Carlos Duarte Costa, A Church for Jesus and Christian Communism

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Carlos Duarte Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro on this day, July 21, 1888.

He became a prominent Brazilian Roman Catholic clergyman, eventually Bishop of Botucatu.

The bishop denounced the corruption of the civil authorities. And was a central figure in the constitutionalist revolution. He also denounced clerical corruption.

In the years preceding the Second World War, he denounced the Nazi and fascist movements. In 1944, his preface to the controversial Anglican “Red Dean” by the Very Reverend Hewlett Johnson Soviet power.

Bishop Duarte Costa identified closely with the Christian communist movement.

He was briefly imprisoned in 1944 and in 1945 he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII.

Upon his excommunication, Carlos Duarte Costa established the Brazilian Apostolic Catholic Church, assuming the title of first archbishop of the new church.

According to Wikipedia:

In June 1945, Costa organized the Brazilian Apostolic Catholic Church (ICAB) and declared that the ICAB “is a religious society, established for the propagation of Christianity throughout the national territory, which is separated from the Roman Apostolic Church because errors that he committed from the moment he left the catacombs, exchanging the beauty of the teachings of Christ – simplicity, humility, poverty, love of neighbor – for an institution above all mercantilist, where ostentation reigns, doing harm to the true Christianity, which is found in the humble, the workers, the legitimate representatives of Jesus of Nazareth. Costa’s act of schism resulted in his automatic excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, later Costa was declared a vitandus – a person to be avoided by Roman Catholics – and Roman Catholics who became adherents of the ICAB also been excommunicated.

The church was suppressed in 1949 because its liturgy and clerical dress were indistinguishable from those of the Roman Catholic Church and would have caused confusion among the faithful. However, a few months after making some adjustments to the liturgy and adopting gray clerical cassocks instead of black, the church was able to continue. Clerical celibacy was abolished, although the bishop remained celibate. Divorce was allowed. The liturgy has been translated into the vernacular. And, above all, the clergy had to take secular jobs to support themselves.

Archbishop Carlos Duarte Costa died in 1961. The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church went through several years of dissension and schism. But it eventually found its footing and now has around half a million members in Brazil.

The archbishop eventually consecrated eleven bishops. One of them, Salomão Barbosa Ferraz, eventually reconciled with the Roman Catholic Church. When he did, his episcopal consecration was recognized as valid. Importantly, because of these dissensions and schisms, the Archbishop indirectly became one of the main sources of “apostolic succession” for the Independent Sacramental Movement. His Brazilian church itself, however, has generally avoided getting involved in the movement and does not recognize bishops consecrated in their lineage but not in direct communion with them.

Archbishop Costa himself is known as personally holy and devoted to the poor. There are continuous reports of miracles from those who prayed in his name. Especially among the poor.

While my interest in the Archbishop began with his place in the ISM, I find him more interesting for his call for Christian communism. A radical assertion, certainly. But, it occurred to me that in view of what Jesus really said and did while he was alive, one might wonder how a Christian can’t be a communist?

A rich, complicated, frightening and, who knows, maybe convincing question.

The Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church observes today, July 21, as a feast for the radical saint Carlos Duarte Costa.


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