Fr. Carlos Garcia, priest, social activist and local head of Caritas in Mendoza, Aregntina, left the priesthood a year ago after more than two decades in the ministry. Diario Los Andes caught up with him to find out how secular life is treating "Padre Flecha".
by Ignacio Zavala (Engl. trans. by Rebel Girl)
Diario Los Andes (Argentina)
He is one of the reference points in Mendoza on community work and solidarity in action. He carried thaht banner all his life. Today he no longer does so from the Church but from a position in the government.
A year ago, Carlos "Flecha" Garcia resigned from the priesthood and decided to face a new life to find love and overcome loneliness. He confesses that he began a relationship, but says he took that step after "leaving the priesthood", at 46. During the conversation, at first he seems somewhat tense and uncomfortable. Then he relaxes and chats while reclining in his chair holding a cup of coffee from which he sips every so often.
"I bought new duds, the ones I was wearing were all donated," he points out at the beginning of the conversation. When answering, he thinks a while, clasps his hands and plays with them while looking for the answer and the right words.
You are no longer "Padre Flecha" as your people called you for 26 years. Who is Carlos Garcia today?
"I am a person born in the province of Buenos Aires, Miramar and who arrived in Mendoza with his family in search of work at age 13. I am a person who is trying to find himself. I always try to be very honest with myself, especially, and with others.
Why did you leave the priesthood?
"After 40 years we all make an assessment of life. I was greatly affected by my mother's death three years ago and the death of my father a while ago. And a year ago, the death of Father Jorge Contreras, to whom I was very close, also affected me deeply. He was my teacher and a role model.
I thought about what I wanted for my life, for myself, with the solitude in which a priest is left after everyone is gone. I am a very loved and recognized person. I thank God for everything and I gave the Church everything I could, I held nothing back. But the personal and emotional loneliness that a priest has is very strong.
And I'm not just talking about sexuality, but of all that a person carries emotionally and all that goes with the family. My dream is that of every human being: to be fulfilled and helping others to be so. I do not think I can do it alone. I will ask those who are with me to also help me towards self-fulfillment, with all that that means: leaving some things, taking on others and making decisions like this.
Was Flecha hit by the arrow of love?
In this process of finding and being honest with myself I realized that, as the Bible says:" It's not good for man to be alone." First came love for myself, to meet with that heart that was giving itself to others, but that had not left space for itself. Today I am trying to learn to love and be loved, like every human being. I closed one stage and have let myself begin to love, which is another learning process.
How do you think people took your decision?
It was a personal discernment with the help of some friends who helped me financially because I did not have a cent on which to live. Then I had to look at what I could do for work and I sought out some people connected with politics. I do not deny that I am a friend of the Governor. He had once made me an offer, I had said no and now I was seeking a position where I could be of service to others. I took a year to discern this. I was not in good spirits, I had been feeling discouragement and distress. During the first months I had psychological support and thought: "I have to get better, I have to put things in their place."
How do you feel now that you are out of the Church?
I feel good because I have been consistent with myself: I love God, love people, love my church to which I have given my life and with which I have very good dialogue. The Church has always respected my decision and not questioned me. It's a personal decision to enter and exit. I did not leave because of any sanction. I went through the procedure and asked the Church that I might no longer participate in the ministry. I am a priest for life through consecration. I continue to profess the Catholic faith and faith in the sacraments, but I also believe that the Church needs to renew itself in many ways.
Is celibacy a problem for the Church today?
I don't know if it's a problem but it is a real reason why many of us leave or have left. It may be one of the things that weighed on me too. It is an element that the Catholic Church ought to change. I had a Christian vocation, but also a human one. I took this step because I was also faithful to my humanity.
How was the transition from religion to politics?
I don't know if I went into politics. I remain consistent with my commitment to society and I remain in areas where one can propose a group vision, one above and beyond what reality imposes. My life right now is not marked by a partisan political decision, but by a decision for the common good. Politics is the commitment to the common good; from that standpoint I'm in politics. My task is to support and coordinate the Provincial Councils for Children and Disability and I am supporting the formation of the Senior Citizens' Council.
Do we live in times of religious disbelief? Is there a crisis of faith in society?
People are in crisis and in some way all religions as well. People are searching. There is need for faith in the people, therefore there is much popular piety. It also happens that the expected renewal of the Catholic Church is not as desired. There, I dissent ecclesially with the conservative positions.
What is the greatest probem in our society?
The word that sums it all up is inequity, inequality. There is an inequity in the possibility for human development. Today, personal commitment is above commitment to the common good and in all sectors the savage struggle makes us want to save ourselves alone. Solidarity is not enough. There is not a real commitment to transform the situation of all sectors. Each person has a role wherever he is in transforming this situation, solidarity campaigns or welfare programs are not the only things that can respond to this.