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Spanish bishop allegedly stepped down because of relationship with novelist

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ROME – When Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a Spanish bishop for “strictly personal reasons” two weeks ago, speculation was rampant as to why, with several news sites claiming the pontiff had fired him for his support of the independence of Catalonia.

Yet, according to several reports coming from Spain this week, the former bishop of Solsona, Xavier Novell, 52, “freely” resigned to the episcopacy for a woman, who works as a psychologist and author of erotic novels.

Novell has already moved from his diocese to Manresa, where Silvia Caballol, 38, lives. He’s looking for a job, since the former prelate is also an agricultural engineer. The Vatican’s Aug. 23 decree announcing that he had his resignation as bishop of Solsona accepted did not mention him leaving the priesthood.

“Bishop Novell took the decision after a time of reflection, discernment and prayer, at the end of which he spontaneously presented to the Holy Father his situation and his resignation of the pastoral governance of the Diocese of Solsona,” the Spanish bishops’ conference said in a statement released soon after the Vatican’s communique on the issue.

Religion Digital reported that the prelate left the diocese without saying goodbye to either the priests or the faithful.

RELATED: Pope accepts resignation of outspoken Spanish bishop

According to Spanish magazine Vida Nueva, Caballol is the mother of two, and separated from their father, who is of Moroccan origin. In her books, she presents herself as “an inveterate reader of romantic and erotic novels.”

“I consider myself a creative person, who loves to love and be loved,” she wrote.

She has two published books, one of which has Satanism at its core: The synopsis of El infierno en la lujuria de Gabriel [The hell in the lust of Gabriel], in which Caballol delves into “the crude struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, and between Angels and Demons”.

In the book, according to the publisher, “reality, delirium and fiction intermingle in a novel of frenetic rawness and intensity; in which the reader will be transported through the penitentiary world, psychopathy, sects, sadism, madness, lust and, little by little, as the story progresses, also towards the unreality of immortality and the crude struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, and between Angels and Demons; all this, at the hands of the antagonistic protagonists of Gabriel – psychopath, mentally ill or demon? – and Helena – prison research psychologist, mentally ill or angel?”

“The author will shake us again in a whirlwind of sensations where she will put in check, once again, with a direct language and a unique plot, our moral system, our values and our religious beliefs,” the publisher’s statement continues.

Novell, one of Spain’s youngest bishops, has expressed changing views on celibacy in his career: in his youth, he positioned himself firmly in support of optional priestly celibacy, but later strongly defended the tradition.

In 2013, when Catalonia held a referendum on its independence, the bishop banned Catholic Churches from ringing their bells. However, four years later, when the region once again held a vote considered illegal by Spanish authorities, he not only voted in favor of it, but called on priests to urge people to vote. When the independence supporters won, the then Prime Minister of Spain had to invoke an article of Spain’s constitution and dissolve Catalonia’s government.

In a statement released on Monday, after several reports on the alleged relationship between the bishop and the author, the diocese of Solsona, now ran by an apostolic administrator, simply said that the decision to stop leading the diocese was personal.

“From the information provided in some media outlets about the possible causes of the resignation of the bishop of Solsona, Bishop Xavier Novell i Goma,” it can only be said that “the decision taken by the bishop emeritus obeys to ‘strictly personal reasons’ and, therefore, the corroboration, or not, of this information, belongs to his strict personal sphere.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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