The rise of fundamentalist Catholicism

Religion News Service | 11/12/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — It is normal and customary to identify Pope Francis’s conservative critics as “traditionalists.” But much of what they say is a far cry from Catholic tradition—not least their criticism of the pope itself.

We need a new way to identify them.

Author - George - Weigel - Catholicism - Manifesto

Back in 2013, the prominent conservative author George Weigel published “Evangelical Catholicism”, a manifesto for making the faith more like, well, evangelical Protestantism. In a shrewd review of the book, the great evangelical historian of American Christianity Mark Noll, then teaching at Notre Dame, counted the ways. These include an embrace of biblicism, a call for personal evangelism, an emphasis on “friendship” with Jesus, and even a celebration of adult baptism.

Thus did conservative Catholicism à la Weigel become inculturated with American evangelicalism (“inculturation” being the Catholic term for how the church engages with a particular culture, from 16th-century China to 21st-century Amazonia). And why not? Since the late 1970s, conservative Catholics and evangelicals have been allies in the culture war that has shaped American partisan politics.

Election - Pope - Francis - Weigel - Book

Appearing shortly after the election of Pope Francis, Weigel’s book registers no concern that the Vatican and its episcopal appointees around the world would do anything to threaten the conservative “reform of the reform” of the Second Vatican Council undertaken by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Whoops. Six years into Francis’ papacy, the spirit of Vatican II is back big time and, in response, the evangelical Catholicism of Weigel & Co. has become fundamentalist, in the original sense of the term.

Fundamentalism - Name - Group - Essays - Fundamentals

Fundamentalism derives its name from a group of 90 essays titled “The Fundamentals” that were published between 1910 and 1915. Some of them argued for classic Christian doctrines like the Virgin Birth, Christ’s bodily resurrection and physical return, and his substitutionary atonement on the cross.

But that project was driven by opposition to Darwinian...
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