An ultra-conservative conversion therapy priest has rapidly changed career after falling head-over-heels for a writer of Satanic erotic fiction.
Xavier Novell, Bishop of Solsona, was seen as a rising star in Spain’s Catholic church after being appointed as the country’s youngest bishop in 2010 when he was just 41.
Until recently he was known for his controversial exorcisms and conversion therapy practices, being among a minority of priests who continued to organise such programmes despite the disapproval of Spain’s Catholic synod.
But that all changed when the 52-year-old bishop laid eyes on Silvia Caballol, a psychologist and author of the erotic trilogy Amnesia and The Hell of Gabriel’s Lust.
Described by her publisher as a “dynamic and transgressive author [who] turns upside down our ideas of morality and ethics,” Caballol’s books deal with themes of occultism and sadism, as well as “the raw struggle between good and evil, between God and Satan, and between angels and demons”.
In Amnesia, the author asks prophetically: “What happens when attraction is stronger than any code of ethics or social pressure?”
This question was put to the test when Caballol met Novell while studying demonology; the author immediately captured the conservative bishop’s heart, prompting him to drop out of the priesthood altogether.
“I have fallen in love with a woman, for the first time in my life and I want to do things the right way,” Novell told a friend, according to Religión Digital, a Catholic news site.
He told the Church he was dropping out for “strictly personal reasons,” but colleagues told Spanish media they believed he had been possessed by demons, with one saying this was “not a problem of celibacy but rather of infestation”.
The same sources claimed that Pope Francis had urged Novell to undergo an exorcism to free his troubled spirit, but the then-bishop had refused to do so.
According to reports, the couple are living happily together in Manresa, 50km from Solsona. Whether he’s now rethinking some of his more regressive views on love and sexuality remains to be seen.
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