Phantom Heresies


Classical theological terms like “the economy of Salvation” or “the economy of Redemption” have expanded their range of late, gaining resonance from our current preoccupation with the actual economy. During the recent fracas and Vatican meltdown over the lifting of the excommunications of the schismatic Lefebvrist bishops, one commentator on the right referred to the “bailout” the bishops were getting. To the larger Catholic public, the botching of the overtures to the Lefebvrists made clear that the credibility of the curia had dipped. There followed a high-volume exchange of analyses, dissections, attacks, and counterattacks about the bankruptcy of Rome.

Rather than furthering such hackneyed economic lingo, or raising such tired themes as managerial ineptitude, ingrained turf-guarding, or incompetent PR from the Vatican, I will look at how this crisis was handled in Washington, by one of the leading dispensers of conservative Catholic commentary—George Weigel, the writer who also applied the term “bailout” to those he likes to call “cafeteria Catholics.” Described on his Web site as a “Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and one of America’s leading public intellectuals,” Weigel made his mark as the hagiographer of John Paul II; then and since, he has made superciliousness a hallmark. After introducing the jargon of the economic crisis to the Lefebvrist imbroglio,...

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About the Author

Justus George Lawler is author of Popes and Politics: Reform, Resentment, and the Holocaust (Continuum).