Duarte Costa

Carlos Duarte Costa

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Saint Carlos of Brazil
Bishop
Born 1888
Died 1961
Canonized 1970
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
Carlos Duarte Costa (July 21, 1888March 26, 1961) was the founder and first patriarch of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church and its international extension, the Worldwide Communion of Catholic Apostolic National Churches. A former Roman Catholic bishop, he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII for doctrinal and canonical issues (such as clerical celibacy). Duarte Costa has been canonized as "St. Carlos of Brazil" by the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.

Early life and ministry

Carlos Duarte Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro on July 21, 1888 at the residence of his uncle (later Bishop) Eduardo Duarte da Silva. The son of Joao Matta Francisco Costa and Maria Carlota Duarte da Silva Costa, he received a devout Catholic upbringing. At age nine he received his first communion in the Cathedral of Uberaba, from the hands of his uncle (now Bishop) Dom Eduardo Duarte da Silva. That same year he was taken by his uncle to Rome to study at the Pontificio Collegio Pio Latino Americano, a Jesuit-run minor seminary. In 1905 he returned to Brazil for health reasons, and entered an Augustinian seminary in Uberaba, where he completed his Philosophical and Theological studies.

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.

Attempts at church and societal reform

In the 1930s Costa became deeply involved in the social and political changes taking place in Brazil. Brazil's economy had collapsed in 1929 as a result of the Great Depression, and a populist military regime had taken over the government in 1930. Led by Getulio Vargas, the new government had an erratic policy record in its early years, sometimes anti-clerical and anti-aristocratic, sometimes swinging the opposite direction. In 1932 Costa became a leading spokesmen for the Catholic Electoral League, which was organized by the Church to lobby for Christian principles in the laws and acts of the Government.

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:

  • celebration of the Mass and administration of the sacraments in the vernacular language;
  • permission for clergy to marry;
  • the abolition of auricular confession, replacing it with general or communal confession and absolution;
  • distribution of Holy Communion to the laity under both kinds (i.e., bread and wine);
  • institution of the permanent diaconate for married persons;
  • celebration of the Mass "versus populi" (facing the people) with the priest behind the altar;
  • creation of a Council of Advice, composed of bishops who would govern the Church together with the Pope;
  • participation of laypersons in the administration of the Word, of the Eucharist, and in evangelization.

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.

Bishop of Maura

After his "forced resignation", Dom Carlos left the diocesan quarters but remained in Rio de Janeiro as Bishop Emeritus of Botucatu and titular Bishop of Maura. He obtained the support of a protector, Cardinal Dom Sebastiao Leme da Silveira Cintra, who granted permission for him to keep a private chapel, as well as faculties to preside over marriage, celebrate masses, and administer the sacrament of Confirmation in parishes where he was invited by the respective priests. At this time he established the magazine Nossos ("Ours") as a vehicle to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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.

Excommunication

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.

Founding of ICAB

A few days after learning of his excommunication, Dom Carlos established the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB). Its articles of incorporation were published in the federal register on July 25, and the church was legally registered as a civil society. On August 18, 1945 Dom Carlos published a "Manifesto to the Nation", in which he again criticized the Roman Catholic Church and promoted his new national Church. Although he had already been excommunicated, on July 24, 1946 he was declared "excommunicado vitando", that is, excommunicated to the severest degree that exists. This was the final decree and was intended to prevent Catholics from having anything to do with him whatsoever.

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.

Death and legacy

Dom Carlos Duarte Costa died on March 26, 1961 (Palm Sunday) in Rio de Janeiro at 73 years of age. At that time, the ICAB had 50 priests and 37 bishops, with many of the congregations meeting in private homes.

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.

On July 4, 1970 the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church acknowledged Dom Carlos' work for the poor and the church by granting him the title “Saint Carlos of Brazil."

See also

References

External links

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