I see some concern on the part of a high-ranking USCCB theologian/employee being asked to submit his resignation. Story here. I’ve blogged on Fr Weinandy a few times in the past, but not in several years, not since the 2011 USCCB/Elizabeth Johnson dust-up over her then-four-year-old book.
To begin with, I’d like to say that opinions like these do not (in my opinion) constitute a problem for employment:
You have often spoken about the need for transparency within the Church. You have frequently encouraged, particularly during the two past synods, all persons, especially bishops, to speak their mind and not be fearful of what the pope may think. But have you noticed that the majority of bishops throughout the world are remarkably silent? Why is this? 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.
I’ve seen this meme repeated quite often in the past few years. I’ve also seen the reality lived out over the past thirty or forty years with the two previous pontiffs. I suppose when a pope is right, silence is golden. Otherwise, not so much.
I don’t think priests in good standing ever descend into poverty in these circumstances. I imagine there will always be a place for a good, earnest, holy priest like Thomas Weinandy. In a university. In a parish. With his Franciscan order. Possibly all three. This situation isn’t quite as bad as when a lay person gets turned out of employment on short notice. Sometimes without the resources of a religious order, a diocese, or something on which to fall back. Sometimes with the spouse able to cover the breadwinning. This organ, for example, was quick to jump on the story as well, but they certainly don’t come off as pure on the matter of pink-slipping some of their employees when their writing got a little controversial. They did print my comment that referred to their behavior, so perhaps transparency is catching in some corners.
I recall a moment in grad school when a classmate returned early from a weekend of serving back in his parish. The new pastor summarily dismissed him without ever hearing him play the organ, directing his choir, or in action in liturgy at all. That was likely more ignorance and liturgical neglect than ideologically-driven. But it was ugly and sinful nonetheless.
I do find it amusing that so many “faithful” Catholics see great wrong in Fr Weinandy’s situation, but were themselves silent and approving when it happened at the hands of henchmen and sycophants of the previous pope or two. Chasing after people’s jobs is ugly, reprehensible behavior that knows no single ideology. I’m a skeptic if it knows virtue at all.
I fully expect the moaning to rise up from conservative, “faithful” elements of Catholics in social media–you can see it in sampling the comboxes of the linked stories given here. Most of my old St Blog’s friends and foils seem to take no notice that certain others were treated similarly in the 1978-2013 era. When I mention figures like Bishop Bill Morris, lies and half-truths are trotted out–like fake news is some sort of justification for clumsy behavior. The ends justifies the means: where is that in the Catechism?
Fr Weinandy’s story of his troubles with Pope Francis and his request for a sign (one was “given” to write, but not publish, I note) falls under the heading of tmi. If I were in an employer’s shoes, the publication (not the writing) of such a letter might inspire an opportunity for a discussion. If an employee confessed such feelings of anxieties as described by this man, it would certainly be worth some discernment with the person. This situation might be a concern in some circumstances. I suppose the subtlety might merit exploration with a spiritual director–something I would urge before divulging publicly.
It is hard for me to detect the hidden hand of a cruel pope in this. Sometimes in the past, it just happened on the level of the person making a bad personnel decision. The one time a priest said to me, “It’s just not working,” I tend to think it was a follow-up to “I don’t know what a liturgist does” and not the hidden hand of a higher-up.
On the discernment front, I’ve probably been tempted a few times by a cloaked devil. For an intelligent, thoughtful theologian, I can’t imagine a frontal attack would work quite as well.
Comments on any of this?