Religion: Rebel in Rio

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The Roman Catholic Church excommunicated one of its bishops last week. Said the bishop blandly: "I consider today one of the happiest days of my life."

It was not the first time Dom Carlos Duarte da Costa, onetime Bishop of Botucatu in Sao Paulo, had been in his church's black books. In 1934, he publicly refused to follow a papal nunciate's political instructions. He was thereupon quietly retired, given the honorary title of Bishop of Maura, no diocese. From the outside, Duarte took an increasingly critical view of what he considered his church's political leanings. He became increasingly outspoken and unpopular with his superiors.

Last May, 57-year-old Bishop Duarte gave newspaper interviews accusing Brazil's papal nunciate of Nazi-Fascist spying. He accused Rome of aiding and abetting Hitler. Finally he heretically announced plans to set up his own Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church, in which priests would be permitted to marry (and hold regular jobs in the lay world), confessions and rosaries would be abolished, bishops would be elected by popular vote. After that, his excommunication was inevitable.

Last week Dom Carlos, calling himself "Bishop of Rio de Janeiro," told reporters that he hopes soon to ordain ten married lawyers and professional men as priests in his new church.

Meanwhile, in the tiny blue-walled chapel that is part of his unostentatious house in Rio's suburbs, he baptizes, marries, celebrates Mass daily. The Vatican appeared undisturbed by its latest rival.