Monday, April 06, 2009

Palm Sunday Surprise in Argentina

"Hmmm...let's see. I'm going to leave the priesthood to get married. Do I tell my bishop, my family, or the faithful first?" An Argentinian priest went for option No.3 and his dramatic Palm Sunday resignation is all over the Spanish language media. Here is a translation of the version from Clarí (4/6/2009):

It was a difficult decision. One of those that doesn’t let one sleep at night and that finally making it relieves the soul. It was a sensation of relief, of liberation that the priest from Córdoba, Victor Hugo Casas (38) must have felt at the end of last week when he announced to the faithful in his church in Colonia Prosperidad that he would be leaving the priesthood. “I am in love and I want to start a family,” the priest then said, as if asking forgiveness for his feelings.

The story ended like in a novel. On Saturday, at the end of the Mass that he was celebrating in Colonia Prosperidad, Casas – who is also pastor of two other churches in eastern Córdoba, Saturnino María Laspiur and Las Varas – told the faithful that he had something important to tell them. Something that had happened to him and that he wanted to share with everyone.

He was in love, he wanted to start a family with his beloved woman and be a dad. Teary with emotion, he spoke about how difficult it had been to make this decision. And he said that he had thought it through well because he had been in love for a long time.

After this confession, the priest stated that this would be the last Mass he would celebrate. Then he removed his vestments, kissed them, and left them on the altar. Surprisingly, the first reaction of the faithful to the news was a smattering of applause. They all valued the courage and honesty of the pastor and they supported him.

Casas later repeated the announcement in the other two churches where he celebrates Mass. And the response of the faithful was, yet again, respect and compassion.

“There are questions of the heart that you cannot stop”, he explained to the journalists from Cadena 3 radio, even before telling the news to his family and his superiors in the Church. And he added that “when you fall in love with a person and start to project into the future, about starting a family and having children, it’s very strong.”

The pastor indicated that he did not believe his decision would generate problems in the Church because “God loves life.” And he was going to leave the priesthood precisely to start a family and give life. In any case, he timidly suggested, the Church needs to “grow up” and “it needs to be more open” to these types of issues.

“I don’t deny that there are people in religious life who can live celibately, but I think that the Church needs to grow and allow priests to choose between celibate and married life”, he said.

This time the man won out over the priest, the heart over the head. Because, as the song says, el amor es más fuerte (love is stronger).

PS: Casas later apologized to his bishop, Msgr. Carlos Tissera, for not having told him before announcing his decision on the radio. The bishop called Casas “sincere” but said that his decision to renounce the priesthood caused him “great surprise and sadness, and more so because it happened during Holy Week.” He also told Cadena 3 that he would be celebrating the Holy Thursday services in Casas’ three parishes.

Photo: Victor Hugo Casas celebrates his change of status with his former parishioners.

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