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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church

Simulacrums and simulations in Recife

Simulacrums and simulations in Recife

By Dr. Jaci Maraschin

Translated by The Rev. Mario Ribas

The time we live in, in Brazil, is a time of simulacrums and simulations. The results of simulations are the simulacrums. Simulating means pretending to be someone one is not or to have something one hasn't got. Brazilian people have seen daily on the news the simulacrum spectacles. The thieves and bandits that are occupying positions trusted on them by our votes. They affirm, against all evidences, that they are honest and good people, and that they know nothing about the indecent briberies, buying supports, and money laundering. They say without protesting, that they saw, heard, and know nothing. The party that was elected, due to its promises of social and moral changes, ended up muddy, as we all can see. The simulation, however, got its powers and still they are many people that are not convinced about the waves of corruption that overwhelm us and, perhaps, because of their ideological commitments prefer to believe that is a conspiracy from the right wing. All this would not be other than trap and vengeance.

Parallel to this spectacle of simulations in our nation's life, is the tragic-comical actions commanded by Mr. Robinson Cavalcanti, former Anglican bishop, of the diocese of Recife, together with his naïve collaborators, also ex Anglican clergy. Littré once observed that, in the pathological field "the one that fake a disease can simply go to bed and make himself believe that he is ill". Cavalcanti has been deposed of the sacred orders by the same sacramental authorities that once conferred him those same orders. His collaborators, because they have decided to believe in their bishop's "disease", refusing to recognise the institution that gave him the power for the ministry, also were suspended from their functions in the Anglican Province of Brazil. Robinson Cavalcanti pretends that he is still the legitimate bishop of Recife, and because of this simulation, he acts as if he does not know what he actually does know - i.e. that he is deposed. It is based in this "belief" that he tried to obstruct the diocesan synod, in the diocese that "was his", hiding from the civil justice that he actually was no longer the diocesan authority, an attitude that could well be considered a crime of ideological falsity. The courts annulated then the sentence, and the XXIX diocesan synod could be held, and the bishop that was designated by the Brazilian primate performed his Episcopal duties under legal protection.

The simulation does not end here. The deposed bishop pretended that the reasons that lead the Primate and the Bishops' Chamber to annulated his orders were something else, which he invented. In this, we deal with a dissimulation process. That is, to pretend to have not what he has - i.e. to pretend to have not committed the faults that are clearly stated in the decrees of his deposition procedures. And he proclaims to the world that the reasons were something else, although these reasons, which he makes use of, never came up in the current trial process. Overtaken by a paranoiac homophobia, he sees propaganda of homoerotism in all actions of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, even knowing that he would never find any official decision of the Brazilian Province that makes room for homosexual practices amongst its clergy members. Behind the "disease" that afflicts him, is the explicit rejection of the Provinces of Canada and United States because, those did accept, in some way, the rights of gays and lesbians; United States that recognise a gay bishop, and Canada that made room for blessing of same sex unions. The attitude of the Brazilian Church followed the Anglican tradition that recognises the right of each province to act according to their canon laws, in a way that those canon laws should not affect the actions and decisions of other provinces. The deposed bishop wanted the Brazilian Anglicans to follow the attitudes of some Africans, in other words, to condemn the decisions of these two provinces, and severe communion with them. Due to our decisions, we have been accused of liberalism and heresy.

Amongst these simulacrums and simulations, with their subsequent dissimulations, commence to appear new causes for division amongst Anglicans, after the acceptance of same sex partnerships in England, including amongst the clergy in that province.

I do not know if it is due to this event, but Peter Akinola, archbishop of Nigeria, ended up modifying the constitution (with approval of the Nigerian Synod) of his church with in at least two signifying alterations: the elimination of mentions of the Archbishop of Canterbury as symbol of unity amongst Anglicans, and the affirmation of the rights of his province to establish relationships only with provinces or Anglican groups that remain faithful to biblical orthodoxy (read as fundamentalist interpretations of scriptures), to the 39 Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. Akinola, also is heading the convocation of the Global South Meeting. Due to his authoritarian position, Akinola advised that he does not want the participation of our Primate in this Meeting bec ause of his liberal ideals and for having deposed a bishop that aligns himself with Akinola's draconian attitudes. Akinola also fell into the simulation fashions of our time. He will pretend that his followers that will meet in Egypt are representing the Global-South as if Brazil is now in the North-Hemisphere. The Anglicans in this meeting will pretend to be what they are not - the Global South.

