Eco Encyclical on Track

Spokesman Dismisses Claims of Delay Due to Doctrinal Concerns

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.” The Vatican spokesman did say he has always thought it would appear “before the summer,” but added that it has already been “announced and repeated that the final text is being translated, and it’s reasonable to expect the publication within a few weeks, probably in June.”

Father Lombardi’s comments came after veteran Vaticanista Sandro Magister claimed on his blog “Settimo Cielo” May 11 that the Pope had “binned” the first draft of the encyclical when he spent a week in March examining the document. Magister said the Pope feared the first draft — which had been ghostwritten by his theologian friend from Argentina, Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández — would have been “demolished” by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “once it had gotten into his hands.”

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.”

Speculation over whether the CDF would be involved in checking the encyclical derives in part from comments made by Archbishop Fernández in a revealing May 10 interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. The rector of the Universidad Católica Argentina in Buenos Aires, whom Francis made archbishop in 2013, disparaged the role of the Curia, saying it “is not an essential structure.” “Catholics know from reading the Gospel that it was to the Pope and the bishops that Christ granted a special governance and enlightenment — and not to a prefect or some other structure,” he said. “Cardinals could disappear, in the sense that they are not essential,” the archbishop also said. “The Pope and the bishops are essential.” The archbishop’s comments come after Cardinal Müller stated in an interview in April that the CDF’s role was to “provide the theological structure of a pontificate.”

Archbishop Fernández contributed to the Holy Father’s Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) and was appointed by Francis as vice president of the commission that drew up the final message of last October’s synod.


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