A bishop falls in love and resigns: where is the problem?

The still spreading mediatic circus about the already emeritus bishop of Solsona (Catalonia) annoys me deeply. The morbid fascination, gloating, mockery, malicious or unfair personal attack is disgusting to me. Not to mention the serious distortion of human and theological criteria revealed by all that.

Xavier Novell –what a relief not to have to add a “Reverend” or “Monsignor” to his name- resigned and the Vatican promptly accepted his resignation. Anticipating the likely increase in gossip and unfounded rumors, the bishop came out and said: “I fell in love and want to do things right”. A bishop resigns and announces he is in love and, I assume, plans to share his life with the person with whom he is in love. And? Where is the problem?

It is not my intention to defend the bishop who quit and is in love. Let alone treat him mercilessly. I just want to offer some criteria which I think are reasonable to understand and place this fact. I will not judge his complex and most likely painful decision which I assume he shared with the woman with whom he is in love, but the ecclesiastic system that forces a human situation to be lived in a painful and inhumane manner. Cannon Law, which directs everything in the Catholic Church, is the most inhumane aspect of all this.

The problem is not, of course, that Xavier Novell always manifested himself as a Catalonian independentist, although there are many –even within the bishops themselves- who have condenmed him for this. 99% of the bishops of the state defend the territorial integrity and independence of the Spanish state, whether or not openly declared, but nothing happens.

The problem is not – do we have to state it?- that he fell in love and that he decided to marry, if that is the case. The problem is that he had to resign to be able to share his life with the woman he loves. And that is in spite of the fact that all apostles, deacons, priests and bishops during the first few centuries got married if they so decided. The problem is that the Catholic Church has not reconcile itself with the body, sexuality, Eros, and it absurdly insists on imposing celibacy to its “clerical body” to better manipulate it. The price paid in suffering is enormous.

The problem is not even that Xavier Novell may have, according to many persons and media which quickly aired it, a personality problem (may he or she who is free from all wounds cast the first stone). If it were so, the problem –a serious problem- would be that those who proposed him as bishop and he who named him bishop in 2010 did so knowingly. The problem is that no bishop is chosen by the community, but by a supreme pope, that is to say, by the obscure cliques that direct him.

His conservative thinking was a problem for numerous faithful in his diocese. But I repeat, it is not his problem (he has the right to think the way he thinks), but that of those who presented his candidacy and of he who chose him precisely because of his conservative views so that he would teach and impose them.

The unusual and heartless “homosexual conversion courses” in which he took part (with other bishops, like that of Donostia-San Sebastian according to witnesses) were a problem, and a most serious one for many LGTBI persons, even mortal for some. But, ultimately, the responsibility falls upon those who could and should have abolished those courses from the very beginning, either from the episcopate or from the Vatican, yet they did not do it. The bottom of the problem is the homophobia underlying the entire clerical system, from the base to its highest echelons.

Let’s be honest: the problem is the clericalism that rules the entire ecclesial institution. The problem is a church still under an absolute power (diffuse, obscure and anonymous by definition), dominated by an appointed masculine priesthood, male chauvinistic and homophobic both deep down and often in their external manifestations. The problem are the seminaries where this model and doctrine are increasingly reinforced in the name of  what they call “God”. This is the problem of today and of tomorrow.

I wish that Xavier Novell, free from so many chains that imprisoned him, may find the fullness of his humanity together with the woman he loves and who loves him. The Breath of life blesses them.

Aizarna, September 8th, 2021

Translated by Mertxe de Renobales Scheifler