Clash of the archbishops: Synod dispute between US senior churchmen goes public

Print More
Bishops are seen in attendance as Pope Francis leads the mass for a canonization in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on October 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BISHOPS-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 19, 2015.

Bishops are seen in attendance as Pope Francis leads the mass for a canonization in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican on October 18, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-BISHOPS-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 19, 2015.

ROME (RNS) The eight American bishops taking part in a Vatican summit on family life stay at a huge seminary built high on a hill overlooking St. Peter’s Basilica and the rest of the Eternal City.

It’s a lovely place with spacious apartments for each bishop and any amenity they might need.

But for all that, it may be getting a tad uncomfortable.

In the latest installment of an increasingly sharp exchange conducted via the media, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput on Monday (Oct. 19) rejected what he took as a swipe at him by Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, also a member of the U.S. delegation at this gathering of global bishops.

Chaput, who hosted Francis for the final two days of the papal visit to the U.S. last month, didn’t like what he saw as Wuerl’s attempt to lump him in with the conservative opposition to the pope at the gathering, called a synod.

“If the welcome we gave Pope Francis in Philadelphia last month looked like opposition, people need a trip to a really good eye doctor,” Chaput told Catholic News Agency, a conservative wire service he has long supported.


READ: African bishops play a major role, for first time, at contentious Vatican summit


 

Pope Francis shakes hands with Archbishop Charles Chaput as he arrives on the Independence Mall to deliver remarks on the theme "We Hold These Truths," a quote from the Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, on September 26 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHAPUT-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 7, 2015.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Archbishop Charles Chaput as he arrives on the Independence Mall to deliver remarks on the theme “We Hold These Truths,” a quote from the Declaration of Independence, in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, on September 26 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHAPUT-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 7, 2015, and with RNS-AMERICANS-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 19, 2015.Chaput, a leader of the conservative wing of the U.S. hierarchy, has been viewed as out of sync with Francis’ new approach to ministry and has been a regular critic of the synod process and working documents — both of which Pope Francis went out of his way to endorse and defend at this meeting.

The Philadelphia archbishop has been a regular critic of the synod process that Francis set out, and of those at the synod who want to explore reforms to church practices so that, for example, divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment could receive communion.

The reformers would like the church to find ways to be more welcoming to gay Catholics, among other things.

In a Wall Street Journal column last Friday, Chaput struck again, knocking the synod’s methods — which have been backed by Francis — but also taking a dig at the motives of the reformers.

In the article, Chaput said the more the champions of reform insist they are not changing church doctrine on marriage, the less believable they are to the other cardinals and bishops at the synod.

That jab came on top of the ongoing furor over a secret letter that 13 conservative cardinals sent to Francis just after this synod began earlier this month in which they blasted the process and argued that it was rigged to favor reforms that would lead the Catholic Church down the road to heresy and ruin.

One of their chief complaints was the composition of the 10-member committee drafting the final report; that committee, which the conservatives said was too progressive, includes Wuerl, who was personally named by Francis.


READ: Despite the odds, one doctor promotes family planning in Muslim Nigeria


 

Pope Francis greets the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, upon returning to the Vatican Embassy in Washington on day three of his first visit to the United States on September 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gary Cameron *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-AMERICANS-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 19, 2015.

Pope Francis greets the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, upon returning to the Vatican Embassy in Washington on day three of his first visit to the United States on September 24, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gary Cameron
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-AMERICANS-SYNOD, originally transmitted on Oct. 19, 2015.

In an unusual breach of ecclesiastical etiquette, two of the signers of the letter were Wuerl’s fellow Americans, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

Apparently, it was all a bit much for Wuerl — normally one of the most cautious and diplomatic of churchmen — and on Sunday (Oct. 18) he fired back at the critics in separate interviews with three publications.

While he didn’t mention Chaput or the others by name, Wuerl fiercely defended the synod and Francis against charges that reformers were “manipulating” the synod.

He noted that Francis had actually broadened the committee charged with writing the final report, which will be debated later this week, and he said Francis is not changing doctrine but trying to get the church to better reflect Jesus’ teachings.

