George Weigel Discusses Pope Francis’s U.S. Visit

Published September 17, 2015

La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana [The New Daily Compass]

EPPC Distinguished Senior Fellow George Weigel was interviewed by the Italian Web daily La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana [The New Daily Compass] on Pope Francis’s impending visit to the United States. A translation of the interview and links to the original Italian follow. 


What kind of country is the United States today? Ready for the papal visit?

I think there’s tremendous interest in the Holy Father’s visit and that he’ll receive a very warm welcome.

Pope Francis’ criticism of capitalism is often harsh. What do you think of today’s papal economics?

Has Pope Francis ever used the word “capitalism” in those remarks that media people and people on the political Left like to cite? The Pope has been critical of greed, corruption, and lack of concern for the poor, and I completely agree with him on those criticisms: these are serious problems. But what the pope knows from Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America is not “capitalism” in the sense of markets regulated by law and culture; what you find in Latin America is, primarily, either a very ugly form of so-called “crony-capitalism” or mercantilism that pretends to be populism.

Traditionally Popes do not engage directly in politics, but the Obama Administration has reached the highest peak of ideology regarding non -negotiable principles. Do you expect the Pope to address this topic during his meeting with President Obama?

That will be a private meeting, so I really couldn’t say. But the Pope is fully aware of the pressures that the Obama administration has put on the Catholic Church through a pattern of governmental disrespect for religious freedom – which now threatens our capacity to be the “Church-as-field-hospital” that Pope Francis has called us to be. The Pope is also aware of that, and I for one hope he raises the point with President Obama.

Do you think that the papal visit will strengthen and hearten those American Catholics who still fight against gay “marriage”, especially after the ruling of the Supreme Court?

The defense of marriage rightly understood was lost in the culture long before it was lost in the Supreme Court. Rebuilding a true marriage culture is the work of generations. I hope the Holy Father will help us take the first steps on that long journey, not least by teaching us that this is a path we must walk, for the sake of our integrity as Catholics and as an expression of our responsibilities as citizens.

The Church in Germany, Austria and Switzerland is addressing the question of family and divorce in an unprecedented way. The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, card. Müller, fears openly the risk of a schism during the forthcoming Synod of the bishops in October. Which is the present state of the Church in America on this subject?

Far far, far healthier than in the countries you just cited.

The Pope will visit also Cuba, and today the new “democratic” Cuba makes no more news. Are you fully comfortable with that?

There is no new “democracy“ is Cuba. There has not been a single advance in human rights in Cuba since the Vatican-brokered deal between the Obama administration sand the Cuban dictatorship. I hope this is a point the Pope will stress to Raul Castro.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington, D.C.’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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