May 1, 2013

Brazilian priest chooses freedom and walks away.

An inspiring story yesterday at Rebel Girl's Iglesias Descalza blog. Father Roberto Francisco Daniel had been a long time advocate for the rights of gay people within the church, making frequent comments at his blog site to the effect:

If the human sciences are telling us that today we can no longer classify human beings as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, but as sexual beings, and that love can emerge at any of these levels, if science leads us to this level of awareness, the Church needs to study this, otherwise it will be committing a sin. Which sin? Not loving one's neighbor. So the Church has to change, not because society is changing but because science and human knowledge have evolved." (O Globo)

As a modern day communicator, Padre Beto also expressed such sentiments in his newspaper column and radio show as well as on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. When the Church authorities formally asked him to recant such statements, he formally announced his resignation from priestly ministry, saying that for him, "it has become impossible to live out the Gospel in an institution where, for the moment, freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not respected."

His resignation wasn't enough for church authorities, however, and his local bishop then excommunicated him.  What I find inspiring about the whole affair is his peaceful indifference to the excommunication, which he has accepted with a bit of humor. 

He joked that he was thankful to God that the "bonfire" no longer exists, and added that he is a theologian and that he intends to "develop a theological argument so that the analysis of Biblical texts will not be used anymore to discriminate against people and make them unhappy. Today, sexual diversity exists and there are many texts in the Bible that we can no longer consider to be the word of God....I feel honored to be on the list of the many persons who have been killed or burned alive for thinking and seeking knowledge. I'm grateful to the Diocese of Bauru."

This, to my mind, is the way to go for persons such as Padre Beto- walk away from the toxic hate and let the Spirit lead one to new and more fruitful forms of ministry 'outside the door.' It means letting go of any emotional attachment to the institutional church as in any way necessary for one's personal spiritual health or ministry. It does not mean severing one's mystical ties to Holy Mother Church, whose mystery transcends the narrow limits of its present rigid doorkeepers and watchers of orthodoxy. The fact is the Spirit of the Risen Lord is calling many of us to give this same witness, to 'walk away' in peace and joy, as a sign of freedom and detachment from a closed system. But the essential corollary of this walk is to witness to the fruitful existence of other forms of spiritual ministry and nourishment not dependant on the institutional church. My own heart has been filled with an indescribable peace and joy ever since I felt compelled in the Spirit to walk away from formal participation in the Church. And now the only place where I encounter the face of the Beloved is  " outside the door," a place that is filled with shining light and transcendent love. Thank you, Lord, for this inestimable grace of freedom.