Serious Catholics Are Evangelical
Weigel also points to the aftermath of the capture of the Papal States in 1870 as a pivotal moment in the rise of Evangelical Catholicism. The Pope, who for centuries had not only been the pastor of the whole church but also the King of a small country, was made "prisoner of the Vatican," as Pope Pius IX called himself. Indeed, no Pope left the grounds of the Vatican for the next 59 years. Pope Pius IX's successor, Leo XIII, mined the church's tradition for guidance and boldly forged a new way forward for engagement with the secular world with his seminal 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. Reform continued along in the 20th century, with a reinvigoration of the church's liturgy, biblical studies, and study of the church fathers. These processes culminated in the reforms proposed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
I say "proposed" since, as Weigel argues, much of the Second Vatican Council's vision has, at best, been unsuccessfully realized, or, at worst, ignored or even inverted. The Council explicitly called for a rejuvenation of the church's missionary work, specifically reaffirming that all Catholics, clergy and laity alike, are called to Christian holiness and the spread of the gospel. Yet, strangely, many Catholics in the West have made an appeal to "the spirit of Vatican II" as an excuse for embracing secularism, relativism, and a practical universalism.
Part of the problem, Weigel says, has been the prevailing interpretation of the Council as a contest between "traditionalist" and "progressive" Catholics, a false dichotomy that distorts the true intent of the Second Vatican Council. "Traditionalist" Catholics, Weigel argues, are right that the Church must retain her essential forms and teachings, but wrong that the church must express herself in the exact forms of Counter-Reformation Catholicism. "Progressive" Catholics are right that the church must reform herself, but wrong that reform means a break from her tradition. Evangelical Catholicism represents the third way, in that its purpose is to re-propose the essential, unchanging truths of the Catholic faith in the new modern context, with the goal of reinvigorating the church in her mission of bringing the gospel to the world.
Truth and Mission
Weigel gives two criteria for discerning what to preserve and what to reevaluate. The first is truth: Is a particular proposition part of the "faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3)? To determine this, Catholics will look to the two sources by which they believe the deposit of faith has been passed down—namely, written Scripture and oral Tradition (2 Thess 2:15)—and study them in line with how they have been authoritatively interpreted by the bishops, whom Catholics believe to be the successors of the Apostles. If the answer is in the affirmative, it's here to stay, and Catholics must recommit themselves to it. The second criterion is "mission." Does a particular practice aid the church in her primary mission of "making disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19)? The answer to this question, bounded by the answers to the first question, will of course be a prudential judgment, taking into account the new conditions of the world.