I came across this piece in The American Conservative by way of The Western Confucian. Indeed, George Weigel's reaction to Caritas in Veritate gives me much to speak about what is, to my mind, the gravest impending problem in American Catholicism: neo-conservatism, or, perhaps more appropriately, neo-Bonapartism.
Napoléon Bonaparte, like the contemporary American neocons, was a conservative liberal; he scarcely cared much for the traditions of France outside the army, and resisted any effort to restore the monarchy of France. He stood firmly for the results of the French Revolution, with the caveat that it needed the law and order which only he and the army could provide after it degenerated into anarchy. And also like the neocons, he was an imperialist, believing that the rest of Europe would greatly benefit from what that band of drunken hooligans did in 1789 and determined to make it so through force of arms. Yet Napoleon was not content merely to wipe out political principalities; no, he and Pope Pius VII came into a very bitter dispute over the issue of control of the Church, which resulted in Napoleon's excommunication and Pius's kidnapping and imprisonment for six years.
It is plainly evident that the neocons want a civil religion; one need only read their intellectual forefather Leo Strauss, a cynical and atheistic Jew, who promoted civic religion as a sort of Marxian "opiate of the people," to lull them into complacency and ignorance of what his elitist and totalitarian cadre was actually up to. Perhaps they tried using the evangelical megachurches in the vast suburban wastelands without any memory or charm, and perhaps they still are, particularly those Norman Vincent Peale types who are becoming quite rich preaching a very cozy gospel in which a God without wrath brings men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the merits of a Christ without a cross, and everyone feels quite good about themselves. There is, however, a subset among them that desires to see the much more centralized, standardized Catholicism as the new civil religion, and in order for that to take place, they realize that they have a formidable foe in the Papacy, and in a Catholic tradition that does not see imperialistic liberal democracy as the eschaton, and indeed remembers Napoleon all too well.
More forthcoming shortly on this issue.