Written by Christopher A. Ferrara
Pope Francis’s Ghostwriter Also Wrote: “Heal Me With Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing”
Victor Manuel Fernández, known as “Tucho” to his fans, is very tight with Francis, his fellow Argentinian. So tight that within three months of his election Francis made Tucho a bishop and then, a month later (June 2013), appointed him titular Archbishop of the titular See of Tiburnia, named after a defunct ancient Roman city in what is now the Austrian state of Carinthia.
Tucho is thus literally the archbishop of nowhere. But the impressive title credentialed him to serve as the go-to guy for the heavy lifting of drafting three meandering, book length excurses presenting Francis’s painfully passé seventies-era, liberal Jesuit “vision” of the Church and the world. Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Si and Amoris Laetita (AL) all exhibit the Touch of Tucho.
Respecting AL, Sandro Magister has demonstrated conclusively that key passages of the now infamous Chapter 8, which attempts to smuggle situation ethics into the Magisterium, are simply paraphrases of passages from Fernández’s prior works on the theme that because of “concrete circumstances,” “concrete realities” and “subjective conditions” supposedly limiting freedom of the will, people living in an objective condition of mortal sin on account of divorce and “remarriage” or simple cohabitation could not only be subjectively guiltless but also living a life of sanctifying grace, even if they continually fall short of the “objective ideal.”
That very theme was condemned explicitly by John Paul II in paragraph 103 of Veritatis splendor:
It would be a very serious error to conclude… that the Church’s teaching is essentially only an “ideal” which must then be adapted, proportioned, graduated to the so-called concrete possibilities of man…But what are the “concrete possibilities of man”? And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ? This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means that he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence.
And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit.
According to Tucho, however—and thus according to Francis—in “certain cases” (Novus Ordo code for all cases) public adulterers can be admitted to Confession and Holy Communion without a prior commitment to amendment of life. As Tucho and Francis well know, this would mean the overthrow of all prior Church teaching and discipline to the contrary, beginning with that of John Paul II.
Magister has been unsparing in his mordant commentary on Tucho’s oeuvre and his manifest lack of credibility as a theologian. Fernández, he writes, “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.”
To illustrate his point, Magister notes with entirely appropriate sarcasm that “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….” In his own preface to this ludicrous tome Tucho informs the reader as follows:
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.”
Again and again the seemingly diabolical absurdities that characterize the post-conciliar epoch in the Church bring to mind the words of Archbishop Lefebvre when he saw one of the first presentations of the New Mass orchestrated by Bugnini: “Is this for real?”
In a softball interview with Andrea Tornielli, Tucho could not contain his exuberance over the ethical sabotage he was able to bake into AL (obviously at Francis’s request and with his full knowledge and approval). Questioned about Chapter 8, Tucho confirmed what we already know. Read and ponder his words very carefully (my translation from the Italian):
First, what Francis what Francis says in Chapter 8 should not be reduced to the question of the divorced and remarried. It is very important to open new doors, be it to moral theology or the pastoral, that we become more merciful, more transformed by the primacy of charity, and closer to the concrete reality of people. Then too, the Pope did not wish to develop further the question of Communion for the divorced and remarried because he wanted there to be only a small hint that opens a pastoral door, and not a fundamental question.
The majority of the pages of Amoris Laetitia are dedicated to the growth of love, and that is the Pope’s purpose. Certainly there is a very important step forward after Familiaris Consortio. But it is better to allow the bishops, in dialogue with the Pope, to reflect on this theme. For the entire Church the principal themes are others. Time will put things in their place, and so the Pope understands: “time is greater than space.” Some changes provoke more noise, but everything will fall into place.
The Pope and His Ghostwriter
Tucho goes on to issue this prediction, or rather threat, concerning AL: “The fruits of this gift of the Holy Spirit will be seen better in the course of time, but we cannot deny that there have been opened new possibilities for the Church we have to take advantage of much better without wasting time.”
