Pope increasingly relies on Jesuit or Argentinian cronies. No way to run the Church.

The Pope's loyalist and ghostwriter lands at the Holy Office: it is the latest in a long series of appointments in which personal friendship with the pontiff or membership of the Jesuits appears decisive.

Pope Ignatius I. Calls himself Francis.

"He would be capable of appointing Tucho" was a joke rather widespread in the Vatican in these months of toto-names for the succession of Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer at the head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. The subject implied, of course, was the Pope.

In the end that is exactly what happened: the hyperbole has become reality and Víctor Manuel Fernández is the new Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as President of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and of the International Theological Commission ready to take office in mid-September. An appointment that can be interpreted as a challenge to those members of the Sacred College who had privately expressed their opposition to the hypothesis of appointing Monsignor Heiner Wilmer, Bishop of Hildesheim and a great supporter of the German Synodal Way agenda.

The New Daily Compass can reveal that the battle to stop the appointment of the Dehonian bishop to the former Holy Office was the last battle fought by Cardinal George Pell before his sudden death. Not to read Wilmer's name in the bulletin, however, would be a Pyrrhic victory for the Australian cardinal since the choice fell on an even more controversial profile. 

"It is not always when there is conflict in the Church that this is bad," wrote Monsignor Fernández in the volume The Popes of the Councils of the Modern Era. Art, History, Religion and Culture. In choosing him to replace Joseph Ratzinger with a programmatic address of clear rupture with the past put down in black and white in a public letter, Bergoglio seems to have shown that he thinks in the same way since he is aware of further displeasing those prelates who had written to him in recent months to implore him not to appoint Wilmer and to leave the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith in more balanced hands.

Monsignor Fernández arrives at the Palace of the Holy Office, a leader among the Pope's faithful, whose ghostwriter he was, during the decisive experience of the Aparecida Conference in 2007. Recalling those days spent side by side, Fernández recounted that he had admired in his mentor the conviction that "more than obtaining immediate results, it is necessary to set processes in motion" (Clarín). Tucho's appointment in the Curia's most important dicastery seems to suggest the idea that the Bergoglian pontificate is lasting long enough to move directly from setting processes in motion to obtaining immediate results. To do so, the Pontiff increasingly relies on loyalists. 

In recent times it has become increasingly evident how personal acquaintance with the Pope or membership of the Society of Jesus now represents a sort of X Factor for going on to positions of great responsibility in the Church. The first nomination of his pontificate concerned his successor in Buenos Aires, for which he indicated naturally the then Auxiliary Mario Aurelio Poli, later made cardinal. Ten years later, the latter was retired on the stroke of 75 and replaced with Jorge Ignacio García Cuerva, a young priest whom the then Cardinal Bergoglio got to know and appreciate for his activism in the slums of the nearby diocese of San Isidro, suffragan of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio made him a bishop at just 49 years of age at the same time as another cura villero, Gustavo Oscar Carrara, who was made auxiliary of the archdiocese of Porteña but to whom he then preferred a very similar profile such as that of García Cuerva. Dynamics that allow one to imagine how decisive papal preference is as a criterion for whether or not a post is assigned. 

(Cathcon: Curas villeros is a movement of priests of the Catholic Church that emerged in Argentina in the late 1960s who live in the slums or shantytowns and who promote active commitment and pastoral action with the people who live there. The movement of slum priests is related in its origins to the Movement of Priests for the Third World, to liberation theology and to the option for the poor. Its reference point is the priest Carlos Mugica, murdered in 1974 by a vigilante group and considered a martyr by the movement.  Pope Francis, when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, institutionally created the Vicariate of Slums.)

Speaking on Fabio Fazio's Che tempo che fa, Francis said he had few but true friends. In Argentina, the Pontiff has shown in the course of his pontificate that he relies above all on them to reshape the national episcopate he considers too conservative. Suffice it to say that the President of the Bishops' Conference has been Monsignor Oscar Vicente Ojea Quintana since 2017, a man very close to Bergoglio who consecrated him as bishop, had him as auxiliary in Buenos Aires and then as neighbour when he became bishop of San Isidro. It is no mystery that the Papal will was decisive for the election of Ojea Quintana as head of the Argentinean bishops given the great resistance to his name. Also Argentinean is Monsignor Gustavo Oscar Zanchetta, whom Bergoglio met in 2001 and appointed executive undersecretary of the CEA in 2008, during his Presidency.  

As in the case of Manuel Fernández, Zanchetta also received episcopal ordination a few months after Francis's election, but at the head of the Diocese of Orán he was the protagonist of one of the most discussed pages of the current pontificate with his sudden resignation in 2017 and his appointment to the Vatican's Apsa in the role created ad hoc for him of assessor until 2021. While in Rome for this assignment, Zanchetta became the first bishop in Argentina to end up on trial for sexual abuse following an accusation by two seminarians whom the judges believed, sentencing him to four and a half years in prison.  (Click on Zanchetta to see just how scandalous this all is).

Among the Pope's compatriots who are friends of the Pope, there are not only consecrated people: layman is, for example, the extreme left-wing politician Giovanni Grabois who is currently a candidate for the 2023 presidential elections and at the same time a member of the Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development of which he had already been a consultant since 2016. 

Francis has not set foot in Argentina since 2013, but the relationships, disappointments and convictions gained during his experience in his homeland have heavily conditioned the decisions of this pontificate. The appointment of a figure like Fernández at the head of the very body that delayed his nomination (desired by the then Cardinal Bergoglio) at the head of the Universidad Católica Argentina by two years out of doubts, is a tangible sign of how this process - together with the recourse to the trusted men of the Society of Jesus - could be further accelerated.  


Cathcon:  The modern Jesuit order are failing and decadent: this has been projected onto the Church.