According to Vaticanist Sandro Magister, Pope Francis has decided to postpone the publication of his long-awaited encyclical on the environment. The reason, according to Magister, is that the Pope realized that the document in its current state had no chance of receiving the approval of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Cardinal Gerhard Müller. If it seems somewhat improper for a Cardinal to be telling a Pope what he can and can’t write, don’t fret, gentle reader: the text wasn’t written by Pope Francis at all.
The ghostwriter behind the heavily discussed encyclical is one Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of Tiburnia, a native of Buenos Aires. Archbishop Fernández, who belongs to Pope Francis’ inner circle in the position of most trusted theological adviser, was already heavily involved in the writing of Evangelii gaudium, and spent the Summer of 2013 in Rome for that purpose. Last March, as Pope Francis set about to compose his Eco-Encyclical, Archbishop Fernández was again flown in to do the heavy lifting. The close working relationship apparently stretches back to the time when Pope Francis was still Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, with Fernández working largely behind the scenes, drafting the future Pontiff’s important speeches and letters.
|Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández
However, it seems that Archbishop Fernández has let the influence he enjoyed over papal affairs go to his head. In an interview published in Corriere della Sera last Sunday, he took the current wave of Ultramontanism to new heights, implying that the Curia and the entire body of Cardinals are non-essential to the government of the Church – which, while technically true, is Vaticanese for “we will push ahead, with or without the Cardinals’ blessing.” He also felt safe enough to criticize Cardinal Müller’s recent comments that his job as Prefect of the CDF is to give the Pope’s magisterium theological structure:
I have read that some say that the Roman Curia is an essential part of the mission of the Church, or that a Prefect in the Vatican is the sure compass preventing the Church from falling into ignomy, or that this Prefect guarantees the unity of the Faith and facilitates serious theology from the Pope. But Catholics know from reading the Gospel that it was to the Pope and the Bishops that Christ granted a special governance and enlightenment – and not to a Prefect or some other structure. When one hears such things, one could almost get the impression that the Pope is merely their representative, or one who has come to disturb and must, therefore, be monitored. […] The Pope is convinced that what he has written or said cannot be treated as an error. Therefore, all these things can be repeated in the future, without having to fear receiving a sanction for it.
We don’t know how Cardinal Müller reacted to these sharp words, or whether, as Giuseppe Nardi surmises, he spoke directly with Pope Francis regarding the encylical, but Magister relates that sources inside Santa Marta are reporting that the Pope will not be publishing Archbishop Fernández’ already completed text, and has – for the time being – tabled the entire project. It’s clear that he can’t let it disappear entirely without a tremendous loss of face in the public arena; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, apparently moonlighting as a Vatican spokesman, has announced that the encyclical is set to appear in June of this year. But who will be behind the next incarnation of the encyclicus maculatus is anybody’s guess.