Rorate Caeli

A Rocky Beginning for Tucho Fernandez: Erotic Poetry, "Youth Ministry," and Covering Up for Predators

The appointment of Tucho Fernandez as Prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith has met with  disapproval across the Catholic world-- even from unlikely sources.

The problems began with the resurfacing of Fernandez's 1995 book, "Heal Me with Your Mouth: The Art of Kissing." The book includes sexually graphic, vulgar and disturbing poems written by Fernandez interspersed with insipid attempts at theological insight. Written when Fernandez was a parish priest, this is a book that should have raised alarm bells at the time.

Fernandez took to Facebook to defend himself from attacks, but in the process of doing so raised yet more doubts about his fitness for the position of DDF Prefect. His tone was strident. He lashed out at his critics as "unethical." He did not acknowledge their legitimate concerns about a parish priest writing a book like this-- much less as a part of his "youth ministry"-- featuring graphic and disturbing sexually imagery. Unbelievably, he even defended the work as "catechesis for teens." Fernandez's response is especially tone-deaf especially after three decades of sex abuse scandals in the Church. And Fernandez's interspersing of erotic imagery with religious content in "Heal Me with Your Mouth" is especially disturbing the wake of the the scandals of the disgraced Jesuit priest and mosaic artist Marko Rupnik, who linked his priestly ministry and religious art to his sexual abuse.

Fernandez also did not directly address disturbing allegations that, as Archbishop of La Plata, he protected a predator priest, Eduardo Lorenzo. After Lorenzo was accused of sexual abuse, Fernandez allowed Lorenzo to publish a letter on the archdiocesan website libeling and attacking his accusers. And in March 2019, with Lorenzo under criminal scrutiny, Fernandez traveled to concelebrate Mass with Lorenzo. Fernandez continued to protect Lorenzo even as more accusations came forward, only removing him in October 2019 after claiming that Lorenzo had requested to leave for "health reasons." These revelations are especially disturbing given that, as DDF Prefect, Fernandez will be adjudicating sex abuse cases.

Now, Fernandez continues the pattern of fiery attacks on his critics. Some have lauded this public relations strategy. But it is certainly an inauspicious beginning for one who hopes to fundamentally change Catholic doctrine around sexuality.