This morning we told you the story of Fr. Thomas Weinandy, a Capuchin friar who, after receiving what he believed was a sign from God, wrote a letter to Pope Francis — with obvious filial respect and love — in the hopes of bringing to his attention some of the more damaging effects of his papacy.
Father Weinandy is a current member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, as well as the former chief of staff for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Doctrine. Apparently, he was still serving in the capacity of consultant to the USCCB, because today, after the publication of his letter, he was asked to resign. According to Carl E. Olson, Editor of Catholic World Report, Fr. Weinandy told him this morning that since the letter’s publication, he had “received many positive notes from theologians, priests, and lay people.” Nevertheless, “the USCCB asked him to resign from his current position as a consultant to the bishops,” and Fr. Weinandy has complied. As Olson notes, “In making such a request, the USCCB, it would appear, reinforces Fr. Weinandy’s very point about fearfulness and lack of transparency” as made in his letter.
One diocesan priest who spoke with 1P5 on condition of anonymity said that he was certain Fr. Weinandy’s letter “drew consternation from several US Cardinals and Bishops”, particularly where the letter addressed how “faithful Catholics can only be disconcerted” by the pope’s 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,” causing scandal to the faithful and weakening the sensus fidei.
“There is no way” the priest told me, “that this remark didn’t directly sting Cardinal Cupich, Cardinal Tobin, Cardinal Ferrell, and Bishop McElroy in particular, as they have been busy supporting Father James Martin, S.J., and others like him. I would be very surprised if they were not directly behind Fr. Thomas Weinandy’s forced resignation.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the USCCB, released a statement today about Fr. Weinandy — never once mentioning that he was asked to resign, but only speaking of his unexplained “departure” — under the auspices that the situation is an opportunity to reflect on “dialogue within the Church.” The statement reads:
“The departure today of Fr. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., as a consultant to the Committee on Doctrine and the publication of his letter to Pope Francis gives us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of dialogue within the Church. Throughout the history of the Church, ministers, theologians and the laity all have debated and have held personal opinions on a variety of theological and pastoral issues. In more recent times, these debates have made their way into the popular press. That is to be expected and is often good. However, these reports are often expressed in terms of opposition, as political – conservative vs. liberal, left vs. right, pre-Vatican II vs Vatican II. These distinctions are not always very helpful.
Christian charity needs to be exercised by all involved. In saying this, we all must acknowledge that legitimate differences exist, and that it is the work of the Church, the entire body of Christ, to work towards an ever-growing understanding of God’s truth.
As Bishops, we recognize the need for honest and humble discussions around theological and pastoral issues. We must always keep in mind St. Ignatius of Loyola’s “presupposition” to his Spiritual Exercises: “…that it should be presumed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” This presupposition should be afforded all the more to the teaching of Our Holy Father.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a collegial body of bishops working towards that goal. As Pastors and Teachers of the Faith, therefore, let me assert that we always stand in strong unity with and loyalty to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful” (LG, no. 23).”
The reader is left to wonder how “dialogue” has become a euphemism for “suppression of any views different than our own”. How is it that those who speak most forcefully in favor of “tolerance” are always the last to practice tolerance toward those with ideas they find inconvenient? How is it that the President of the USCCB lacks the courage to simply state that Fr. Weinandy was asked to resign for speaking an unpopular opinion, regardless of its merit, and without consideration given to the fact that it was voiced respectfully and in the exercise of his conscience on a matter of grave importance — and about which he has the requisite theological competency to comment?
For some time now, we have been using terms in our coverage like “The Dictatorship of Mercy” and “The Persecution of Orthodoxy” to help explain the reality orthodox Catholics face in the Church of 2017: if you stand up for the truths of the faith, you will suffer the consequences at the hands of those charged with defending those same truths. And as we have told you, there is no reason to expect we won’t see this reaction continue to escalate.
Our Church has become Orwellian indeed. One is reminded of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s recent remarks, based on his experience growing up in the Soviet Union:
For decades it became within the Church politically correct and “good manners” to proclaim and to promote practically the freedom of theological speech, debate and research, so that freedom in thinking and speaking became a slogan. At the same time, one can now observe the paradox that this very freedom is denied to those in the Church who in our days raise their voices with respect and politeness in defense of the truth. This bizarre situation reminds me of a famous song which I had to sing in the Communist school in my childhood, and whose wording was, as follows: “The Soviet Union is my beloved homeland, and I do not know another country in the world where man can breathe so freely.”
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children.