Archbishop Fernández, new DDF prefect, says he is ‘not qualified’ to handle abuse cases
July 05, 2023
CWN Editor's Note: Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, revealed in a Facebook post that he originally declined the appointment because he feels unqualified to address abuse cases.
“The task [of prefect] includes the issue of child abuse, and I do not feel prepared nor trained for these issues,” he said. “I do not feel qualified or trained to guide something like this,” he added in another post.
Since 2001, the Congregation (now Dicastery) for the Doctrine of the Faith has been entrusted with adjudicating canonical cases involving the sexual abuse of minors by clerics. In a July 1 letter, Pope Francis assured Archbishop Fernández that “very competent professionals” within the dicastery’s disciplinary section could address the sexual abuse of minors, with Archbishop Fernández focusing on matters related to Catholic doctrine.
BishopAccountability.org, which hosts the largest public collection of information on the clergy abuse crisis, warned that Archbishop Fernández has a “troubling record” in addressing the sexual abuse of minors. The new prefect rejected the organization’s criticism and insisted that “in principle they” [victims] were “always believed” during his five years as archbishop of La Plata (Argentina).
However, Archbishop Fernández, in a letter published by the La Plata-based El Dia in February 2019, questioned the motives of parents and others who raised concerns about Father Eduardo Lorenzo , who had been accused of abuse in 2008. (The local prosecutor had determined at the time that there was insufficient evidence to press charges against Father Lorenzo; still, parents raised concerns a decade later about the priest’s appointment as pastor of a parish with a school.)
“I don’t know how they managed to make the presence of this theme so constant in the media,” Archbishop Fernández, referring to those who raised concerns, wrote in his letter to Father Lorenzo. “It is completely understandable that some parents have been troubled if they were told that a supposedly dangerous being—which is certainly not your case—came to their school ... But one wonders what other objectives are being pursued—some—by the people who mobilized this.”
“I apologize if I made a mistake in exposing you to this time of public pain and humiliation,” Archbishop Fernández added in his letter to Father Lorenzo, who was also a prison chaplain and confessor to the imprisoned Father Julio César Grassi.
Archbishop Fernández did not transfer Father Lorenzo to the parish with the school, but instead confirmed Father Lorenzo in his existing parish assignment. In March 2019, Archbishop Fernández traveled to Father Lorenzo’s parish to concelebrate Mass with him. Nine months later, the priest, facing additional abuse allegations and a new criminal investigation, committed suicide.
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