agriculture Organisation by simultaneous applications by my father, Oxford University, UK roman catholic group economist, Colin Clark, of observation measurement terms for food supplies (eucharist) and population (marriage) with 100% accuracy. The rest is status unemployment friction.

  8. I live the liturgical year. I oft repeated the seasons of the Roman Catholic Church calendar to the fourth graders I taught in Religious Education. It is a way of life that connects us to the Gospel message, the traditions of our faith, and the way of the cross.

  9. Mr Weigal is, as usual, excellent in his diagnosis. It’s no conspiracy theory however, to see the utter madness in D.C. Worse by far is the sickness/malice at the Vatican. As a convert, we’re astonished that the Church can be such a mess, even while souls are being lost. How can the Barque of Peter founder in quicksand? Unless something or someone diabolical is in control. No matter. Our Christ will take care of us in this time of testing. As our beloved priest often says, “Stay calm, and carry the Cross.” Isn’t that how we ought to maintain sanity? We live in a mad world, but we were told long ago: “Here we have no abiding city.” We intend to keep that in
    our hearts and live in patience with our Lord.

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