Sunday, August 23, 2015
August 18: Optional Celibacy Day
¡Atrevete a orar! Blog
August 18, 2015
Pope Francis knows the martyrdom of Ladislao (SJ) and Camila
It is part of the memory of the Church in Argentina and specifically of the Diocese of Buenos Aires, of which Francis was the titular bishop before being elected bishop of Rome. Moreover Ladislao Gutiérrez was of the same religious order, the Jesuits. In the mid-nineteenth century, August 18, 1848, he was shot along with Camila O'Gorman, and their unborn child. The case reached the movie screen in two films with women's names -- "Camila O'Gorman," 1910, directed by Mario Gallo, with Blanca Podestá in the role of the young woman, and "Camila" in 1984, directed by Maria Luisa Bemberg, which was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. Imanol Arias plays Father Ladislao Gutiérrez, SJ.
Martyrs for love and freedom
Based on their faith in God, the Father of Jesus, they experienced and played out their mutual falling in love. Their consciences told them that their love was "not a crime." They deemed "the irresistible attraction between them" a gift from God. He acknowledged his mistake in making religious vows. He felt more strongly God's call to marriage than keeping the celibacy commitment. Aware that that society did not allow turning back in this area (as if the optional vows were the final salvation), they challenged the social and ecclesiastical order with the awareness that God was on their side -- "they would be married before God." They were clear about what Vatican II proclaimed in the twentieth century, namely that "[c]onscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths."(GS 16) They gave their lives for being faithful to the love they thought came from God. They never backed down, "satisfied that their conscience was clear in the eyes of Providence." Ladislao with the spunk of a believer's courage wrote an epitaph worthy of his martyrdom: "My Camila, I have just learned that you are dying with me. Since we have not been able to live on earth together, we will be united in heaven with God. Hugs, your Gutiérrez."
Brief history of a martyrial love
With the respect that a martyrial act deserves, let's read some paragraphs from the text of Argentine writer Lucía Gálvez, who has a degree in history:
"Camila O'Gorman (1828-1848), was a young woman from an upper-class family who starred in a romantic and tragic love story during the second government of Juan Manuel de Rosas ... Camila was a close friend and confidante of Rosas's daughter ... She used to attend Mass and precisely the current Church of Socorro, between Suipacha and Juncal streets, was the scene of the awakening of this unfortunate love. She was 18 and there she met the young Jesuit priest Ladislao Gutiérrez, 24, a seminary companion of Eduardo O'Gorman, Camila's brother, who had arrived from Tucumán ...
Once again the mystery of love between two people imposed itself. Nor could he silence it .. He had never felt this way about anyone ... She had many doubts about religion and he was trying to clarify them, although his own were growing as the days passed. What was his vocation based on? To whom did he owe loyalty? Was it God as he had been taught? Who could claim the right to know His wishes? Wasn't he responsible for that irresistible attraction between them? When they found it impossible to ignore that they loved one another, he reassured her, convincing her that this was not a crime. He acknowledged having made a mistake by following the priestly career but felt that, given the circumstances, his vows were invalid. And if society did not allow him to make her his wife before the world, he would make her his own before God. They wanted to do His will, to live together and multiply like the primordial couple. He had made a mistake, but above all he was a man created in the image and likeness of God, with the intelligence and freedom to repent his wrong decision and start a new life with the loved one that God had put in his path ...
Camila was persuaded. She could not imagine life without him, but she was not willing to be "the priest's concubine." They began to conceive the idea of running away from Buenos Aires and changing their identity to be able to be married before God and men. But where could they go where the civil and ecclesiastical authorities couldn't reach them? ... They would go to Luján, from there they would travel to Santa Fe, Entre Rios and Corrientes. The final destination, if all went well, would be Rio de Janeiro ... December 12, 1847 was the day chosen for the flight. On arriving in Lujan, in a booth the waiter had provided under the night shining with stars, the lovers had their moment of happiness ...
After ten days, Adolfo O'Gorman denounced the deed to the governor as "the most heinous act and unheard of in the country," while Bishop Medrano asked the governor that "at any point these miserable, unfortunate wretches are found, they be apprehended and brought so that, proceeding in justice, they be reprimanded for such a huge and scandalous process." Rosas didn't care about the concubinage of some priests. What he could not tolerate was a lack of obedience to him. Rosas could have used his power to forgive magnanimously. If the young people had come to him for help, he surely would have done so. But to the scandal of the flight was added the participation in it of a girl very connected in society. And here, opinions were divided -- to most people, she was a victim, to the rest, a lost one.
In Paraná, in February 1848, they obtained a passport in the name of Máximo Brandier, a merchant, native of Jujuy, and his wife, Valentina Desan. On arriving at Goya with their new identity, they could take a break and prepare for the final step -- Brazil. Meanwhile, to earn a living, they opened a school for children, the first that existed in this small town. They were able to live four months in relative happiness, forgetting the persecution to which they were subjected. On June 16, disaster struck when they met in a house of a family an Irish priest who knew Gutiérrez ... Taken by surprise, they only hit upon denying their true identity. The news flew and the next day, by order of the governor ..., the two teachers were jailed and held incommunicado ... Camila denied having been kidnapped and claimed to be the initiator of the romance and that the flight was her idea.
