|Saint Carlos of Brazil|
|Venerated in||by Independent Catholics (including the Communion of Christ the Redeemer) and Old Catholics|
|Feast||July 21 (not celebrated liturgically)|
|Patron saint of||Conscience Freedom, Independent Catholicism|
After ordination as a deacon, Costa served under his uncle, Dom Eduardo, in the Cathedral Church of Uberaba. On May 4, 1911 Costa was ordained to the priesthood at the Cathedral. He then returned to Rome to further his education, and obtained a Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. After returning to Brazil, he worked once again with his uncle Dom Eduardo in Uberaba, as secretary of the diocese. Costa was awarded the title Monsignor for his publication of a catechism for children, and later was named Protonotary Apostolic and General Secretary of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, serving in this capacity until 1923.
On July 4, 1924, Pope Pius XI nominated Costa as Bishop of Botucatu. His episcopal consecration occurred on December 8 of that year, at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, presided over by Sebastian Cardinal Leme da Silveira Cintra.
In 1932 Costa played an active role in the Constitutionalist Revolution, a failed attempt to restore constitutional government to Brazil. Costa formed a "Battalion of the Bishop" to fight on the side of the Constitutionalist troops, and helped finance the rebellion by selling off most of the diocese's assets, along with his own personal possessions. Costa's support for the Constitutionalist Revolution earned him the animosity of President Vargas, signaling the beginning of a long period of rocky relations between Costa and the Brazilian government.
In 1936 Dom Carlos made his second ad limina visit to Rome, meeting with Pope Pius XI in the Vatican. He presented the Pope with a list of quite radical (for the time) requests for the clergy and people of his diocese, including:
These requests were not accepted by the Pope at that time, although twenty-five years later many were implemented by the Second Vatican Council.
In early 1937 President Vargas, fed up with Dom Carlos for his continued public denunciation of the government, petitioned the Holy See for his removal from the Diocese of Botucatu. The Vatican was unwilling to do so directly, so the Apostolic Nuncio in Brazil entered into an agreement with the Secretary of the Diocese of Botucatu to obtain the resignation of Dom Carlos as diocesan bishop. In an act of deception, a resignation letter was placed into a stack of documents which Dom Carlos had to sign in short order. He signed the letter, but upon realizing what had happened, he informed the Holy See that he had signed the document mistakenly without reading it. The Holy See renounced claims that it was a forgery based on statements from the secretary of the diocese, and the resignation was accepted by Pope Pius XI on October 6, 1937.
After the acceptance of his resignation, Dom Carlos was appointed titular bishop of Maura, an extinct diocese in Africa.
Soon, however, Dom Carlos resumed his vocal criticism of the government and the national church administration, which he saw as an accessory to the mistreatment of the poor in Brazil. He openly criticized certain papal periodicals and encyclicals, including Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII), Quadragesimo Anno (Pius XI), and Divini Redemptoris (Pius XI).
In 1942 several priests and nuns of German and Italian ethnicity were arrested in Brazil for operating clandestine radio transmitters, presumably passing information to the German and Italian governments. Costa publicly opined that these individuals were just the tip of the iceberg, and claimed that most German and Italian clergy in Brazil were agents of the German Nazi and Italian Fascist regimes. In light of their allegedly mixed loyalties, Costa called on all German and Italian clergy to resign.
In 1944 he gained further notoriety by writing a glowing preface to the Brazilian translation of The Soviet Power by the Rev. Hewlett Johnson, the Anglican Dean of Canterbury known as 'The Red Dean' for his uncompromising support of the Soviet Union.
As long as he enjoyed the protection of Cardinal Dom Sebastiao Leme da Silveira Cintra, Dom Carlos' political activism proceeded without much trouble. However, soon after the cardinal's death, Dom Carlos was formally accused by the Brazilian government of being a communist sympathizer. He was arrested on June 6, 1944 and imprisoned in Belo Horizonte. The following month the Ecclesiastical Chamber forbade him from preaching or hearing confessions, as punishment for his undisciplined outspokenness. He remained imprisoned until September 6, 1944, when he was released in response to pressure from the embassies of Mexico and the United States on his behalf.
After his release from prison Costa soon found himself in trouble again. This time it was a result of his unsupported accusations that the Vatican Secretariat of State had issued Vatican passports to some high ranking German Nazis, a practice referred to as the Ratlines.
In May 1945 Dom Carlos gave newspaper interviews accusing Brazil's papal nunciate of Nazi-Fascist spying, and accused Rome of having aided and abetted Hitler. In addition, he announced plans to set up his own Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, in which priests would be permitted to marry (and hold regular jobs in the lay world), confessions and rosaries would be abolished, and bishops would be elected by popular vote.
In response to Costa's continued insubordination, the Vatican finally laid against him the penalty of excommunication on July 2, 1945. Upon being informed of his excommunication, Costa responded by saying, "I consider today one of the happiest days of my life." He immediately titled himself "Bishop of Rio de Janeiro" and told the press that he hoped soon to ordain ten married lawyers and professional men as priests in his new church.
After establishing the ICAB, Costa continued to use the same vestments, insignia, and rites as he had in the Catholic Church. This provoked the cardinals of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to appeal to the Minister of Justice and the President himself for an injunction against both him and the ICAB. On September 27, 1948, the ICAB churches were closed by the courts, on the grounds that they were deceiving the public into thinking they were Catholic churches and clergy. Dom Carlos quickly filed an appeal, and in 1949 the Supreme Court ruled that the ICAB could reopen its doors, on condition that the church use a modified liturgy and its clergy wear gray cassocks, to minimize the potential for confusion with Roman Catholics.
With the formation of ICAB, Dom Carlos implemented a number of reforms of what he saw as problems in the Roman Catholic Church. Clerical celibacy was abolished. Rules for the reconciliation of divorced persons were implemented. The liturgy was translated into the vernacular, and in emulation of a short-lived experiment in France, clergy were expected to live and work amongst the people, and support themselves and their ministries, by holding secular employment. Within a short time ICAB began to be identified as “The Church of the Poor”.
Shortly after founding the church Dom Carlos consecrated two more bishops, Salomão Barbosa Ferraz (August 15, 1945), and Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez (May 3, 1948). These three bishops went on to establish similar autonomous Catholic Apostolic National Churches in several other Latin American countries. Dom Carlos served as consecrator or co-consecrator of eleven additional bishops, each of whom took a leadership role in either the Brazilian church or one of the other national churches.
Dom Carlos served as leader of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church and its international affiliates for sixteen years until his death in 1961, by which time the church in Brazil is said to have grown to 60,000 members.
The bishops consecrated by Costa went on to consecrate dozens of additional bishops, many of whom had only tenuous relationships with the Brazilian church. Bishops tracing their apostolic succession back to Costa have formed numerous other independent catholic denominations in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America, most of which have no formal ties to the Brazilian church.