Fr. Roberto Francisco Daniel resigned from his priestly duties after the Diocese of Bauru, Brazil, requested that he retract statements made in a YouTube video that support equal rights for gay and lesbian people. Now, the Diocese of Bauru has excommunicated him with charges of “heresy” and “schism” for refusing to remove the video and apologize.
The video and the priest’s decision to resign were reported on by Gay Star News:
“‘For me it has become impossible to live the Gospel in an institution where freedom of thought and freedom of expression are not respected.’
“Known affectionately as ‘Father Beto’, to his parishioners, the former priest announced on a YouTube video that the Church should accept all loving relationships.
‘We should simply be considered as gendered beings and not as “homosexuals” or “bisexuals” since love can spring at all these levels,’ said Father Beto in his video.
The community’s response to Fr. Beto’s resignation has been one of overwhelming support. Over a thousand people gathered for his farewell Mass last Sunday, with those in attendance flowing into the streets as the priest preached his last homily, which focused on the theme of acceptance. He left the church to applause, tears, and continued support, and later posted on social media:
“‘Jesus loved all human beings without prejudice. He loved them all, regardless of their social status, race, or sexuality.’
“‘I feel honored to be on the list of the many persons who have been killed or burned alive for thinking and seeking knowledge. I’m grateful to the Diocese of Bauru.'”
Fr. Beto is a well-known author and media personality in Brazil and taught in higher education, in addition to fourteen years of priestly ministry in the local community. Yet, interestingly in the case of his excommunication, the priest is suffering due to his digital presence. The blog Iglesia Descalza reports on the novel combination of social media and unorthodox opinions:
“In the end, however, it was his Internet presence that brought Padre Beto’s career as a priest to a close. Like any modern priest in touch with the younger generation, Padre Beto has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and his own web site. In the videos he posted on his web site, Padre Beto expressed views such as those quoted above…
“In his statement on his intent to resign from the priesthood, Padre Beto added: ‘I sincerely hope that the Church will once again be, as it was in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, a Church in which all its members have the right to think and express themselves freely, creating true communion in faith in Christ. I also hope that the Church will be open to scientific development and the new realities that we are experiencing in our contemporary society so that it (the Church) doesn’t commit injustice and isn’t an obstacle to human happiness.'”
It appears that Fr. Beto is not only ahead of the hierarchy in reaching out across the internet, but also about confronting the modern realities that science, psychology, and society bring to the conversation on LGBT issues. New Ways Ministry applauds him for his courage in following conscience and seeking truth, even in the face of such punishments.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry