Friday, March 7, 2014

From Catholic priest to married (gay) man

MDZ Online (English translation by Rebel Girl)
February 20, 2014

Andrés Gioeni, a former priest from Mendoza (Argentina), has launched a new book in which he mixes his experience as a gay man with his theological knowledge, Tanto amor desperdiciado. De cómo ser cristiano y homosexual sin morir en el intento ("So much wasted love: How to be Christian and homosexual without dying in the attempt"). Gioeni who, in addition to writing, is an actor and who announced his marriage to Luis, his partner for the last decade, to MDZ a few days ago, has made his "child" available free to readers over the Internet.

Gioeni first gained notoriety for leaving the priesthood on publicly acknowledging his homosexuality. Then he did it again when he sent MDZ an "open letter to Pope Francis" that transcended boundaries and which he later sent by regular post to the Vatican and reiterated in a larger form, still without response. It's precisely his two letters to Jorge Bergoglio that open the work.

This alumnus of the Marists and Martin Zapata [Commercial School] today gives interviews to the most important newspapers of the world from his position as a former priest who left the priesthood and married his same-sex partner. He wants to provoke the Vatican to bring itself up to date. And he doesn't stop.

The actor and writer became so taken with the Argentine pope when the latter, on his return to Italy from Brazil, said to reporters on the Alitalia flight "who am I to judge a homosexual person?", that he dedicates his new book "To Francis, in whom my hope for a renewal of the faith rests." Of course, the book is also dedicated to Luis whom he will marry in March in Buenos Aires [Translator's note: According to Gioeni's Facebook page, the two have now tied the knot]: "To Luis, in whom love came out to meet me."

He has moved away from religious life, but not from religion. At the beginning of the book he quotes a phrase from Saint John of the Cross: "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone."

Children of priests: Anne-Marie Mariani breaks the taboo

By Virginie Larousse (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Le Monde des Religions
March 5, 2014

In her book, Le droit d'aimer ("The Right to Love", Kero, 2014), Anne-Marie Mariani lifts the veil on a sensitive subject -- the children of priests. And she hopes to make the Catholic institution react on the issue of clerical celibacy.

At age 16, Anne-Marie Mariani learned from her uncle that she was born of forbidden love between a priest and a nun. Shock. She didn't know this whole past, her parents having left the Catholic Church a long time ago. But this secret weighed heavily on the family's life. Today, through her rare intimate testimony, Anne-Marie Mariani wants to lift the veil on the "children of secrecy" who, she states, are much more numerous than one could imagine. Moreover, she has created an association, Les Enfants du silence ("Children of silence") to give them a place to be heard and to demand that the Catholic Church give its priests "the option to fall in love, marry, and have children."

In what context did your parents meet?

My mother, who was orphaned very young, had taken refuge with the Dominican sisters in Marseilles where she lived. Because of loyalty to the latter who had helped her so much, she took the veil. My father, he was a very good student. So his parents decided to make him enter the seminary. You have to understand that at the time, it was very prestigious. Even though my mother and my father got into religion without having a real vocation, they bloomed a lot in that environment. My mother, a nurse, worked in a dispensary in Oran with other nuns. My father was a charismatic priest, much appreciated by the faithful. They met in Oran. Love came quickly. So then Mom made a request for exclaustration, to get authorization to leave her religious state. When I was conceived, she no longer wore the habit even though she had not been definitively relieved of her vows. For Dad, it took a lot longer. His superiors did everything to stifle the scandal, even offering money to my mother if we would disappear, then arranging my adoption by a host family -- which Mom refused. It wasn't until I was 3 that he was finally able to join us and begin a lay life.

How was the return to civilian life?

Bad. The couple formed by my parents was subjected to rumors, insults. Everyone knew their situation, more or less. In the eyes of the people, they had broken a taboo. My parents had to live with tremendous guilt, feelings of shame.

Did they keep the faith in spite of these trials?

