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The Courage to Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Church Paperback – 3 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (3 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465092616
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465092611
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 802,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A short, masterful, information-packed examination, a book that is thoroughly trustworthy, and spot-on."

About the Author

George Weigel, a Roman Catholic theologian and one of America's leading commentators on religion and public life, is the author of the acclaimed The Courage to Be Catholic, the international bestseller,Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II, and numerous other books that include The Truth of Catholicism and The Final Revolution. Now a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where he holds the John M. Olin Chair in Religion and American Democracy, Weigel writes a weekly column, "The Catholic Difference," that is syndicated to more than forty newspapers around the United States. He is an NBC consultant on the Vatican and appears regularly on network and cable television programs as well as national and local radio. Weigel lives with his wife and their three children in North Bethesda, Maryland.

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First Sentence
THE FIRST CATHOLIC SETTLERS in the original thirteen colonies landed on St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River, south of present-day Washington, D.C., on March 25, 1634. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ann Gleeson on 5 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Weigel has the guts to be totally orthodox and to be proud of it. As an English Catholic I have been encouraged by the strategies Weigel has put forward to overcoming the present 'crisis' in the Church. The solution is to be faithfully orthodox and to believe that the Holy Spirit does indeed guide the Church in her teaching. Contrary to popular media and liberal perceptions, Pope John Paul is not a conservative 'fuddy-duddy' but a man in love with the truth and with a message that will give hope to the world. Read this book to find out more...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 April 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for those seeking the real story behind the sexual abuse scandal that has hit the Catholic Church. Written honestly the book looks at the root causes of the problem and offers real solutions. For those who wish to cut through the media hype and sensationalism, this book is for you.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 53 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
Courage.........not easy, but necessary 14 Nov. 2002
By Steven K. Szmutko - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An area of common agreement, regardless of whether one is a conservative or liberal, is that the current sexual abuse scandal in the church needs immediate attention and reform. In what can best be described as an extended essay, George Weigel, theologian and columnist, analyzes the present crisis and presents a clear, cogent and concise analysis of the causes of this crisis and proposes a number of simple, yet surprisingly elusive (to many) reforms to eliminate this corrosive cancer within the church. Mr. Weigel examines the issues with a clear understanding of what the Catholic Church is, and what it is not.
The author identifies a number of reasons for the current crisis: the culture of dissent in the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council; deficiencies in the episcopate where many bishops view themselves as corporate CEO's rather than apostles of Christ; lack of focus on ascetic priestly lifestyles; and the cafeteria Catholicism of many of today's Catholics.
The solution lies in the book's invitation to a deeper faith and fidelity to the teachings of the church, the courage to address the crisis within the context of Christ's essential teachings. And this courage applies to all aspects of the church: the episcopate, the clergy and indeed all members of the church, to stand firm for what is right.
Most of the author's opinions will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his other books and his column, The Catholic Difference. However, Mr. Weigel's gift is that he explains his positions with wit and clarity, analyzing complex issues in simple understandable terms. One may not always agree with George Weigel. However, the book is thought provoking and provides much food for thought on the current affairs and future direction of the church. COURAGE TO BE CATHOLIC reminds us that the future of the Church depends upon the commitment of each of us to the fidelity of the Gospel and the teachings of the church.
34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Written with charity 2 Sept. 2002
By "hispanopol" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
All of us Catholics are disgusted by both the priests who destroyed hundreds of lives and the bishops who enabled these monsters. However, we should be equally disgusted by groups both inside and outside the Church who shamelessly exploit victims of sexual abuse to advance political causes and theological extortion. In the midst of this chaos, George Weigel provides a refreshing ray of light with his honest critique of the Church heirarchy and his committment to the truth of the Catholic faith. This book was written with intense charity and loving concern for the Catholic faithful. Mr. Weigel uses his extensive first-hand knowledge of the Church, including the papacy, to outline a cohesive, competent, and comprehensive study of the causes, effects, and solutions to the current crisis facing the Church.
