Cardinal Fernández: Every single person has dignity

The Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, presents the Dicastery's just-published declaration "Dignitas Infinita" in the Holy See Press Office, calling it a document "fundamental" for remembering that "everyone has their inalienable dignity."

Apr 09, 2024

Presentation in the Holy See Press Office of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith's 'Dignitas Infinita'

By Salvatore Cernuzio
It was supposed to be called "Al di là di ogni circostanza' ('Beyond any Circumstance') to emphasize the fact that every man, woman, child - born in Italy or Ethiopia, in Israel or Gaza, inside or outside a border, in conflict or in peace - and in any culture or condition of life, has "the same, immense, inalienable dignity" that no war, subordination, or law contrary to human rights, like the laws of certain countries that condemn the crime of homosexuality, can take away or diminish.

Instead, the title "Dignitas Infinita" was chosen for the document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published today, April 8, after five years of work, to re-launch in a more direct manner the always impactful message of Christianity, namely that "God loves everyone... with infinite love." In other words, the words that Pope St. John Paul II offered to a group of disabled people he met with in Germany, during one of his countless trips abroad.

Cardinal Victor Manuel Fernández, the Prefect of the now-Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, revealed the aforementioned details in a press conference on Monday in the Holy See Press Office, marking his first public event in the Press Office with journalists from around the world.

The Cardinal was accompanied by the Secretary of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Monsignor Armando Matteo, and Professor Paola Scarcella, lecturer at the Universities Tor Vergata and Lumsa in Rome, who also spoke to those present about the dignity of the disabled.

Comments on 'Fiducia Supplicans'
The Cardinal, who provided direct responses to equally direct questions, sometimes ironic and leaving space for personal anecdotes, revealed backstage and details of the drafting of this text of "high doctrinal value," like twenty-four years ago was the Dominus Iesus and four months ago Fiducia Supplicans, the declaration on the pastoral sense of blessings that introduced the possibility of blessing even "irregular" couples, including those of the same sex.

This, he suggested, is an issue "certainly less central, less important" but still "at the heart" of Jorge Mario Bergoglio who "wanted to broaden the understanding of blessings outside the liturgical context to develop its pastoral richness.

"He has the right to do so," emphasized Cardinal Fernández, as he chose to reflect on the dwelling on the DDF's latest declaration Fiducia Supplicans at the beginning of his intervention to clarify some issues related to the Vatican text which, according to external surveys, recorded "more than 7 billion views on the internet (while we don't even remember the name of how many documents)" and garnered approval from over 75% of those under 35 in Italy.

When a journalist suggested the Cardinal seemed defensive about Fiducia Supplicans, the Cardinal instead clarified: "The reality is that until yesterday I didn't think of saying anything... but these days from the Vatican and from outside they told me: we cannot act as if nothing happened, as if we were escaping from reality with all the chaos that has happened. That's why I expanded my speech."

The issue of homosexuality was touched upon several times during the press conference, not so much regarding Fiducia Supplicans but rather Dignitas Infinita, which exhorts to avoid any "unjust discrimination" or "aggression and violence" against homosexual persons, denouncing "as contrary to human dignity" the fact that in some countries there are those who are arrested, tortured, killed for their sexual orientation.

Denouncing violence
"We are in favor of decriminalization! There is no doubt," exclaimed Cardinal Fernández. A viewpoint already expressed by many bishops and which the Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has now reiterated, denouncing the violence contemplated at a legal level in some countries, or allowed, "as if nothing were happening."

"We are facing a big problem" and "an attack on human rights," he said, expressing his "astonishment" at having read comments from Catholics blessing the laws against gays issued by the military government of a certain country: "When I read them I wanted to die."

To those who pointed out that perhaps the Catechism of the Catholic Church should be changed, which considers homosexual acts "intrinsically disordered" (something that, in the opinion of many, would fuel violence against homosexuals), the head of the Dicastery replied that "intrinsically disordered" is indeed "a strong expression... It needs to be explained a lot, perhaps we could find a clearer expression." 

