If National Review wants to show that it is presenting some kind of “conservative moral message”, it shoots itself in the foot by continuing to publish George Weigel as if he were some sort of a moral authority.
George “I-had-dinner-with-the-pope” Weigel, writing in National Review, compares the foreign policy initiatives of Karol Wojtyla, “Pope John Paul the Great”, with those of “Pope Francis”.
But it is the public stench of the rot at the heart of Roman Catholic doctrine and practice – supported and enhanced by both of these popes – that is the real message of morality that comes through to the broader world.
Weigel is of the opinion that the current Vatican diplomats might want to study “the failure of the Casaroli Project”, with Cardinal Agostino Casaroli being “the Kissinger of the Vatican” from the mid 1960’s to 1978, who “believed that the Cold War division of Europe were a permanent fixture of world politics at the time. The Vatican’s diplomatic policy at the time was to take an accommodating approach to the Soviet bloc, rather than take a more confrontational stance. In doing so, Weigel suggests that Casaroli thought that the Soviet bloc would lead to “a slowly liberalizing East and an increasingly social-democrat West” that would lead to a type of global convergence.
Weigel describes how Wojtyla, himself from Poland, chose rather to stare down (in a non-confrontational way) the leadership of Poland in the early 1980’s, and he believes this sort of play-acting had something to do with the fact that the Soviet Union fell. My sense of that time period was that perhaps Wojtyla’s personality helped to unify the Polish people so that there was no vacuum after the fall, but that it did not actually precipitate the fall of the communist governments.
Indeed, it is one thing to make a population feel good about itself, but it was the forceful political moves made by Ronald Reagan (increasing defense spending, proposing the “Star Wars” weapons systems), which ultimately forced the Soviet Union out of business.
Weigel also suggests that Wojtyla’s willingness to confront some of the tin-pot dictators of South America that somehow led to an increase of “economic freedom” in Latin America.
John Paul II knew that corruption was one of the primary reasons that Latin America was failing to fulfill its enormous potential. He also knew that the kind of systemic, culturally reinforced corruption that had turned Argentina from one of the world’s wealthiest countries into a bankrupt basket case reflected an enormous failure on the part of the Catholic Church, which had had 500 years to help build something better, something nobler, something more empowering — something more resonant with human dignity.
Weigel goes on to say that “The people in charge of Vatican diplomacy today seem to have missed all this or forgotten all this”.
Today, however, the Vatican’s institutional memory seems to retain little from either the teaching or the accomplishment of John Paul II. And that ill serves Pope Francis, whose public persona and popularity, like John Paul’s, create openings for real change to happen: change that leads to the empowerment and inclusion of the poor and marginalized. Such change seems unlikely, however, in circumstances in which Evo Morales thinks he can offer the first Latin American pope the dumbed-down, faux-Communist equivalent of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ — and get away with it.
But what is really forgotten, what Weigel fails to understand, is that “the pope’s diplomats” today represent an institution that is vastly diminished in many ways. “Pope John Paul the Great” may have made Poles feel good about themselves, but he also presided (wittingly or unwittingly) over the greatest institutional cover-up of an organized homosexual sex abuse effort that history has ever seen.
The constant failure to make this admission shows Weigel, and National Review, as being supremely hypocritical in the face of a watching world.
We are also seeing a broader world that refuses to be held captive to a philosophical agenda in which “individual [sexual] autonomy” is the chief good, and that “Pope ‘who-am-I-to-judge’ Francis” has already paid a form of lip-service to it.
So “the Vatican diplomatic corps” (including “the pope’s diplomats”) is really something of a global laughingstock. Weigel’s suggestion that they would be taken more seriously if they were to spend the summer “studying the teaching of John Paul II on the free and virtuous society of the 21st century”, misses the boat entirely.
Weigel writes about “the Bishop of Rome as the Catholic Church’s leading public witness”. It is Roman Catholic “teaching” that seeks to separate “teaching” from practice. However, Jesus, Paul, and in fact the entire New Testament witness strongly emphasized the need for “practice” to comport with teaching.
There is a simple word for what “Roman Diplomacy” represents to the world: it is pure and simple hypocrisy.
National Review’s reliance on Weigel and Roman “teaching”, while failing to acknowledge its practice, harms its own ability to carry any kind of moral message in a world that badly needs one.