Diocese announces sanctions on Spanish bishop who attempted marriage

Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà, Bishop Emeritus of Solsona. | Conferencia Episcopal Española via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The apostolic administrator of Solsona announced Saturday that the diocese’s former bishop, Xavier Novell i Gomà, had incurred suspension when he attempted marriage last month.

Bishop Novell, 52, attempted marriage with Sílvia Caballol i Clemente, herself a divorcee, Nov. 22, in a civil ceremony.

“From the very moment that Bishop Xavier Novell i Gomà contracted a civil marriage” he was “prohibited from all acts of the powers of Orders, acts of the powers of governance and the exercise of all the rights and functions inherent to the episcopal office,” Bishop Romà Casanova i Casanova of Vic, apostolic administrator of Solsona, wrote Dec. 11.

He noted that the Code of Canon Law provides that “a cleric who attempts marriage, even if only civilly, incurs a latae sententiae suspension.”

The existing sanctions on Bishop Novell do not exclude "other possible consequences that could canonically follow," Bishop Casanova added.

Bishop Casanova indicated that the sanctions imposed on Bishop Novell mean that "although maintaining his state as a bishop, he cannot perform any of the functions that derive from that state."

"Among others, the administration of the sacraments and any teaching activity, both public and private, is prohibited," he said.

Those who are in holy orders invalidly attempt marriage, as do those bound by the bond of a prior marriage. A cleric who attempts marriage can be punished, even by dismissal from the clerical state.

Bishop Novell resigned Aug. 23 citing “strictly personal reasons.” The diocese announced that the decision was made freely and in accord with a canon which asks that a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause … present his resignation from office.”

Various media broke the news Sept. 5 that Bishop Novell moved to Manresa to live with Caballol, 38, a psychologist and author of erotic novels with satanic overtones, some of them restricted to those 18 or older. 

Caballol is separated from her husband, and the mother of two. 

Bishop Novell was born in 1969 in Spain’s Lérida province.

He earned a degree in agricultural technical engineering from the University of Lleida, a bachelor's in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1997, and a doctorate in 2004.

He was ordained a priest of the Solsona diocese in 1997, and in 2010 he was consecrated a bishop and appointed ordinary of the same diocese.

Bishop Casanova wrote in September that after Bishop Novell’s resignation some of the feelings people were experiencing were of "truncated fidelity," "abandoned fatherhood" and "shaken fraternity", because a bishop’s relationship with his diocese is "much more than the cold reality of a captain who makes things go as best as possible."

Bishop Casanova said, “the Lord never abandons his people. To come out of this we have to live out the communion that leads us to fraternity and trusting prayer. We need to hear the voice of the Lord and experience the strength of his hand that does not allow us to perish.”

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