Absolutely. I think they quickly understood the distinction to be made between the teaching of Jesus and what men have done. My parents are a shining example of faith, courage, love. They have done nothing contrary to the spirit of the Gospel. Human beings, throughout their lives, are constantly evolving. Their lives are made of successive sincere promises. The vow of chastity is extremely difficult to respect in the long term, and not everyone has the same ability to endure loneliness and continence. Is it a crime to fall in love?

Does your association, Les Enfants du silence, receive a lot of testimonies similar to yours?

Of course. I created this structure with the help of the association Plein Jour, which supports the companions of priests. There are numerous children of priests and religious throughout the world. For most of them, their parents had already quit their orders when they were born, which let them live a more or less normal life. But for others, as was the case with my father, they're born when the latter was still in active ministry. That situation is much more difficult. Behind all that, there's a lot of hypocrisy. The bishops are aware most of the time. But if the thing becomes known outside of ecclesiastical circles, they're kicked out. Without a penny, without housing. Into the void.

Is the Catholic Church as intransigent today on this issue as it was in your parents' time?

I think so. Anyway it's surprising that the Vatican, up to now, hasn't had the slightest word about the children of priests. You just have to read the Gospels to see that Jesus valued the presence of children. So I'm astonished that priests are thrown out of the institution on the pretext that they have given life. Would they be worse churchmen for having experienced parenthood themselves? I don't think so. Instead, the institution would come out of it truer, more just, more in harmony with its followers. I think my father would have ardently wished to remain a priest. But he wasn't allowed to. Pope Francis seems a little more open on the issue since one of his aides, Msgr. Parolin, recently said that priestly celibacy was a tradition, not a dogma. That said, I am not very optimistic.

You're saying that on this issue, the position of the Catholic Church doesn't conform to the message of Jesus.

Priestly celibacy is not a divine law but an ecclesiastical one. It was introduced by Pope Gregory VII in 1074, which means it wasn't mandatory before that date. Jesus never made such a request. Most of the apostles and disciples who surrounded Jesus, apart from Paul, were married. Jesus also healed the stepmother of Peter, who was the first pope in history! In addition, the Jewish tradition Jesus came from strongly encouraged having children. If the Church enacted this law in the eleventh century, it was primarily for financial reasons -- it allowed it to recover property that would otherwise have been bequeathed to the children of these clerics. Also, a single man is easier to control than a married man, and he's less expensive. Although I remain deeply Christian in my heart, this situation disgusts me . My parents loved each other, against all odds. This was their strength and it's what makes me admire them today. However, loving -- daring to love -- is fully consistent with the Gospels.

Our great temptation

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
March 9, 2014

Matthew 4:1-11

The scene of "the temptations of Jesus" is a story we are not to interpret lightly. The temptations being described to us are not, properly speaking, moral ones. The story is warning us that we can ruin our lives if we deviate from the path Jesus follows.

The first temptation is crucial as it can pervert and corrupt our lives at the root. Apparently Jesus is offered something innocent and good -- putting God at the service of his hunger. "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread."

However Jesus reacts quickly and surprisingly: "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." He will not make his own bread an absolute. He will not put God at the service of his own interest, forgetting the Father's plan. He will always seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. He will listen to His Word at all times.

Our needs are not satisfied just by having our bread ensured. Human beings need and yearn for much more. And even to save those who don't have bread from hunger and misery, we must listen to God, our Father, and awaken the hunger for justice, compassion, and solidarity in our consciousness.

Our great temptation today is to change everything into bread. To reduce the horizon of our lives more and more to the mere satisfaction of our desires, making obsession with ever greater well-being and indiscriminate and limitless consumption almost the only ideals in our lives.

We're fooling ourselves if we think that is the path to follow towards progress and liberation. Aren't we seeing that a society that drags people towards endless consumption and self-satisfaction does nothing except generate emptiness and meaninglessness in people, and selfishness, lack of solidarity, and irresponsibility in our life together?

