I recently reported that some Vatican officials were unhappy with scientists who directly challenged the questionable data and erroneous assertions being used as the basis for Pope Francis’ upcoming eco-encyclical.
Now, in a drama worthy of a Dan Brown novel, there is a dispute about the status of that much-anticipated publication.
A widely-cited report has been released by an Italian journalist who covers the Catholic Church and the Vatican indicating that these papal plans may be delayed.
According to Vaticanist Sandro Magister, Pope Francis has decided to postpone the publication of his long-awaited encyclical on the environment. The reason, according to Magister, is that the Pope realized that the document in its current state had no chance of receiving the approval of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith under the leadership of Cardinal Gerhard Müller. If it seems somewhat improper for a Cardinal to be telling a Pope what he can and can’t write, don’t fret, gentle reader: the text wasn’t written by Pope Francis at all.
The ghostwriter behind the heavily discussed encyclical is one Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of Tiburnia, a native of Buenos Aires. Archbishop Fernández, who belongs to Pope Francis’ inner circle in the position of most trusted theological adviser, was already heavily involved in the writing of Evangelii gaudium, and spent the Summer of 2013 in Rome for that purpose. Last March, as Pope Francis set about to compose his Eco-Encyclical, Archbishop Fernández was again flown in to do the heavy lifting. The close working relationship apparently stretches back to the time when Pope Francis was still Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, with Fernández working largely behind the scenes, drafting the future Pontiff’s important speeches and letters.
For those not versed in the intricacies of the Catholic Church, the aforementioned Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) promotes and safeguards the doctrine for the Catholic world and “has competence in things that touch this matter in any way.” And while Cardinal Gerhard Müller was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, it is reported that he was also a pupil and friend of Gustavo Gutiérrez, the “father” of Latin-American liberation theology.
So it probably wasn’t the science team’s efforts that are the root cause of this potential change.
The Italian analysis indicates Cardinal Müller anticipated that, as Prefect of the CDF, he would be assuring that the Pope’s publication had a sound theological structure. It appears that Archbishop Fernández felt that this piece of the doctrinal review process wasn’t necessary. Behind the scenes, there was evidently some discussion.
The article also relates that Vatican sources report that the Pope will not be publishing Archbishop Fernández’ already-completed text, and has—for the time being—tabled the entire project.
This report has now met with near denial by Vatican officials:
The Vatican has denied that Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical has been delayed because the Holy Father feared the first draft would not be approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Register May 14 that the “preparation procedure of the encyclical took place, and is taking place, in a completely normal way, and there has not been, and there isn’t, any delay compared to what was expected.” [emphasis added]
Compared to what had been expected by whom?
Lomabardi went on to indicate that while there was never a fixed date for publication, it is likely the translations will be complete and the encyclical officially released in June.
But Father Lombardi said it is “normal and obvious” that, as with any encyclical, the CDF would check the document before publication and that he was unaware of “any cause of delays or problems.” He called the speculation “totally unfounded” and said it “seems almost unbelievable that such things are written.”
We will see if the CDF sends it back to Pope Francis for a do-over, which can be considered “expected” as part of any editorial process. Such a move would not be surprising, especially in light of how many Catholics are upset by the use of falsified data and politicized science as the basis for a spiritual document:
For Catholics in particular, the problem is that we believe that the supreme pontiff is singularly protected by the intervention of the Holy Spirit from teaching error in matters of faith and morals. In theory, from a faithful Catholic’s perspective, it is impossible for the pope to proclaim in an encyclical some position of morals or faith that is false. If the pope were to solemnly assert that, as a matter of faith, Catholics must accept that global warming is real, human-caused, and endangering the world, we must then accept a proposition that appears to be contradicted by our own eyes: that the 18-year “pause” in warming does not exist. Such a quandary is unlikely to increase the faith of Catholics in their Church’s divine mission.
The media has been abuzz for quite some time about this much-anticipated encyclical and what it will mean for the world. It will be just a little ironic if it is ultimately scuttled due to religion instead of science.