What we have here is a devious weasel, elevated to an absurdly inappropriate position of prominence by his friend the Pope. Tucho, the world’s greatest authority on kissing, is so full of himself he cannot resist telling us that Holy Communion for public adulterers is in the cards that will be dealt in due time during the game Francis is playing with the Church. For now, however, “just a little hint that opens a pastoral door.” And the progressive bishops at the poker table will do the rest—in “dialogue” with the canny dealer on the Chair of Peter, who will distribute to them the winning hand. The game is rigged. But of course traditionalists knew that from the moment they heard the words “Synod on the Family.”
Even Fernández has to admit that this con job is meeting with serious opposition, which he attempts to reduce to “the reaction of some Catholic groups who refuse to apply the document, with all the riches it contains, only because they are angry about Chapter 8.” Now, why should Catholics be angry about a papal document that promotes situation ethics, undermining the entire moral edifice of the Church and even reducing the natural law to an “objective ideal” (¶ 303) an “objective inspiration (¶ 305)”? Such pharisaical nitpicking! What about all those beautiful chapters “dedicated to the growth of love,” which appear before AL destroys all morality in Chapter 8?
But, Tucho exults, “thank God that is not the attitude of the great majority of the people of God…. The great majority of the people of God have welcomed the document…” In fact, the great majority of “the people of God” could not care less about AL as they are already living in the state of “silent apostasy” that AL outrageously attempts to accommodate under the guise of “mercy” and “pastoral discernment.”
As for informed Catholics who still follow the Church’s teaching on marriage, procreation and sexual morality in its entirety, the vast majority of them see AL as the disaster it really is. Even Jeffrey Mirus, among the most resolute of the “normalists,” has finally had enough of Francis’s attempts to equate strict adherence to exceptionless moral laws with the rigorism of the Pharisees, a sophistical ploy that is itself pharisaical: “it is sad to see what is essentially a form of worldly accommodation and comfort manifested so clearly in the personal tendencies of a man who has been made a Successor of Peter…. Even giving the benefit of every doubt, there is a recurring pattern here that forces us to admit that Pope Francis shares some of the unfortunate personal tendencies of the new Pharisees.”
In the same interview with Tornielli, Fernández tries to weasel out of his declaration in an earlier interview (with Corriere della Serra) that “The pope could even go and live away from Rome, have a dicastery in Rome and another one in Bogota, and perhaps link-up by teleconference with liturgical experts that live in Germany.” Without naming Fernández, Cardinal Müller has since remarked that his idea “is fundamentally wrong and even heretical. In this matter, one only has to once read the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council in order to recognize the ecclesiological absurdity of such thought games. The residence of the pope is the Church of St. Peter in Rome.”
Questioned about the flap by Tornielli, Fernández now claims that “I meant to say rather ‘outside the Vatican’”, not outside Rome. An obvious lie, as he had specifically stated that the Pope, if it pleased him, “could even go and live away from Rome, have a dicastery [administration] in Rome and another one in Bogota.”
But when Tornielli asked whether this meant that Fernández recognizes that the city of Rome indeed “has a characteristic of sacrality”, Tucho weaseled again, stating that one should “talk about Rome as a diocese, not as a city…. What I intended to highlight is the nucleus of the problem: the Pope must be bishop, father and pastor of a local Church…. What is the theological qualification of the necessity that the diocese of the Pope must be that of Rome, I do not know.”
That is, Tucho, being a Latin American ideologue, refuses to admit that the Church is centered on Rome by divine ordination. According to him, it just so happens that the Pope is the bishop of a diocese that just so happens to be located in Rome. Continuing with his doubletalk, however, he added: “But it is better to start from the historic and concrete reality… I did not intend to belittle in any way the bond that from the beginning of Christian history binds Peter and his successors to Rome.” Except that he had done just that. But far be it from the maestro of osculation to admit that he erred and forthrightly retract his error. Better to deny that he meant to say exactly what he did say.
This is the “theologian” in whom Francis has utmost confidence. And why not? Theology is beside the point. Tucho is skilled in the art of deception, which makes him quite well qualified to perform the function he has been assigned. For by now it should be clear to every vigilant Catholic that deception is the very program of this pontificate, from which only God can deliver the Church.