Theologian gauges Church crisis impact

Maria D'Amato

The St. Thomas of Villanova Church was filled with many people who joined together and recited traditional Catholic prayers Monday night. However, these prayers were not part of a Mass or religious service, but rather the opening of Monday night’s lecture, “Being Catholic in America: Part II,” presented by Roman Catholic theologian George Weigel. Weigel discussed problems plaguing the Catholic Church, specifically the sex scandals that emerged during the past year. He addressed the impact of the scandal by asking if it was the most serious crisis in the history of the Church in the United States.“This crisis is different because it is a self-generating crisis of fidelity,” Weigel said. Although only about 2 percent of all priests were involved, the scandals generated strong reactions from the Church community.“Catholics were and are angry,” he said.Weigel discounted some misconceptions surrounding the crisis in the Church as he said it is not a result of celibacy, but rather a matter of priests “not living the celibate commitment.” According to Weigel, the issue at hand is not pedophilia, which is the abuse of pre-pubescent children, but rather the homosexual abuse of teenagers and young men. He also said the problems were not caused by the Church’s alleged authoritarianism or by the media. “The Church owes the media a debt of gratitude for bringing the issue to the surface,” he said. This allowed for confrontation of the complex institutional and personal factors which contributed to the crisis.Weigel also provided some suggestions for the healing of the “deeply damaged Catholic ecology which led to the mutation of the Church.” He proposed seminary reform and the modification of theological education. He said seminaries should concentrate on the importance of discipleship, as opposed to personality, in recruitment and pointed to the necessity of unimpeachably orthodox faculty members in seminaries. In addition, he suggested the formation of an episcopate based on character, spirituality, habits and cultural climate: apostles who will lead the Church. Weigel ended his lecture by referencing Pope Pius XI. “Thank God that we live among the present problems,” he said. “It is no longer permitted for anyone to be mediocre.”“The overwhelming attendance at tonight’s lecture was evidence that the Catholic Church truly has Villanova’s support,” sophomore Andrea Salierno said. “George Weigel proved to be an insightful speaker who instilled hope in the audience that the Catholic community can and will overcome this crisis.”Weigel is the author of numerous publications, including “The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church,” and “Catholic Difference,” a weekly syndicated column. He is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and one of America’s leading commentators on issues of religion and public life. The lecture was sponsored by the Office for Mission Effectiveness.