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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Theologians have taken issue with comments made by Cardinal-designate Victor Fernández, warning that his promotion of Amoris Laetitia’s Holy Communion for divorced and “re-married” Catholics “directly contradicts” Church teaching.

Cardinal-designate Fernández made his latest comments in an interview granted to the outgoing editor of Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, published September 14. Since his announcement as new prefect of the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in July, Fernández has issued upward of 40 media interviews, yet this one with La Civilta Cattolica‘s Father Antonio Spadaro is the only one which Fernández has personally shared online, lending it particular weight.

Fernández has caused waves in recent weeks for multiple statements and writings, including his repeated openness to offering same-sex blessings, to allowing those in mortal sin to receive Holy Communion, and being open to permitting the use of contraception. 

The new prefect of the CDF made a thinly-veiled response to his own critics, arguing that some in the Church present themselves as “guarantors of the legitimacy and unity of the faith” and go “so far as to determine what the Pope can or cannot say.”

Fernández argued that his theological thought was grounded in tradition: “Although the training I received was strictly Thomistic, my great teacher was another giant of scholasticism, St. Bonaventure.”

READ: Archbishop Fernández claims opposition to Pope Francis’ ‘unique charism’ risks ‘heresy and schism’

The new prefect is widely acknowledged as the ghost-writer of Amoris Laetitia, the 2016 apostolic exhortation which opened the door to allowing the divorced and “re-married” access to receive Holy Communion. He has previously praised Francis for allowing “pastoral discernment in the realm of the internal forum to have practical consequences in the manner of applying the discipline.”

This argumentation he repeated to La Civilta Cattolica, quoting from Amoris Laetitia in stating how some “indoctrinate” the Gospel “turning it into ‘dead stones to be hurled at others.’”

Consequently, the new prefect argued for an increased role of “discernment” in assessing the issues covered by “moral theology,” agreeing with Spadaro that “Francis proposed to moral theology a very important step.” Fernández continued:

He did so by accepting the guidelines of the bishops of the Buenos Aires region with respect to the application of ‘Amoris Laetitia.’ They speak of the possibility of divorcees living a new union in continence, but add that ‘in other more complex circumstances, and when it has not been possible to obtain a declaration of nullity, the option mentioned may in fact not be feasible.’ They then state that ‘nevertheless, a path of discernment is equally possible.’

‘If one comes to recognize that, in an actual case, there are limits that mitigate responsibility and culpability, especially when a person considers that he or she would fail by harming the children of the new union, ‘Amoris Laetitia’ opens the possibility of accessing the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.’

Referencing the Pope’s support for this interpretation of Amoris Laetitia, Fernández declared that “there is no need to expect different answers from the Pope. Both the guidelines and the Pontiff’s letter have been published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, along with a rescript declaring them part of the ‘authentic magisterium.’” 

READ: Archbishop of Berlin allows ‘blessings’ of same-sex unions, citing Pope Francis and Abp. Fernandez

The soon-to-be cardinal continued:

Consequently, there are no longer any doubts, and it is clear that discernment, which takes into account conditioning or mitigating factors, can also have consequences in sacramental discipline. [Emphasis original]

However, his statement has caused concern amongst theologians, given its reference to the new style of thinking on display in Amoris Laetitia – a text which has been described as containing “dangers to the faith.”

Commenting on the archbishop’s words, a Dominican theologian told LifeSiteNews that the statement should serve as a reminder to cardinals of the danger of Amoris Laetitia.

“Archbishop Fernandez, well known for his advice to young people about how to kiss, has done the Church a favor by recalling Pope Francis’ endorsement of the heresy that Holy Communion may be given to couples living in adulterous unions,” said the Dominican. “Please God, the orthodox cardinals will now, at last, tell Pope Francis publicly that this is a heresy that he must retract.”

The context of Fernández’s comments is not to be underestimated. Some months ago, Cardinal Kevin Farrell – prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life – revealed that a document on the divorced and “re-married” was being drafted in line with the wishes of Pope Francis. Farrell has also been a consistent and ardent promoter of Amoris Laetitia, stating how “I firmly believe [Amoris Laetitia] is the teaching of the Church. This is a pastoral document telling us how we should proceed. I believe we should take it as it is.”

READ: Vatican preparing document for couples living in ‘new unions’ after ‘marriage failure’

Farrell’s support for the papal interpretation echoes Fernández’s.

But speaking to LifeSiteNews, Thomistic theologian and author Dr. Peter Kwasniewski observed that Fernández was contradicting the Council of Trent. 

He noted how “it has been sadly amusing (though of course in itself the thing is disgraceful) to watch Catholics for several years trying to make any Catholic sense of chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia’s contradiction of dogmatic teaching on marriage, Eucharist, and penance. They liked to say it was ambiguous and there might, by squinting, be some way to interpret it in a way consistent with the prior magisterium.”

Kwasniewski stated that “Fernandez has doubled down to say, yes, what Francis said is what he meant: people who are still married to someone else but now ‘re-married’ can go ahead and receive Communion without ceasing to be sexually active with someone who is not their spouse, because they apparently aren’t able to do anything else.”

Such a message, the theologian added, “directly contradicts the Council of Trent’s teaching, reaffirmed by Veritatis Splendor, that there is no commandment given by God that is impossible to accomplish with the help of His grace.” 

Expanding on the Catholic teaching on the matter, Kwasniewski explained how “someone who is seeking grace is able to follow the commandment; and if he chooses not to seek the grace of repentance and continence in order to be able to follow it, by no means can he approach the Eucharist.” 

“This is Catholicism 101, as basic as the penny catechism,” he said. “We can see that the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is now in the hands of a heretic, like his master.”

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