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.”
“There is no need to continue to litigate theological points in the public square and so Father Weinandy says directly but, I think, charitably what he believes is on many people's minds. Many priests are confronted daily by members of the lay faithful expressing confusion and concern in reports they read or hear about Pope Francis and his advisors,” Petri added.
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.”
Jacob Wood, theology professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, raised similar concerns. “If Father Weinandy’s intention is fraternal correction, publishing his letter might not be the best way to go about it,” Wood told CNA. “It is easy for our intentions to get warped when treated in the mass media by people who don’t share the perspective of faith. There does exist some danger of scandal.”
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.”
RR Reno, editor of First Things magazine, and formerly a professor of theology at Creighton University, told CNA that publishing letters like Weinandy’s can be helpful to Catholics.
“Weinandy’s letter is an attempt to clearly state problems we face,” Reno said.
“Everyone in the Church has a role – priests, laity, and bishops – and each of us is going to have to make a discernment about how best to serve the Church in the current climate. We have to discuss how to move forward in this pontificate as loyal members of the Church,” he said, adding that Weinandy’s letter is a helpful catalyst for such discussion.
Reno also said that publicizing letters like Weinandy’s “aids people who are in positions of responsibility,” in the Church, “providing some support for those who want to address the challenges the Church is facing.”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, “on the nature of dialogue within the Church,” which he said was occasioned by the publication of Weinandy’s letter and his resignation. DiNardo said that theological debates are often the subject of media attention, which “is to be expected and is often good.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
DiNardo added that theologians and bishops should make every effort to interpret the Holy Father’s teaching charitably, and that all Catholics should “acknowledge that legitimate differences exist” among Catholics, “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.”
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.”