Friday, November 7, 2014
Father d'Ors: "Let's open the Church to women priests"
November 5, 2014
MADRID. "Why did Pope Francis choose me? A mystery. He may have asked: Who is the most marginal priest in Madrid?". Pablo d'Ors bursts out laughing as he climbs the stairs in his home in the district of Tetuán, a kind of four-story tower that Montaigne would have liked. It's here, between the floor of the library where d'Ors composes his novels and the chapel above where he says Mass, that another revolution of Bergoglio's pontificate is maturing. So far it hasn't been talked about much, not at all in fact. And to discover it you need to come find this outsider of letters and the priesthood who emanates a cheerful vitality.
Really unclassifiable, Father d'Ors. "A mystical, erotic and comic writer," as he presents himself, revealing his vocation to paradox. His first beautiful stories in El Estreno ["Il Debutto" in Italian] make fun of world literature, recounting the exploits of a Slovakian lady who makes love to the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Surprising pages in which you can read reflections like, "Pessoa is the writer who slept the least in all of world literature." Growing up in a cultured family -- his grandfather was Eugenio d'Ors, a monument of Spanish culture -- Pablo was always nourished on words, then moved to Biografía del Silencio ["Biography of silence"], a manifesto on meditation that became a publishing sensation in Spain (translated into Italian by Vita e Pensiero). No longer young, at age 27, after a life full of love, reading, and reckless traveling, he chose the priesthood -- now at Ramón y Cajal Hospital, accompanying the terminally ill. This year he was named to the Pontifical Council for Culture chaired by Cardinal Ravasi, where in February he will bring his brick for the construction of a huge new building.
What task has been entrusted to you?
"I'm one of thirty advisers appointed worldwide. They have asked us to present a report on the role of women in the Church. Now the time is ripe to break new ground."
Will opening the priesthood to women be discussed?
"I can not say that is apodictically so, but I think after the next plenary meeting there might be that approach."
Are you in favor?
"Absolutely, and I'm not alone. That women can't be priests because of the fact that Jesus was a man and that he chose only men, is a very weak argument. It's a cultural reason, not a metaphysical one."
What would women bring?
"Life. And so much richness. The change is necessary because it is unacceptable discrimination. To prepare for my task, I have spoken with many women from different social and cultural backgrounds, Christian and non-Christian. With one exception, all have shown themselves in favor."
Is there still a lot of resistance?
"Yes, not only in the Curia but also at the grassroots. Novelty is always scary. On the other hand, an important criterion for measuring the spiritual vitality of a person is his willingness to change. Resisting life is a shame because life is continuous progress."
Is this also true for the Church?
"Especially for the Church."
What kind of a priest are you?
"I'm a happy priest. I've heard an inner voice. And when you live life as a response to a vocation, you feel happiness. That doesn't mean there haven't been difficult moments."
The fact of having lived a lot before taking your vows...
"...I'm still living intensely."
Yes, but does the fact of having had many love affairs make you a better priest?
"Knowing human love makes you know divine love better. Today I can say that it helped me, but at the time I was experiencing it, I had the impression it was bad for me. You have to have time to process the experience."
Your relationship with the Vatican hierarchy hasn't always been peaceful.
"Are you referring to Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the former [arch]bishop of Madrid? We had two very different ways of understanding the Christian presence in the world. I could summarize it in two words: alternative or dialogue. Alternative leads you to a closed view of Christianity, separate from a world seen as a sentinel of all vices. Dialogue means also recognizing beauty and good in the world. So I don't impose my absolute truth on you but I invite you to get into a dialogue with me to find the truth together. Francis is a true pontiff because he creates bridges around himself."
Today you're working at Ramón y Cajal Hospital. How do you accompany a dying person?
"By really listening to what they're saying, without judging intellectually or becoming emotionally charged. Listening is enough, forgetting oneself, which is the hardest thing."
You've said that dying as a Christian doesn't involve any less anguish than dying as a secular person.
"Wait a minute. If you're really a believer, it helps you. It doesn't help you when you're a Christian in name only but not in your heart."
But you can live a good life without God?
"Of course you can live without a God. You can't live well without contact with the source of fullness, whether you call it God, being or life. People like Einstein and Rousseau were not believers, but were capable of very deep spiritual experiences."
Why do you write novels? Were you thinking of yourself when you made Pessoa say "I don't write what I think but I write to think"?
"One naively believes that writing serves to communicate, but this would mean that I already know what I have to say. In fact, writing is a revelation in that it reveals to you what you need to write. It is not a merely intellectual act, but deeper, more visceral I would say."
But why have you joined the call for silence? Isn't there a paradoxical aspect, an oxymoron, to writing a biography of silence?
"Only in appearance. Words and silence are two sides of the same coin. Real words, those that have the ability to touch others, are born from silence, that intimacy with yourself. And they call for silence because the best thing, when you read a book, is the need to recreate what you've read yourself. Deep down, literature is an invitation to be silent."
Silence as the only possible ethic. You make Thomas Bernhard say it.
"Yes, for me it was essential. Bernhard is to theorize that everything is a citation. Literature is born from literature. Even my novels are born in the margins of others' books."
You call yourself an erotic, mystical and comic writer. But what binds these very different things together?
"Irony is the style, mysticism and eroticism are the contents. Both mysticism and eros seek unity -- reuniting the separation in the union of spirit and body. As for the lightness, it is what generates the reader's joy."
Speaking of lightness, in Il debutto you take apart Kundera and many others. Great writers, but little men.
"Irony also has a liberating function. Nearly a statement of principle: here are my teachers, but I will not be crushed under those beasts of literature."
But why introduce the corporal theme -- the Slovak organizer who lets herself be possessed by all the great intellectuals?
"I wanted to show deception. We fancy ourselves that we own books and people. But, since you can not master all the literature, the easier thing is to get the bodies of the writers."
Your recurring criticism towards writers is that they prefer writing to life.
"For many, literature is a vicarious way of experiencing reality. But I think that everyone should make a work of art not only of writing, but also of his own life. Thomas Mann understood this very well. Proust and Kafka, by contrast, sacrificed their lives to literature."
Primum vivere. But wouldn't priests live better with a woman at their side?
"The time is ripe for this change too, but that's just my personal opinion. And in the Pontifical Council, no, we will not be talking about this."