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VATICAN CITY, October 19, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - One of the Pope's top advisors, Cdl. Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, D.C. and a member of the Pope's highly touted "Gang of Nine" for curial reform, is perpetuating a dubious division of doctrine and discipline.
In an interview with the Church-condemned National Catholic Reporter on Sunday, insisting Church teaching won't change, he staked his desired "pastoral" changes on a platitudinous call for the Church to "meet people where they are."
"The Church's teaching is quite clear," Cdl. Wuerl conceded. "But the Church's pastoral life is the application of the teaching to where people are. And that's always been the pastoral challenge of the Church."
The American prelate repeated, "You have to speak with clarity, but then knowing what the fullness of the teaching is, you go out and meet people where they are."
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa already criticized this notion earlier during the Synod, pointing out that Jesus instead called people toward Him — that is, away from where they were.
Cardinal Wuerl's comments were slightly more qualified, but they retained the same point Cdl. Napier was challenging.
"You don't go out to meet people where they are to scold them," maintained Cdl. Wuerl. "You have to listen in order to know how to say what you want to say so that you'll be heard," he insisted.
Cardinal Wuerl described an alleged tension "between those who put the greatest emphasis on simply saying it — and saying it over and over again — and those who are saying if it's not being heard, we have to go out and begin to listen so that we know how to say this in a way it will be heard."
"That's the difference," he said, followed by an oft-made, hollow reassurance: "In neither case are we changing the teaching."
Meanwhile, Abp. Stanislaw Gądecki, head of Poland's bishops, suspects those who split up doctrine and discipline really wish to alter Church teaching while merely describing the effort as a change in discipline.
Practically all are repeating that there will be no doctrinal change, but this is understood in different ways. For if you add to this first group that disciplinary changes are possible, this means, in practice, that doctrinal stability is being nullified. In my opinion one cannot speak of the separation of the practice of the Church from Her doctrine, from Her teachings. The two are inseparable. I have the impression that many supporters of this modernity are in fact thinking about changing doctrine, yet calling it a change in Church discipline. It is a disturbing point in these discussions, for it is strongly emphasized: "We accept the entire doctrine," but there immediately follows a suggestion that doctrine has nothing to do with it. This is greatly worrying me, for one and the other are saying that they want no change in doctrine. From where then, are arising these practices opposed to doctrine? (Translation by Toronto Catholic Witness)
From Cdl. Robert Sarah, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to Cdl. Gerhard Müller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to Pope Francis himself, the notion that doctrine and discipline can or should be compartmentalized has been thoroughly criticized by Church leaders recently.