Thursday, March 29, 2007

Barroso -- where tradition mocks clerical celibacy

This story filed by Álvaro Blanco from Portugal for EFE is fascinating. In the Barroso region of northern Portugal there is a tradition among the Catholic clergy that alleges that Fray Bartolomé de los Mártires, then archbishop of Braga, obtained a concession at the Council of Trent in 1563 allowing them to have wives to compensate for the harsh climate of the area ("nine months of winter, three months of hell").

This tradition is defended by a popular and controversial local pastor, Antonio Lourenço Fontes, a local historian,José Baptista, and Orlando Alves, the lieutenant mayor of Montealegre, the regional capital, who affirms that it is customary for priests in the area to have a marital life and that the faithful accept this as normal and necessary to maintain a clerical presence in the region. In the article he cites the cases of his uncle and of Fontes. One of the great Portuguese writers, Aquilinio Ribeiro, was born of such a relationship in 1885. Baptista also cites the case of the late Amadeo Santa Mariña -- a priest who had eight children with his Spanish mistress.

According to the article, Joaquim Gonçalves,the bishop of the Diocese of Vila Real, denies any knowledge of priests living in family situations. He says that Fontes is bold in his allegations but refuses to call them heresies as it would require him to remove Fontes from his parishes.

The article concludes with a traditional regional saying: "Canta bien el ruiseñor/ suelta al aire un 'asobío' (silbido)/ que también los hijos del cura, llaman al padre señor tío" ("The nightingale sings beautifully/ he sends a whistle to the air/ and so the sons of the priest/ call the father "Uncle, sir")

If you can read Spanish, the article can be found at

No comments: