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Lost in translation: Archbishop Fernandez’s poem mistranslated as profanity

[Update 2: On July 4, Archbishop Fernandes published a clarification on his personal FB page, where he explained that the purpose of this book was not to be a theology book, but a pastoral book from a parish priest directed at teenagers. In that clarification, Arb. Fernandez validated the distinction bet ween “bruja” and “puta”]

[Update 1: This article was updated with additional translations of Fernandez poem and of his book, that provide further contextualization]

On July 1st, Pope Francis appointed Victor Fernandez, archbishop of La Plata, as prefect of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This appointment sparked controversy in Catholic social media. One of the sources of the controversy was a book Fernandez wrote in 1995, when he was 33 years old, titled “Heal me with your mouth. The art of kissing.”

An English translation of the book can be found here.

One particular aspect of the book that has drawn criticism is a poem written by Fernandez himself, where he includes a curse word to describe a woman. This inclusion has raised eyebrows and contributed to the ongoing discussions and debates surrounding the appointment.

Come on down, my dear,
before you awaken
someone desperate
with a terrible hickey

How was God
so cruel
as to give you that mouth…
There is no one who resists me,
hide it

However, this seems to be a mistranslation from the original Spanish, which can be accessed here (hat tip to twitter user Robert Nugent).

In the original Spanish , the word “puta” (“bitch”) does not appear in the poem. The word that actually appears is “bruja”, which is better translated as “witch” or “sorceress.”

Baja, querida,
antes que te despierte
de golpe
algún desesperado
con un chupón terrible

Cómo fue Dios´
tan despiadado
para darte esa boca…
No hay quien resista.

We provide here a full and more accurate translation of these verses:

Come on down, my dear,
before someone desperate
wakes you up
with a terrible hickey

How was God
so unmerciful
as to give you that mouth…
There is no one who resists it,
hide it

It is not clear at this moment when Fernandez wrote the poem featured in the book. He writes in the introduction “that this book was not written based on my own experience, but based on the lives of people who kiss.” He also explained that he wanted to focus on what poets had written about kissing.

Photo credits: Romanuspontifex, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0.