Feeding the rage of the Catholic blogosphere

Feeding the rage of the Catholic blogosphere Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez. Photo credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Conspiracy-minded Catholics are up in arms online after claims that Pope Francis’ long awaited post-synodal exhortation was ghost-written by an old Argentinian friend.

Writing at chiesa.expressonline.it, long-time Vaticanista Sandro Magister, whose press credentials were withdrawn by the Holy See last year after his involvement in publishing in advance a leaked version of the Pope’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si’, argues convincingly that at the very least, key passages of Amores Laetitia were substantively written by Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández 10 years ago.

Dr Fernández, titular bishop since 2013 of the extinct see of Teurnia and rector  of Buenos Aires’ Universidad Católica Argentina, was professor of theology in 2005 and 2006 when in the aftermath of an international conference of St John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor he wrote two articles which contain passages strikingly similar to sections 300, 301, 302 and 305 of the new exhortation.


These passages relate to the objective sinfulness or otherwise of situations in life, how mitigating factors relate to ‘irregular situations’, the culpability of individuals in objectively sinful situations and whether a person can be living in God’s grace while living in a sinful situation.

For some, such as Damian Thompson at blogs.spectator.co.uk, Magister’s article will “severely embarrass” Pope Francis. Describing Dr Fernández as a “not especially distinguished liberal theologian”, he asks, “aren’t Popes supposed to write their own major documents? Or, at least, be intimately familiar with their contents?”

To support this odd claim, he mentions how the Pope once couldn’t recall offhand the details of one of the exhortation’s 391 footnotes, and says: “I’d be surprised if Víctor Manuel Fernández couldn’t recite by heart all the most controversial passages in Amoris Laetitia, because on the basis of Magister’s analysis he took part in writing them. Whether the Pope got round to reading them closely is another question.”

That a Pope should have used a ghostwriter to express his thoughts or had help in writing major documents should hardly surprise us, and Pope Francis is by no means the first Pope thought to have done so; Dr Fernández’ involvement in the current Pontiff’s writings has long been an open secret. Indeed, this has been so long believed that Magister was able to snidely claim in his original article that since becoming a bishop, Dr Fernández “has almost spent more time in Rome than in Buenos Aires, swamped as he is with acting as ghostwriter to his friend the Pope, without any growth in the meantime of his credentials as a theologian, already anything but brilliant at the outset”.

It might seem obvious for blogs responding to Magister’s article to have focused on why some of the post-synodal exhortation’s most controversial passages seem to have had their genesis in pieces written 10 years ago – as though key points in the synod were decided in advance, raising the question of why the synod debated the matter at all. Such a focus might have led some to wonder, more charitably, whether the Pope on reflection knew what he had wanted to say and recalled Dr Fernández having said something he had found compelling to that effect some years earlier.

Instead, however, a host of blogposts have instead zeroed in on the most salacious part of Magister’s article, detailing and quoting from Dr Fernández’s first book, Heal Me with Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.


The Catholic internet can, of course, be “a cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol, all in the name of defending the Faith”, as Fr Tom Rosica said in New York last month, and Fr Dwight Longenecker has done us all a service in a cruxnow.com article entitled “Radical Catholic blogs may be a cesspool, but saying so won’t help”. In this post, Fr Longenecker lists a range of blogs readers are better off avoiding, and sensibly advises that rather than tackling them, it’s best to pray for them and move on.