Víctor Manuel Fernández

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Víctor Manuel Fernández
Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith
Fernández in 2013
ChurchCatholic Church
Appointed1 July 2023
PredecessorLuis Ladaria Ferrer
Other post(s)Cardinal-Deacon of Santi Urbano e Lorenzo a Prima Porta (2023-)
Ordination15 August 1986
by Adolfo Roque Esteban Arana
Consecration15 June 2013
by Mario Aurelio Poli
Created cardinal30 September 2023
by Pope Francis
RankCardinal Deacon
Personal details
Víctor Manuel Fernández

(1962-07-19) 19 July 1962 (age 61)
Alcira Gigena, Córdoba, Argentina
Previous post(s)
Alma mater
MottoEn medio de tu pueblo
('Your servant is here among the people', 1 Kings 3:8–10)
Coat of armsVíctor Manuel Fernández's coat of arms
Styles of
Víctor Manuel Fernández
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Víctor Manuel Fernández (born 18 July 1962) is an Argentine prelate of the Catholic Church and a theologian. He is currently the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He served as rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina from December 2009 to April 2018. He was named Archbishop of La Plata on 2 June 2018. On 1 July 2023, Pope Francis named Fernández prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith as of mid-September. Pope Francis made Fernández a cardinal on 30 September 2023.[1][2]


Education and early career[edit]

He was born on 18 July 1962 in Alcira Gigena, in Córdoba Province. His father Emilio was a shopkeeper who supported Raúl Alfonsín, the radical political leader. Fernández entered the seminary in 1978.[2]

Theologian and educator[edit]

In the late 1990s, he followed the recommendation of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Bergoglio and declined an invitation to head a theological institute in Bogotá.[2]

He headed the Faculty of Theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (CUA) when Cardinal Bergoglio nominated him to serve as its rector on 15 December 2009.[2] He took his oath of office on 20 May 2011,[3] when his designation received confirmation from the Congregation for Catholic Education, which had withheld its assent while Fernandez responded to objections to his appointment from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).[4] Bergoglio resented this questioning of his judgment and Fernández found the process itself disrespectful when he traveled to Rome only to have the CDF cancel a meeting at the last minute.[1] In July 2023, after his nomination as prefect, he stated the CDF "even investigated me"; he added that over the span of months he "clarified [his] true thinking [to the CDF] and everything was resolved serenely". Cardinal Gerhard Müller, who headed the CDF from 2012 to 2017, confirmed that the CDF had maintained a file on Fernández in the late 2000s due to concerns about his theology.[5]

Two months after Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he named Fernández titular archbishop of Tiburnia on 13 May 2013,[6] and he received his episcopal consecration on 15 June 2013[7] in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Buenos Aires from the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Mario Poli, with the Archbishop of Santa Fe José María Arancedo, the bishop of Río Cuarto, Eduardo Martín, the bishop of Quilmes, Carlos Tissera, and the Archbishop of Corrientes, Andrés Stanovnik, as consecrators.[8] Fernández wore a pectoral cross Francis sent him from Rome.[9] He was the first rector of the University to be made an archbishop.[4] As Francis' first Argentine episcopal appointment, it was seen as a rebuke to the Roman Curia with which Francis as Archbishop of Buenos Aires had an occasionally antagonistic relationship, especially with the attempt of some in Rome to block Fernández' appointment as rector of UCA in 2011.[1]

Pope Francis named him to the commission that drafted the concluding message (relatio) of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held in October 2014.[10]

Francis named him a member of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2015[11] and appointed him to the drafting committee for the final report to be submitted to the synod participants for their votes.[12]

On 17 December 2016, he was named a consultor to the Congregation for Catholic Education.[13]

He ended his tenure as rector of the CUA on 25 April 2018,[14] after completing the maximum two terms in that post.[1]

Archbishop of La Plata[edit]

Following the election of Pope Francis, Fernandez was often mentioned as a candidate for an important post in the Roman Curia, such as head of the Congregation for Catholic Education or, more distantly, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[15] Pope Francis named him Archbishop of La Plata on 2 June 2018 to succeed Héctor Rubén Aguer,[7] who had been in poor health for several years, had submitted his resignation as required on his 75th birthday just a week earlier, and was long identified as an opponent of Bergoglio within the Argentine Episcopal Conference.[1] Fernández said his program for the archdiocese would be "Evangelium gaudium, but seriously, not as a slogan", and that Francis has told him to look carefully at the archdiocesan seminary.[16] He was enthroned in his archdiocese on the following 16 June.[17]

Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith[edit]

On 1 July 2023, Pope Francis appointed him to succeed Cardinal Luis Ladaria Ferrer as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) in mid-September.[18] He became the first Argentine Francis has named to a senior position in the Roman Curia.[19]

A "highly unusual"[20] letter written in Spanish[21] from Pope Francis to Fernández was published alongside the announcement of his appointment. It defined his mission, saying: "The dicastery over which you will preside in other times came to use immoral methods. Those were times when, rather than promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were pursued. What I expect from you is certainly something very different".[18] The letter told Fernández to encourage theology aimed at "increasing intelligence and the transmission of the faith at the service of evangelization", noting that his life's work showed he knew how to "put theological knowledge in dialogue with the life of the holy People of God". It directed his attention here rather than to the DDF's new responsibility for clerical discipline and cases of sexual abuse.[18][20][22]

