by Maritza Espinoza (English translation by Rebel Girl)
May 9, 2012
When you came here, to El Agustino, people must have been surprised. You're not the typical priest in a cassock and Roman collar...
Well, my fellow priests here didn't wear the habit either, but I had long hair, chains and things like that, since I feel like a child of the 60s, when marvellous things happened.
Things the Church didn't always approve of.
The Church disapproves of things in life that should have been accepted.
Like the transvestites, that marginal population with which you work, no?
I was working with them during very hard times. Many of my friends died of AIDS, people whom I loved very much.
By "my friends" you're referring to transvestites?
One of your superiors says they're not in God's plan.
I think he's totally mistaken. No human being can be outside of God's plan. All are in this plan to build a different world in which we all can fit, be respected and be loved.
So, what is sin?
I don't know, nor does it concern me. Well, perhaps the worst sin is the selfishness that produces injustice, marginalization, violence. That's sin.
So it isn't that God spends His time sniffing around under people's sheets?
That's a wrong image. The only image of God has to be the one revealed by Jesus, who forgives the adulteress, who sat down to eat with those public sinners, who drew near to prostitutes, or, they drew near to him because he was able to welcome, respect and love them.
You're so atypical within the Church!
I don't consider myself atypical. Jesus was a Jew and he criticized many things about the temple, the religion...And for me, the model is Jesus, and Jesus is the free man par excellence and he calls us to be free in the face of any type of power. I think that, from within, I can work to make the Church community, all of us, try to be more faithful to Jesus.
But wouldn't you tell those sisters murdered by AIDS "don't use condoms"?
But the Pope has given huge sermons about the sin of using a condom.
Every person is different, each situation is different, and rather than prohibiting, what we need to do is be with those people to know their anxieties, problems, pain. Be channels of God's mercy.
Before feeling the call, what did you think you would be -- a soccer player, a rock star...?
No...I'm not a bad soccer player, but I don't play anymore. I tore some ligaments and broke my heel. Music fascinates me. In Spain, I recorded an album with a group of friends. I have very good friends here in Peru too. They're willing to sing with me, but I know that deep down they suffer, because I'm not good.
At what age did you decide to be a priest?
Very early, at seventeen. In those days, a person who entered at 22 or 23 was already old...
Have you had the opportunity to know female love
Yes, I have. It's complicated, but you have another choice that leads you, somehow, to renounce certain aspects of that love. It's difficult to talk about emotions.
You never renounced the chastity vows?
No. I believe it has to be optional. I'm convinced that celibacy doesn't imply that you'll give more of yourself. I've met married people who could give an example of what commitment is to a lot of celibate priests. But it can change at any time. This isn't a dogma.
What do you hope for the future of your work here with the gangs, the marginalized?
When I die, I hope that I will have collaborated in making a more just and supportive Peru where the various forms of discrimination -- which are many and very harsh -- are a thing of the past and everyone is treated with the dignity that every human being has.
Are you a leftist priest?
I believe in the one about the lost sheep. Jesus tells us to leave the 99 to look for the one that's outside the borders of the flock. For the most part, the Church takes care of the 99 good ones, but if we could go to those who are outside, we'd be more evangelical.
On the day you go, would you like there to be a Beatles song along with the prayers for the dead?
What I hope is that there will be no prayers for the dead. When I die, I want them to take my body immediately to the Medical School. I don't want them to have a gloomy celebration like that when I die. But I do want all the friends, musicians, athletes with whom I worked to organize some revelry, if they remember and want to.
But you are going to heaven?
Yes, I hope to be in the kingdom of God, call it heaven or whatever. I think that that dream that appears at the beginning of the Bible -- in Genesis -- that's the end. And in some way I'll be participating in that dream of God's, along with people like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Túpac Amaru (he shows their photos)...