After two days of online attacks and ridicule over his 1995 book Saname Con Tu Boca. El Arte De Besar (in English, Heal Me With Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing), Archbishop Víctor Manuel “Tucho” Fernández has decided to respond. Appointed Saturday to be the Prefect for the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith, the archbishop of La Plata, Argentina, was once again pelted with online ridicule over a book he wrote when he was a young priest serving young people in a parish. He posted a response in Spanish on his Facebook page. Until now, he had refrained from publicly responding to the criticism, but he wrote that he decided to respond because people were really criticizing him “in order to attack Francis.”
Over at his site, The City and the World, Pedro Gabriel addressed the erroneous translation of the poem.
Here is an English translation of the archbishop’s post:
On the book “HEAL ME WITH YOUR MOUTH”
I am heartily grateful for the greetings and prayers of so many of you who have written to me through this medium, by e-mail and by different means, in addition to the telephone calls. I have been overwhelmed for almost three days by so much affection from my brothers and sisters.
On the other hand, there are also groups opposed to Francis who are enraged, and who go so far as to use unethical means to harm me. For example, for years they have been referring to a little book of mine that no longer exists, which spoke about the kiss. I was inspired by a phrase from the time of the Fathers of the Church that said that the incarnation was like a kiss from God to humanity.
At that time I was very young, I was a parish priest, and I was trying to reach out to young people. Then it occurred to me to write a catechesis for teenagers based on the meaning of the kiss. I wrote this catechesis with the participation of a group of young people who contributed ideas, phrases, poems, etc…
Well, what these extreme groups do is to say: “Look at the low quality of this theologian, look at the nonsense he wrote, look at the low ability he has.” They have been ridiculing me for years with quotes from that book.
But a catechesis for teenagers is not a book of Theology, there is a great difference in literary genre. A catechesis of a parish priest for teenagers cannot be asked to be a manual of Theology.
And I am proud to have been that young parish priest who tried to reach out to everyone using the most diverse languages. That is why when the Pope speaks of my curriculum vitae he mentions that I was dean of the Faculty of Theology, but at the same time he says that I was pastor of “Santa Teresita.” For him it is important for a theologian to get down in the mud and try to use a simple language that reaches everyone.
I also have written books at higher levels, I have written several articles in the magazine “Angelicum” and in the “Nouvelle Revue Théologique,” for example, texts that perhaps few understand. But the task of a theologian is not limited to these texts.
Worse still, since these attacks come from Catholics in the United States, and they do not know Spanish, they mistranslate one of the poems in the book. They translate the word “bruja” (witch) as “puta” (bitch). But the book says “bruja.” They have no right to change my words. It seems they have no ethics for this, and it’s not the first time they have done it to me.
Anyway, they will continue to say many things, and they will ally with whomever they can in order to attack Francis for having named me. But those who have known me closely know who I am. Thank you for the trust and affection you have always shown me.
I am not doing this to defend myself. I have already endured these things many times and the storm will pass. But I am making this clear so that some of you do not feel confused or suffer because of these and other accusations, but above, all I am doing it so that you will not try to harm Francis.
A big hug.
We’ll have more coverage of Archbishop Fernandez’s selection as prefect in the coming days. In case you missed it, Adam Rasmussen and I discussed the appointment on last’s night’s special episode of The Debrief.