US Catholics must rally for the removal of the Pope’s pervy prefect

Washington Examiner [Washington D.C.]

January 14, 2024

By Peter Laffin

Every time you think news out of the Vatican can’t get any weirder as we approach the end of the Francis papacy, another high-ranking, well-connected cleric asks for his beer to be held. 

This week, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernandez, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, came under fire over the discovery of a hardcore erotica book he authored in the late 1990s while serving as a priest in his native Argentina. Fernandez, who was handpicked by fellow Argentine Pope Francis for the lofty position in 2023, is commonly considered the second-most powerful figure in the Vatican and a potential papal successor. 

To be clear, the book, titled Mystical Passion: Spirituality and Sensuality, is not the exquisitely sensual religious poetry of St. John of the Cross. It is pure smut. And perhaps worse for a man of Fernandez’s distinction, it’s second-rate smut: unimaginative, misogynistic, and downright creepy. 

In one passage, Fernandez quotes a 15th-century Islamic theologian who once said, “Praise be to Allah, who establishes penises as hard and straight as spears to wage war on vaginas.”

In another, he examines the differences in pornography preferences between men and women: “A woman … is less attracted than a man to watching photos containing violent sexual scenes, orgies images, etc. This does not mean that she feels less aroused by hardcore pornography, but rather that she enjoys and values this less.” 

In another chapter, Fernandez writes: “Let’s not forget that women have rich venous plexus around the vagina, which maintains good blood flow after orgasm. That’s why she’s usually insatiable. She needs to release the pelvic congestion, and when this doesn’t happen, after orgasm she may want more.”

I can’t even bring myself to describe the chapter that features a sexual encounter between Jesus and a 16-year-old girl.

For Catholic parents struggling to protect their children from the harmful effects of pornography, these revelations about Pope Francis’s right-hand man are demoralizing. 

With what authority can we teach our young boys to respect women when the doctrinal chief of the Catholic Church moonlights as an erotica writer who muses about spear-like penises waging war on vaginas? 

Imagine the following scenario: A 15-year-old boy from a Catholic family who struggles with the temptation to watch pornography discovers erotica written by the doctrinal chief of the Catholic Church. Would he become more or less likely to succumb to the temptation?

Vatican officials (and, indeed, Pope Francis himself) cannot plead ignorance about Fernandez’s depravity. It was widely known at the time of Fernandez’s appointment that he had authored a similarly smutty book of poetry called Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing that also contained misogynistic raunch: 

“Come down my dear
before you awaken
someone desperate
with a terrible hickey.

How was God
so cruel
as to give you that mouth…
There is no one who resists me,
hide it.”

With the awful stench of the sexual abuse scandal still permeating throughout the Catholic world, it is unconscionable that a man such as Fernandez could serve as head of the DDF. Both Mystical Passion and Heal Me With Your Mouth demonstrate the very type of sexual boundary-pushing characteristic of the predator priests who’ve brought the Western church to its knees. 

It is worth noting that Fernandez personally authored the document on the blessing of same-sex couples in December, Fiducia Supplicans. He was also the ghostwriter of Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. He is not simply one Vatican prelate among many — unquestionably, he is the second-most influential Catholic on Earth. 

For the U.S. church, which has seen a dramatic emptying of the pews in recent years as a result of predator priests, this is intolerable. Forget all of the handwringing over official doctrine of recent months. Forget, even, that conservative and liberal factions within the church increasingly see themselves in an apocalyptic struggle for the soul of Christianity. No matter where one stands on any of that, all must surely agree that a second-rate erotica author lacks the moral authority necessary to promote and defend the doctrine of the faith. 

That doesn’t mean Fernandez is a bad person. Indeed, we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. But we are not all suited to be the doctrinal chief of the Catholic Church, either. 

For a million reasons, Fernandez has to go. For the sake of the future of the church, I urge my fellow American Catholics to make their voices heard in this regard. Whether this entails a collective closing of the wallet or some other type of campaign, I will leave to more able activists. But we must not stand by and allow this type of deviancy free rein in our church. Never again — not now, not ever.