In this book, Mr. Weigel plays the honest centrist, even though he usually fits more comfortably in the traditionalist camp. There is no pitiful blaming of "media hype," a claim common among traditionalists. Also, there is none of the tired "us-them" or "noble laity vs. the evil heirarchy" silliness of the Catholic left. Instead, Mr. Weigel's essential thesis of the Chruch is the same as Christ's - a family of believers, each with his or her own role in the plan of salvation, and each called through his or her own baptism to a life centered on Christ.
Mr. Weigel's assertion that seminarians must first be mature disciples of Christ seems intuitive, but is unfortuantely quite revolutionary. Similarly, his call for bishops to be apostles instead of managers should be equally obivious. The fact that Mr. Weigel is compelled to rebuke the Church leadership on these points shows the true crisis in the Church today. The book ends with a cause for hope - the culture that created this tragedy is on the wane. . .an assertion that has been proven recently in the surge of new seminarians over the past few months.
Thank you, Mr. Weigel, for giving us an excellent plan for true reform!
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By MRS MARY J LARKIN - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read this book from start to finish in one evening.It is the best study of the current crisis in the Catholic Church and indeed the state of the Catholic church I have yet read. The author's criticisms of past handling of sexual abuse are fearless but fair. Pope John Paul II's own excellent teachings on the formation of priests were given good exposure. The link between good priestly formation and adherence to the general teaching on sexual ethics was beautifully drawn.
Best of all was George Weigel's passionate call to holiness through love of Christ and fidelity to His teaching- not just for the laity but priests and bishops alike. I finished the book with great hope and certainty that this crisis will eventually bring renewal.
I heartily recommend this book to all who are even only remotely interested in the Catholic church.
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
The timeliness of this book could not have been better... 31 Jan. 2003
By Shawn Tzu - Published on
Format: Hardcover
...and for that reason, I was worried that the quality of the work would not be up to par. Fortunately my concerns were ill-founded and the work being reviewed here can be given four and a half stars for content and a half a star for its timeliness. My only real criticism is that George Weigel almost seems to fall into the trap of equating "Catholic" with "Latin rite". Thus when he speaks of the celibacy of the Catholic priest - and while giving a cursory mention of the eastern tradition - he does not do full justice to the complexity of the eastern and western traditions on this subject. (He is right though that celibacy of the western clergy is not the problem that many of the contemporary ignorant portray it to be.) But I am getting a bit ahead of myself here.
George Weigel starts off by identifying the crisis under four headings:
1) The three-headed monster of pedophilia, priests having illicit sexual relations with women - including some minors, and "homosexually oriented priests, seemingly incapable of living the celibacy they had promised to God and the Church, and abusing teenagers and young men committed to their care" (cf. Weigel).
2) Crisis of Priestly Identity
3) Crisis of Episcopal Leadership
4) Crisis of Discipleship
He then goes on to highlight what the crisis is not and deals well with the red herrings of (i) Celibacy (ii) the "authoritarian Church" model (iii) a "failure to implement Vatican II" - according to its so-called "spirit" (iv) the crisis being "a pedophilia crisis" - as it is much more then that (v) the "problem" being the Catholic Sexual Ethic itself. From there he delves into the problems of dissent from magisterial teaching which started with Humanae Vitae in 1968 and continues today by both "liberals" as well as so-called "traditionalists" and how the Vatican ended up hamstringing American bishops in 1968. The fear of creating a schism was of course legitimate but the results of the policies to address the problems have created in essence an implicit schism in the American Church at many levels.
Weigel deals well with how the aforementioned dissent filtered down from not a few theologians to the faithful, influenced the seminary development of a generation of priests, problems with certain psychological attempts to fix the problem, and the Vatican's moves under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II to reverse this trend which started turning around in 1984. (And how more recent seminarians have benefitted from the changes made thus far.) Weigel also identifies well the culture of dissent that has developed and points out how it in all of its manifestations - from liberal to self-styled "traditionalist" - have played a role in the deepening of this problem. The lie of "faithful dissent" is not detailed as well as it could have been but Weigel sought to cover a lot of subjects so in that respect can be pardoned for only covering the above subject in a brief overview manner.
