Pope’s biographer shares insights, advice

By: By Jared Olar

The pontificate of the late Pope John Paul II was a stabilizing influence that can enable Catholics in the United States to “seize the Catholic moment” and shape the culture for the better.

So said George Weigel at a special gathering of clergy from throughout the diocese last Thursday afternoon at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Hall in Peoria.

“Vigorous, winsome, compelling presentation of the truths of the Catholic Church works,” he told the group.

Weigel, author of the official biography of John Paul II, “Witness to Hope,” was invited to address a group of about 90 priests and deacons the day before the 2008 Summer Institute.

Also speaking to the clergy were Dr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Episcopalian bishop who was received into the Catholic Church last year, and Father Dan Maurer, CJD, of the Mary Mother of God Mission in Vladivostok, Russia.

“Are we in fact living ‘the Catholic moment’ in U.S. history?” Weigel asked, referring to the 1987 book of that title written by Weigel’s friend and colleague, Father Richard John Neuhaus, a keynote speaker at the 2007 Summer Institute.

Neuhaus’ book, Weigel told the group, continued the tradition of “We Hold These Truths,” published in 1960 by Father John Courtney Murray, SJ, an American theologian and adviser at the Second Vatican Council. Like Father Murray before him, Father Neuhaus believes that America’s foundational political beliefs have their natural home in the Catholic Church, said Weigel.

Like no other institution in America, the church can draw upon spiritual and cultural resources to reinvigorate and reshape the surrounding culture — and it is thanks to John Paul II that the U.S. church today could be poised to do that, Weigel said.

“The Catholic moment remains a real opportunity, but it also remains to be seized,” he said.

U.S. Catholics can wield a beneficial influence if they remember that “if the church is judged by the standards of the age, rather than the church judging the standards of the age, then the whole thing will start to unravel,” Weigel cautioned.

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