Why do we get the shivers when the number of people who commit suicide each day goes up dramatically? Why do we go on being closed in our false well-being, raising more and more inhumane barriers so that the hungry don't enter our countries, don't come to our homes or knock at our doors?

Jesus' call can help us be more aware that man does not live by the good life alone. Human beings also need to cultivate the spirit, know love and friendship, develop solidarity with those who are suffering, listen responsibly to their consciences, be open to the ultimate Mystery of life with hope.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A new book about the Bishop of Saltillo...

Msgr. Raul Vera, the progressive Roman Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, is the subject of a new book, El evangelio social del obispo Raúl Vera ("The Social Gospel of Bishop Raul Vera" -- Grijalbo, 2014). In this book based on interviews, the bishop talks about everything from his image ("I don't want to be the good boy or seem like it") to his struggles on behalf of miners, migrants, and gay people, to his views on Mexico's current government (Nieto "would have to clean up the elections to gain legitimacy"). The book also contains a prologue by Mexico's well-known anti-violence campaigner Javier Sicilia. Here, the book's author Bernardo Barranco writes about it in an opinion piece in La Jornada (2/26/2014 -- English translation by Rebel Girl):

One cannot remain indifferent towards people who in the last two years have been shortlisted for the Nobel Peace Prize. We are referring to Raul Vera, who is the face of a Church committed to social justice and human rights. A person who enjoys broad social recognition and respect among different sectors of the country. Paradoxically, his secular prestige is inversely proportional to what he is granted within the episcopacy. I have been able to see this during the presentations we have been doing about the book, El evangelio social del obispo Raúl Vera, conversaciones con Bernardo Barranco, Editorial Grijalbo [Penguin Random House - Mexico], which has just been distributed in the main bookstores of the country.*

I could observe the respect with which Raul Vera is treated by very different journalists and opinion leaders such as Carmen Aristegui, Leo Zuckermann, Ricardo Rocha, and Javier Aranda. He's been cheered by irreverent radio programs like "El Weso" and "Charros contra Gánsters." And special mention is deserved by Martha Debayle who, at the end of the interview, was already proposing Vera as the next candidate for the presidency, clearly contrary to Article 130 of the Constitution.

Moreover, Vera's strong words reflect the outrage of the period. His actions as a priest mirror the feelings and will of a great number of Mexicans who see in the Dominican friar a brave civic and spiritual attitude. Raul Vera's ability to call people together is indisputable. Not only was the Bernardo Quintana auditorium at the International Book Fair in the Palacio de Minería last Saturday, February 22nd, overflowing, but a large group of people, unfortunately, had to remain outside the presentation of the book, due to the stubborness and lack of courtesy of the authorities who organized the fair.

I've been asking myself why these religious figures arouse considerable empathy. My answer is in Pope Francis himself. Keeping them in perspective, both figures represent renewal, freshness, and social commitment to the poorest. As Nancy Gibbs of TIME magazine substantiated by naming the Pope Man of the Year, in less than a year Francis has done something notable. He didn't change the language but he changed the tone and temperament which are important in a Church built on the substance of symbols. Monseñor Vera is heir and repository of a legendary Latin American generation of bishops, priests, male religious and nuns who followed the renovating impulse of Vatican II. He is a disciple of a Catholic progressivism that reached significantly into the social movements in Latin America. Therefore, his performance contrasts with the limited presence and smallness of most of the current Mexican prelates.

This book shows that Raul Vera is not an accident that was born in Chiapas, nor is he the result of a sudden conversion. In Vera, a miracle of conversion is not at work, but rather a long process of maturation in which not only personal circumstances but the mystique of the Order of Preachers -- the Dominicans, as they are commonly known -- have played a part. The legacy of Bartolomé de las Casas, Fray Antonio de Montesinos and Fray Francisco de Vitoria, among many others. Also the seeds of struggle in this religious activist were palpable even before he opted for the priesthood. Vera is the son of a double revolution symbolically at work in the sixties: the 1968 university revolt -- a movement in which Vera actively participated, and the ecclesial aggiornamento which was enshrined in the Council and subsequently took shape in Latin American liberation theology. But Don Raul goes further. He is not content to criticize and bring up the transformation of unjust structures. He stands in solidarity with specific causes and champions the dignity of women, indigenous people, miners, migrants and homosexuals, among others.