“I wonder if some of these people who are speaking, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes half-way implying, then backing off and then twisting around, I wonder if it is really that they find they just don’t like this pope,” Wuerl told America magazine, a Jesuit-run weekly. “I wonder if that isn’t part of it.”

The cardinal went on to rip those who continued to argue that the synod is being “rigged” and said their accusations had “tainted” the public’s view of the process.

Asked what he would say to those bishops who said and did such things, Wuerl replied:

“There’s not much you can say because if someone isn’t willing to hear you . . . ”

He added that he saw no evidence that synod leaders are perverting the will of the bishops or changing the teaching of the church: “I just don’t see it.”

Chaput, speaking to Catholic News Agency, insisted he was only speaking frankly when he made his criticisms, just as Francis had asked the 270 churchmen at the synod to do.

“I believe he (the pope) means what he says,” Chaput said.

“It would be very strange for any bishop to doubt that; or for anyone to discourage or mischaracterize an honest difference of views among the synod fathers. That’s especially true as it applies to cardinals. One of their main jobs is to offer their best counsel to the Pope. So I suppose you need to ask America’s editors why they ran their story. The reason escapes me.”

The contretemps follows comments last Friday by Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, a synod delegate who is viewed as an ally of Wuerl and Francis, who said he didn’t see any reason for the “anxiety” that Chaput claimed was dominating the synod.

The verbal volleying comes as the synod enters its final stretch, with everyone speculating, but few actually confident, about what the bishops will produce at the end of the week, or whether Francis will push reforms forward or punt.

It has contributed to an atmosphere of melodrama — or maybe it’s all much ado about nothing?

In another interview on Monday, Cardinal DiNardo, a signer of the infamous letter, played down the contentiousness of the debate.

“Some people are making out that internal to the synod there are all kinds of horrible things going on, but there really aren’t,” he told the Catholic news site Crux. “People who have just said something opposed to one another then hang out over the coffee breaks together.”

YS/LEM END GIBSON

  • Pingback: Clash of the archbishops: Synod dispute between senior churchmen goes public - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • ben in oakland

    ““I wonder if some of these people who are speaking, sometimes surreptitiously, sometimes half-way implying, then backing off and then twisting around, I wonder if it is really that they find they just don’t like this pope,” Wuerl told America magazine, a Jesuit-run weekly. “I wonder if that isn’t part of it.”

    Ya think? You need only read the comments of those who post here that the pope isn’t catholic enough to know that this is true,.

  • DA

    I see a priest, a cardinal as one who teaches faith and peace to humanity. After that letter I see how far these so called servants of Jesus can go to create chaos instead of walking in faith themselves. Aren’t we supposed to pray when we are in doubt and instead of being critical ask God to guide those who are serving him ? I believe Pope Francis is led by the holy spirit he is love, peace a peoples Pope who looks after the poor and sees the good in everyone regardless of who we are. How about we follow this path?

  • “I believe Pope Francis is led by the holy spirit he is love, peace a peoples Pope who looks after the poor and sees the good in everyone regardless of who we are. How about we follow this path?”

    The Pope is attempting to merge humanism into Catholicism – but it won’t work; humanism is not a religion and Christianity is not humanism. Duty to a God obliterates our duty to humanity. Gods always insist their superior needs are more important than the needs of human beings.
    That is the problem. Religion always fails humanity.

  • Pingback: Clash of the archbishops: Synod dispute between US senior churchmen goes public - mosaicversemosaicverse()

  • Sister Geraldine Marie, OP, RN, PHN

    Oh, come on, Max! Rejoin the faith and stop this grousing!
    The bishops need to obey agape love and pay attention to the Church’s troubles in the NT and how they handled it.

  • Garson Abuita

    Conservative bishops for weeks have sought to “discourage or mischaracterize an honest difference of views among the synod fathers,” by claiming all sorts of intrigue, claiming the moderate bishops — including the Pope — were in a conspiracy to commit heresy. Now the moderates have criticized this. What’s the conservatives’ response? “Waaahhh!! You’re trying to discourage or mischaracterize an honest difference of views among the synod fathers!!!!”

  • Sister,

    “Stop grousing…”

    You call the suffering of humanity just a little ‘grousing’?

