The classic communist parties had their “organic intellectuals.” But Pope Francis has them, too. Their names are Antonio Spadaro, Marcelo Figueroa, Víctor Manuel Fernández.
The first is an Italian and a Jesuit, director of “La Civiltà Cattolica.” The others are Argentine, and the latter is not even Catholic but a Presbyterian pastor, and in spite of this Francis has put him at the head of the Buenos Aires edition of “L’Osservatore Romano.”
Spadaro has turned “La Civiltà Cattolica” into the organ of Casa Santa Marta, meaning of the pope. And together with Figueroa he put his name to an article in the latest issue of the magazine that slammed into the United States like a hurricane, because it accused both Catholic and Protestant conservative circles of acting in that country “with a logic not different from that which inspires Islamic fundamentalism,” none less than that of Osama bin Laden and the Caliphate.
And on what are these Catholics and Protestants supposed to have come together to fight as “neo-Crusaders”? On “issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, religious education in the schools,” in other words, on “a particular form of defense of religious freedom.” With the result – according to the two authors of the article – of fomenting an “ecumenism of hatred,” nostalgia for “a state with theocratic features.” The exact opposite of the ecumenism of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a pope “of inclusion, peace, encounter.”
The trouble is that the defense of life, of the family, of religious freedom have been at the forefront of the American Catholic Church’s agenda for more than a decade. It therefore could not help but react at seeing that “believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true.”
The highest-level protest came from the archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, who rejected the article by Spadaro and Figueroa as “an exercise in dumbing down and inadequate.” But other comments have been much harsher and have had an easy time pointing out a series of colossal historical and logical blunders in the article.
Any other magazine would have tossed out such an article, the Canadian Raymond J. de Souza for example wrote on “Crux,” the most important and balanced website of Catholic information in the United States.
But at Santa Marta, on Francis’s desk, it didn’t end up that way, and on the contrary the article by Spadaro and Figueroa was passed with full marks and made an even bigger splash in that it was correctly interpreted by everyone as expressive not only of the pope’s thoughts but also of his management style: in this case, an attack of unprecedented forcefulness on the “Ratzingerian” leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States, launched through middlemen.
In the doctrinal camp Fr. Spadaro is fairly nonchalant, theorizing that “in theology 2 + 2 can make 5,” and is infallible in prognosticating Bergoglio’s revolutions big and small. But among the counselors and confidants is one who is even closer to the pope than he is. And it is none other than the Argentine Víctor Manuel Fernández, a theologian whose first and revealing work was, in 1995, a volume entitled: “Heal me with your mouth. The art of kissing.”
It comes as no surprise that after this debut and after his other no less questionable literary productions Rome would veto Fernández’s appointment as rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina, only to have to bend, in 2009, to the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires, who fought tooth and nail to get the nulla osta for the promotion of his protege.
In 2013, just after he was elected pope, Bergoglio even made Fernández an archbishop. And since then this figure has almost spent more time in Rome than in Argentina, swamped as he is with acting as counselor and ghostwriter for his friend the pope.
Whole paragraphs of chapter eight of “Amoris Laetitia,” the document of Pope Francis that has most shaken the Church, have been found to have been copied wholesale from articles by Fernández of a decade ago.
Among the critiques of the article by Spadaro and Figueroa, the most definitive may be the one published on “Crux” by Thomas D. Williams on July 28:
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)