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The upcoming defender of Vatican doctrine defends his youthful book on the art of kissing

by Gabriel Martinez
7 comments
Archbishop Fernández

Around 30 years ago, as a parish priest in Argentina, the individual nominated by Pope Francis to become the new doctrinal orthodoxy guardian of the Catholic Church authored a concise book about kissing and the feelings it stimulates.

The reflections in “Heal Me with Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing” are being utilized by certain conservative factions within the church to challenge the appointment of Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández as the head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. This body, previously known as the Holy Office, was historically accountable for pursuing heretics, disciplining dissenters, and upholding sexual morality for centuries.

“These are ultra-conservative factions that vehemently detest the Argentine pontiff (Francis),” shared Fernández, the archbishop of La Plata, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) south of Buenos Aires, in an interview with The Big Big News.

“They extract a quote from the book and exclaim, ‘Examine the caliber of this theologian. How could a person using these phrases possibly serve as the prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith?'” Fernández, who once aspired to be a poet, elaborated.

This 80-page book, published in 1995 but currently out of print, has surfaced as a main point of contention regarding the appointment of the 60-year-old archbishop, colloquially known as “Tucho,” to one of the most influential positions within the Vatican.

The book emphasizes the significance of kissing in human connections, describing them as expressions of unconditional love. It provides translations for ‘kiss’ in several languages and notes the different names often used depending on the style of the kiss.

Earlier this month, Catholic news agency Zenit published an article saying that “everyone is talking about Monsignor Víctor Manuel Fernández … and most notably, his kisses.”

Critics, including conservative religious figures from the U.S., have questioned the archbishop’s appointment, considering it a break from tradition. Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, requested prayers for Fernández’s return to the Catholic faith on social media.

Fernández, who has maintained a close relationship with his fellow Argentine, the Pope, turned down subsequent proposals to republish the book.

“I was older by then, and since it is a book about kissing… I declined, requesting that we leave it in the past. But now it seems to be my karma,” Fernández remarked with a chuckle.

One passage from the book states, “A couple abundant in sex and sexual satisfaction, but lacking in meaningful kisses, are digging love’s grave with each sexual encounter, giving rise to monotony, fatigue, and boredom until one of them discovers something more human.”

Fernández defended his work, stating that the book contained “no heresy or error,” and hence he could not be accused “of anything.” He emphasized that his critics’ strategy was to constantly quote phrases from the book to question the Pope’s decision of appointing someone with “such shallow theology and street language” to a crucial role.

The book includes a poem penned by Fernández: “How was God so ruthless to give you that mouth… No one can resist, witch, hide it.” The cardinal lamented that critics had mistranslated “bruja,” or “witch,” as “bitch.”

Fernández shared that he collaborated with a group of youths to write the book when he was a parish priest in the Argentine town of Santa Teresita, in the central province of Córdoba. The book was aimed at teenagers as catechesis, with Fernández editing and improving their inputs.

In the book’s introduction, Fernández mentioned that the book was a summary of what “mortals” experience when they kiss and was not based on his personal experience. He said his critics should cite his other works, which have been published in “top-tier” journals. Fernández has held several esteemed positions, including the rector of the Catholic University of Argentina, head of the Argentine Society of Theology, and was recently designated as a cardinal.

However, his critics have focused on this youthful catechism from a humble rural priest and have taken phrases out of context, he lamented.

While he has received some backlash on social media in Argentina, the church in his home country supports him.

“The explanation he gave regarding the issue was excellent and clear,” stated Máximo Jurcinovic, the director of communications for the Argentine Episcopal Conference.

The Pope entrusted Fernández with the duty of “guarding the teaching that stems from faith” in order to “provide a reason for our hope, without condemnation or judgment.”

Fernández has faced controversy before due to some of his writings. He admitted that certain writings were anonymously sent to the Vatican following his appointment as the rector of the Catholic University of Argentina in 2009 by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. The controversy resulted in a two-year delay in his confirmation for the position.

