The friar and the pope: Fr. Weinandy explains himself

Strong demonstration of faith by a world-renowned theologian 7/12 at the Catholic Citizens of Illinois luncheon at Chicago’s Union League Club, where Rev. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap., talked about his 7/31/17 letter to Pope Francis registering five complaints about his performance.

The letter itself was an event worth talking about — sent in July, acknowledged receipt of two months later, but unanswered as of 11/1/17, when Weinandy went public, giving it to Crux:

Weinandy, a Capuchin Franciscan theologian of international stature, holder of important positions in the U.S. and Vatican and awardee for excellence by Francis himself, objected to his “penchant for ambiguous statements” of doctrine,” and said Friday his “main source of concern is the manner of [his] teaching.”

He cites “a chronic confusion [that] seems to mark your pontificate,” says in the letter, and “the ambiguity of your words and actions,” which “fosters within the faithful a growing unease” and “compromises their capacity for love, joy and peace.”

For instance:

In Amoris Laetitia, your guidance at times seems intentionally ambiguous, thus inviting both a traditional interpretation of Catholic teaching on marriage and divorce as well as one that might imply a change in that teaching.

Francis says it and he doesn’t say it. He did but didn’t espouse a denial of the obligation playing down of ages-old marital fidelity.  What’s that all about? What kind of style is that?

To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.

Weinandy objected also to Francis’ name-calling and peremptory dismissal of critics in a manner “unbecoming the pontiff,” sitting as he is on the Chair of Peter.

[Y]ou seem to censor and even mock those who interpret Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia in accord with Church tradition as Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism. This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry.

Moreover,

Some of your advisors regrettably seem to engage in similar actions. Such behavior gives the impression that your views cannot survive theological scrutiny, and so must be sustained by ad hominem arguments.

Third, he objects to his “disparagement of doctrines” as “lifeless,” leaving unstated which doctrines and apparently calling into question those which give life and meaning to the role of the church in the world and in people’s lives.

Talking about it at the Catholic Citizens’ meeting, Weinandy gives the impression of being offended, of taking it personally as a theologian who takes doctrine seriously, both as a professional and a believer, commenting neither in sadness nor anger or not only either, but as perplexed, finding it difficult to fathom Francis’ behavior.

In the letter:

To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is given to the Church, and particularly to yourself, to dispel error, not to foster it.

Again, neither anger nor sadness but simple stating of doctrine by an intellectual who studies long and hard and believes.

Fourth, Francis has appointed “scandalous” bishops to positions in high places.

Weinandy:

Third, faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted by your choice of some bishops, men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them. What scandalizes believers, and even some fellow bishops, is not only your having appointed such men to be shepherds of the Church, but that you also seem silent in the face of their teaching and pastoral practice.

He criticizes Francis’ embracing of “synodality” in ignoring how “the Body of Christ” functions and using bishops’ meetings as achievers of his “vision,” while “using others” to achieve them, so that it appears as if what’s done is “not done by him.”

[The] Church is one body, the Mystical Body of Christ, and you are commissioned by the Lord himself to promote and strengthen her unity. But your actions and words too often seem intent on doing the opposite. Encouraging a form of “synodality” that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion. Such synodality is unwise and, in practice, works against collegial unity among bishops.

Manipulation.

“There has never been a situation [in the church] like this before,” Weinandy said in the q&a session.

More later on the Weinandy thesis. . . .

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