Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Pedro Casaldáliga

The new issue of Far East, the magazine of the Columban missionaries, has an interview with Dom Pedro Casaldáliga, former bishop of São Félix in Brazil.

What has caused me most fear has been my own impotence. In the face of the injustice of the landowners, the massacre of the Indians and peasants, the inertia of the government, I was oppressed by my own impotence and by the fear of falling into depression. As for losing my own life in a violent fashion, I had no fear of that. We were idealists; we had taken on a cause that we believed was just, and it didn't matter whether we were assassinated.

I have felt close to death on many occasions. I would say it has been my life's companion. In Latin America those who work for social justice and defence of the oppressed are accustomed to martyrdom. They were capable of dying because they were first capable of giving life. For me, death is only the resurrection: why should I be afraid to die?

To those who ask if I have temptations against chastity, my answer is, 'I'm still alive.' I think that obligatory celibacy is absurd and unjust. I would like the next pope to abolish it because that option only has value, and above all is only credible, if it is free. Celibacy is always a violence, even when it is free and desired.

If celibacy were a free option then married people could enter the priesthood. To say that celibacy is superior to marriage is just bad theology. I accepted to live my celibacy with love, while being conscious that it goes against our natural tendencies. Celibacy is only a worthwhile renunciation if it is embraced for a cause. And be careful, it is difficult to live it alone, without the help of a community. But if somebody says to me that it is against celibacy to kiss a woman or to embrace a child, then they are asking something contrary to nature. Celibacy never eliminates human love; it is a way of loving.


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