New doctrine chief welcomes theological debates but warns of schism

theological debates welcome

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández, set to lead the Vatican’s chief doctrinal office, has expressed his readiness for theological debates, emphasising their role in deepening the Church’s grasp of the Gospel.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register, Fernández (pictured) acknowledged that while the core doctrine remains unchanged and the Gospel is immutable, the Church continually seeks to expand its comprehension of these profound truths.

Fernández, a 61-year-old Argentine theologian, cautioned against bishops who claim a “special gift of the Holy Spirit to judge the doctrine of the Holy Father,” noting that such a path could lead to “heresy” and “schism.”

“Remember that heretics always think they know the true doctrine of the Church,” Fernández said.

In a letter accompanying Fernández’s appointment, the Pope emphasised the importance of “guarding the faith” and expressed the hope that the dicastery would focus on this essential mission.

Fernández echoed the Pope’s sentiment in his interview. “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,” he said.

Tension between Vatican and theologians

Martin Lintner, OSM, a Servite priest and theologian teaching at the Philosophical-Theological College of Brixen/Bressanone, Italy, is hopeful the appointment of Fernández brings a shift in the Vatican’s approach to theologians and their roles within the Church.

Lintner has been denied approval by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith to become the college’s next dean. This decision comes after six months of waiting and a visit by Bishop Ivo Muser, who initiated the approval process.

The denial has brought to light the ongoing tension between the Vatican and theologians regarding theological positions and teaching roles.

Writing on the Lintner case, theologian Massimo Faggioli noted: “The relationship between [theologians] and the institutional Church has seen some changes since Francis’s election. For one thing, there’s been an obvious truce following the John Paul II and Benedict XVI eras. Yet it seems that theology has been more responsive to the pope’s impulses than the Curia has.”

Part of the difficulty in analysing Father Lintner’s case is that, like other theologians who have been denied Vatican approval, no reason has been given for the decision.

Lintner described the appointment of Fernández as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith as “a sign of hope,” because Fernández himself was once denied a nihil obstat, literally, “nothing obstructs.”

“His bishop at the time, now Pope Francis, stood up for him and in this way obtained approval from the Vatican Curia. So he knows from his experience what it’s all about.”


Catholic News Agency

America Magazine

National Catholic Register


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