Although he doesn't consider himself a rebel bishop, it cannot be denied that he has received criticism for his decisions and positions in favor of respect for sexual diversity. From Rome, the Curia has demanded various explanations from him and it has been nervous about his ministry to homosexuals and his tolerance towards unorthodox priests. The Catholic right has been harassing him since his time in Chiapas, denigrating his career. In the book, Raul Vera talks about his university battles against MURO [Movimiento Universitario de Renovadora Orientación], the great uncle of El Yunque and the current Mexican Catholic right. The intransigent conservatives paint banners against him, they slander him in Rome, stalk him, and even threaten him. Vera can be generous, even with those religious actors who attack him.

However, to my surprise, he is quite orthodox in doctrinal matters. He has bolder answers to secular problems than to religious ones. In spite of that, he was very blunt during our conversations, denouncing clericalism as a cancer in the Church. The bishop of Saltillo questioned a Church that feels it is above society, even before hearing Francis' criticism of the self-referential Church. Monseñor Vera's formula is simple. He is an honest and consistent person. He lives the gospel with all its demands and knows how to convey his faith with fervor. In his simple home, he has no swimming pools or gyms. He doesn't appear in society magazines. Although he dialogues with everyone, he is not fond of attending banquets with the wealthy. He doesn't play golf or use a Mercedes, nor does he have arrest warrants for million-peso fraud. He's simply a pastor who is consistent with the gospel he preaches.

One final note. The conversations with Raul Vera contained in the book took place at a time of transition between two popes. At the beginning of our dialogue, Vera's voice was silenced and overriden by most of the Mexican bishops since it clashed and, therefore, was confined. Now, with Pope Francis, with all his proposals for renewal, Don Raul has been repositioned and has become an obligatory reference point for an apathetic episcopacy, lazy about following the path of change that the current pontiff is proposing.

* For those interested in the book, it is presently available electronically in Kindle format from Amazon and Nook from Barnes and Noble. It will eventually also be available in paperback in the US.

...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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Buddhist-Benedictine Dialogue on Women, Spirituality, and Social Change

Dr. Teresa Forcades' latest dialogue project follows in the great tradition of Catholic dialogue with the Eastern religions such as Thomas Merton's extensive explorations of Buddhism and dialogues with such prominent representatives of that tradition as D.T. Suzuki (Zen and the Birds of Appetite). One can also think of Jesuit Daniel Berrigan's dialogues with the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh (The Raft Is Not the Shore).

In June 2013, Dr. Forcades, a Benedictine nun and theologian, sat down with American Buddhist (in the Tibetan tradition) nun Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of San Diego in California. Dr. Tsomo, who has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Hawai'i, is the author of Sisters in Solitude: Two Traditions of Monastic Ethics for Women and Into the Jaws of Yama, Lord of Death: Buddhism, Bioethics, and Death, and she edited Buddhist Women and Social Justice: Ideals, Challenges, and Achievements; Innovative Buddhist Women: Swimming Against the Stream; Buddhist Women Across Cultures: Realizations; Out of the Shadows: Socially Engaged Buddhist Women; and Sakyadhita: Daughters of the Buddha, and a forthcoming book Eminent Buddhist Women. Dr. Forcades, who has a PhD in Theology from the Facultat de Teologia de Catalunya, has written numerous books including La teologia feminista en la història and Ser persona, avui. She has several previous "conversation" books with journalists Eulalia Tort (Diálogos con Teresa Forcades) and Esther Vivas (Sin Miedo), and with Italian mystic Angela Volpini (Una nueva imagen de Dios y del ser humano).

