SOLSONA, Spain (LifeSiteNews) —The sudden resignation of Xavier Novell Gomà, the promising young Bishop of Solsona in Spain, has set off a shockwave of commentary the world over.
Conservative Catholics remarked on the fact that Pope Francis immediately accepted Bishop Novell’s “spontaneous” offer to step down, underscoring that he was known for his anti “LGBT” statements and for his support of reparative therapy for homosexuals. Novell had indeed been under pressure from gay activist groups and progressive circles within the Spanish clergy.
But it has now emerged that Bishop Novell, 52, decided to step down as bishop on August 23 in order to move in with Silvia Caballol, 38, a psychologist who has written books about satanism and erotic novels.
Caballol’s editor describes her as “a dynamic and transgressive author who was won her place in the literary world by turning all our moral and ethical considerations upside down.”
According to reports in local media in the autonomous region of Catalonia, where Novell was known for his support for political separatist groups seeking to break away from Spain, he is currently looking for a job as an agricultural engineer in locations close to his family home in Urgell.
While local clergy as well as the Bishops’ Conference of Spain has refused to comment on the precise reasons for Novell’s resignation, it soon transpired that he no longer wanted to continue in his priestly functions.
“I’ve fallen in love, and I want to do things properly,” Novell is alleged to have said privately as an explanation for his unexpected resignation, according to journalist Jesús Bastante of the progressivist Catholic news site ReligionDigital. Bastante quoted several sources from the diocese of Solsona.
The media proceeded to investigate the allegations and came up with information about Silvia Caballol. Unconfirmed reports state that Caballol was approached to give either lectures about satanism or leadership courses in the diocese of Solsona, where Novell was the exorcist. Whether this is true or not, Novell did have the opportunity to meet the divorced mother-of-two, whose husband was Moroccan, and who specializes in clinical psychology, sexology, anti-stress techniques, and yoga, as well as in courses on Catholicism and Islam.
The former bishop is alleged to have told a friend: “For the first time, I have fallen in love with a woman.”
The story was brought to the public eye by an Argentinian nun now living in Spain who writes for ReligionDigital, Sor Lucia. She is a friend of Pope Francis, whom she knew as Cardinal Bergoglio, and visited him this summer in Rome.
A firm supporter of the pontiff, Sor Lucia quoted reports saying that Novell actually underwent reparative therapy himself, and added that he had formerly actively campaigned together with LGBT activists before his own “conversion.” Many Spanish media have criticized Novell for having organized “conversion therapy” with a conservative Catholic group, “Verdad y Libertad” (“Truth and Freedom”) which some allege has the support of other conservative bishops, also.
Jesús Bastante doubled down on Sor Lucia’s allegations on September 7 in ReligionDigital under the headline: “Bishop Novell underwent sexual conversion therapies.” Bastante cited another man who told ReligionDigital that he had witnessed this when he himself was participating in sessions.
According to “Jordi” (a fictitious name), “Novell embarked on the course at the end of 2018, and completed it by the beginning of 2020.”
Was Novell struggling with homosexual attraction? Was he in fact liberated from that attraction through his “conversion therapy,” leading to struggles with chastity regarding the opposite sex?
Jordi said Novell was very “committed” to the group led by Miguel Angel Sánchez Cordón, a pediatrician close to the Focolare Movement, who founded “Verdad y Libertad” in 2013. According to Spanish sources, two seminarians for whom Novell was responsible also followed reparative therapies in the group, roughly during the same period, which raises questions about his leadership: one would have thought this need would have led him to reject these candidates to the priesthood from the seminary.
“Verdad y Libertad” was condemned as a “cult” and disowned in July by the Congregation for the Clergy, which has been active lately in censuring reparative therapies.
