VATICAN CITY (VATICAN CITY)
BishopAccountability.org [Waltham MA]
July 1, 2023
By Anne Barrett Doyle
New prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith publicly defended and retained priest with multiple allegations: Statement by Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, BishopAccountability.org
Pope Francis has appointed a fellow Argentine, Archbishop Victor Fernández, to head the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF). The Pope and the archbishop know each other well; Fernández has been called one of Francis’ “closest collaborators.”
As DDF prefect, Fernández will have immense power, especially when it comes to judging and punishing priests who abuse children. It will be up to Fernández to implement and enforce Pope’s zero tolerance pledge. To do this, he will need to make child protection and justice for victims his highest priority.
But the Pope has made a baffling and troubling choice: Fernández’ recent handling of a clergy sex abuse case in his home archdiocese of La Plata raises great concern. In his response to allegations, he stood in stout support of the accused priest and refused to believe the victims. Showing disregard for the safety of children, Fernández kept the priest at his parish post even as more victims came forward.
For his handling of this case, Fernández should have been investigated, not promoted to one of the highest posts in the global church. Nothing about his performance suggests he is fit to lead the Pope’s battle against abuse and cover-up.
In early February 2019, Fernández publicly defended an influential La Plata priest, the Rev. Eduardo Lorenzo, after a child sex abuse complaint against the priest from 2008 re-surfaced. Fernández published on the archdiocesan website a letter from Lorenzo in which the priest denied the allegation and accused his detractors of “slanders, insults and defamations.” The archbishop publicly agreed with Lorenzo that his critics had another agenda, calling their protests against the priest a “crude battle to ridicule” him. In March 2019, with Lorenzo under fresh criminal scrutiny, the archbishop traveled to the priest’s parish to concelebrate a Mass during which Lorenzo renewed his commitment to the priesthood.
By September 2019, two more alleged victims of Lorenzo had come forward, but Fernández continued to keep the priest in parish ministry, merely reminding him of the archdiocese’s rule forbidding priests to travel or spend time alone with minors.
In December 2019, hours after a judge issued an order for his arrest, Lorenzo committed suicide. At this point, five victims had come forward. Fernández released a brief statement, saying that Lorenzo had killed himself “after long months of enormous tension and suffering.” He issued no words of comfort to the victims, saying only that he would pray for “those who may have been offended or affected” by the charges against the priest.
(For additional background, see our summary of the allegations against Rev. Lorenzo. Please note that it was last updated in April 2019:
Founded in 2003 and based near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, BishopAccountability.org is a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims’ advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims’ organization.