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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - In a significant policy shift, the incoming head of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrinal watchdog has expressed a progressive stance regarding the blessing of same-sex unions.
Archbishop Víctor Manuel "Tucho" Fernández, appointed by Pope Francis as the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, has voiced his willingness to consider allowing "gay blessings" while ensuring they are distinct from the sacrament of marriage.
In an interview with Spanish media InfoVaticana on Wednesday, the Argentinian prelate signaled his dissent with the ban on "same-sex blessings" issued by the DDF in March 2021, which categorically stated, "God does not and cannot bless sin."
"The Church does not have, and cannot have, the power to bless unions of persons of the same sex," the DDF responsum ad dubium (reply to a doubt) added in an appended commentary.
Responding to the DDF ban on same-sex blessings, Fernández expressed his firm stance against abortion while emphasizing the uniqueness of traditional marriage between a man and a woman, "who in that difference are capable of generating new life."
"There is nothing that can be compared to that, and using that name to express something else is not good or correct," Fernández stated, explaining that "gestures or actions that may express something different should be avoided."
The prelate reiterated that "the greatest care" must be taken to "avoid rites or blessings that could feed this confusion" between the sacrament of marriage and liturgies offering blessings to homosexual couples.
However, "if a blessing [to same-sex couples] is given in such a way that there will be no such confusion, it will have to be the subject of analysis and confirmation," Fernández insisted.
"There is a point where it [the issue of same-sex blessings] moves from a proper theological discussion to a more prudential or disciplinary question, as you will see," the prefect-designate explained.
Significantly, while several of Pope Francis' defenders rushed to justify his reversal of the death penalty as a "prudential" matter, theologian Fr. Jeffrey F. Kirby argued that the "pope's death penalty teaching lies beyond prudential judgment."
Responding to the German Synodal Way, which has approved blessings for homosexual couples, Fernández said, "For the time being, I have to tell you that I do not believe that there is no good to be found in this German 'movement.'"
In March, the Catholic Church in Germany voted to permit official blessing ceremonies for homosexual couples in German Catholic churches with immediate effect, Church Militant reported.
The liturgy of blessing is based on the conviction "that there is moral good in the common life of couples who live together in commitment and responsibility for each other," the text of the resolution explained. "Where people love each other, God's love is present."
According to resolutions passed by the German Synodal Way, priests who bless homosexual unions will not face disciplinary sanctions, despite the DDF categorically ruling out the possibility of blessings for same-sex couples as "illicit" and "unlawful."
The Vatican failed to impose disciplinary sanctions on scores of priests who conducted two seasons of same-sex blessings in over 110 churches in Germany in May 2021 and May 2022.
In September 2022, Flemish bishops approved a liturgical rite to be used for blessing the union of same-sex couples, citing Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, significant portions of which have been ghostwritten by Abp. Fernández.
Further, the prelate did not rule out women's ordination, telling InfoVaticana he would "update" himself on the demands for women deacons and priests raised by the German Synodal Way and would "listen, talk, consult."
"Cardinal [Luis] Ladaria once told me that he hoped there was some heretic who would force us to deepen our faith," Fernández added. Ladaria, a conservative Spanish Jesuit, led the DDF as its prefect from 2017 to 2023.
Commenting on the pope's letter accompanying his appointment, which referred to "immoral methods" previously used by the Holy Inquisition (the predecessor to the DDF), Fernández said, "We cannot deny that there were tortures and deaths."
"We know that this cannot be judged with current criteria," the prelate elaborated. "If historical conditioning can diminish culpability, and that must be taken into account in our judgments, we cannot deny that it was 'objectively' wrong."
"But what is wrong is wrong, and I defend objective morality. If historical conditioning can reduce guilt, and this must be considered in our judgments, we cannot deny that this was 'objectively' bad," he added.
"We also know that other "tribunals" of the time were far crueler and more immoral than the Catholic Church, even those of other Christian denominations, but what is wrong is wrong," Fernández reiterated.
Defending himself against accusations of heterodoxy, the prelate stressed that "doctrine does not change." However, he added, "Our understanding of that doctrine has changed and will continue to change."
The Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education blocked Pope Francis (then Abp. Bergoglio of Buenos Aires) from appointing Fernández as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina in 2009, citing the questionable orthodoxy of the candidate.
"It came 17 months later because some people had filed allegations about my alleged doctrinal errors. At the time, Bergoglio, who was archbishop of Buenos Aires, always supported me," the prelate revealed.
Earlier, the newly appointed prefect disclosed to the Spanish media outlet Perfil that he had undergone multiple investigations by the same doctrinal watchdog that Pope Francis has now entrusted him to lead.
Noting that the dicastery had "a rather dark history" and "persecuted so-called heretics and witches" using methods like torture and execution, Fernández said, "They came to tell me that I did not support the vision of the Church on homosexuals."
"There were great theologians at the time of the Second Vatican Council who were persecuted by this institution at that time," he lamented. "And the case of a great theologian who one night went and urinated on the door of the Holy Office as a gesture of contempt for this persecutory methodology is famous."
"Obviously, the history of the Inquisition is shameful; it is harsh, and it profoundly contradicts the Gospel and Christian teaching itself. That's why it's so horrible," he concluded.
In January 2022, Pope Francis banished Abp. Giacomo Morandi, the DDF's second-in-command, to the bishopric of Italy's Reggio Emilia diocese as punishment for taking the lead in issuing the responsum against same-sex blessings, Church Militant reported.
In June, Juan Carlos Cruz, an openly gay member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, confirmed that Francis approved of his homosexuality.
"He told me, 'Juan Carlos, [the fact] that you are gay does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this, and I don't care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are,'" Cruz told a June conference for LGBT Catholics in his keynote address.