When Rosas heard the news, he gave orders that the prisoners be driven in two separate cars to Santos Lugares, which was the most feared prison of the regime ... They were held incommunicado ... Camila, however, was able to get a letter to her friend Manuela Rosas. The latter replied on August 9 encouraging her not to let herself be broken, that she would help her... But the arrival of the prisoners to Buenos Aires, where they could have defended themselves, didn't enter into Rosas' plan. To avoid having to deal with requests for clemency from his daughter, it was necessary to act swiftly and dramatically.
The statements Camila made in San Nicolás only corroborated their subversive position -- they weren't repentant but "satisfied in the eyes of Providence" and didn't deem their behavior criminal "because their conscience was clear." Where would it go if even simple women believed themselves entitled to deal directly with God? That smelled of Lutheranism and free interpretation of the Truth. It was very dangerous. According to Marcelino Reyes, the young woman asked if the governor was very angry and wanted to know what was being said about her. After letting her eat and rest, Reyes returned to his conversation with Camila to advise her on what she should declare. Camila then openly laid out the story of her affair with Gutierrez. It dated back to well before their flight. She explained that he didn't have any vocation and that their marriage had been before God. That he hadn't made his vows from the heart and, therefore, they were false and he was not a priest. That the intention of the two was to go to Rio de Janeiro, but they had not been able to carry it out due to lack of resources. Gutierrez also made his case and both were taken by a chasque ("emissary, mail") to the governor, that afternoon of August 17.
Without appeal or defense - the established order over love
It was almost dawn when the thunder of hooves, shouts and violent blows to the front gate woke everyone... Rosas had ordered the immediate execution of the prisoners without making room for any appeal or defense. Only a few moments to confess and prepare for death. Reyes then decided to send an urgent dispatch warning about the pregnancy status of the young woman, endorsed by the prison doctor. And a letter to Manuelita explaining the urgency of the situation. Spurring the horses, the chasque got to Palermo and delivered the missives to the officer on duty. The letter never reached Manuelita. The governor could not accept that there was a living testimony of disobedience -- a child who might have represented for many the triumph of love over the established order.
Near the hour, Gutierrez summoned Reyes to his cell ...:
"- I called you to tell me if Camila will have the same fate as me.
- Be prepared to hear the worst: Camila will die too ...
- Thank you, he replied in a loud voice."
Then he asked him to give Camila a note. He took a pencil out of the fur cap he was wearing and wrote: "My Camila, I have just learned that you are dying with me. Since we have not been able to live on earth together, we will be united in heaven with God. Hugs, your Gutiérrez"
They sat each of them in a chair carried by four men with two long poles. Like all the condemned, they were blindfolded and, escorted by the band of the battalion, they were taken to the courtyard surrounded by walls. Under the handkerchief, Camila's eyes let out two strands of tears that couldn't be helped, despite the self-control expressed in an unchanging face. While the soldiers nervously tied them to the benches, Camila and Gutierrez could talk and say goodbye to each other, until the latter began to shout: "Assassinate me without judgment, but not her in that state, wretches!..."
His words were silenced by Captain Gordillo, who ordered the drums to redouble and gave the signal to fire. Four bullets ended his life. Then three discharges were heard and Camila, injured, shook violently. Her body fell from the bench and one hand remained pointing to the sky. "... in the neighborhood the terror of her excruciating, painful and heartbreaking scream remained..."
This love story of innocent victims of political interests would eventually become the most unforgivable event of the Rosas government ... It would be the beginning of the end."
We must eliminate this law contrary to the practice of Jesus!
How long will the stubbornness of the leaders of the Catholic Church will continue to appeal to these stories? Luckily modern societies aren't executing or protecting Church decrees. Thus we've avoided some "Bishop Medrano asking the governor that at any point these miserable, unfortunate wretches are found, they be apprehended and brought so that, proceeding in justice, they be reprimanded for such a huge and scandalous process." Although they haven't come to a violent death, the Church has known stories of exile, clandestine women, unrecognized children ... And all because of a law that binds priesthood and celibacy needlessly, without being supported by the teaching and practice of Jesus, non-existent in the first millennium of the Church. Let's ask the Holy Spirit that this law be removed. It's a requirement of human rights and gospel freedom.
Rufo González Pérez is a diocesan priest in Getafe (Madrid). He has a degree in Philosophy and Letters and a PhD in Theology from Pontifical University of Comillas, where he specialized in spiritual theology. Now retired, he alternated teaching philosophy with pastoral work as parish priest of San Esteban Protomártir, in Fuenlabrada (Madrid). He is the author of several works including Nos casamos en la fe cristiana, now in its third edition through Ediciones Sígueme (2008).