A member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission has been asked to resign from his position as a consultant to the USCCB’s Committee on Doctrine, following the publication of a letter written to Pope Francis asking the Pope to correct the “chronic confusion” of his pontificate, which he says “fosters within the faithful a growing unease.”
Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., who previously served as Executive Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat for Doctrine, sent the five-page letter to Pope Francis July 31, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, James Rogers, Chief Communications Officer of the USCCB, said that “after speaking with the General Secretary of the Conference today, Father Thomas Weinandy, OFM, Cap., has resigned, effective immediately, from his position as consultant to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine. The work of the Committee is done in support of, and in affective collegiality with, the Holy Father and the Church in the United States. Our prayers go with Father Weinandy as his service to the Committee comes to a close.”
Weinandy’s letter, published by Crux on Wednesday, addressed five points. Weinandy told the Pope that his pontificate had fostered confusion, diminished the importance of doctrine in the Church’s life, appointed bishops who teach and act in harmful ways, fostered a culture of fear among bishops, and caused faithful Catholics to lose confidence in the papacy.
Father Thomas Petri, OP, academic dean of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, told CNA that Weinandy “is a theologian of the highest caliber,” and that the “letter to His Holiness is quite obviously written with a deep filial piety and loyalty to both our Holy Father Pope Francis and to the Church.”
Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed. Weinandy “is arguably the most distinguished Franciscan theologian working in the English language today,” Pecknold told CNA. “He is a theologian centered in the Church, and not at all at her outermost fringe. So his letter carries the weight of the center.”
“Rather than presume to correct, Father Weinandy describes the current situation, and informs the Holy Father that what seems to many like ‘intentionally ambiguous’ teaching has led to confusion, leading some of his own advisors to publicly advance error….There is something admirable about the impassioned plea of a son of St. Francis writing to Pope Francis, in truth and love, as a son to a father. His love for the pope is evident throughout his appeal.”
While Pecknold called Weinandy’s letter “deferential,” he told CNA “it is certainly reasonable to ask whether it should have been published in the media.”
Weinandy told Crux that he published the letter because it “expresses the concerns of many more people than just me, ordinary people who’ve come to me with their questions and apprehensions,” adding: “I wanted them to know that I listened.”
Father Charles L. Sammons, OFM Cap, told CNA that he lived with Weinandy in 2015. “I experienced Fr. Thomas as an uncomplicated and earnest person who simply loved the Lord and his Church, and didn’t seem to have many concerns apart from that. I remarked to myself more than once that this seemed like a blessed way to live,” Sammons told CNA.
Sammons said that time with Weinandy “had been given to me as a grace of good example, for my own religious life as a Capuchin friar.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.
Fr.Weinandy’s note of explanation:
At the end of this past May I was in Rome to attend a meeting of the International Theological Commission, of which I am a member. I stayed at Domus Sanctae Marthae. Since I arrived early, I spent most of the Sunday afternoon prior to the meeting on Monday in Saint Peter’s praying in the Eucharistic Chapel. I was praying about the present state of the Church and the anxieties I had about the present Pontificate. I was beseeching Jesus and Mary, St. Peter and all of the saintly popes who are buried there to do something to rectify the confusion and turmoil within the Church today, a chaos and an uncertainty that I felt Pope Francis had himself caused. I was also pondering whether or not I should write and publish something expressing my concerns and anxiety. On the following Wednesday afternoon, at the conclusion of my meeting, I went again to St. Peter’s and prayed in the same manner. That night I could not get to sleep, which is very unusual for me. It was due to all that was on my mind pertaining to the Church and Pope Francis. At 1:15 AM I got up and went outside for short time. When I went back to my room, I said to the Lord: “If you want me to write something, you have to give me a clear sign. This is what the sign must be. Tomorrow morning I am going to Saint Mary Major’s to pray and then I am going to Saint John Lateran. After that I am coming back to Saint Peter’s to have lunch with a seminary friend of mine. During that interval, I must meet someone that I know but have not seen in a very long time and would never expect to see in Rome at this time. That person cannot be from the United States, Canada or Great Britain. Moreover, that person has to say to me in the course of our conversation, ‘Keep up the good writing’.”
The next morning I did all of the above and by the time I met my seminarian friend for lunch what I had asked the Lord the following night was no longer in the forefront of my mind. However, towards the end of the meal an archbishop appeared between two parked cars right in front of our table (we were sitting outside). I had not seen him for over twenty years, long before he became an archbishop. We recognized one another immediately. What made his appearance even more unusual was that because of his recent personal circumstances I would never have expected to see him in Rome or anywhere else, other than in his own archdiocese. (He was from none of the above mentioned countries.) We spoke about his coming to Rome and caught up on what we were doing. I then introduced him to my seminarian friend. He said to my friend that we had met a long time ago and that he had, at that time, just finished reading my book on the immutability of God and the Incarnation. He told my friend that it was an excellent book, that it helped him sort out the issue, and that my friend should read the book. Then he turned to me and said: “Keep up the good writing.”
In the light of Jesus fulfilling my demanding “sign,” I want to make two comments. First, I decided to write Pope Francis a letter, which I intended then to publish unless he adequately addressed the issues I raised. Almost two months after having received my letter, I did receive an acknowledgement from Vatican Secretariat of State informing me that the letter had been received. This was simply an acknowledgement and not a response to my concerns. Second, I find it significant that not only did the Lord fulfill my demand for a sign, but also did so in, what I believe, a very significant manner. He accomplished it through an archbishop. By utilizing an archbishop, I believe, that Jesus’ fulfillment of my request took on an apostolic mandate.
To read the full text of Father Weinandy’s letter to Pope Francis, click here.