Scholar George Weigel Lectures on the Fifth Phase of Catholicism

Joy Funk, Staff Writer


Author, social and political activist, and friend of the Mount, George Weigel was hosted by the Seminary, March 13, for a lecture on evangelical Catholicism and the church of the 21st century.

“We are moving into a decisive new phase in the history of the Catholic church,” Weigel said in a brief interview before the talk, which was given to an audience of undergraduates and seminarians. “This is perhaps the fifth such shift in the church over 2000 years. [This church in the future] has been described by Pope Francis as a church in ‘permanent mission,’ and I’m going to try to explain a little bit about what that requires.”


Weigel said the first of these shifts was in 70 A.D., when Christianity and Judaism were definitively detached into two separate faiths during the first Jewish War. This early church gave way to a second shift into the patristic church, which lasted some 500 years, then to a third shift, which resulted in medieval Christendom, the church of figures such as Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas.

This too lasted about 500 years until a divide in the Western World around the 1600s led into the fourth shift, into the Catholicism of the Counter Reformation. This is the Catholicism that was molded by the Council of Trent, and the church that brought the Gospel to the New World during the Age of Exploration.


This is the church that everyone “in the room over the age of 50 grew up in,” Weigel said. This is now shifting to another mode of being Catholic, which Weigel calls Evangelical Catholicism.

Having written over 20 books over the past 20 or so years, the most recent being, “Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches” and “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st Century Church,” Weigel saidthat what drives him to keep writing are the problems and issues that interest him. He said that comes across in his work and life, and that writing a book is what helps to answer the questions that go along with that.


“Evangelical Catholicism” is a summary of everything Weigel has learned about the Catholic Church in the last 30 years, and where he thinks it is going.” Roman Pilgrimage is very different in that it is a “set of spiritual reflections on Lent and Easter week” which is built around the tradition of the pilgrimage to churches in Rome on each day of Lent, a tradition that can be traced back to the first centuries of Christianity. Weigel says the intention of this book is to allow Americans to vicariously have this experience since they aren’t able to spend seven weeks touring Rome. He says there was no “rhyme or reason” to these books except “they all involved something I  was interested in at the time.”


Weigel has been writing extensively on Ukraine over the past few months. He has many former students at the center of the civic reformation revolution and feels an “obligation of solidarity to them to keep their cause alive for Americans.”

He has writing on the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election In addition, he has a new book project in which he will be producing a historical and spiritual guide to Kraców, Poland, Pope John Paul II’s city. Weigel will begin working on that this summer, with his son as the photographer, whom was also the photographer for the “Roman Pilgrimage” project.


In the introduction to his lecture, Weigel told the audience he’d be keeping up with the “big dance” in which the Mount’s men’s basketball team is involved and wished the team good luck.


“That’s the only pop culture reference you will get tonight, so do with it what you will,” he told the audience.

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