In a letter to the faithful of his archdiocese, Fernández said he initially declined the appointment because he did not feel "qualified or trained" to lead the dicastery's section responsible for child abuse, and relented when assured that the specialists in that section were capable of working independently.[23]

In an interview after his appointment, Fernandez said he opposed same-sex blessings but stated that those that did not create confusion should be affirmed.[24]

On 9 July 2023, Pope Francis announced plans to make him a cardinal at a consistory scheduled for 30 September.[25] At that consistory he was created Cadinal-Deacon of Santi Urbano e Lorenzo a Prima Porta.[26]

On 18 December 2023 Pope Francis has approved a DDF ruling allowing priests to bless unmarried and same-sex couples. The Declaration Fiducia supplicans will allow the blessing of same-sex couples but without any type of ritualization or offering the impression of a marriage.[27][28] This document sparked worldwide opposition, especially from Africa, with at least 25 Episcopal conferences, 46 cardinals and bishops and various organizations criticizing or voicing concerns about the document, including cardinals Müller, Sarah, Napier, Kutwa or Sturla.

Relationship with Pope Francis[edit]

His relationship with Pope Francis dates to his work for the Argentine Bishops' Conference where he demonstrated his ability to incorporate different viewpoints in drafting group statements. As head of the drafting committee for the Aparecida Conference of CELAM in 2007, Francis relied on Fernandez' skill.[4] The resistance on the part of Roman Curia to Francis' selection of Fernández as rector of UCA is thought to have solidified Francis' support and prompted his naming Fernández an archbishop and giving him important assignments as well.[1]

Trusted by Pope Francis, he is commonly recognized as a contributor to the exhortation Evangelii gaudium.[29] He wrote or "contributed in significant ways" to the encyclical Laudato Si'.[20][19]

Called Francis' "trusted theologian", he is said to have been the principal author of Amoris Laetitia, the apostolic exhortation issued by Francis in 2016 following the two sessions of the Synod of Bishops on the Family.[30] In his own extended defense of Amoris, Fernandez argued for greater latitude when deciding giving Communion to the divorced and remarried. He wrote that "one cannot maintain those [sexual] acts in each and every case are gravely dishonest in a subjective sense. In the complexity of particular situations is where, according to St. Thomas [Aquinas], 'the indetermination increases'".[4] He has also said that "in many issues I am far more progressive than the Pope".[4]

He has also been called Francis' "primary ghostwriter",[31] as well as his close collaborator.[32] Francis cited his essay "The Good Things of Living in This Time" in a talk to the clergy of Rome in February 2018.[33]


His book "Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing" was published in 1995; it contains a theological analysis on the art of kissing. The book resurfaced in 2023, following Fernandez's appointment to the DDF: he defended it, denying that it contained heresy or heterodox teachings, but stated that he would not write it today and that its republishing had already been discontinued.[34]

In 1998 published in Mexico the book "Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality" that includes graphic descriptions of human sexual relations and discussion of what the Argentinian theologian describes as “mystical orgasm.” It depicts in detail an imaginary erotic encounter with Jesus Christ on the shores of Galilee. The book’s final section focuses on the human orgasm and its connection to divine intimacy. Fernández’s description of “an experience of love, a passionate encounter with Jesus, that a sixteen-year-old-teenager [girl] told me about,” is in the book’s sixth chapter.[35] Fernandez later described the work as “a book of my youth that I certainly would not write now” and that "could be misinterpreted"; he argued that he dismissed it soon after his publishing and ordered it not to be re-printed and later wrote "more serious works" on mysticism.[36] Some clerical sex abuse survivors described themselves as "deeply troubled" by Fernandez's works,[37] while the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and Family urged Pope Francis to dismiss Fernandez from his post.[38]

