Ethics and Public Policy Center (In support of George Weigel)

The Grants

  • April 2014: $600,000 pledge over three years for support of the William E. Simon Chair and Simon Lecture
  • April 2011: $540,000 pledge over three years for support of the William E. Simon Chair and Simon Lecture
  • December 2008: $375,000 pledge over three years for support of the William E. Simon Chair
  • April 2008: $120,000 pledge over three years for support of the Simon Lecture
  • December 2005: $300,000 pledge over three years for support of the William E. Simon Chair
  • April 2005: $90,000 pledge over three years for support of the Simon Lecture
  • December 2003: $100,000 pledge over two years for support of George Weigel’s work
  • April 2002: $75,000 pledge over three years for support of the Simon Lecture
  • April 2001: $15,000 grant for inaugural Simon Lecture

The Background:

Faith, its role in society, and the values that it promotes have been a subject of considerable debate in public discourse during the latter quarter of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century. The Ethics and Public Policy Center was established in 1976 to clarify and reinforce the connection between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy issues. It approaches this mission by dealing openly and explicitly with religiously based moral values in addressing contemporary issues, analyzing the moral reasoning and public policy positions of organized religion, and striving to deepen and broaden public debate on the ordering of our society and its relationship to the rest of the world. As an ecumenical and interreligious think tank, some of the Center’s program areas include Catholic Studies, Evangelicals in Civic Life, Jewish Studies, and Islam and American Democracy.

The Center works to help policymakers, the media, and the general public to take into consideration the dignity of every person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government in their lawmaking, journalism and understanding of world events. The organization addresses these issues through research, writing, publications, and conferences. Its staff has appeared on CNN, NPR, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, BBC, and PBS. They have also been featured in national print media, have delivered lectures at universities around the country, and have spoken to and advised members of Congress, the White House, and the Department of Defense on their issues of expertise.

The Grantee:

George Weigel is a Catholic theologian and is one of America's leading public intellectuals. He received a B.A. from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore and an M.A. from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto. As a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., he published his first book, Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace, in 1987. From 1989 to June 1996, Weigel was the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Beginning in June of 1996, he headed the Center’s Catholic Studies Project as a Senior Fellow. During this time, he prepared a major study of the life, thought, and action of Pope John Paul II. Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II was published in the Fall of 1999 and received international acclaim. It has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Russian, German, Chinese, and Romanian editions. A documentary film based on the book was released in the fall of 2001 and has won numerous prizes. Since 1999, Weigel has been NBC’s consultant on Vatican affairs, offering extensive television commentary on issues of interest within the Catholic Church. He is also the most widely syndicated columnist in the Catholic press through his column, “The Catholic Difference,” which reaches over two million readers each week.

The Impact:

The William E. Simon Foundation first supported George Weigel’s work in 2003. By 2005, the Simon Foundation became the sole supporter of Weigel and his position was renamed the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His goal has been to develop and defend American democracy through the application of principles of Catholic social ethics, and to bring religious ideas to bear on the debate over if and how America should lead in world politics. Support from the Foundation has allowed Weigel to research and publish over 10 of his 20 books, many of which focus on both of these topics. His most recent books include The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy; Practicing Catholic: Essays Historical, Literary, Sporting, and Elegiac ; Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church; and Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches. The End and the Beginning and Evangelical Catholicism continue to be translated and published in various foreign languages.

Weigel is widely regarded as the preeminent Catholic scholar of the day. He provided commentary to NBC, Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Reader’s Digest, and the National Post (Canada) throughout Pope John Paul’s illness and Pope Benedict’s installation. In addition to writing books, continuing his syndicated column, and providing commentary, Weigel leads seminars and lectures in Italy, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Since 2001, Weigel has delivered the Ethic and Public Policy Center’s annual William E. Simon Lecture, which draws an audience of 200 people and is published in First Things, a journal with a 30,000 person circulation. The purpose of the lecture series is to bring ideas related to traditional Judeo-Christian morals and ethics to bear on current national and international issues. His 2001 lecture, entitled “Two Ideas of Freedom,” addressed whether freedom is freedom “to do” or freedom “from,” an analysis which influenced President Bush’s second inaugural address. His second lecture, “Moral Clarity in a Time of War” became part of the curriculum at a number of armed forces graduate schools. Weigel’s 2004 lecture, “The Next Pope...And Why He Matters to All of Us” was circulated among bishops who chose Pope Benedict XVI. The lectures have also been a springboard for some of his later books. His most recent lectures include “Why?: Reflections on the Impending Centenary of World War I” (2014), “Evangelical Catholicism: A Reformed Church in a Culture in Crisis” (2013), “A Surprising Cast of Characters: King Belshazzar, Pope Leo XIII, and the 2012 Election” (2012), and “The Communist War Against the Catholic Church: New Evidence from the Past, Lessons for the Future” (2011).