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Something Without Doubt Much Different
A dicastery for the art of kissing
Jorge Mario Bergoglio swings his wrecking ball again, this time with a view to turning the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith into a Dicastery for the Art of Kissing. America reports as follows:
In an unexpected and highly significant move, Pope Francis has appointed the Argentine theologian and archbishop Victor Manuel “Tucho” Fernández as the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican announced today.
Pope Francis wrote a letter to the new prefect in which he told him in Spanish, “As prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, I entrust to you a task that I consider invaluable. It has as its main purpose to safeguard the teaching that comes from the faith, ‘to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns.’ (Evangelii Gaudium, 271).”
“The dicastery that you will preside over in other epochs came to use immoral methods. Those were times when more than promoting theological knowledge they chased after possible doctrinal errors. What I expect from you is something without doubt much different,” Francis said.
A few months ago, Josef Maria Seifert, by publishing an earlier letter to an unnamed cardinal, queried the entire cardinalate as to whether Francis could, inter alia, "appoint and even personally honour and award moral theologians who contradict the core of biblical and Church moral teaching and the encyclicals Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor to the Pontifical Academy for Life."
We already knew the answer, of course. We knew that he could ask them to write his encyclicals and to arrange his synods and to run his institutes. And now we know that he can and will appoint them even to oversee the defence of the faith, to pass judgment on those who might corrupt the faith. They will do so with moral methods, we are told, not immoral—with a kiss, not a condemnation. In Fernández, he's got the right man for that, or at least for the kissing part.
Seifert's letter included this judgment of his own: "Pope Francis—I say this with a bleeding heart—is not the 'guarantor of the faith' but is ... increasingly destroying the foundations of faith and morals." What serious theologian can demur? I ask that as a serious question, to colleagues in the Academy of Catholic Theology and elsewhere. As it is no longer possible for the cardinals, so it is no longer possible for us. We cannot evade our own responsibility to speak.
Some saw this coming, others did not. Some realized that the plan to which Francis is working requires a rethinking of the papacy itself and a reaffirmation of the Church's one foundation. Others thought, and still think, that it requires only a rethinking of the role of the cardinalate in reining in a reigning pontiff. We can argue about that. What we can't do is remain silent. The Church, like its Lord, is being betrayed with a kiss—a very long, Jesuitical kiss that has delighted America for a decade.
The Church, as today's epistle reading reminds us, is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." The wrecking ball is out, and swinging freely. It cannot destroy the Church, for the Church is indestructible. It can, however, decimate parishes, dioceses, and peoples. Shall we turn a blind eye, or a deaf ear, because it is the pope who is pulling the levers? Would SS Peter and Paul, whose solemnity we have just celebrated, wish us to do so?
I don't think so. Like Seifert, I never have. For ten years we have been offered something without doubt quite different from the tradition that rests on the apostles and prophets, the tradition the CDF was charged with defending. Let the cardinals say so. Let the theologians say so. Let the faithful say so. Men unfit for office have been in the Church's highest offices on many occasions, including men who mocked their predecessors. But I fear we are dealing here, not with corruption in office, but with corruption of office.