After making public a letter he wrote to Pope Francis accusing the pontiff of sowing “chronic confusion” and teaching in an “intentionally ambiguous” manner, a former chief of staff for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine has resigned as a consultant to the same committee.
The conference announced the resignation in a statement on Tuesday, the same day the letter by Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy was published by Crux and other media outlets.
“After speaking with the General Secretary of the Conference today, Father Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., has resigned, effective immediately, from his position as consultant to the USCCB Committee on Doctrine,” the bishops’ statement said.
“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,” it said.
At the same time, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, released a separate statement saying Weinandy’s resignation illustrates the nature of constructive discussion in 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,” DiNardo said.
“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,” he said.
“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,” DiNardo said.
DiNardo appeared to suggest that Weinandy’s letter failed to afford a necessary benefit of the doubt to the pope’s positions.
“As bishops, we recognize the need for honest and humble discussions around theological and pastoral issues,” he said. “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,” DiNardo said, “should be afforded all the more to the teaching of Our Holy Father.”
DiNardo emphasized the loyalty of the American bishops to the pope.
“As pastors and teachers of the faith, 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’,” DiNardo said, quoting a document from the Second Vatican Council titled Lumen Gentium.