I have already celebrated fifty years of priesthood in God's Church, according to the Anglican rites. I am a retired clergyman of the diocese of Sao Paulo, and always thought that Anglicanism, in the way it was established in the first Lambeth Conference, was a healthier alternative that existed for living the Gospel, and the love of God as it is expressed in the Gospel and in the works of the Holy Spirit. Twice I had been theological consultant for the Lambeth Conferences, member of the Anglican International Commission on Theology and Doctrine, and, lately, member of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue Commission. Always I maintained dialogue with conservative people, although keeping faithful to the catholic tradition that is visible and acting in various sectors of the Anglican Communion. I l earnt to dialogue with those who are different from me. Because of it, I worked in the World Council of Churches for more than twenty years as a member of the Faith and Order Commission, and helped to produce several ecumenical documents. I have never been afraid to take communion with evangelicals, Adventists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, amongst others. With the Methodists I work for more than thirty six years in their University in Sao Paulo. I consider all my brothers.

The conservatives accuse the liberals of being selling themselves to post-modernity. I am not sure if they know what they are talking about. Post-modernity is neither an agency nor a centre of power. It is a spirit, a condition (as said by Lyotard), a tendency (as I prefer to say). It is a tendency towards the fragmentation that contradicts one way of thinking, the authoritarianism and dogmatism. It is more on the side of the activity of the Holy Spirit that blows in different places and in different ways. To be classified as orthodox, it would require someone infallible to make the cataloguing. Will the archbishop of Nigeria then request help from the Roman Curia that understand these things better than anyone? I am convinced that those who want absolute certainties do not need to waste their time with all these dissimulations. Already exists within Christianity a reference centre that is infallible, orthodox and immutable: The Roman Catholic Church. Those who work in this ecclesiastical organization perform their duties with perfection. And if the main reason is numerical, it is the biggest Christian group in the world. Apart from this, in my conviviality with bishops, priests, nuns, of this great church, I could notice that, in spite of all, it is possible to breathe there a certain liberty that the fundamentalist and conservative evangelicals do not know about.

To grow the simulacrum gallery, we have now another simulation. The Primate Bishop of Southern Cone (with its See in Argentine) just received, under his jurisdiction, the ex-bishop of Recife, as if the excommunication act delivered by another ecclesiastical authority represents nothing. He also received, at the same time, all the clergy that was deposed from the diocese of Recife without at least evaluate the happenings that lead to their deposition. Will it be by a magic coup that Recife will also become a newer diocese of the Southern Cone Province? Buenos Aires, after all, wo uld then become, as many North American think it is, the Capital of Brazil. There are already forty dissident groups around the world that continue to auto-nominate "Anglicans". Akinola already said that his province will only maintain in communion with those who aligns themselves with his beliefs that he thinks to be the "true Anglican faith". Has he invested himself with doctrinal infallibility? Has a new communion set up being started (?) this time without the Archbishop of Canterbury? We can, certainly, question if the Provinces that are faithful to this tradition, will continue to form the Anglican Communion according to the principles that oriented its formation in the first Lambeth Conference?

This disordered state of things shows clearly that many times the manifested desire for inclusiveness (comprehensiveness) is very difficult to be practiced in the daily life of the church and of the world. It is easier to built separating walls than alliances that celebrate the acceptance of those who are unacceptable. The glory of the Anglican Communion was, for a long time, this possibility of dialogue and practice of hospitality.

Jaci Maraschin is a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Sao Paulo, and a Senior Professor of the Faculty of Philosophy and Religious Sciences of the Methodist University of Sao Paulo. He holds a doctorate in Religious Sciences from the University of Strasbourg, France, and post-doctorate from the Union Theological Seminary, and Columbia University, United States.

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