“Amoris Laetitia” Has a Ghostwriter. His Name Is Víctor Manuel Fernández

“Amoris Laetitia” Has a Ghostwriter. His Name Is Víctor Manuel Fernández

Startling resemblances between the key passages of the exhortation by Pope Francis and two texts from ten years ago by his main adviser. A double synod for a solution that had already been written

by Sandro Magister
chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351303?eng=y

ROME, May 25, 2016 – They are the key paragraphs of the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.” And they are also the most intentionally ambiguous, as proven by the multiple and contrasting interpretations and practical applications that they immediately received.

They are the paragraphs of chapter eight that in point of fact give the go-ahead for communion for the divorced and remarried.

That this is where Pope Francis would like to arrive is by now evident to all. And besides, he was already doing it when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

But now it is being discovered that some key formulations of “Amoris Laetitia” also have an Argentine prehistory, based as they are on a pair of articles from 2005 and 2006 by Víctor Manuel Fernández, already back then and even more today a thinker of reference for Pope Francis and the ghostwriter of his major texts.

Further below some passages of “Amoris Laetitia” are compared with selections from those two articles by Fernández. The resemblance between the two is very strong.

But first it is helpful to get the broad picture.

*

During those years Fernández was professor of theology at the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires.

And at that same university in 2004 an international theological conference was held on “Veritatis Splendor,” the encyclical of John Paul II on “certain fundamental truths of Catholic doctrine,” decisively critical of “situational” ethics, the permissive tendency already present among the Jesuits in the 17th century and today more widespread than ever in the Church.

Attention. “Veritatis Splendor” is not a minor encyclical. In March of 2014, in one of his rare and deeply pondered writings as pope emeritus, indicating the encyclicals out of the fourteen published by John Paul II that in his judgment are “most important for the Church,” Joseph Ratzinger cited four of these, with a few lines for each, but then he added a fifth, which was precisely “Veritatis Splendor,” to which he dedicated an entire page, calling it “of unchanged relevance” and concluding that “studying and assimilating this encyclical remains a great and important duty.”

In “Veritatis Splendor” the pope emeritus saw the restoration to Catholic morality of its metaphysical and Christological foundation, the only one capable of overcoming the pragmatic drift of current morality, “in which there no longer exists that which is truly evil and that which is truly good, but only that which, from the point of view of efficacy, is better or worse.”

So then, that 2004 conference in Buenos Aires, dedicated in particular to the theology of the family, moved in the same direction later examined by Ratzinger. And it was precisely in order to react to that conference that Fernández wrote the two articles cited here, practically in defense of situational ethics.

Partly on account of those two articles, the congregation for Catholic education blocked the candidacy of Fernández as rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina, only to have to give in later, in 2009, to then-archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who fought tooth and nail to clear the way for the promotion of his protege.

In 2013, just after he was elected pope, Bergoglio even bestowed episcopal ordination upon Fernández, with the title of the extinct metropolitan see of Teurnia. While he confined to the Vatican Apostolic Library the chief culprit of the rejection, Dominican theologian Jean-Louis Bruguès, without making him a cardinal, as instead is the tradition for all the librarians of the Holy Roman Church.

And since then Fernández has almost spent more time in Rome than in Buenos Aires, swamped as he is with acting as ghostwriter to his friend the pope, without any growth in the meantime of his credentials as a theologian, already anything but brilliant at the outset.

The first book, in fact, that revealed the genius of Fernández to the world, was: “Heal me with your mouth. The art of kissing,” published in 1995 in Argentina with this presentation to the reader, written by the author himself:

“Let me explain to you that I write this book not so much on the basis of my personal experience as on that of the life of people who kiss. In these pages I would like to summarize the popular sentiment, that which people feel when they think of a kiss, that which mortals feel when they kiss. This is why I spoke for a long time with many persons who have a great deal of experience in this matter, and also with many young people who are learning to kiss in their way. Moreover, I have consulted many books and I wanted to show how the poets speak of the kiss. In this way, with the intention of summarizing the immense richness of life have come these pages on behalf of the kiss, which I hope may help you to kiss better, urge you to liberate in a kiss the best of your being.”

