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Cardinal Donald Wuerl Claire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis is changing the papacy and “completely refocusing the role of bishop,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington in an interview with America

According to Wuerl, Francis has reconnected the Church with the “energy of the Second Vatican Council,” picking up “where we left off” on Vatican II themes of collegiality and synodality.

When the America interviewer opined that “Francis is changing the papacy,” Wuerl agreed, saying: “Yes. It will never look like it did 25 or more years ago.”

“So, when I look back over these four years, I see that Francis has accomplished all this refocusing, even though we have a long, long way to go to begin to change the direction of an institution as big as the Catholic Church and to get it focused back again on the path that I believe the council set out on. I think what he has done is already a huge accomplishment,” he said. 

Both Chicago's left-leaning Cardinal Blaise Cupich and Vatican spokesman Fr. Thomas Rosica tweeted their support for Wuerl's interview.

Pope Francis has called for a “decentralized” Church in which individual bishops’ conferences have more authority to establish local norms. In practice, he has even been allowing “regional” decision making by bishops on fundamental moral issues, such as Communion for those in adulterous unions.

Wuerl said in the interview that was published March 6 that there was no better example of collegiality and synodality than the two synods on the family. 

“Those two synods on the family were unlike any of the other synods prior to them because they actually invited the bishops into the process in a transparent, open way,” he said. 

But in his 2015 book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod?, Vatican reporter Ed Pentin provided hard evidence showing how the synod had been engineered by its organizers to arrive at predetermined results. Among these included a framework that would allow adulterers to receive the Sacraments, including Holy Communion, as ‘mercy’ and ‘pastoral accompaniment.’

Pentin highlighted how many synod fathers were angry that the interim reports, as well as the final synod document, did not reflect the majority views of the synod’s participants. 

Cardinal Raymond Burke described the Synod’s interim report as a “gravely flawed document that does not express adequately the teaching and discipline of the Church and, in some aspects, propagates doctrinal error and a false pastoral approach.”

Instead of respecting the conclusion of the synod fathers who rejected — by a two-thirds majority — admitting civilly-divorced-and-remarried Catholics to Communion after a period of penitence, Francis broke with custom and authoritatively insisted that this rejected proposition, along with two other problematic ones, be kept in the interim report. This allowed these proposals to be carried over into the working document that would set the agenda for the next synod on the family the following year. 

When Francis’ Exhortation Amoris Laetitia — his reflections on the outcome of the family synods — came out in April 2016, its controversial eighth chapter was used to justify allowing adulterers and even fornicators to receive Holy Communion. 

In his interview, Wuerl praised Amoris for emphasizing “love, […] not the rigid following of the letter of the law.”

When asked about whether Amoris is magisterial teaching, Wuerl said that if it bears the signature of the pope, then it is. 

I would never, ever begin to challenge the voice of the Petrine Office because if you say, as an individual, I can determine which of the teachings of the church are magisterial and which aren’t, then which of the papal encyclicals and which of the apostolic exhortations are valid and which aren’t? Who gets to determine that?

It’s determined when they come out with the signature of the pope on them. That’s what makes them part of the Petrine Office—not somebody else’s judgment about their thought or about the content. And so every apostolic exhortation, and that is all post-synodal ones, are all Petrine magisterium.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, however, has made the case that Amoris is “not an act of the magisterium,” but a “personal reflection of the Pope” that is non-binding. 

“Pope Francis makes clear, from the beginning, that the post-synodal apostolic exhortation is not an act of the magisterium,” he said in an April 2016 interview. “A personal reflection of the Pope, while received with the respect owed to his person, is not confused with the binding faith owed to the exercise of the magisterium.”

Wuerl’s answer about Francis changing the papacy and getting the Church “back again on the path” closely resembles the speech of Cardinals Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Theodore McCarrick who saw change coming to the Church in the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis four years ago.

“Four years of Bergoglio would be enough to change things,” Murphy-O'Connor told the Independent in a 2013 interview four months after the election of Pope Francis. 

McCarrick revealed in a March 2013 speech of a pre-conclave plan to elect Bergoglio as the one who could “reform the Church… [and in] five years, he could put us back on target.”

RELATED: They gave Pope Francis four years to ‘make the Church over again.’ Here’s how he’s tried.