Catholic Church Turning Into Dante’s Inferno

European Conservative [Budapest, Hungary]

January 14, 2024

By Hélène de Lauzun

The Catholic Church has entered a turbulent period since its own doctrine office published a document permitting the blessing of same-sex couples in certain circumstances.

Opposition to the doctrinal letter, named Fiducia Supplicans, is multiplying throughout the world. The Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF), which issued the document, has also been further weakened by a scandal involving Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández who heads it, after the discovery of a book published in 1998 by the Cardinal, the contents of which are pornographic.

The days following the publication of the papal document were marked by an international rebellion: many individual bishops and several national bishops’ conferences expressed reservations about blessing same-sex couples, and even banned it in their dioceses. 

Faced with the extent of the opposition, the Vatican was forced to publish a clarifying text on January 4th, recognising the possibility for bishops to decide whether or not to apply Fiducia Supplicans in the parishes under their authority. The communiqué considers the reactions of certain bishops’ conferences to be “understandable,” but does not admit that there could be any “doctrinal opposition,” since the traditional doctrine on marriage is said to remain unchanged. 

The clarification text blames the opposition expressed by some prelates on the particular situation of certain countries (mainly in Africa) and asks that time be allowed to run its course. This type of argument was also used at the time of the promulgation of the document Traditionis Custodes aimed at drastically restricting access to the traditional Latin Mass: It would only be a matter of time and changing mentalities before everyone everywhere applies the document—a biased approach that refuses to see the root of the problem. It’s not a matter of time, it is a matter of faith.

The terms used by opponents of the doctrinal text Fiducia Supplicans have been particularly strong: several bishops have not hesitated to speak of ‘blasphemy’ or ‘heresy.’ Cardinal Robert Sarah, known in the Catholic world for his conservative positions, in his Christmas message of 6 January 2024 explicitly condemned the document as “a heresy that gravely undermines the Church, the Body of Christ, because it is contrary to the Catholic faith and Tradition.” With these unequivocal words, he shows his support for the Catholic communities of Africa, which he feels are too often disregarded by the elites of the Vatican. 

The Guinean cardinal defends the Church in Africa, which he believes is “often ignored, scorned or considered excessive,” and denounces “those whose only obsession is to please Western lobbies.” He is just as harsh in his assessment of the so-called Vatican clarification of January 4th, which “by its lack of clarity has only served to amplify the confusion that reigns in people’s hearts.”

Indeed, the turmoil has become firmly entrenched just about everywhere. The national churches are divided between accepting the text out of obedience to Rome and warning against its dangers. The multitude of contradictory attitudes, of declarations and counter-declarations is a measure of the extent of the unease—of the ‘mess,’ to use one of Pope Francis’ favourite words—which this time has taken on proportions deemed unacceptable by a growing number of Catholics.

On Monday, January 8th, in the midst of the storm, a number of high-profile influencer accounts in the Catholic world chose to add to the accusations against the Vatican and its moral corruption by drawing attention to a book published in 1998 by Cardinal Fernández. The work, published in Spanish and entitled La Pasión Mística, Espiritualidad y Sensualidad, contains three chapters that pose serious problems because of their overtly pornographic nature. 

Cardinal Fernández, known as Tucho, describes male and female orgasms in great detail, which we will spare the reader here, details that some observant minds point out can only be known through experience. 

Like the second volume of Aristotle’s Poetics that Umberto Eco imagines being hidden away from the monks in The Name of the Rose, the book is now virtually impossible to find, even by using an ISBN search. Extracts in Spanish can nevertheless be found on a growing number of Catholic blogs. 

The scandalous nature of the writing should leave Cardinal Fernández with no alternative but to resign. But Pope Francis’ favourite theologian, who largely inspired the drafting of the encyclical Amoris Laetitia—the first revolution in the Church’s moral teaching—seems to have no intention of leaving. 

In an attempt to stem the crisis of legitimacy to which he is subject, the cardinal has tried to defend himself by explaining that he would no longer write such a work today. But the damage has been done. And while he has by now refrained from divulging his views on his erotic-mystical unions with Christ, he is nonetheless writing texts of a magisterial nature that are causing havoc in the Catholic world.

It seems fairly obvious that revealing the existence of La Pasión Mística is part of an attempt to destabilise Cardinal Fernández, and through him, Pope Francis. But while the method may be displeasing, the most important thing is the content of what is being denounced, which is very real and objectively condemnable to the highest degree. 

Cardinal Fernández’ book is eminently perverse on two levels. The first, and most obvious, is its pornographic nature. Some zealous defenders of the Vatican have tried to draw a parallel between this work and the reflections of John Paul II on the theology of the body, but the dishonesty of such claims for anyone familiar with the works of the holy Polish pope, and who has committed himself to reading Tucho’s prose (which is the case of the honourable author of this article), is such that it is better to avoid wasting time arguing in this direction. 

The second, much more serious, level lies in the links that Fernández’s book maintains with a mysticism that wreaked havoc in the PhilippeVanier, and Rupnik cases: a clever and perverse mix of mysticism and sexuality that authorises all kinds of abuse, which was furiously fashionable a few decades ago. The fact that the author of such a book was able to be placed at the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith is a sobering reminder that awareness of the moral perversion at work within the Church is clearly still not on the agenda.Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).