While when it comes to the consideration that Fernández has of himself, there is enough in just one citation from an interview last year with “Corriere della Sera,” disdainful toward Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith and therefore an advance reviewer – but unheeded for three years – of the drafts of the papal texts:

“I have read that some say that the Roman curia is an essential part of the Church’s mission, or that a prefect of the Vatican is the sure compass that keeps the Church from falling into ‘light’ thinking; or that the prefect ensures the unity of the faith and guarantees for the pope a serious theology. But Catholics, reading the Gospel, know that Christ has assured special guidance and illumination for the pope and at the same time for the bishops as a whole, but not for a prefect or for another structure. When one hears such things it almost seems as if the pope would be one of their representatives, or someone who has come to shake things up and must be controlled. [. . .] The pope is convinced that what he has already written or said cannot be punished as a mistake. Therefore, in the future all will be able to repeat those things without the fear of receiving sanctions.”

So this is the figure that Francis keeps close as his thinker of reference, the man who put down in writing large parts of “Evangelii Gaudium,” the program of the pontificate, of “Laudato Si’,” the encyclical on the environment, and finally of “Amoris Laetitia,” the post-synodal exhortation on the family.

*

And now for the passages of “Amoris Laetitia” in which can be seen the contours of formulations by Fernández from ten years ago.

Which it is helpful to read while keeping in mind what was said recently by Robert Spaemann, a great philosopher and theologian with whom Fernández cannot even be compared:

“The true problem is an influential style of moral theology, already present among the Jesuits in the 17th century, which upholds a merely situational ethics. John Paul II rejected situational ethics and condemned it in his encyclical ‘Veritatis Splendor.’ “Amoris Laetitia’ also breaks with this magisterial document.”

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One comment on ““Amoris Laetitia” Has a Ghostwriter. His Name Is Víctor Manuel Fernández

  1. Comparison between “Amoris Laetitia” and two articles by Víctor Manuel Fernández from ten years ago

    chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351303?eng=y

    The texts with their respective abbreviations:

    AL – Francis, post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia,” March 19 2016.

    Fernández 2005 – V. M. Fernández, “El sentido del carácter sacramental y la necesidad de la confirmación”, in “Teología” 42 no. 86, 2005, pp. 27-42.

    Fernández 2006 – V. M. Fernández, “La dimensión trinitaria de la moral. II. Profundización del aspecto ético a la luz de ‘Deus caritas est’,” in “Teología” 43 no. 89, 2006, pp. 133-163.

    Each time are indicated, alongside the abbreviations, for “Amoris Laetitia” the paragraph numbers and for the articles by Fernández the page numbers.

    “AMORIS LAETITIA” 300

    (AL: 300)
    There can be no risk that a specific discernment may lead people to think that the Church maintains a double standard.

    (Fernández 2006: 160)
    In this way there is not proposed a double standard or a “situational morality.”

    “AMORIS LAETITIA” 301

    (AL: 310)
    For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised. The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence it is can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.

    (Fernández 2005: 42)
    Taking into account the influences that attenuate or eliminate imputability (cf. CCC 1735), there always exists the possibility that an objective situation of sin could coexist with the life of sanctifying grace.

    (AL: 301)
    More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values” [Footnote 339: John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” (22 November 1981), 33: AAS 74 (1982), 121], or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.

    (Fernández 2006: 159)
    When the historical subject does not find himself in subjective conditions to act differently or to understand “the values inherent in the norm” (cf. FC 33c), or when “a sincere commitment to a certain norm may not lead immediately to verify the observance of said norm” [Footnote 45].

    [Footnote 45: B. Kiely, “La ‘Veritatis splendor’ y la moralidad personal”, in G. Del Pozo Abejon (ed.), “Comentarios a la ‘Veritatis splendor’,” Madrid, 1994, p. 737].

    (AL: 301)
    As the Synod Fathers put it, “factors may exist which limit the ability to make a decision”. Saint Thomas Aquinas himself recognized that someone may possess grace and charity, yet not be able to exercise any one of the virtues well; in other words, although someone may possess all the infused moral virtues, he does not clearly manifest the existence of one of them, because the outward practice of that virtue is rendered difficult: “Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues” [Footnote 342].

    [Footnote 341: cf. Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 65, a. 3, ad 2; De malo, q. 2, a. 2].
    [Footnote 342: Ibid., ad 3].

