George Weigel - the promise given to the Holy Father
Posted by John V McWilliams
George Weigel is an American author, and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation, a Catholic theologian and one of America's leading public intellectuals. He is the author of the bestselling biography of Pope John Paul II, 'Witness to Hope'.
As a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and John Paul himself also being a humanitarian and a strong believer of ethics in all aspects of life, including business, once said 'The globalised organisation of work, profiting from the extreme privation of developing peoples, often entails grave situations that mock the elementary demands of human dignity.' In this modern world of greed, is there room for 'ethics' and does it still have a role to play?
George Weigel: As John Paul II made clear in his social encyclicals, especially the great Centesimus Annus, all choices have moral dimensions, and that certainly includes the choices we make about what to produce, what to buy, how to invest, what to pay employees, etc. It's empirically interesting that the enterprises that take the ethical dimension of their business seriously tend to do better than the cutthroats.
A recent survey that was carried out, searching for peoples awareness of John Paul and who he was, demonstrated that Muslims were equally cognisant as Christians, as to who he was and that he was considered to be a good man. Why do you think this is, above all other Popes that went before?
Weigel: John Paul II's ability to bend the global media to his purposes surely had something to do with this, as did his extensive pastoral pilgrimages all over the world.
There have been many great figures of influence in history, that have left their indelible mark on mankind in many differing ways. Can you draw any comparison to any other individual who has had a similar impact to that of John Paul?
Weigel: John Paul II's life summed up the human drama of the second half of the 20th century the way Winston Churchill's summed up the drama of the first half of the 20th century.
There have been some critics as to the speed of the canonisation process of John Paul. In this modern and changing world we all live in, is there still a place for this mode of recognition, is not his life's works more than enough for those who he had an impact on and respect him?
Weigel: As John Paul II knew, the Church always needs exemplars of holiness. He wouldn't have attributed that to himself, but the Church can, and has.
Mounting hostility to Catholicism in some countries previously seen as staunch supporters of the faith, has promoted you voicing for hierarchical replacement, but is this really feasible and how could this be achieved?
Weigel: The reason I recently suggested that the entire Irish hierarchy be replaced doesn't have to do with anti Catholic rants in the Irish parliament and press, but with the fact that these men have lost the capacity to govern their dioceses. When the shepherd is unbelievable to the sheep, it is time to find a new shepherd.
'Witness to Hope' was not just a successful biography, but 'a very big book' according to John Paul. Are you equally satisfied with 'The End and the Beginning' and which do you think would have given John Paul the greatest pleasure?
Weigel: I've no idea which would have given him more pleasure, but I'm satisfied that, in 'The End and the Beginning', I finished the job I set out to do and promised the Holy Father that I would finish.
Having spent so much time with and researching on John Paul's life, you must have been as close as most people to him. If he were here with us today and you had the opportunity of asking him just one more question. What would that be?
Weigel: That's not easy to say. I'd certainly like to discuss some of what I learned, after his death, about the work of Sovietbloc intelligence agencies to impede his work and damage his reputation.
September 8, 2011