ROME – In the latest in a series of Facebook posts following his recent appointment as head of the Vatican’s doctrinal office, Argentine Archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández has defended a controversial book and hit back against American critics of the text and of Pope Francis.
In a July 4 Facebook post, Fernández, whose appointment as the new prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) was announced July 4, voiced gratitude for the messages of support he has received but noted that “there are also groups opposed to Francis that are enraged.”
These groups “go so far as to use unethical means to harm me,” he said, and pointed to critics of a booklet he wrote in 1995 on kissing, titled, “Heal Me with Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing.” It was published in English in 2017.
The book’s introduction states that “this book was not written based on my own experience, but based on the lives of people who kiss,” and it says the intention was to focus on what various poets had said about kissing.
“The kiss is a meeting of two in a moment in which there is nothing else besides them, and nothing else matters,” Fernández said in the book.
Fernández, who was a 33-year-old pastor at the time, said in his Facebook post that he was inspired by writings of the Church Fathers and as a young priest, he wanted “to reach the youth” at his parish.
“It occurred to me to write a catechesis for adolescents based on what the kiss means,” he said, saying a group of young people at the parish contributed to the project by sharing ideas, phrases, and poems.
He said “extreme groups” have criticized and “humiliated” him for the book for years, accusing him of embracing low-level theology.
“A catechesis for adolescents is not a theology book, there is a big difference in literary genre,” he said, saying he is “proud” to have been an enthusiastic young pastor who tried to reach everyone “using the most diverse languages.”
This is what Pope Francis wants, he said, saying, “For him it is important that a theologian gets into the mud and tries to use simple language that reaches everyone.”
Fernández said he has also written numerous articles for prestigious magazines and journals such as Angelicum and Nouvelle Revue Théologique.
He said the “attacks” he has faced over the book “come from Catholics in the United States,” who do not know Spanish and who he said have mistranslated words, such as translating bruja, meaning ‘witch,’ to puta, meaning ‘bitch’.
“They have no right to change my words. It seems that because of this, they have no ethics, and it is not the first time they do this to me,” he said, voicing his belief that these critics “will continue to say many things and they will ally themselves with anyone in order to attack Francis for having appointed me.”
He insisted that he was not attempting to defend himself with the Facebook post, but rather, wanted to make some clarifications “to prevent any of you from feeling confused or suffering from these and other accusations, but above all I do it so that they do not try to harm Francis.”
Fernández, 60, has written some 300 books and articles, many of which were contained in a lengthy list of his publications accompanying the announcement of his appointment to the DDF. The 1995 book on kissing was not included in that list.
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