Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, Puerto Rico's bravest bishop, was removed from office by Pope Francis as a "troublemaker".
(Rome) Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres of Arecibo, the only bishop in Puerto Rico who opposed vaccine apartheid, was retired by Pope Francis at the age of just 57.
Monsignor Daniel Fernández Torres was born in Chicago to a Puerto Rican family but grew up in Puerto Rico. In 1995 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Arecibo. He studied dogmatics at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and then worked in his Caribbean home as a pastor and from 2000 as regent of the seminary of Arecibo. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of San Juan de Puerto Rico and, in 2010, at the age of 46, Bishop of Arecibo.
As such, he attracted attention in 2020 when he took on left-leaning US Territory Governor Pedro Pierluisi and urged him to stop the gender agenda being promoted by the Biden administration.
The second conflict with Pierluisi has followed since August 2021, when the governor of Puerto Rico imposed compulsory vaccination against Covid-19. Bishop Fernández then made it clear that there would be no vaccination apartheid in the church areas in his diocese. The bishop recognized the right of conscientious objection to compulsory vaccination and gave his priests and deacons permission to grant exemptions to Catholic parishioners.
The bishop was the first pastor to be confronted with compulsory vaccination and made it clear that in his diocese there would be no division of the faithful and no segregation, i.e. discrimination, of healthy people.
However, he was left alone with that. The other five bishops of the Caribbean island shortly thereafter issued a decree with “pastoral guidelines” on behalf of the Puerto Rican bishops' conference, with which they instituted vaccination apartheid. The unvaccinated may only take part in the liturgy in separately designated parts of the church. The five bishops justified their decision with reference to "contagions and outbreaks,” although the SARS-CoV-2 virus koof or Covid-19 did not differ in any noticeable way from other seasonal flu waves. Above all, they emphasized that the new guidelines should be issued in order to show “solidarity” with Pope Francis. Francis had introduced compulsory vaccination in the Vatican and described "vaccination", which is in fact a gene therapy, as a "moral obligation". The bishops did not say that they were actually kneeling before the Pierluisi government. Priests and deacons who have not been able to present proof of vaccination by September 15 are no longer allowed to celebrate the holy liturgy in public.
Bishop Fernández refused to sign the guidelines. Rather, he made it clear that he would not tolerate this segregation of believers in his diocese. In doing so, he courageously stood alone against the Church's first apartheid regime of the 21st century.
Today, half a year after the beginning of the apartheid regime, Bishop Fernández was retired by Pope Francis, although the bishop of Arecibo is only 57 years old. The background is quickly explained. Bishop Fernández disrupted the "good relations" with the government and the consensus in the bishops' conference with his courageous stance on the Corona issue.
Other reasons are given behind closed doors and in some media in Puerto Rico as to why Bishop Fernández became a nuisance to his confreres. He openly and bluntly addressed the problem of pederastic priests and publicly criticized them. He also refused to use the believers' money to pay off the debts of the Archdiocese of San Juan.
In keeping with his nature, the deposed bishop was not silent about his removal. He had a final press release published through the press office of his previous diocese, confirming the rumors that had been circulating before. The bishop quotes from an unspecified document in which the reason for his dismissal was given:
"I have not been obedient to the Pope, nor have I been in sufficient fellowship with my brothers, the Bishops of Puerto Rico."
Bishop Fernández writes:
“In response to what is happening, I feel blessed to suffer persecution and slander (cf. Mt 5:10-11) for proclaiming the truth about human dignity in the present circumstances where 'it is uncomfortable: It is contrary to what we do...' (Wisdom 2:12). Today I can hold my head high, and even though I'm imperfect and a sinner, I know I did the right thing, and that gives me great inner peace. I am also comforted by the Hebrew meaning of the name Daniel that I received at my baptism: 'God is my judge'.
I am very sorry that in the Church, where so much is preached about mercy, in practice, some people do not have even the slightest sense of justice. One day the Apostolic Delegate simply told me by word of mouth that Rome was asking me to resign. A successor to the apostles is now replaced without proper canonical procedure for his removal.
I was informed that I had not committed a crime, but that I had allegedly 'not been obedient to the Pope and had insufficient fellowship with my fellow bishops in Puerto Rico'. It was suggested to me that when I resign from the diocese I would remain available to the Church if I was needed in another position; an offer that proves my innocence indeed. However, I did not resign because I did not want to become an accomplice in a totally unjust process that I am reluctant to see in our church.”
As the Vatican Press Office announced, Pope Francis appointed Msgr. Álvaro Corrada del Río SJ, Bishop Emeritus of Mayagüez, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Arecibo ad nutum Sanctae Sedis.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: El Visitante/Facebook (Screenshot)
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org