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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of the Spanish Bishop of Solsona, known for his previous stand against homosexuality and his support of Catalonian independence. 

On August 23, Pope Francis publicly accepted the resignation of the 52-year-old Bishop of Solsona diocese, Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, after the bishop had reportedly spent a “period of reflection, discernment and prayer” regarding his future and then “spontaneously” offered his resignation to the Pope. 

With the see now vacant, Pope Francis has appointed as Apostolic Administrator Bishop Romà Casanova, the current Bishop of Vic. 

In a brief statement about the resignation, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Spain stated that Bishop Gomà had offered his resignation for “strictly personal reasons” and that he did so under the conditions of Canon 401 §2 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law. 

Canon 401 §2 reads: “A diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.” No further details were given about the nature of what led Bishop Gomà to invoke this section of canon law. 

However, some media outlets have suggested that the Pope accepted the bishop’s resignation after pressure from LGBT groups in Spain. Catholic Sat wrote on Twitter: “Pope Francis has today accepted the resignation of Mons. Xavier Novell Gomà, 52, as Bishop of Solsona, Spain. This comes after months of pressure from LGBTQ groups in Spain, after the Bishop said sodomy is a crime and that abortion is a genocide akin to the Holocaust.” 

Eric Sammons, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine, responded to the news of Gomà’s resignation being quickly accepted by the Pope, writing: “Personnel is policy: if you want to know the policy of the pope and the Vatican, pay attention to who gets promoted, who gets removed, and why.”

Media controversy over homosexuality and Catalonia

Bishop Gomà, consecrated bishop in 2010 aged only 41, was one of the country’s youngest bishops and garnered considerable criticism in the media for his comments about homosexuality.  

In May of 2017, the prelate had commented that “homosexuality can be related to an absent and distant father figure,” a phrase he drew from Pope Francis’s controversial apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia. 

“I wonder if the growing phenomenon of confusion in the sexual orientation of many adolescent boys is not due to the fact that in Western culture, the father figure is symbolically absent, deviant, vanished. Even virility seems to be questioned,” stated Gomà. 

He was subsequently declared “persona non grata” by the local mayor for his “scandalous statements in which he links homosexuality with the absence of the father figure in children.” 

Some days later, May 28, Gomà had to leave church with a police escort, as LGBT activists organized a protest against him, as the group Colors de Ponent LGTBIQ de Lleida declared they would “not tolerate” the bishop’s comments. 

On June 1, 2017, the bishop then published a note online, apologizing to “any parents who have been hurt,” saying that he had not wished to offend anyone. Gomà added he “did not exclusively or directly link homosexuality and the absence of the father figure.” 

However, he noted that the delay in issuing a response was due to seeing “nothing to rectify” and remaining unperturbed by “political threats.” His motive for publicly responding to the criticism he faced was due only to a concern he had that some “felt hurt or blamed,” adding that “the accusations of homophobia” against him were “false.”  

The bishop also stated that he would continue to defend the “the right of pastors of the Church to teach Catholic doctrine, protected by freedom of expression and religious freedom.”  

“For this reason, let no one doubt that I will continue to fearlessly present the Christian vision of the person and the moral consequences that follow,” he said.  

Bishop Gomà also made headlines for his support of Catalonian independence, writing in 2017 that “It is not fair that we be denied and impeded the exercise of self-determination.” 

This self-determination is “is an inalienable right of every nation; a great social majority wants to exercise it, and it was the first point of the electoral programs of the political parties that won the last regional elections,” he wrote. 

In 2014, Gomà had also called on voters to ensure that any vote on Catalonian independence “meets the elements that the doctrine of the Church indicates for the reality of a nation: culture, language and history.” Bishop Gomà’s comments prompted backlash from Spanish prelate Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Valencia, the former Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. 

The cardinal declared he was “hurt” by the backing of independence from many Catalan clergy, stating “No one can claim a church basis for secessionism.” 

While Gomà’s resignation under “personal reasons” has been accepted by Pope Francis, the move is in stark contrast to the Pontiff’s rejection of German Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s proffered resignation earlier this year.

In May 2021, the 67-year-old prelate wrote to the Pope, referencing his “personal failures” and “administrative mistakes,” as well as “an institutional or ‘systematic’ failure” in handling clerical sex abuse cases in Germany. 

German daily newspaper Die Welt called the resignation a “humility maneuver” prompted by the fact that Marx would soon be facing further accusations of mishandling the sex abuse crisis. 

However, Pope Francis did not accept Marx’s resignation, saying he was “confirming your mission and not accepting your resignation” and thanked Marx for his “Christian courage which is not afraid of the cross and which does not shy away from humbling itself in the face of the reality of sin.” Both Pope Francis and Cardinal Marx have been accused of misconduct with regard to sex abuse cases.