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A Leaven In The World… The Weinandy Letter: A Devastating But Salutary Blow

November 6, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

The crisis in the Church deepens. The silence of Rome, except to attack any questioning of the theological novelties of this pontificate, forces more and more of those who love the Church and her faithful to speak out. The refusal of the Holy Father and those designated to speak for him to engage with seriousness any who question them leave an increasing number of questions unanswered. Undispelled confusion is moving more individuals to seek clarity.
Add to that number a distinguished and respected theologian. Fr. Thomas Weinandy, OFM Cap., wrote a letter to Pope Francis which was made public this past week. In my estimation it is a particularly devastating bombshell of a letter because written by a highly esteemed priest who is unsparing in laying bare with laser-sharp acumen the current crisis of the Church.
Fr. Weinandy’s letter, after beginning with words of respect for the office of Pope and esteem for the person of Pope Francis, makes four points of argument. Fr. Weinandy moves quickly from that to speaking with love of the good of the Church and of souls, the care of which lays in the Pope’s purview.
“Your Holiness,” he writes, “a chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate. The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions. This fosters within the faithful a growing unease. It compromises their capacity for love, joy, and peace.”
Point number one treats of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia, about which he writes, “The main source of concern is the manner of your teaching. 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.”
He gives an example with regard to the Pope’s encouragement to “accompany” others who are struggling in various ways to live by the Church’s teachings.
What the papal counsel “to accompany” amounts to exactly is the problem:
“As you wisely note, pastors should accompany and encourage persons in irregular marriages; but ambiguity persists about what that ‘accompaniment’ actually means.”
We have all shared the experience of being tossed back and forth between the divergent and sometimes contradictory interpretations that have abounded in the aftermath of Amoris Laetitia as a result of the use of vague terminology like “accompaniment.” The many who say this means a refusal to share the truth of Church moral teaching in love are not insignificant, in a shocking reversal of what it has always thus far meant for the Pope to “confirm the brethren” in the faith.
The next part of his text is saddening for the reason that his unsparing and incisive condemnation is tragically necessary.
“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. Moreover, only where there is truth can there be authentic love, for truth is the light that sets women and men free from the blindness of sin, a darkness that kills the life of the soul.
“Yet you 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. Some of your advisers 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.”
The second point of his critique targets the Pope’s dismissive treatment of doctrine.
“. . .Too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine. Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life. Your critics have been accused, in your own words, of making doctrine an ideology. But it is precisely Christian doctrine — including the fine distinctions made with regard to central beliefs like the Trinitarian nature of God; the nature and purpose of the Church; the Incarnation; the Redemption; and the sacraments — that frees people from worldly ideologies and assures that they are actually preaching and teaching the authentic, life-giving Gospel.
“Those who devalue the doctrines of the Church separate themselves from Jesus, the author of truth. What they then possess, and can only possess, is an ideology — one that conforms to the world of sin and death.”
Third, he speaks of the Pope’s choice of bishops who do the unheard-of: “men who seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief but who support and even defend them” and criticizes his silence in the face of their betrayals.
Fourth, he blasts the Holy Father’s synodality methods that “enable and allow various doctrinal and moral options” which work against collegiality, the purpose of synods.
Weinandy also warns the Holy Father of the silence on the part of many bishops resulting from their observation that he “resents” criticism. He shares his belief that this time has been allowed to reveal the weakness of faith on the part of many of the faithful and bishops.
“Ironically, your pontificate has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness. In recognizing this darkness, the Church will humbly need to renew herself and grow in holiness.”
Why does this letter amount to a particularly devastating blow? Fr. Weinandy is no “right-wing zealot.” He is a good priest who has forged a respected career as a theologian. He is, as reported by the National Catholic Register, “a former chief of staff for the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine who is now a member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission.”
He is a man who has spent many years at the center of the Church, trusted and sought out by the bishops for his expertise in theological matters and then promoted to the most elite position any theologian can hold in the Church, with a seat on the International Theological Commission at the Vatican.
Fr. Weinandy’s prophetic voice is another in a growing series of those who act with the greatest charity, for loyalty to Christ and with zeal for souls without any regard to personal status. As a matter of fact, soon after Fr. Weinandy’s letter was made public, the USCCB asked him to resign from his current billet advising the U.S. bishops in matters theological (see the front-page article in this week’s Wanderer). His honesty in service of the good of the Church is already being rewarded with marginalization.
Anyone recognize the pattern? Those who oppose Amoris Laetitia, no matter how sterling their reputation, must go; almost anyone who supports it, no matter in how incoherent a manner, may stay.
@MCITLFrAphorism

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