Meeting at the Fundació Casa del Tibet in Barcelona, the two nun scholars conversed on the topic "Women, Spirituality, and Social Change", moderated by La Vanguardia journalist Ima Sanchis. The sponsors are hoping that the Forcades-Tsomo dialogue will be the first in an ongoing series on this subject.

Now Plecs Budistes Edicions, a nonprofit association and co-sponsor of the event, is seeking to publish a book of that dialogue. The book will initially be in Catalan, although they promise a later edition in Spanish. To that end, they are raising funds through Internet solicitation. Those who contribute to the project will receive copies of the book and be mentioned in the acknowledgments. If you would like to join me in supporting this feminist interfaith project, go to Verkami and click on the amount (in euros) you want to give under "Make a Pledge". The fundraising pledge deadline is March 24, 2014, but it looks like the book will probably be a "go" since they have already passed their goal of 1,600 euros.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Going Native: Luis García-Huidobro leaves the Jesuits for the "Kume Mogen"

Jesuit brother Luis García-Huidobro, known for his advocacy for Chile's Mapuche people, has left the order. García-Huidobro entered the Society of Jesus in 2000. He was on track to be ordained a priest in 2012. It never happened. Instead, his involvement in direct ministry to and accompaniment of the Mapuche people in their struggles, took the young man further and further away from the official Church.

It didn't begin that way. In his brief autobiography on the Radio Cooperativa blog, to which he has been an occasional contributor since 2011, García-Huidobro describes himself as someone raised with traditional Chilean family values and then introduced to "post-modernity" by his Jesuit high school. He amusingly describes his hobbies as hiking, sports, and washing dishes. He says he was a "conservative student" during his final year of theology, after which he worked in a variety of positions for the order, including youth ministry in San Ignacio parish in Padre Hurtado (Talagante province, Chile), and a couple of stints in Mexico with the Instituto Superior Intercultural Ayuuk in Oaxaca, and with the Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes at the Albergue Guadalupano shelter for migrants in Veracruz. He was looking forward to ordination in 2012, but his work for over a decade with the Mapuche gradually radicalized him and when his fellow seminarians stepped up to receive Holy Orders, García-Huidobro stayed behind, no longer sure that the priesthood as it currently exists in the Church was right for him.

Brother García-Huidobro worked in the Jesuits' Mapuche ministry in Santiago for ten years and then in a variety of local ministries in various Mapuche communities in the Araucanía region. His growing involvement led him to participate along with many other men and women religious in a solidarity fast in support of Mapuche hunger strikers in September 2010.

In 2013, García-Huidobro was arrested along with 15 Mapuche while taking part in a demonstration in support of a Mapuche community leader, Daniel Melinao, who was falsely arrested and charged with participating in the murder of a local police officer. Melinao was subsequently exonerated. García-Huidobro was quickly released but not the other detainees, prompting the Jesuit to accuse law enforcement of racism, saying that he was released because of his last name (which he shares with a number of prominent and wealthy Chileans) and because he was a Jesuit, while the less influential Mapuche were kept in jail. He said he was arrested while trying to stop police from arresting a woman who was marching with her daughter who suffered from Down's syndrome.

Signs of trouble for the young Jesuit were already apparent in early 2013. In an interview he granted to Radio Bio Bio, the bishop of Temuco, Mons. Manuel Camilo Vial talked about the violent confrontations that had been taking place in the Mapuche communities. He reiterated the Church's support for the Mapuche's land rights demands and said that some of the confrontational climate was due to government abuse of the indigenous communities. He praised the Church's role in trying to promote understanding but added that "the opinions of Jesuit Luis García Huidobro are not contributing to the climate of dialogue and peace that the region needs to leave behind the violence" and he announced that he would be speaking with García-Huidobro's superiors.

