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Archbishop Victor Fernández in a file photoVatican Media

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The incoming prefect of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Cardinal-designate Victor Fernández, has come under yet more scrutiny as his previous defense on the use of condoms has emerged into the public sphere.

With the Cardinal-designate Victor Fernández set to assume his new office as prefect of the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in mid-September, his previous writings have already been on display – namely, his 1995 erotic work Heal me with your mouth: The art of kissing.

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The contents and impact of this work have been widely reported, with Fernández even defending the work in recent days as being a catechesis for “young people.” He argued that the work was “inspired by a phrase from the time of the Fathers of the Church who said that the incarnation was like a kiss from God to humanity.”

But the soon to be cardinal has garnered increased attention after a 2006 article re-emerged among Catholic media, in which he defended the occasional use of condoms. Authoring an article in the April 2006 edition of Revista Teología, a Spanish-language theological periodical, Fernández argued the use of condoms could in some circumstances be a greater good. 

He argued that a wife, who was practicing continence while her husband was not, would be practicing greater charity if she used condoms rather than to refuse the demands of her husband: 

In some questions of sexual morality it is also imperative to discern in the direct light of the central hermeneutic criterion, to recognize how an incapacity for sexual abstinence often implies an encroachment on the freedom of the spouse, making one’s own pleasure take precedence over the happiness of the other.

But there is also the case of sexual abstinence that contradicts the Christian hierarchy of values crowned by charity. We cannot close our eyes, for example, to the difficulty that arises for a woman when she perceives that family stability is put at risk by subjecting the non-practicing husband to periods of continence. 

In such a case, an inflexible refusal to use condoms at all would make compliance with an external norm take precedence over the grave obligation to care for loving communion and conjugal stability which charity more directly demands.

In these situations, the application of the fundamental hermeneutical criterion is indispensable in order to adequately determine the Christian rationality of a choice, since it is what best guarantees that the desire does not turn in on itself and thus makes possible the realization of the Trinitarian dimension of the act of love.

Like many of Pope Francis’ current texts, Fernández full article is lengthy, verbose, and confusing, as he argues that pastoral situations can on occasion justify immoral actions. 

Some have come to his defense, arguing that what Fernández is proposing is contained in the Vatican’s own documents – specifically, in paragraph 13 of Section 3 from the 1997 Vademecum for confessors regarding particular questions for confessions of married couples. 

READ: Archbishop Fernández hints at openness to same-sex ‘blessings’ if they don’t ‘feed confusion’

The Vademecum notes “special difficulties are presented by cases of cooperation in the sin of a spouse who voluntarily renders the unitive act infecund.” But even when outlining circumstances that might make certain “cooperation” with a sinning spouse “licit,” the Vatican stated that such cooperation could only be lawful if “the action of the cooperating spouse is not already illicit in itself.”

The use of condoms would not meet this requisite. Pope Pius XI outlined in Casti Connubii that the exercise of the marital embrace is fundamentally ordered towards procreation. He outlined this when noting the permissibility of the marital embrace during times of infertility, provided that the “intrinsic nature of the act is preserved” — namely, the bringing forth of new life.

Furthermore, Pius XI warned against arguments such as those made by Fernández, teaching that “no difficulty” can justify abandoning the law of God:

No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted.

Indeed, in the same 1997 Vademecum for confessors used by Fernández’s supporters, the Vatican highlighted that:

The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.

Similarly, Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae drew from Casti Connubii and statements from the CDF to outline how any deliberate means to prevent procreation would always be “condemned” as immoral: 

Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

It is not unsurprising therefore that in light of Cardinal-designate Fernández’s comments supporting the use of condoms that Catholic commentators have warned that his tenure at the Vatican could see an attempt to overthrow the Church’s teaching on procreation. “Expect Fernández to overturn Humanae Vitae,” wrote the U.K.’s Deacon Nick Donnelly.