    (Fernández 2006: 156)
    Saint Thomas recognized that someone could have grace and charity, but without being able to exercise well one of the virtues “propter aliquas dispositiones contrarias” (ST I-II 65, 3, ad 2). This does not mean that he does not possess all the virtues, but rather that he cannot manifest clearly the existence of one of them because the external action of this virtue encounters difficulties from contrary dispositions: “Certain saints are said not to possess certain virtues, in so far as they experience difficulty in the acts of those virtues, even though they have the habits of all the virtues” (ibid., ad 3).

    “AMORIS LAETITIA” 302

    (AL: 302)
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors”. In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”. For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved [Footnote 345].

    [Footnote 343: no. 1735].
    [Footnote 344: Ibid., 2352; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Euthanasia “Iura et Bona” (5 May 1980), II: AAS 72 (1980), 546; John Paul II, in his critique of the category of “fundamental option”, recognized that “doubtless there can occur situations which are very complex and obscure from a psychological viewpoint, and which have an influence on the sinner’s subjective culpability” (Apostolic Exhortation “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” [2 December 1984], 17: AAS 77 [1985], 223)].
    [Footnote 345: Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Declaration Concerning the Admission to Holy Communion of Faithful Who are Divorced and Remarried (24 June 2000), 2].

    (Fernández 2006: 157)
    This appears in an explicit way in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735). The Catechism likewise makes reference to affective immaturity, to the power of contracted habits, to the state of anguish (cf. CCC 2353). In applying this conviction, the pontifical council for legislative texts affirms, referring to the situation of the divorced and remarried, that it is speaking only of “grave sin, understood objectively, being that (p. 158) the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability” [Footnote 42].

    [Footnote 42: Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, declaration of June 24 2000, point 2a].

    (Fernández 2005: 42)
    On the other hand, given that we cannot judge the objective situation of persons [Footnote 23] and taking into account the influences that attenuate or suppress imputability (cf. CCC 1735), there always exists the possibility that an objective situation of sin might coexist with the life of sanctifying grace.

    [Footnote 23: On this point some recent statements of the magisterium leave no room for doubt. The pontifical council for legislative texts affirms, making reference to the situation of the divorced and remarried, that it is speaking of “grave sin, understood objectively, being that the minister of Communion would not be able to judge from subjective imputability”: Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, declaration of June 24 2000, point 2a. In the same way, in a recent notification of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, it is maintained that for Catholic doctrine “there is a precise and well-founded evaluation of the objective morality of sexual relations between persons of the same sex,” while “the degree of subjective moral culpability in individual cases is not the issue here”: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification regarding certain writings of Fr. Marciano Vidal, February 22 2001, 2b. Evidently, the foundation of these affirmations is found in what the Catechism of the Catholic Church defends in point 1735, cited at the end of the text of this article].

    “AMORIS LAETITIA” 305

    AL: 305
    Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin –which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end. Discernment must help to find possible ways of responding to God and growing in the midst of limits.

    [Footnote 351: In certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments. . .].

    (Fernández 2006: 156)
    This Trinitarian dynamism that reflects the intimate life of the divine persons can also be realized within an objective situation of sin (p. 157) as long as, because of the burden of influences, one is not subjectively culpable.

    (Fernández 2006: 159)
    A “realization of the value within the limits of the moral capacities of the subject” [Footnote 46]. So there are “possible goals” for this influenced subject, or “intermediate steps” [Footnote 47] in the realization of a value, even if they are always aimed at the complete fulfillment of the norm.

    [Footnote 46: G. Irrazabal, “La ley de la gradualidad como cambio de paradigma,” in “Moralia” 102/103 (2004), p. 173].
    [Footnote 47: Cf. G. Gatti, “Educación moral,” in AA.VV., “Nuevo Diccionario de Teología moral,” Madrid, 1992, p. 514].

    (Fernández 2006: 158)
    “There is no doubt that the Catholic magisterium has clearly admitted that an objectively evil act, as is the case with a premarital relationship or the use of a condom in a sexual relationship, does not necessarily lead to losing the life of sanctifying grace, from which the dynamism of charity draws its origin.

    (Fernández 2005: 42)
    On the other hand, given that we cannot judge the subjective situation of persons and taking into account the influences that attenuate or eliminate imputability (cf. CCC 1735), there always exists the possibility that an objective situation of sin may coexist with the life of sanctifying grace.

    (Fernández 2005: 42)
    Does this not justify the administration of baptism and confirmation to adults who may find themselves in an objective situation of sin, on the subjectively culpability of whom no judgment can be made?

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