Archbishop Tucho Touched for the CDF

The appointment of Victor Manuel ‘Tucho’ Fernández as the new head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith – now, technically, a ‘dicastery’ – is a scandal. That does not necessarily mean that it is a sin, but it is discouraging that someone such as he is now in charge of defending the Faith. But, wait, the Pope, in his accompanying letter, f no longer thinks that is the sole, or perhaps even primary, task of the office. We are treated therein to the expected sideswipes against ‘desk bound theology’, ‘control mechanism’, ‘secondary issues’ and the dreaded ‘cold, hard logic’, and  The only references in the letter are to Francis himself – fac omnia nova! – with the exception of one footnote to a relatively obscure document issued by the International Theological Commission – not a Magisterial body – on the ‘Fate of Unbaptized Infants’.

We as laity have the right to question decisions and appointments of the Vatican, even of the Pope, and this one is more questionable than most. I don’t quite agree with Timothy Flanders that this spells the demise of the CDF – set up originally as the ‘Holy Office of the Inquisition’ after the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant revolt against Catholic orthodoxy. Can one imprudent appointment destroy a 500-year-old institution? But the appointment is telling, and that in itself may not be all bad. After all, ‘tells’ in poker give away one’s hand, and, as in Germany and elsewhere, the battle is coming more into the open. Setting up someone seemingly so unfit for the task tells us, perhaps, what we need to know, at least for now.

The Archbishop has told us of his own intentions and views, in interviews and answers, and others have recounted some of his odd statements. Much hay has been in particular made of his quasi-erotic book as a young priest on the ‘art of kissing’ for teenagers, and a few words about that: Kissing – at least of the prolonged, erotic and sexually arousing variety, what we might call ‘making out’, with all the accoutrements that go along – is at the very least an occasion of sin before marriage (and should be kept within the limits of chastity within marriage). It should not be fostered, never mind explained how to be done ‘well’ by hormonally-unhinged teenagers, least of all by a priest. That alone should have brought censure upon him. But three decades on, as Archbishop, Fernández is unrepentant, describing the book as a ‘catechesis for teens’, and admitting only he would not write such a book now, as a 60-year-old, as he ‘prepares for eternity’. Hmm. Why not? True contrition normally implies that what one would not do now, one should not have done then.

As Dan Hitchens describes, what may be more troubling still is that Fernández is also the likely ghost writer of the deeply problematical Amoris Laetitia, with whole passages lifted from previous works of his, and whose ambiguous ‘chapter 8’ has unleashed doctrinal and moral chaos in the Church. The five dubia of the stalwart cardinals requesting clarification have to this day – seven years on – never been answered.

Could God work a miracle of grace, and transform the archbishop into a second Thomas a Becket? Non erit inpossibile apud Deum, I suppose, but grace does build on nature, and one wonders how much natural foundation there be here. And it’s hard to teach a perro viejo new tricks.

One way or the other, I don’t think we will have to endure this for long, for our God is patient, but His patience does have limits, at least from our perspective. He gives enough time to allow us to suffer what we need to suffer, and for those of us who need repentance – that is, all of us – to repent. And the centre to all this cannot hold – things inevitably begin to fall apart at the seams, and the jig is up.

I do agree with Mr. Flanders that, at least for the time being, Catholics need to shore up in the trenches and defend the Faith without much help from most of the currently established hierarchy, to shore up the ecclesia domestica, to rely upon all that has been taught definitively and irreformably by previous pontiffs, at least up to the chaos of this current Magisterium. The Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth – all that we need to get to heaven is at our fingertips in her two millennia of Tradition, and the great treasure of Scripture. Drink deep, and follow the Way, to Life.