    Religion encourages:
    Poverty, overpopulation, starvation, beheadings, Jihadi violence, genital mutilation, intifadas, repression of women, slavery, sexual perversion, irresponsibility.

    Religion opposes:
    Personal responsibility, reason, rationality, Scientific discovery, women’s rights, healthy sexuality, healthy relationships, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom from oppressive regimes, democracy…

    Religion causes nothing but suffering and misery across the world and you think this is merely ‘grousing’? Such is the depravity hidden in the lie.

  • P. S. John

    I think we have to distinguish between what goes under the name of religion and genuine religious practices. Genuine religion always upholds human dignity irrespective of rules and regulations as Jesus did. What Pope Francis attempts is to bring religion to the path of “in spirit and in truth”.
    John P.S.

  • “Genuine religion always upholds human dignity irrespective of rules and regulations”

    1. There is no evidence of this.
    2. If it were true, human dignity would be more important than the wishes of gods. And it never is.
    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)
    3. If you are interested in human dignity, as the Atheist Humanists are, what do you need a religion for?

  • P. S. John

    The concept of human dignity should flow from what really constitutes the ‘humanum’. Can it be achieved without the ‘divinum’ that safeguards and promotes what is really human as against all threats it is constantly exposed to? Whatever is contrary to this principle is neither divine nor human.
    John P. S.

  • “The concept of human dignity should flow from what really constitutes the ‘humanum’. ”

    Why? You are inventing a mystery where there is none.

    Humans are social animals – it is in our personal benefit to produce a respectful and loving attitude toward one another across society. No god of any kind is needed for this – and no god has ever been helpful toward that end.

    Gods and ‘human dignity’ are opposing ideas. Gods are toys invented by those who have no love for humanity.

  • P. S. John

    The fact that there are deficient concepts of ‘God’ doesn’t abrogate the very concept of ‘God’ as is the case with practically every concept. Newton’s theories were transformed by the theory of relativity of Einstein. Nobody seems to have any problem with it. When it is a question of the concept of ‘God’, some people start developing an allergy all of a sudden. No one denies the concept of ‘existence’ and yet God’s essence is itself existence so much so that anything that exists participates in God.
    John P. S.

  • You demonstrate the slipperiness of religious thinking – no evidence for a god means no checks and balances in religion. Beheadings are as validated as witch burnings.

    God is just a dangerous, primitive toy – society should discourage playing with it.

  • Paula

    How does it feel to be a troll, Max?

  • Mary

    Dear Max: That’s sloppy, lazy thinking. “Religion encourages”, and “Religion opposes”. It all depends on what religion you’re talking about!
    Religions, like ideas, have consequences. TRUE ideas have good consequences; FALSE ideas have bad consequences.
    More sloppy thinking: “Duty to a God obliterates our duty to humanity.” Wrong. You fabricate a straw man, creating a contradiction where there is none.

  • @Mary,

    “TRUE ideas have good consequences; FALSE ideas have bad consequences.”

    What then of this?

    God: “Rape the women in daylight”
    “Thus says the Lord: ‘I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives [plural] while you live to see it, and will give them to your neighbor. He shall RAPE YOUR WIVES in broad daylight. You have done this deed in secret, but I will bring it about in the presence of all Israel, and with the sun looking down.’ ” (2 Samuel 12:11)

    If God is good why is rape a good command?

  • @Paula,

    Be fair.
    A troll is someone who instigates with a wild claim. Yet I made no claims.
    Where is this god you claim exists?

  • P. S. John

    It would be nice to hear from you the kind of evidence you expect that would be counted as evidence by you for belief in God!
    John P. S.

  • P.S. John,

    I’ll accept the same evidence for Jesus which you would accept to believe in Allah.
    I’m ready when you have it.

  • P. S. John

    Atheist Max,
    ‘Allah’ is just another name for the one God and there is no problem in the name as even Christians in Indonesia uses that name for God. One may call God ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’. There is no theological problem involved.
    You must remember that Linguistic Analysis has brought out very well the meaning of names and how they are used. Names are not labels attached to objects nor are they referents and yet they convey meaning. The main point is to convey the meaning intended by proper use of names.
    John P. S.