US bishops force Pope’s critic to resign

What happened?

The widely respected theologian Fr Thomas Weinandy stepped down as an adviser to the US bishops’ committee on doctrine after writing a letter accusing Pope Francis of fostering “chronic confusion” with “intentionally ambiguous” teachings. He resigned on the day the letter was made public after a phone call from the conference’s general secretary, Mgr Brian Bransfield. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said in a statement that “Christian charity needs to be exercised by all” in Church dialogue.

What Catholics are saying

Commentators agreed that Fr Weinandy’s intervention was significant. “He is arguably the most distinguished Franciscan theologian working in the English language today,” said Chad Pecknold, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America. “He is a theologian centred in the Church, and not at all at her outermost fringe. So his letter carries the weight of the centre.”

Many writers praised the “deferential” tone of the letter. Dr Michael Sirilla, writing at Catholic World Report, said the “irony meter broke” when Fr Weinandy was asked to resign for respectfully pointing out that, under Pope Francis, the “faithful fear being punished for expressing criticisms”.

Michael Sean Winters at the National Catholic Reporter declared that, far from being respectful, the letter showed an “appalling” lack of humility. Winters criticised Cardinal DiNardo’s response for failing to distinguish between “Weinandy’s malicious ranting and the Holy Father’s magisterial teaching”.

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