Novell, who became Spain’s youngest bishop in 2010, was outspoken about the sinfulness of homosexual acts. However, he is also known for having posted pictures of girls in miniskirts on the internet after complaining that they had come to their Confirmation wearing inappropriate clothes. He called legal abortion and euthanasia forms of “genocide” and defined himself as “orthodox, papist, and conservative,” saying “we are the sons of tradition.” At the same time, he added that “if wanting to innovate, to account for the faith of today in a new way, is to be a progressive, I am that too.”
This raises another question: exactly how conservative and orthodox was Xavier Novell? It seems quite clear that his resignation was not eagerly accepted or even triggered by Rome because of his “rigidity.”
However, according to the Spanish press, the bishop who was expected to make fast progress in the Catholic hierarchy because of his “charm” and early rise to the episcopate was in fact never promoted away from the small diocese of Solsona and was not much of a favorite in his region, and the situation got even worse with the election of liberal Pope Francis.
But all local reports stress how fundamentally unstable Novell appears to be.
During his seminary years, the future bishop joined the “Concilio de la Tarraconense”, which was formed in the summer of 1995 at the request of the Conference of the Catalan Bishops to delve deeper into the propositions of the Second Vatican Council. Seminarian Novell vocally campaigned for making priestly celibacy “optional.” He was also in favor of women priests and for the systematic replacement of personal confession by collective absolution. Novell added that religious celebrations in Rome seemed to him to be “lengthy, heavy, and too elaborate.”
Nevertheless, Novell was ordained two years later and sent to Rome by his bishop to pursue his training. His thesis supervisor was a Jesuit, Luis Ladaria, the future cardinal who is now Prefect of the Congregation for the Faith. It was at this time that Xavier Novell “converted,” proclaiming the traditional teachings of the Church in the moral field, and holding that homosexuality was linked to the absence of a father figure.
His fickleness was further demonstrated in the political field where he shifted away from being a staunch opponent of clerical involvement in Catalan separatist movements, teaching in 2013 that the Church should be neither “españolista” – in line with proponents of a united Spain – nor “independentist,” campaigning for the independence of Catalonia.
Thus, Novell barred the priests of the diocese of Solsona from ringing church-bells to support “Catalunya” during the “Day for Independence” in 2014. But by 2017, he was encouraging his flock to vote for separatist candidates in the locally organized referendum that would later be declared unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Tribunal. He also used the image of the “Virgin of the Cloister” in Solsona in order to call the Catalan region “occupied and oppressed.” Recently the Papal Nuncio formally ordered Novell no longer to take part in the political debate.
In 2013, during traditional festivities in the Catalan town of Berga, the popular “Patum” which originated in medieval theatricals centuries ago, Novell surprised onlookers not only by joining the procession, but by choosing to disguise himself as a devil instead of heading it as bishop.
At the time Novell said it was a “pending assignment” he had accepted fifteen years previously when accompanying the then-vicar of Berga to the same popular feast (perhaps as a bet or a joke). He explained that he loves such festivities and, recognizing that no bishop had ever joined them in such a way, added that he was “a bishop who breaks molds in too many things.”
“Surely in certain times it would have been unthinkable,” he said.
Thus, Novell showed himself to be a conservative, but only up to a point and only in certain periods of his life.
Now the press is full of conjectures about Novell’s stepping down, suggesting that he has fallen victim to a “mid-life crisis.” Some even say that local clergy have called him “possessed.”
But the defining trait of his personality appears to be a profound instability rather than a convinced attachment to traditional teachings.
Catholic liberals in Spain are celebrating Novell’s choice, with one columnist for ReligionDigital suggesting that the woman in his life is his “mid-life God”; a possible “way of conversion to the Gospel.”
“Perhaps a mature and married Xavier could in the end be a good bishop,” Xabier Pikaza wrote.
Another slammed the “possession” theory, writing a lengthy reflection about how everything related to “demons,” “Satan” and the casting out of evil spirits in the Bible were in no way related to the revelation of God to Israel but picked up during the exile in Babylon. He also said the idea of hell is incompatible with the existence of God.
Far from being wiped off the board as a conservative, Novell is already being used to promote the most progressive theories in the Church.