The controversy starring the already emeritus bishop of Solsona monopolizes the news, although the surprise is not reduced by the passage of time. On the contrary, it grows without stopping. His resignation as prelate, the lack of explanations and his disappearance have opened Pandora’s box of rumors. Since Religión Digital announced that Xavier Novell abandoned his vocation after falling in love with a woman, all kinds of theories have happened. From the “strictly personal reasons” adduced by the diocese as the only official explanation, to a bizarre thesis that points out that Pope Francis himself would have asked Novell to exorcise himself to avoid the ‘temptation’ of a woman (to make matters worse, author of erotic and satanic novels) that would have subjected him.
Meanwhile, Novell has completely disappeared. He has changed his phone number, has not answered e-mail or has contacted anyone since last week he called some friends to explain that he had fallen in love. Some sources suggest that he would be looking for work in the Manresa area as an agricultural engineer, but silence and perplexity are the norm in the diocese, and in the Episcopal Conference: many bishops found out from the press of the prelate’s departure, that he met with Pope Francis before deciding to resign, and that he could have started his secularization process directly at the Vatican.
Along with all this, elDiario.es has had access to the testimonies of several victims of ‘reversal therapies’ of sexuality, who assure that Xavier Novell not only endorsed such practices, but also received’ courses’ to ‘normalize ‘his sexuality until he was reprimanded by the Vatican. Not only that: some witnesses implicate other bishops as promoters of associations such as ‘Truth and Freedom’, whose work has been banned in Spain by the Holy See. The names of Munilla, Reig, Arturo Ros (auxiliary bishop of Valencia) or Javier Martínez (archbishop of Granada) appear in a report that, last April, debated the Episcopal Conference, and that the magazine advanced a few weeks ago New life.
And it is that seminaries, congregations, movements and parishes have become over recent years a fishing ground for candidates willing to ‘cure’ their homosexuality, who would reach the hands of Truth and Freedom through word of mouth from colleagues, spiritual directors or related psychologists. A small group of bishops (the aforementioned) would have collaborated in their retreats, sharing their testimony and referring young people and adults.
“We shouldn’t have known much about him”
Jordi (not his real name), one of the victims of the association, maintains that “at the end of 2018, Novell began the itinerary on a personal level, finishing it at the beginning of 2020.” Some courses promoted by Truth and Freedom, which intended – and intends – to ‘cure’ homosexuality, and which has been the subject of an investigation by the Congregation for the Clergy. The prelate, says Jordi, who cites the Vatican report, would have experienced “the path of healing” and proclaimed his experience in different forums, showing the “need to reaffirm his heterosexuality.”
“As he was a bishop and we should not know much about him, a special group was created for him, with Miguel Ángel Sánchez Cordón and Lourdes Yllán (identified by the investigations as leaders of Truth and Freedom). The rest of us were totally dependent and vulnerable. Novell was a great pillar in the group. ” So much so, points out another of those affected, that the bishop of Solsona came to officiate the wedding of one of the members, who had ‘abandoned’ his homosexuality, in Madrid. A ceremony that would have occurred without the knowledge of the couple’s parents. Recently, he celebrated a mass for the group in a parish in Torrent (Valencia).
Jordi came into contact with the group “through a priest of the Neocatechumenal Way”, who convinced him that “what I feel is not natural or true”, and recommended therapy. In the groups, “there are older brothers, subjects and servants of the leader, who obey him in everything.” Novell would be part of the group of older brothers.
“Aggressive, destructive” therapies
What are these ‘therapies’ like in which, according to the victims, Novell also participated? “Aggressive, destructive, where you transform into a dependent being, where if they can’t with you they take you to the psychiatrist. They destroy families, they make you say that you are gay to everyone and that you are going to heal, when that is not true, It’s a big lie. They apply desert punishments, leave you alone, mock, destroy in the group, they want to make you believe that your inner child is working, “explains Jordi.
One of the founders and former member of ‘Truth and Freedom’, Alberto Pérez, suggests that the association “found support in Novell: in Solsona masses, congresses, camps, talks and weddings were held for boys who said they had overcome homosexuality and they married girls. ”
A good part of the so-called ‘therapies’ are developed, according to Jordi, between Granada and Valencia. In fact, the victims contacted by elDiario.es point at least to their consent on the part of the Archbishop of Granada, Javier Martínez; and the auxiliary bishop of Valencia, Arturo Ros. In turn, they highlight the responsibility of other prelates, such as Juan Antonio Reig or José Ignacio Munilla. Almost all of them, at some recent moment, have had responsibilities in youth ministry or defense of life in the Spanish Episcopate.
“Novell and other bishops were Michelangelo’s puppets [Sánchez Cordón] that he only sought the approval of the Church, and the declaration of Truth and Freedom as a Private Association of the Faithful, “says Jordi. No bishop ever did so, but both” Novell and the Archbishop of Granada are at his hand. Munilla attended a meeting, and Ros is aware of everything, “says the victim. At least two seminarians from Solsona, and one from Valencia, followed these therapies.
The whole strategy breaks down when the association goes to see Cardinal Stella, appointed by the Pope in 2014. “Stella listens to them, but also to the victims.” It is then that he orders a report to the Episcopal Conference, prepared by a Jesuit, which is debated in the Plenary last November. “Some bishops like Novell, jump like a wolf against the report”, comment ecclesial sources. Since then, Truth and Freedom has operated under other names, “where they recruit priests and young people,” explains one of the victims.
After hearing the report, the Pope specifically ordered these bishops to stop. Some prelates, to this day, remain unaware. Novell’s case was much more serious. During the conversations, the prelate would have confessed to the Pope that he wanted to leave the priesthood and marry a woman. From that moment on, Rome made things easy for him, even the possibility of choosing how to say goodbye. Although the Vatican (and Cardinal Omella, knowledgeable about the process) would have preferred a public explanation, as required by the clergy and faithful of Solsona. Novell chose to disappear.
The complaints are beginning to be referred to associations such as No es Terapia, the Spanish Association against Conversion Therapies, which is working with the Ministry of Equality on the draft of the LGTBI Law to ensure that the rights of these victims are guaranteed, and to get these practices criminalized. Something complicated to date, because most of those who have participated in these therapies do not want to be visible.
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