The Catholic Church was not impervious to the sexual revolution and the theories of community life of the 70s. In Spain there were some experiments that led to the foundation of lay associations led by priests who explored new precepts, sometimes in the limit of what Catholic doctrine allowed. One of them was the Seminari Poble de Déu (SPD), founded in 1977 by the secular Francesc Casanovas Martí and approved that year by the archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Narcís Jubany. An experience of mixed community life close to the ideas new age and that it was based on the investigation of the relationship between man and woman. It lasted 40 years. Until April 15, 2017, when the archbishop of Barcelona, Cardinal Juan José Omella, signed the decree of dissolution of the group. The Vatican subsequently requested an investigation and forced the trial of 17 priests and two secular women implicated in sectarian practices and alleged sexual relations between men and women with ramifications in at least five dioceses: Barcelona, Vic, Tarragona, Lleida and Seu d'Urgell .
The canonical court of Vic, where the complaint originated and the ecclesiastical tribunal has been formed, has suspended the 17 priests in a precautionary manner, as confirmed by the bishopric to this newspaper, until the process ends. There is no such precedent in the number of priests involved in a canonical case in Spain. According to sources in the investigation of the case, the investigation has detected anomalies of "pseudo-mystical theories", a term used by the Vatican's monitoring bodies to refer to sectarian practices, and even to allow the practice of sex without considering it sinful. The bishopric of Vic, to questions of this newspaper, summarizes: "The members would have shared some theories and behaviors presumably of pseudo-mystical character, fruit of the extravagant ideas inculcated by their founder".
The process has created tensions in the Catalan Church: the accused are divided into several dioceses and three bishops have chosen to protect them and not to accept their suspensions. The two dioceses that have taken the initiative in the case, Barcelona and Vic, have suspended four priests and one deacon. In Vic the group had an old convent that was put on sale for 4.8 million euros after the dissolution. But instead, the bishop of Tarragona, Jaume Pujol; the one from Lleida, Salvador Giménez; and Joan-Enric Vives, of La Seu d'Urgell, have ignored the court. These priests continue to exercise their ministry there. Pujol resigned last February after controversial statements who exonerated priests of his diocese accused of pedophilia. He said they had a "bad time" and that they were not expelled because "it was not serious enough to secularize them." However, the bishopric decoupled the decision of that controversy and explained that it was bound by reasons of age, upon reaching 75 years.
"Precautionary measures are imposed because there are indications that they could be a danger to society. It is irresponsible not to apply them, "say sources who investigate the case. However, the bishopric of Vic stresses that the presumption of innocence of the accused must be respected and that not all are implicated to the same extent.
In Tarragona, which hosted one of the most important branches of the organization and where the group managed to get the bishop to hand over to them in 2008 the management of the Serra de Montblanc Sanctuary, two of the group's outstanding priests, Pere Fibla and Xabier Segura, continue to exercise , plus a deacon. In Lleida three continue and in La Seu d'Urgell, four, as confirmed by Fibla himself (they also managed the Sanctuary of Núria and had a house in Camprodón). The bishopric of Tarragona is the only one of the three that has responded to this newspaper: consider that these priests are not suspended. Those of Lleida and La Seu D'Urgell have not wanted to explain. "These bishops have not applied the precautionary measures because they believe that they would do more harm than good, they do not believe they are necessary. The court asks for the measures, but it is the bishop who decides. We obey them and continue to work in the Church, "Fibla explains in a telephone conversation. Xabier Segura also confirms that he is not suspended: "We continue with our work and we will do what they tell us".
The case began in July 2013, when the Bishop of Vic, Romà Casanova, after years of receiving information about an association that everyone knew about, decided to open an investigation. The anomalies discovered led to an attempt to correct that failed. The huge one made by the diocesan visitor Germán Arana and the evidences found led to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the organ of the Vatican that watches over the fulfillment of the doctrine, authorized the dissolution and requested the trial in Vic. There were elements for consider that the doctrine had been "seriously" altered. From the Holy See, where this case has been worrying for years, the proportionality of the sentence will be monitored, if it arrives, and the resource will be piloted.
The cause affects other dioceses, that of Valledupar, in Colombia, where some of the priests were incardinated, and Cologne, in Germany, since some lay member is from that country. At the time of the dissolution, the Seminari had about 80 members. In total, a hundred people have passed through the group. The reasons for the measure, according to a report that was entrusted to the rector of the faculty of theology of Catalonia, Joan Planelles, and part of which this newspaper has had access, were "the incompatibility of the doctrine that was taught with the Catholic." "It was intended to have discovered and announced a new stage or revelation that would imply a misrepresentation of the man-woman affectivity among the Christian faithful, marked by the confusion between sin and concupiscence, and exemplified in the inverse sublimation of some peculiar graces and strange to the Catholic tradition that would manifest themselves definitively in certain members of the community, seen as icons of this new stage of the Church. There was the danger of a Gnostic derivation of the association, with some elements new age and esoteric visions of the Catholic faith. "
A description, in short, close to a sect where the boundaries between what is or is not sin would not be too clear. Sources close to the case explain it this way: "It was a theology of thanks. According to what they were promulgating, God would distribute special graces to some members of this sectarian group that would allow them to have sex, even free, that would not cause remorse of conscience because it is not considered sin. The testimony of people who left the group talks about sexual practices. "
A former member of the Seminari, who does not want to be identified and knows some complainants, believes that the problems began after the founder's death in 2002. He confirms that these people "have left because they have had a bad time, they have had painful experiences and psychological suffering, they considered that it was not Christian ".
Pere Fibla and Xabier Segura, two of the priests who ran the Seminari and who continue to practice in towns in Tarragona, do not want to talk about the case because they believe that it is not the right time, because there is a process under way, and they should be respectful. But they do reject the most serious accusations: "What came out in the press when the dissolution was announced was all false, deformed, defamatory. I categorically deny that there was any sex, "says Fibla.
This priest lived in the monastery of Montblanc, given by the bishop of Tarragona when the Clarisas nuns left after seven centuries of presence. I was in charge of a community of a dozen lay people, men and women. Spanish, Colombian and one German. The neighbors of the town comment that there were never complaints, although they indicate that there was not much relation with them. In Solivella, a small town of 600 inhabitants where it is now, two elderly women claim that it is a great priest.
Fibla does not hide his grief: "It was a pity, in all this there could have been more dialogue, for the progress of the Church. It has been a very deep pain, but in the history of the Church there has been no new reality that has not suffered. It happened, for example, to Teresa of Jesus. We will obey what the Church says, as we have always done, working with enthusiasm. It has been a surprising situation for people who dedicate themselves to the service of others. We have not had a single complaint from anyone in 40 years in Catalonia. Sooner or later the truth will come to light. "
Xabier Segura, now in Alcover, attributes the accusations to "personal relationship issues, complicated, delicate, which exists as in all human groups, due to incomprehension, envy."