The Catholic Archbishop of Paraiba, Brazil, has suspended a priest for comments endorsing contraceptive use and condemning "discrimination" against homosexuals, as well as the Catholic Church’s requirement of celibacy for priests.
Father Luiz Couto, who occupies a seat in the Brazilian National Congress in violation of Church law, told the news website Congress in Focus that the Vatican’s condemnation of contraceptive use is "a sign of retreat," in the words of the publication.
"I defend the use of the condom as a matter of public health," Couto told the newspaper, and also stated his support for a proposed "homophobia" law that would prohibit criticism of homosexual behavior and require that all organizations open to the public accept homosexuals as members. "We must struggle day by day against prejudice and intolerance," said Couto.
Archbishop Aldo Pagotto, leader of the diocese to which Couto is attached as a priest, denounced the statements as "intolerable."
"As the head of the Archdiocese of Paraiba, I have the grave obligation of suspending [Couto] from the use his orders in our ecclesiastical jurisdiction, because of his summary statements, which provoke confusion among the Christian faithful as long as they are not retracted explicitly, and are contrary … to the doctrinal, ethical, and moral orientations held by the Catholic Church," wrote the Archbishop in a formal announcement of the suspension.
The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual desires are intrinsically disordered and that homosexual sexual acts are serious sins. It also teaches that the use of artificial contraception is unnatural and intrinsically evil.
However, despite their basis in Church teaching, liberal Bishop Emeritus of Goias, Tomas Balduino, publicly condemned Archbishop Pagotto’s actions and expressed support for Fr. Couto.
"He [Fr. Couto] is not an isolated voice and has the sincerity to say what he thinks," Balduino told Congress in Focus. The publication claimed that the "positions defended by Luiz Cuoto have been debated in the Church for a long time." The bishop was also quoted as saying the priest is "a man of merit, respected, taken very seriously."
The president of Brazil’s Labor Party, of which Couto is a member, also issued a statement of "complete support" for Couto, and calling him a "tireless defender of the rights of humanity, of citizenship, and of social justice."
Following the suspension, Fr. Couto issued a statement further detailing his opposition to all "discrimination" against homosexuals, and claiming that the Church’s teaching on birth control is a "moral ideal" that contrasts with "reality." The Archdiocese of Paraiba has not yet given a response.