Fernández also acknowledged missteps in his handling of a 2019 case involving a priest accused of sexually abusing minors, prompting allegations of protecting the accused priest. Fernández has denied these claims.

“With hindsight, I would certainly act differently, and my performance at the time was lacking,” he admitted after a Mass in La Plata.

By nominating Fernández to lead the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, Pope Francis indicated a desire for a departure from the past.

“The Dicastery that you will head once utilized immoral methods. Instead of promoting theological knowledge, possible doctrinal errors were hunted. I expect something very different from you,” the Pope wrote in a letter to Fernández.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller from Germany, who served as the prefect of the office until Francis dismissed him in 2017, criticized the new directives as inappropriate given the department’s mission to “protect and promote the revealed faith.”

“This is not a theological academy or a talk show where everyone can express their opinion,” Müller commented on the conservative U.S. broadcaster EWTN.

Fernández perceives himself as a reformer who doesn’t wish to “break with everything,” but advocates for a church that is “more inclusive, more respectful of different ways of living and thinking.”

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This report was contributed to by Nicole Winfield, a journalist from Big Big News in Rome.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Archbishop Fernández

Who is Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández?

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández is the upcoming guardian of doctrinal orthodoxy for the Catholic Church, appointed by Pope Francis. He is an Argentine and was previously the parish priest in Argentina. He is also known for his book “Heal Me with Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing,” which he wrote three decades ago.

What is the controversy surrounding Archbishop Fernández’s book?

The book, “Heal Me with Your Mouth. The Art of Kissing,” written by Fernández, emphasizes the significance of kissing in human relationships. However, it has been criticized by certain conservative factions within the church, who believe it inappropriate for someone with such expressions to be the prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith.

How has Archbishop Fernández responded to the criticism?

Archbishop Fernández has defended his book stating that it contained “no heresy or error.” He pointed out that the critics are taking phrases out of context to question his appointment. He also noted that he had turned down later offers to reprint the book, suggesting that he sees it as a part of his past.

What is the role of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith?

The Vatican’s Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, once known as the Holy Office, has traditionally been responsible for pursuing heretics, disciplining dissenters, and enforcing sexual morality within the Catholic Church. The Pope has assigned Fernández to head this office.

Has Archbishop Fernández faced any other controversies?

Yes, Fernández has acknowledged mistakes in his handling of a 2019 case involving a priest accused of sexually abusing minors. He also mentioned that some of his writings, including a newspaper article about gay marriage, led to a controversy that delayed his confirmation for the rector position of the Catholic University of Argentina by two years.

More about Archbishop Fernández

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7 comments

Gods_Grace_1975 July 17, 2023 - 10:25 am

Well, I’d say we need more people like archbishop Fernández in the church. At least he’s promoting love and intimacy instead of judgement and condemnation.

Reply
Graceful_Truth July 17, 2023 - 10:55 am

Bishop Fernández seems like a decent man. Who cares if he wrote a book about kissing? It’s not like he did something wrong. Let the man do his job.

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Holy_Diver July 17, 2023 - 6:01 pm

With all the stuff going on in the world, a book about kisses is causing a ruckus? Pple need to get their priorities straight. SMH.

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FaithFulOne July 17, 2023 - 11:49 pm

Not sure about this… seems like the church should stick to spiritual matters and leave the romance to novelists… just my 2 cents tho.

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John_Doe_101 July 18, 2023 - 12:27 am

What’s wrong with writing a book about kisses? Isn’t love part of our faith too? I think some are just to rigid in their thinking, need to relax a bit.

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MariaG July 18, 2023 - 1:20 am

Can’t believe they’re giving him flack for a book on kissing, seriously? He didn’t write anything heretical, just something about love. chill out people.

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Angelic_Swordsman July 18, 2023 - 4:20 am

his book sounds sweet… wheres the harm in that? our church could use a little more love and a little less judgement.

Reply

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