However, he suggested that at the root of this is the intention to reaffirm that "the beauty of the encounter between man and woman who can be together and have an intimate relationship from which new life is born, is something that cannot be compared with another. Homosexual acts have a characteristic that cannot even remotely reflect that beauty."

'Creating reality'
Along the same lines, the Cardinal reiterated the rejection of gender theory because it "impoverishes a humanistic vision." "In this context," he said, "the idea of same sex marriage or the elimination of differences does not seem acceptable."

The Prefect of the Dicastery also responded to some questions about the issue of sex change, considered a "tendency to want to create reality" that leads the human being to feel "omnipotent" and think "that with his intelligence and will he is capable of building everything as if there was nothing before him." The "seriousness" of the issue "becomes special" when it comes to children undergoing surgical or hormonal treatments: their freedom must first be "enlightened." He suggested that the discussing this issue and in the context of children, is so serious that it could require its own document altogether.

As for the issue of abortion, recently approved in France as a right in the Constitution, Cardinal Fernández stated that "when a child is growing in the mother's womb, it can be a woman who is developing," so it is about the "right of one woman against the right of another woman."

Right to Life
For the Church, "the primary right is the original one: the right to life."

Regarding surrogacy, saying that with this practice "the child becomes the object of a desire" does not mean "not understanding the sensitivity of the person who desires a child of their own," explained the cardinal; but there is an invitation "to transcend this desire, because we are talking about the dignity of the person which is greater" and "to develop desires in another direction," for example through adoption.

Once again, Cardinal Fernández has conveyed the core message of Pope Francis' pastoral approach: the welcoming of "everyone, everyone, everyone," even those "who think differently on issues of sexuality and marriage." The message is not directed solely at a "selected minority that accepts everything the Church says."

Moreover, today's document, he insisted, is focused on "a fundamental pillar of Christian teaching," and is hoped to have a universal impact "because the world needs to rediscover the implications of the immense dignity of the person in order not to lose its way."

Cardinal Fernández stressed that added that Dignitas Infinita, despite being enriched with 113 footnotes ranging from Pope St. Paul VI to Pope Francis, does not aim to be "a compendium" of things already said, but a tool "to gather and consolidate what has been affirmed by the recent Popes and synthesize the innovations offered by the current Pope on a fundamental issue of classical and contemporary Christian thought."

A clarification
Regarding Pope Francis' magisterium, the Vatican Prefect took the opportunity to offer a clarification.

"Some people who used to adore the Pope now say that the Pope should only be listened to when speaking ex cathedra. 'If it's not so, we can form our own opinion.' Listen, the Pope will never speak ex cathedra, will never want to create a dogma of faith or a definitive declaration. I am almost 100% sure. We believe that in addition to the charisma of infallibility, the Pope has the assistance of the Spirit to guide and enlighten the Church." And they betray the oath of obedience to the Holy Father of their ordination, the Cardinals, bishops, and priests "who treat the Pope as a heretic, against the tradition of the Church."

"Furthermore, if there are those who think that Pope Francis is taking too many steps forward," the Cardinal said, "it must be remembered that in many cases throughout history, a Pope has said something different from his predecessor. The most recent example is that of the death penalty that Pope Francis wanted to abolish from the Catechism."

Personal memory
Finally, during the conference, there was a personal memory the Cardinal shared of his time in Buenos Aires, when then-Monsignor Fernández was appointed rector of the Catholic University: "I thought everyone was against me, vehement as if I were among wolves, not because they hated me but because I had changed their plans. I was in a place where I bothered their purposes... In such occasions, we are tempted to blame ourselves, punish ourselves, disappear.

"One of those days, Archbishop Bergoglio told me firmly: 'No, Tucho, hold your head up and don't let them take away your dignity. Because they cannot take away your dignity.'" Thus, concluded the Cardinal, "I wish this message to be for each one of you.'"--Vatican News

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