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Pope permits suspended Spanish bishop to wed erotica author in church

12 April 2024

Alamy

The former Bishop of Solsona, the Rt Revd Xavier Novell, photographed in 2011

The former Bishop of Solsona, the Rt Revd Xavier Novell, photographed in 2011

POPE FRANCIS has allowed a barred Spanish bishop to marry his partner, an author of erotic literature, in church — two years after she gave birth to his twins.

“I was surprised by the great human and spiritual quality of Pope Francis — it’s been a long road,” the novelist, Silvia Caballol Clemente, wrote in a post on social media.

The Catalan writer, a trained psychologist, published the message after marrying the Rt Revd Xavier Novell, the former Bishop of Solsona, at the Santa Maria de la Guàrdia, in Sagàs.

“I don’t believe darkness is what our love and the Church deserve, and I don’t think the cover-up accompanying my husband’s resignation was good. I’m sorry for everyone who thinks it should have been kept secret, but I can’t continue acting as if I’ve no thoughts or feelings.”

She said that Novell was still a Roman Catholic bishop, but had been granted “la secularització”, and that they had now been able to regulate their “canonical situation, get married as we wanted and receive communion again”, making Easter Monday “a day to be reborn like flowers, bud forth like trees and be resurrected”.

The Vicar-General of Solsona diocese, Mgr Marc Majà i Guiu, confirmed that Pope Francis had granted a special dispensation for the wedding when he met the couple in Rome on Palm Sunday, and said most locals had received the news as “just another twist” in the bishop’s story.

“Since he’s renounced his canonical mission, he’s no longer a serving bishop — but his episcopal ministry continues,” Mgr Guiu told the Church Times. “The dispensation given for his sacramental marriage shouldn’t be seen as a major canonical innovation. But it was certainly highly unusual.”

Ordained in 1997 after studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University, in Rome, Novell was nominated Spain’s youngest diocesan bishop, aged 41, by Pope Benedict XVI, in 2010, and combined public support for Catalan independence with a rigorous defence of RC doctrine on abortion, LGBT rights, and other issues.

In August 2021, Solsona diocese announced that Pope Francis, a personal friend, had accepted Novell’s departure “for strictly personal reasons”, after media reports that he had moved in with Caballol, a separated mother of three, who became pregnant again while attending the bishop’s summer confirmation class.

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference confirmed Novell’s “latae sententiae” suspension from sacramental and teaching functions after the couple were married in a civil ceremony in Caballol’s home town of Súria, near Barcelona. Their twin daughters were born in April 2022.

Caballol’s 2017 book, The Hell in Gabriel’s Lust, is described as “a novel of frenzied rawness and intensity . . . shaking our moral system, values and religious beliefs’’, by its publisher, Ediciones Albores-Fco, promising to take the reader through “psychopathy, sects, sadism, madness, and lust”.

Many Spanish commentators have questioned the Pope’s decision to agree to the couple’s public church wedding. In a commentary last week, Radio Catalunya said that Bishop Novell could celebrate his own marriage, but should also apologise for “denying love and marriage to many other people” while he held office, “embodying the darkest, moralistic side of religion”.

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