We reported earlier in this blog about the marriage in Argentina of a Spanish missionary priest, Gumersindo Meiriño. Fr. Gumersindo is also, and continues to be, a regular columnist for his local newspaper, El Lector which has faithfully and lovingly kept this story alive over the last month. A recent visit to their Web site yielded this interview with Fr. Gumer from the January 10, 2007 edition of La Región, a newspaper in his home diocese of Ourense, Spain. Click on the link to read the original version in Spanish. Translated here into English by Rebel Girl.
Gumersindo Meiriño, the priest who got married in Argentina, says that he is very happy since he got married and he now has "a peace I can't explain." He is surprised at the controversy of his marriage and indicates that he communicated his decision to the bishop of Ourense who, he says, should clarify his words with respect to the prayers for his return to the priesthood. The strong debate that has raged around his wedding surprises him. But Gumersindo Meiriño, the priest from Ourense, says he is happy.
How did you meet your wife?
A mutual friend introduced us at the entrance to the Santo Tomé cathedral. We collaborated in attending to the sick, spirituality seminars, and talks about spiritual counseling. In recent months, our relationship widened while writing a book which is at the printer. María Benetti is a Reiki master and a promoter of Christian Reiki, but especially she is a heart who knows how to love and has assisted many people who are suffering. Reiki is just a tool for helping sick people.
When did you decide to get married?
I spent some time asking God to enlighten and guide me. After thinking it over well and praying, I told her one day that I was going to stop being a priest and that I wanted to share my life with her. We talked about the repercussions that this could have for my life and hers. And she said yes. All that was left was to set the date.
Did you communicate this to the bishop of Ourense?
Yes, by telephone. He recommended that I be patient and devote some more time to thinking it over, that there was no hurry. I told him that I was very clear and sure about the step I was going to take.
Why didn't you seek papal dispensation?
Dispensation is not required to stop being a priest. There are ex-priests who live in the world with their wives and children who don't have it. It is necessary in order to get married in the church. I never sought to get married in the church because I know that I still don't have the necessary conditions. However, I intend to do so. I have not done it yet because it is a long process which I have to start in person in Ourense, talking to the bishop. I had three alternatives -- living a double life being a priest and with María Benetti, presenting ourselves as engaged, or marrying in a civil ceremony, with the hope that they will give me dispensation. I picked this last alternative because it seemed the most correct one with respect to my wife and the church.
Are you content with your new life as a layperson?
Yes, I'm content and I have a peace that I can't explain.
Was it hard to make such a complex decision?
I had moments of deep prayer and reflection, trying to see which path God was proposing to me. I made this decision conscientiously and from the heart. It seems to me more honest to listen to the voice of the heart and of love, than to a human law which has given many fruits and which I respect such as celibacy. I faced a direct choice: obeying the heart or the celibacy law. And love won.
Did the Diocese of San Tomé really censure you?
Yes. The diocesan administrator sent a letter to be read at all the masses in all the parishes where I had worked several days before the wedding. It said that they were suspending me from all of my priestly functions. And what stunned my friends the most is that it warned that anyone who attended the wedding was committing a mortal sin and would not be able to receive communion. Can you imagine, my mother would be committing a mortal sin by attending my wedding? Many people felt hurt. People were asking each other on the street: "Are you for or against this?"
What do you think about the bishop of Ourense asking believers to pray for your return to the priesthood?
I have received e-mail from all over the world with what he said and I don't want to take it out of context. If he said what he said, I would interpret that he didn't understand well what people were asking him. It was the letter of the diocesan administrator of San Tomé that provoked the scandal, not my marriage. I tried to do it in the most discrete way possible. There are hundreds of marriages of priests and none has produced this turmoil. The bishop should clarify his words because they are confusing.