George Weigel: Letting the Cat Out of the Bag



In the final chapter of his forthcoming autobiography, Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II, George Weigel writes of the guiding icon of his biographies of John Paul II:

“The cross beneath which I wrote Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning is a framed reproduction of Marc Chagall’s White Crucifixion.”

He further writes:

“The White Crucifixion has long struck me as the most evocative religious painting of the twentieth century. Painted shortly after the Nazi Kristallnacht in 1938, it unmistakably Jewish, clothed on the cross in a tallith, a traditional prayer shawl, with Pilate’s inscription in Hebrew over his bowed head. Instead of mourning angels common to renderings of the Crucifixion, he is surrounded by three Jewish patriarchs and a matriarch; beneath him is a ceremonial seven-branched candelabrum, and around him swirl the lethal ideological madnesses of the mid-twentieth century, symbolized by Jews fleeing burning synagogues and revolutionaries following the red flag.”

Weigel makes no bones about his hatred of Communism and Nazism, but he sees the two ideologies in conflict not with Christendom but with the Anglo-American (and now Israeli) economic and political order. This painting is thus a curious key to understanding Weigel’s views.

Furthermore, Marc Chagall has stated that White Crucifixion should not be interpreted as a Christian painting, and that for him “…Christ always symbolized the true type of the Jewish martyr.” Thus the near official papal biographer, George Weigel, composed the allegedly definitive biography of John Paul II under the illumination of a painting of Christ, dethroned of his divinity, and presented as an icon of the suffering Jewish people in a manner that is clearly meant to slight Christianity.

Examining this passage along with Weigel’s humanism and liberalism and unqualified support for the state of Israel (and unmitigated contempt for the Palestinian people), one wonders what are the real religious beliefs of the papal biographer?