Is Anyone Listening? by Phil Lawler

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By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Sept. 15, 2023

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at


Ordinarily I love my work. I enjoy learning about the latest developments in the Church and in the world, explaining them to our readers, and engaging in the debates that arise from those developments. But there are times when I wonder—as I read one story after another illustrating the same old familiar mistakes—whether anyone is paying attention. This week has been one of those times. Bear with me, please, as I explain my frustration.

  • Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Victor Manuel Fernandez, the prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, proclaims that no Catholic bishop can judge “the doctrine of the Holy Father.” But the Pope—any Pope—cannot have a doctrine of his own, separate from the perennial doctrine of the universal Church, which he is called to uphold and defend. To say that this is the Pope’s doctrine is to suggest that the Pope could change it, and thereby to encourage those who want doctrinal change. Does Fernandez, who is now the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, believe that doctrine can change? In the same interview he responded to a question about same-sex marriage thus: “At this point it is clear that the Church only understands marriage as an indissoluble union between a man and a woman…” [Emphasis added.] At some future point might the Church reach a different understanding? The Argentine prelate’s words certainly allow that interpretation. …

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