Following up on his Facebook post about the controversy, in an interview published today on the InfoVaticana website, the newly appointed Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Víctor Manuel Fernández was asked whether he regrets having written the book Heal me with your mouth: The Art of Kissing. Here is his response, translated into English from Spanish:

No. Any theologian, biblical scholar or writer knows that in order to interpret a text it is key to situate oneself clearly in front of its genre and not to ask of it what it cannot give. This is a book that I wrote together with a group of young people when I was a very young pastor. And the theme of that book is deeply conservative. Do you know why? Because it responded to the concern of those young people – very well trained by me – to learn how to explain to other young people why premarital sex should be avoided. You can see just how progressive the book’s objective was.*

Well, while we were talking and conversing, it occurred to us to point out that sex is not everything, that if one postpones it, one can develop many other forms of expression of love and grow in that love. So, as an example of one of those expressions of affection that can occur without the need for sex, there was the kiss. So, together with them we surveyed other young people, looked for poems and put together this catechesis. It was not a theology manual, it was a pastoral attempt that I will never regret. Of course I would not write something like that today, I am already 60 years old and I am beginning to prepare myself for eternal life. In fact, shortly afterwards, I asked the publisher not to reprint it. Don’t you think it’s bad form to take that little book, to use single phrases from that youthful pastoral booklet to judge me as a theologian?

There’s much more to be said about Archbishop Fernandez, of course, and the vultures are circling. As Pedro Gabriel tweeted about the negative commentary on this interview, “It’s impressive that they focused on the single sentence where [Archbishop] Fernandez makes a theological speculation with lots of caveats (only opening the floor to discussion)… while leaving aside all the rest of the intervention which is so staunchly orthodox.”

But this is what we’ve come to expect from those who reject the authority and message of the pope.

* Correction: in the original version of the article, the sentence “Fíjese usted qué progre era el objetivo del libro” was translated as “You can see how pro-green the book’s objective was.”

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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