Thursday, March 6, 2014

...and a new start for Saltillo's most infamous priest

Saltillo's most infamous priest, Fr. Adolfo Huerta Alemán, aka "Padre Gofo", crossed the line last year with an interview that he now says was supposed to have been an off-the-record conversation with a friend in which he admitted to having doubts about God and to violating his celibacy vow. The Catholic right-wing media, which has been hounding both Padre Gofo and his bishop, Mons. Raul Vera, pounced on the story, demanding that the priest be at least suspended if not dismissed. Bishop Vera could not let that one slide, so Padre Gofo was temporarily removed from public ministry in his parish and placed on leave for vocational discernment. Now, according to this article by Edgar Moncada in Vanguardia (2/25/2014 -- English translation by Rebel Girl), the motorcycle-riding "cura rockero" is back in action, firmly committed to remaining in the Church while continuing to speak out against injustice.

Seven months later, he's ready to continue his ministry, after the six-month spiritual retreat that was complemented by an experience in Puente Grande, Jalisco, all part of the period of reflection that the Diocese of Saltillo offered him. He's Adolfo Huerta Alemán -- Father Gofo -- who granted an interview to Vanguardia in which he talks about his experience, and comments about how he came back, his current view of the Church, and what his future will be in particular.

"It helped me more to convince myself about my ideals, to clarify many things and be calm, because when these things happen at times we fall into the role of victim which isn't helpful at all. I think I never put myself in the role of victim," says Huerta Alemán, the "rock and roll priest", who points out that now he loves the church he represents more.

The retreat

First he clarifies that the reason they asked him to remove himself from public life and ministry for a time was due to an alleged interview that generated a lot of controversy -- "it was a chat 'between friends' to blow off steam. That guy never warned me at the time that they were going to publish the interview in Proceso online," he said, referring to the publication titled "The priest who has doubts about God and enjoys sex."

As a result of this, they suggested that he retreat to reflect on his ministry. "At first, you don't find the answer. At first you get angry, you're annoyed, but later, with time, you settle down. It was a time that did help me," says the priest who is now calmer.

During that period, he lived in the Priests' House in Saltillo, where he continued his training and preparation as part of this reflection. He acknowledges that he is an irreverent person but thinks that isn't bad when he is appealing to freedom of expression and knows the limits. He states that it's different when you fall into vulgarity or insults.

Then he went on a retreat where he did the Ignatian Exercises in Puente Grande, which also filled him with pride since he had the opportunity to live and exchange experiences with priests from different regions of the world until achieving a process of reconciliation, as he himself expressed it.

For Father Gofo himself, being immersed in that institution is no reason to hide the fact that the Church has made mistakes throughout history and will go on making them for the simple fact that humans are the instrument and means within it.

He thought of leaving the priesthood

At the end of the experience, he didn't think the process would be so positive for himself and his ministry. He reiterates that initially he got upset and sad, and even confesses that at one point he thought of leaving the priesthood, not because of his momentary annoyance but because he thought his personality didn't fit the job, although he soon put the idea of giving up out of his mind.

Adolfo Huerta is convinced that the Catholic Church is experiencing a process of transformation in which various issues will have to be considered, transparency among them. He points out that this trait that is demanded of governmental institutions will be necessary in other entities such as educational and religious ones.

"They are inevitable processes -- history, destiny, divine providence, call it what you will -- but they touch us all," said the priest, who invites parishioners to strengthen their relationship with the pastor of their community so that the latter keeps abreast of the believers in his immediate surroundings and works for the common good.

With joy and peace

After those seven months, Gofo says he's coming back with "more joy and peace," persuaded of the power of prayer which he had left a little to one side, in his opinion, but which he's now proposing to take as a base, strength and guide for all his actions in the current social context.

He says that he will continue to do these actions in favor of social causes but with a change in strategy, more intelligently, "as they say around here, no longer taking the bull by the horns, but learning to fight it and fight it until it gets tired. We'll see who gets tired first."

As for his return to pastoral work, he will be waiting for instructions from Bishop Raul Vera Lopez, with whom he stayed in contact during the reflection retreat. He says he even chatted with him personally and even received a call on December 24th.

He doesn't deny that the relationship between the two may have been poisoned a bit when he was invited to his temporary retreat but Gofo says he soon realized the real intentions, so he quickly took it maturely and intelligently.

"I think the relationship is still good. It could have been poisoned but I didn't allow it because it's in you, you're the one who allows it, you harm yourself not the institutions," the priest reflected.

He says that the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew is more than a lesson for him, but something around which his lifestyle turns. "There Christ is quite clear, saying 'seek first the Kingdom and His justice and everything else will be added.' That plan of Jesus along with the Beatitudes has always filled me and still fills me."

Adolfo Huerta's parochial life will be a basic part of his return to ministry -- visiting the sick, hearing confessions, sharing experiences, and presiding at Mass will give him an opening to keep raising his voice for social justice.

There were several significant events that occupied the public agenda while Father Gofo was on retreat, some even related to the Church as in the case of pedophilia, but he chose not to address them for the moment. He says it's simply because he arrived a few days ago and is in no state to form a position on them.

The message he throws out to society, beyond just believers, is that they place a priority on being informed and appeal to their historic responsibility, "they should be aware of the reality of our country and leave aside political, religious, and fundamentalist prejudices.

"I'm now convinced that what will save the country isn't the institutions; what will save the country is the family and citizens rising up aware and informed and putting their two cents in its history, not standing around with their arms crossed," Father Gofo added.

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