From there, the author goes on to examine in detail the reasons why the bishops failed in their ministry, the role of Rome in the Crisis, the beginning of reform in the Seminaries - starting with the 1985 Apostolic visitations, the elements that go into priestly reform (here he touches on the rich teaching of the Council and Pope John Paul II on the priesthood), and the selection of bishops - including an idea for some lay participation. (Hardly the "novelty" that many Catholics may presume that it is.) Weigel sums the work up with a call to renewal by being authentically Catholic and not "Catholic Lite" - the latter being what is sadly not uncommon today with the cafeteria Catholicism of picking and choosing what the individual likes and disregarding the rest: for it is that very element that was the genesis of this crisis and what has prolonged it. It therefore is a mentality that needs to be killed and buried and Weigel outlines in this book a good program for doing that that is in essence "back to basics".
In short, this is a good book that all Catholics concerned with the problems in the Church today should read. Crises after all are only cured by a renewed fidelity and that is of course what George Weigel means by "the courage to be Catholic" - and this is something that all Catholics need to take into account and strive to do.
58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Turn on the Light; the party's over 31 Dec. 2002
By The Sanity Inspector - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While John Paul II was giving hope to victims of communism, helping to win the Cold War, his American flock was way off message. In public the American bishops flogged their assumed moral acuity: intoning sonorous condemnations of Ronald Reagan's policies, loudly wondering if the pontiff knew what century it was, while in private they inducted and sheltered priests who preyed upon unsuspecting parishioners' teenaged boys. This book is an account of how it happened, and how the stinking mess was exposed.
George Weigel must certainly have written this book with a very personal anger at the malfeasant clerics who allowed all this to happen. He had written a well-received biography of the current pontiff, who is one of the 20th century's indisputable heroes. Now, the post-Cold War victory glow of the Catholic church has been dispelled by the reek of the American church's sexual scandals. Weigel manfully refrains from calling the crisis a media creation, though he does score the press on a few inaccuracies here and there. He sticks to just the facts: the opinions of even the most influential commentators like Andrew Sullivan and Richard John Neuhaus are excluded. He also does not waste a lot of space replying to charges that the church's rule of celibacy caused these predators to seduce their young male victims. Nor does he dwell on the capture of the American Catholic seminaries by the gay subculture-Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men is the place to get an full, infuriating examination of that sad state of affairs.
Weigel provides a chronological narrative of the crisis, and by the way an explanation of the functions of various papal officers and departments. He traces the origins of the crisis to what he calls the "Truce of 1968", in which American liberals in the church flouted elements of Vatican II, and were allowed to get away with it. These people then established a "culture of dissent" in the seminaries, turning away orthodox applicants, and spreading laxness and relativism and corruption throughout the American church.
The Vatican also bungled its end of responsibility. It did not keep the Pope and his aides adequately informed, nor did it conduct crucial press conferences very competently.
Weigel insists against some American reformers that this is a crisis of fidelity, not of management or oversight. He reiterates the theological inspiration for the offices of priests, bishops and cardinals, and proposes many sharp, specific reforms. He calls for nothing less than the spiritual cauterization of the American Church.
The Americans were not completely corrupt. The U. S. church had in fact discreetly resolved many of the abuses, under prompting by Rome, by the time the story broke. But what goes on in the dark comes out in the light.
The crisis continued to rage after this book's publication. Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign some months later, and reformers threatened the outright ban on homosexuals in the priesthood. One gets the sense that things will get uglier before they get prettier. But no one can doubt that thoroughgoing penance and reform must come before any renewal in the American Catholic church. Let the cleaning of the whited sepulchers begin.
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