Evidently the conversation happened because, in an interview he granted to CNN Chile explaining his decision to leave the Jesuits, García-Huidobro said he was told that if he wanted to keep on visiting communities in the Ninth Region (Araucania), he had to get involved in some sort of systemic pastoral work under the bishop of Temuco. This, he said, was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"I don't acknowledge any jurisdiction of the bishop of Temuco over the Mapuche communities in the Ninth Region because, moreover what's at issue is the jurisdiction of the Chilean government, let alone the jurisdiction of the bishop of Temuco -- that is, here what is recognized is the spiritual authority of the machis (shamans), the quinches (elders), the loncos (tribal chiefs), not the bishop who has nothing to do with the Mapuche communities," García-Huidobro said.

But García-Huidobro did not confine his militancy to the Mapuche. He also advocated publicly for church reform. In 2011, he signed on to an open letter of laymen and women of the Church published on the Iglesia Entre Todos blog that criticized the Church for its attitude towards divorced people and homosexuals and for its monarchical and undemocratic power structure. The letter called for greater involvement of the laity in general and women in particular in Church decision-making bodies.

A month after Bishop Vial's public reprimand, García-Huidobro published his own open letter to Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of the latter's resignation. After joking that he and his colleagues' preferred candidate for the papacy would be "Sister Lupita...but she's worried that if she leaves there's no one who knows how the kitchen works", he excoriates the former pontiff for his lack of support for liberation theology:

"We miss in this election a dispute at the theological and pastoral level ... Well, our elders tell us it was you who removed from the seminaries, universities, and Catholic publications the theological and pastoral issues that were discussed when you were a theologian. The elders also told us that you would put an end to the most gospel-centered fruit of the Church in recent centuries -- the commitment of the Latin American Church to the liberation of our people, 40% of the world's Catholics. But we don't hold a grudge against you. They say you think you achieved it, you think you have 'restored' the ancient and unchanging Church and that the implementation of Vatican II and liberation theology will not be an issue in the next conclave."

In an eloquent riff on the pope's assertion that he resigned because he lacked the physical and spiritual strength to continue leading the Church, García-Huidobro said that there is no lack of spiritual strength in the Latin American Church and went on to cite numerous examples of ways Catholics are accompanying the poor and marginalized.

"This Church doesn't lack spiritual strength. It's strong but it doesn't make a lot of noise....And I'll tell you something: They go on nourishing their faith with liberation theology which isn't dead. It's out on the town. It's true that it's not taught in the seminaries and universities, but it's whispered in the favelas, in indigenous communities and migrant neighborhoods across the continent. It's spread in blogs where the Inquisition doesn't reach, on Facebook, and community radio stations."

The pope was probably less than favorably impressed by García-Huidobro's closing line: "We salute you, as [Subcomandante] Marcos says, from the far south of Planet Earth."

And so, as García-Huidobro told CNN, he decided to step aside so as not to cause more problems for the Jesuits, against whom he says he has no hard feelings. In a brief message to his supporters posted on his Twitter account and on Reflexión y Liberación, the now ex-Jesuit quotes the rules of the Society that "he who constantly feels conscientious objection to what he is ordered to do should perhaps seek another place in which to serve the Lord." He says that he is leaving with gratitude to the Jesuits who "since my childhood have been my brothers, fathers, and grandfathers, beyond ideological or lifestyle congruencies or differences. All my affection to those who were my family over the years."

García-Huidobro says he wants to go on learning the "Kume Mogen" (Mapuche "Right Livelihood") and that he is "joining the path of many Spanish and Chilean Christians who for centuries have let themselves be conquered and pacified by the good life the Mapuche lead and learning to see the Earth as Mother and not as a silver factory."

Although he denied to CNN that the Church's celibacy rules played any part in his decision to leave, the former Jesuit, who is now living in the Mapuche community in Ercilla, playfully suggests to his supporters that they will soon see him married to a lamgencita (a Mapuche woman) "so that my grandchildren will not end up 100 years from now as usurpers of thousands of hectares and exploiting Mother Earth, like so many thieving wingka (Spanish conquerors and their descendents) who have also come through here."