A member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission has written to Pope Francis saying many Catholics are losing confidence in “their supreme shepherd” due to on-going doctrinal confusions.
Fr Thomas Weinandy, who is also a former chief of staff for the United States bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, accuses the Pope of fostering a “growing unease” among the faithful by failing to clarify the teaching of Amoris Laetitia.
“A chronic confusion seems to mark your pontificate,” he writes. “The light of faith, hope, and love is not absent, but too often it is obscured by the ambiguity of your words and actions.”
“Too often your manner seems to demean the importance of Church doctrine,” he adds. “Again and again you portray doctrine as dead and bookish, and far from the pastoral concerns of everyday life.”
On Amoris Laetitia, Fr Weinandy writes: “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.”
“To teach with such a seemingly intentional lack of clarity inevitably risks sinning against the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth,” he adds.
He accuses Pope Francis of seemly trying to “censor and even mock” people with traditional views on divorce and remarriage by suggesting they are “Pharisaic stone-throwers who embody a merciless rigorism”.
“This kind of calumny is alien to the nature of the Petrine ministry,” he says.
Faithful Catholics are also demoralised by the “teaching and practice” of bishops who “seem not merely open to those who hold views counter to Christian belief, but who support and even defend them,” Fr Weinandy says.
Pope Francis’s pontificate, he adds, 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”.
Fr Weinandy also criticises Pope Francis’s efforts at decentralisation, saying they are threating to undermine the Church’s unity.
“Encouraging a form of ‘synodality’ that allows and promotes various doctrinal and moral options within the Church can only lead to more theological and pastoral confusion.”
Bishops, he adds, are also too scared to speak out.
“Bishops are quick learners, and what many have learned from your pontificate is not that you are open to criticism, but that you resent it.”
In a post on Sandro Magister’s blog, Fr Weinandy says he was inspired to write the letter while praying at the Eucharistic Chapel in St Peter’s in Rome.
“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.”
He says that he asked God to give him a clear sign that he should write something. That sign turned out to be a chance meeting with an old acquaintance who had since become an archbishop.
The archbishop said: “Keep up the good writing.”
Fr Weinandy’s intervention comes just over a month after the publication of the “filial correction”, in which 62 scholars accused the Pope of failing to stop the spread of “heresies and other errors”. Other scholars later added their names to the list of signatories.
Nick Hallett is online editor of the Catholic Herald