Top clergy put on spot by sex allegation

The Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica is facing another sex crisis, and observers can be forgiven for not fully understanding the evolving religious philosophy.

Directed by the current pope, Frances, the church is modifying its official view on homosexuality. But the philosophy still is in flux.

The Spanish-language newspaper La Nación broke the story that the archdiocese spokesman on family stands accused of engaging in gay sex himself.  Church leaders here are taking delicate steps.

The archbishop, José Rafael Quirós, held a press conference Tuesday in which he and two other priests confirmed that Mauricio Víquez has been suspended from his priestly duties pending an investigation.

Víquez is the man who would argue the church’s point of view on television debates with members of gay rights groups. It was one such group that leveled the allegation against the priest and produced a 29 year old who said he was the second half of the couple.

There are no allegations of involvement with a minor.  The man, identified by the last name of  Castro by La Nación, said he was 18 when he began a relationship with the priest. So there is no law enforcement involvement. Castor has made the rounds of the major television stations and said he did not know initially that Víquez was a priest.

Such child sex cases have been epidemic in Europe and the Americas. One Costa Rican priest accused of such behavior had fled the country, and one U.S. priest came to Costa Rica under a cloud of suspicion.

Sex allegations came into the news 16 years ago when popular radio priest Minor Calvo was found by a police patrol in a car in darkened La Sabana park. Calvo said he was giving the minor who accompanied him driving lessons.  The situation mushroomed into a murder and fraud trial when hitmen gunned down the radio reporter who revealed the incident and also financial improprieties at Calvo’s Radio María station. Judges jailed Calvo for fraud but not murder.

As the church spokesman,  Víquez had been active as a lobbyist, too, promoting the church position on invitro fertilization, gay marriage and other issues at the legislature.

Spokesmen for gay rights organizations say they have a handful of other cases of supposedly celibate priests being involved in homosexual relationships.

In recognition of the position of the Vatican, local church leaders cannot condemn homosexuality and are chalking up priestly transgressions to the fragility of humans.

Celibacy of Catholic clergy stems from the evangelist called Paul the Apostle. Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, was not really a member of the group that surrounded Jesus Christ. He arrived on the scene later but was forceful in promoting the new religion. He is known for the letters he wrote to young church congregations that have found their way into the New Testament of the Bible.

Paul practiced celibacy and was accompanied on his travels by a woman who did the same, perhaps the first Christian nun. He characterized celibacy as a state higher than that of marriage.

Some historians say that the church did not enforce celibacy of priests until the 11th and 12th centuries when the concern was more about protecting church property from inheritance by legal offspring.

Orthodox Christians do not practice celibacy, but they respect the biblical injunction that a bishop must be unmarried.

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