In Il progetto di Francesco. Dove vuole portare la Chiesa (The Francis project. Where he wants to take the Church), a book-length interview Fernandez gave to the journalist Paolo Rodari from the Italian daily La Repubblica, he describes the broad themes of Francis' papacy, the need to view moral issues in context rather than assert them as non-negotiable, to "set hearts on fire" rather than reiterate dated "philosophical or natural law-related" arguments. He said: "For example, it is no good opposing same-sex marriage because people tend to see us as a group of resentful, cruel, insensitive, over-the-top even, individuals. It is an entirely different thing to talk about the beauty of marriage and the harmony of differences that form part of an alliance between a man and woman. This positive context speaks for itself when it comes to showing that the use of the same term 'marriage' to describe same-sex unions, is unsuitable".[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Beltramo Álvarez, Andrés (2 June 2018). "Argentina: Víctor Fernández es nuevo arzobispo de La Plata". La Stampa (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d De Vedia, Mariano (25 May 2014). "Víctor Fernández, el arzobispo en quien confía el Papa para seguir de cerca la política local". La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 February 2023.
  3. ^ "Rector: Mons. Dr. Víctor Manuel Fernández". Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 30 September 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bermudez, Alejandro (25 April 2018). "Analysis: Pope's personal theologian expected to lead major Argentine archdiocese". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Cardinal Müller Confirms Vatican Doctrinal Office Had File Warning About Archbishop Fernández". National Catholic Register. 6 July 2023. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  6. ^ "Rinunce e Nomine, 13.05.2013" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b "Resignations and Appointments, 02.06.2018" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 2 June 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  8. ^ "El rector de la UCA fue nombrado arzobispo y llevará una cruz del papa Francisco". La Nacion (in Spanish). 15 June 2013. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Fernández, con una cruz del Papa, fue ungido arzobispo". La Gaceta (in Spanish). 16 June 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  10. ^ "Synod14 - Padri sinodali per la stesura della Relatio Synodi, 10.10.2014" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Vatican Releases Full List of Synod Participants". Zenit. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  12. ^ McElwee, Joshua J. (2 October 2015). "New process for Synod of Bishops aims at allowing more dialogue". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Rinunce e nomine, 17.12.2016" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 17 December 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  14. ^ "La UCA tiene nuevo rector: se va Víctor Manuel Fernández, el amigo del Papa". Infobae (in Spanish). 23 April 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  15. ^ Mickens, Robert (27 October 2014). "Next on Pope Francis' agenda: Curia reform, personnel moves, a revamped synod". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  16. ^ Vidal, José M. (2 June 2018). "Víctor Manuel Fernández: "El programa es 'Evangelii gaudium', pero en serio, no como slogan"". Religión Digital (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Chau Héctor Aguer, hola Víctor "Tucho" Fernández: asumió el nuevo Arzobispo de La Plata" (in Spanish). 0221 Argentina. 16 June 2018. Archived from the original on 1 July 2023. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  18. ^ a b c "Resignations and Appointments, 01.07.2023" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 1 July 2023. Retrieved 1 July 2023.
  19. ^ a b O'Connell, Gerard (1 July 2023). "Pope Francis appoints Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernandez as the new head of Vatican office for doctrine". America. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  20. ^ a b c Allen, Elise Ann (1 July 2023). "Pope charges new doctrine czar to spurn 'immoral methods' in defense of the faith". Crux. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  21. ^ "Lettera del Santo Padre al nuovo Prefetto del Dicastero per la Dottrina della Fede" (Press release) (in Spanish). Holy See Press Office. 1 July 2023. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  22. ^ Cardinale, Gianni (2 July 2023). "Dottrina della Fede, Fernández prefetto. Il Papa: dar ragione della speranza". L'Avvenire (in Italian). Retrieved 2 July 2023. L'Avvenire incorrectly says the pope's letter was dated a month earlier.
  23. ^ "Carta del Arzobispo a la Comunidad y Misa de despedida". Archdiocese of La Plata (in Spanish). 1 July 2023. Archived from the original on 4 July 2023. Retrieved 6 July 2023.
  24. ^ "New DDF prefect addresses 'confusion' over same-sex blessings". The Pillar. 5 July 2023. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  25. ^ "Le parole del Papa alla recita dell'Angelus, 09.07.2023" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  26. ^ "Assignation of Titles and Deaconries to the new Cardinals, 30.09.2023" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 30 September 2023. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  27. ^ "Doctrinal declaration opens possibility of blessing couples in irregular situations - Vatican News". www.vaticannews.va. 18 December 2023. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  28. ^ Giuffrida, Angela (18 December 2023). "Vatican gives conditional approval to blessings for same-sex couples". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  29. ^ Mickens, Robert (13 May 2015). "'The Pope Is Stronger than His Enemies'". Commonweal Magazine. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  30. ^ Cernuzio, Salvatore (26 March 2016). "From A to Z: On Francis' Anniversary, a Look at the Last 12 Months". Zenit. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  31. ^ Mickens, Robert (6 June 2016). "Francis is reforming Roman Curia by circumvention". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  32. ^ del Guercio, Gelsomino (4 May 2015). "Papa Francisco ha abrazado la Teología del Pueblo, no de la Liberación". Aleteia (in Spanish). Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  33. ^ "Pope's Full Q & A With Rome's Clergy on February 15". Zenit. 20 February 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  34. ^ Calatrava, Almudena (17 July 2023). "'Heal Me with Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing.' An old book sparks a new controversy in the Vatican". Associated Press.
  35. ^ Liedl, Jonathan (8 January 2024). "Rediscovered Book by Cardinal Fernández Features Graphic Erotic Passages on 'Spirituality and Sensuality'". National Catholic Register.
  36. ^ McLellan, Justin (9 January 2024). "Cardinal Fernandez says his graphic book on sexuality not something he'd write today". America.
  37. ^ Christian, Gina (22 January 2024). "Abuse survivors deeply troubled by Cardinal Fernández's resurfaced book on sex and orgasms". America.
  38. ^ Foley, Ryan (25 January 2024). "Catholic group urges Pope to dismiss cardinal who wrote erotic story about Jesus". The Christian Post.
  39. ^ "Pope's theologian discusses the distortion of non-negotiable principles". La Stampa. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 2 June 2018.

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