Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Vatican examining the activism of nuns Caram and Forcades

by Enric Juliana and Josep Playa Maset (English translation by Rebel Girl)
La Vanguardia
May 19, 2015

The two must popular nuns in Catalonia, Lucia Caram and Teresa Forcades, are going through a delicate point in their church life. Both find themselves, in different ways, facing the dilemma of exclaustration if they wish to maintain in the coming times the intense public and media activity that has given them great social exposure.

Sister Lucia Caram (Tucuman, Argentina, 1966), a Dominican nun from the Santa Clara convent in Manresa, has been called to task by the nunciature (embassy) of the Holy See in Spain and last Friday she was received at the Vatican by the Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life, a Roman dicastery that oversees the activities of religious orders. Teresa Forcades (Barcelona, 1966) has gone a step further and has just informed the Procés Constituent platform, of which she is a founder, that she is willing to temporarily leave the religious life to lead a joint candidacy of the sovereigntist Left in the elections to the Catalan Parliament, announced for September 27th.

Caram confirmed last week to this newspaper that she was going to be received in Rome to discuss her situation, having received a verbal warning from the nunciature, which considers her constant media exposure, especially on television, not to be very compatible with the principles of monastic life. Sister Lucia is a contemplative Dominican nun, an order founded in 1206 by St. Dominic with the dual purpose of silent prayer and evangelism. The secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life is the Spanish Franciscan José Rodríguez Carballo. Carballo's appointment was one of the first that Pope Francis made shortly after being elected in 2013.

Caram has become a television personality of the first order. Popular, funny and daring, Caram has given interviews on different kinds of programs -- speaking from inside a confessional with reporter Xavier Sarda on one of them -- and has her own space on Canal Cocina ["the Cooking Channel"]. A few weeks ago, it was announced that she would participate in the program "En la caja" ["In the box"], similar to the reality show format of channel Four. Lucia Caram's convent is under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Vic, headed by Romà Casanova, one of the more conservative Catalan prelates. In ecclesiastical circles, the bishop's negative opinion about some of the activities of the Argentino-Catalan nun who seduces television programmers, is known.

Caram's popularity has helped propel the activities of the Rosa Oriol charitable foundation, a civil solidarity group based in Manresa, chaired by businesswoman Rosa Tous and whose vice-president is Elena Rakosnik, wife of the president of the Generalitat, Artur Mas. Caram has not taken sides specifically for any grouping, but she doesn't hide her sympathies for the sovereignist cause and President Mas.

Sister Lucia is suspicious of Ada Colau and at the beginning of the current electoral campaign asked residents of Barcelona, via Twitter, not to vote for her. Forcades, by contrast, is a friend of Colau and shares a good part of her political plan with her.

Forcades belongs to the community of Benedictine nuns from the monastery of Sant Benet, Montserrat, under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Sant Feliu de Llobregat, headed by Agustí Cortés. With the consent of the community, Teresa Forcades has carried out an intense labor of public debate -- she was very critical of the vaccine against influenza A -- and political facilitation, which has crystallized in the Procés Constituent platform, which supports the independence of Catalonia without giving up active collaboration with the new Spanish alternative Left. Procés Constituent is part of the Barcelona en Comú ["Barcelona in Common"] candidacy.

After a period of study in Germany, during which she reduced her public activity, Forcades has returned to the political arena. A few days ago, she leaked the contents of a letter to her Procés Constituent comrades, in which she expressed her willingness to temporarily leave the religious life to be a candidate for the presidency of the Generalitat. In the letter, released by the digital portal Vilaweb, Forcades explains that a possibility has opened for her full-time dedication to politics. "That possibility is asking permission from the monastery for one year, extendable to two (...) This means that after a year or two, I could go back to my monastery." Forcades is referring to the "indult of exclaustration" provided for in the Code of Canon Law. The exclaustration, for a maximum period of three years, may be imposed for "serious reasons" or granted, upon request, for reasons that justify it. The decision is the exclusive competence of the Holy See.

A few months ago, Sisters Caram and Forcades' situations were the subject of closed deliberation by the bishops of the Catalan dioceses, at a meeting of the Tarragona Bishops Conference. The Conference asked Bishops Casanova and Cortes to find solutions, although the deliberation was not included in the public communications about the issues addressed.

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