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VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) The Vatican's new doctrine chief is warning against heresy and schism in both progressive and traditional circles.
Cardinal-designate Abp. Víctor Manuel Fernández chastised those who would go against the "doctrine of the Holy Father" in a recent interview with Catholic journalist Ed Pentin.
"When we speak of obedience to the magisterium, this is understood in at least two senses, which are inseparable and equally important. One is the more static sense, of a 'deposit of faith' which we must guard and preserve unscathed," the Argentine prelate explained. "But on the other hand, there is a particular charism for this safeguarding, a unique charism, which the Lord has given only to Peter and his successors."
Archbishop Fernández continued,
In this case, we are not talking about a deposit, but about a living and active gift, which is at work in the person of the Holy Father. I do not have this charism, nor do you, nor does Cardinal Burke. Today, only Pope Francis has it. Now, if you tell me that some bishops have a special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father, we will enter into a vicious circle (where anyone can claim to have the true doctrine) and that would be heresy and schism. Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church. Unfortunately, today, not only do some progressives fall into this error but also, paradoxically, do some traditionalist groups.
The cardinal-designate also expressed that he does not like the term "modernize" being applied to the Church because it can "lead us to the error of subsuming the permanent and ever new richness of the Church, including the Gospel, into the framework of a given epoch (in this case modernity), which will also pass away as all other epochs have passed away." He prefers the word "reform" because there are "aspects of the Church that can change, but always without renouncing a permanent 'humus' (Latin for soil or ground) that goes beyond the passing of time, the different epochs and the superficial aspects of the world."
The new doctrinal head acknowledged that theological debates have existed throughout the history of the Church and seemingly invited healthy debate between groups. "I believe that this dicastery can be a space that can welcome these debates and frame them in the secure doctrine of the Church, thus avoiding for the faithful some of the more aggressive, confusing and even scandalous media debates."
Pentin questioned the archbishop about a comment he made about same-sex "blessings" to InfoVaticana in July. After affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman, Fernández stated, "If a blessing occurs in such a way that it does not cause that confusion, it will have to be analyzed and confirmed. As you will see, there is a point where one leaves a properly theological discussion and moves on to a question that is rather prudential or disciplinary."
The archbishop explained to Pentin, "I was referring to confusing a same-sex union with a marriage. At this point, it is clear that the Church only understands marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman who, in their differences, are naturally open to beget life."
When pressured about the immutability of doctrine versus its understanding, the doctrine chief assured Catholics, "The doctrine does not change, the Gospel will always be the same, Revelation is already settled. But there is no doubt that the Church will always be tiny in the midst of such an immensity of truth and beauty and will always need to continue to grow in her understanding."
Fernández, when asked for his opinion on the German Synodal Way, replied, "I don't know why some of your colleagues identify me with the German way, which I still know little about." And he directed veiled criticism at the German methodology: "The risk of the Synodal Way lies in believing that by enabling some progressive novelties, the Church in Germany will flourish." He further underscored it is not something Pope Francis would agree with.
Some critics, however, have raised concerns over the cardinal-designate's nebulous answers and use of the expression "the doctrine of the Holy Father," arguing that the articles of faith belong to the Church, not a particular pope.
In a previous interview with Religión Digital, Abp. Fernández argued for same-sex blessings, saying, "I believe that, without contradicting what that [DDF] document says, it wouldn't be bad to rethink [the prohibition against such blessings] in light of everything that Francis has taught us."
As Church Militant previously reported, "in a 2006 article for the Spanish theological journal Revista Teología, the prelate wrote that a Catholic wife should agree to the use of condoms 'when she perceives that family stability is put at risk by subjecting her non-practicing husband to periods of continence.'"
"Jesus saves us, not a doctrine," the prefect-designate remarked in an interview with Vatican News. "No religious doctrine has ever changed the world unless there has been an event of faith, an encounter that reorients life."