The Church could not even keep all of its priests on board and the most outspoken one, Fr. Nicolas Alessi, pastor of San Cayetano in the poor neighborhood of Altamira for the last 27 years and member of the Agrupación de Sacerdotes Tercermundistas Enrique Angelelli, has been suspended a divinis by the Archdiocese of Cordoba. In a terse communique on its Web site, the Archdiocese says:
"The Archbishop of Córdoba, Mons. Carlos José Náñez, clearly states that, after having exhausted all means of pastoral requests for Fr. José Nicolás Alessio to mend his ways and publicly retract the statements made by him in support of alleged "marriage" between persons of the same sex, which is contrary to the teaching and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and given that the above-mentioned priest has denied any possibility of changing his actions, it has been decided to initiate a church trial in the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Cordoba so that all acts are in accordance with the church law in force, and establishing an interim measure that formally "forbids him to public exercise priestly ministry."
The trouble started in May, when Fr. Alessi and his group weighed in on the gay marriage debate with a public statement that was published on the Diario del Chango blog. The statement was inflammatory, to put it mildly: "Faced with the possibility of a law that allows persons of the same sex to be "married couples" and experience love and sexuality deeply, we view that supporting it, accompanying it and studying it in depth puts us on the path of the Gospel of Jesus. A Jesus who revealed the loving face of God to us. The official Church, and its views do not necessarily or always coincide with the Gospel. This issue is one of those cases."
One day after he was censored by his archbishop, Fr. Alessio was unrepentant, declaring to the media that "if a gay couple were to ask me to marry them, I would do so with pleasure". In an interview this week with Radio Brisas, Fr. Alessio added that he also supports married priests, including, of course, the marriage of gay priests. He called his suspension "unjust" and "unreasonable" and said that his colleagues should be censored too, because "we all think the same and we made a responsible and mature decision to support homosexual marriage. We were all called upon to recant and no one said he would, because no one would go against his conscience. I was the only one who was punished."
Fr. Alessio told his archbishop that he would not accept the suspension and that he intended to keep on offering Mass and other sacraments such as baptism and marriage. "I said to Carlos Ñáñez when he talked to me yesterday morning, 'Carlos, I have a commitment to my community, before complying with an unfair, authoritarian, and harsh sanction.'"
"'Carlos I don't believe in all this Vatican legalism, I'm not going to submit to the Roman shysters, I believe in the Gospel. If we haven't understood that what Jesus proposed there was a fraternal community of brothers and sisters and not a deified monarchy, then we haven't understood anything.'" But, Fr. Alessio says, the bishop didn't answer.
And so on Saturday night, as you can see from the photos, Fr. Alessio celebrated Mass outside the church where he had been a pastor for so many years in freezing weather and accompanied by several married priests who concelebrated with him and several hundred faithful. "I did it because it did not seem good to me to obey an unreasonable and unjust order," the priest said, and added: "I'll probably get another sanction because I don't know much about these legal and canonical intricacies, because I became a priest to follow Jesus, not the Roman Catholic bureaucracy."
Fr. Alessio doesn't plan to parrticipate in his church trial. He has already announced that he plans to resign in December because of his disagreements with the Church hierarchy. His parish community, who support him unconditionally, have asked him to stay until the end of the year.