SACRAMENTO, D. Fr. Timóteo do (1653-1713)
Third Bishop of Maranhão.Timóteo do Sacramento was born in Lisbon on February 5, 1653. He professed in the Hermits of Saint Paul Order, of the Congregation of Serra d'Ossa, in the Convent of the Holy Sacrament in that city, on July 14, 1670.
Confirmed as bishop of São Tomé and Príncipe on January 2, 1693, he would be appointed bishop of Maranhão by King Pedro in 1695, an appointment that was confirmed by the papal bull of Innocent XII, Gratiae divinum praemium, dated December 17, 1696. He would arrive in São Luís on June 13, 1697.
Well-versed in Canon Law and Theology, he lectured in various convents and in the college of Saint Paul, run by his order in Évora. He would only spend three years in Maranhão, where his zeal in defending local customs resulted in such controversy that, in order to find a solution, he returned to Portugal. He would never return, but continued to govern the diocese by proxy.
His brief presentation of the facts says that he made a pastoral visit during his first year and that, having concluded that the practice of concubines proliferated, he had proceeded in punishing those implied with pecuniary and prison sentences to those involved, including clergy and laity, the general public and the higher levels of society. After the release of those who had been imprisoned, by order of judge Mateus Dias de Costa, condemnations and excommunications proliferated, while the secular authorities, at war with the bishop, received the support of various lay clergymen, Carmelites and Franciscans. Having seen his temporal powers suspended, the prelate was even confined to his own house, under the command of the main captain, João Duarte Franco, and with the support of the governor, António de Albuquerque Coelho de Carvalho, as the confrontation assumed uncommon proportions. An order was even given to have his doors and windows nailed shut so that he could never venture out, while he was the brunt of many insults from the general population and soldiers, although there was no lack of demonstrations in his favor; these efforts that received threats from the local officials, however.
These are but the main developments of the process, as the condemnations reached the city of Belém. The conscience of many were upset by this veritable war of condemnations (which led to the excommunication of the bishop himself by the Franciscan Friar Manuel de São Boaventura, as Apostolic Judge Curator), and also by the legal conflicts (which aggravated the ecclesiastic sentences of many of the faithful who were tried by the Judge of the Crown, while the bishop appealed to the ecclesiastic tribunal of a nuncio, as well as to the Pope himself).
The Jesuit Bettendorff describes the commotion created in detail in his chronicle, insisting that what Friar Timóteo suffered was incredible, that he shed "(?) the purple vestments, and reused his monk's habit, wearing only the hat, cross and ring (?); (?) ordering that all prisoners go home, since his jurisdiction had been taken, and even taking recourse in His Majesty (..) and in His Holiness (?)." In the distant kingdom of Portugal, the first developments of the issue would be cautiously analyzed by the Overseas Counsel on October 3, 1698; most prominent, among the many opinions was the extensive and minute opinion emitted by the Proctor of the Crown, who concluded that, in light of Civil and Canonical Law, unpardonable mistakes had been committed by both parties. In agreement with this opinion, the Counsel deliberated that both the judge, as well as the bishop, should be reprimanded, not only because of said infractions, but also because they had behaved contrary to common sense, thereby jeopardizing the common good and the king's service.
After being established in the kingdom, Friar Timóteo did not really lose interest in the diocese, as some authors lead us to believe, but continued to govern it by proxy until his death, as existing documentation attests. While civil and ecclesiastic authorities reflected upon these occurrences, the Holy See was informed by nuncio and demanded that the king punish the wrongdoers. On September 15, 1704, the nuncio Miguel Ângelo Conti (who would become Innocent XIII in 1721) complained to Cardinal Paolucci, the newly-appointed secretary of state, that he had summoned the bishop and intimidated him to return to the diocese because the governor had been substituted.
The letters that Friar Timóteo sent, a year and a half later, to Father Sebastião Magalhães, provincial of the Company of Jesus in Portugal and the king's confessor, allow us to conclude that he was not well-received by the king, which makes it understandable that he should have looked to such an influential figure of the Company for help. This correspondence, written from Boavista in Palmela and dated 1706, is enlightening. Based on a letter from January 12, we learn that he requested to be promoted to the mother church of Pernambuco, observing that, in order to save the king from being embarrassed before the nation, he had not sent the legal papers to the nuncio, despite repeated requests; he would write once again on October 4, insisting that he wanted to renounce the diocese, but only Locum and not dignitatem, and asking the king to consign his ecclesiastic allowance, which he would once again request five days later.
Having lost hope, on August 20, 1707, he finally sent the pope the report of the affronts he had suffered, having waited to do this after the death of King Pedro II. Of all his writing, this report is the most detailed, as his resentment, which would accompany him for the rest of his days, makes the facts and arguments emerge. Along with the details that have been succinctly presented, he recounts that he even had to take refuge in a missionary village, where he had found the true reverence of Christians. From there, he had to move on to the sertão more inland, where he was taken in by converted natives, who treated him as very old Catholics; he would remain for various months.
This would not be the last document to deal with the subject; there would be others until 1713. On January 25 of that year, the Proctor of the Crown emitted a position, which was evaluated by the Overseas Counsel, insisting that the bishop return to Maranhão, where he would receive his ecclesiastic allowance. In this document, the author refers to the huge scandal in the kingdom of this poor bishop, who was living in poverty, observing that if he had committed grave misdoings, he had also suffered many affronts, while those that were to blame had neither been judged nor punished.
Briefly, how can these occurrences be judged and the profile of the bishop be delineated? Possessing the austerity that was natural for a member of an order of hermits, Friar Timóteo was dedicated to reforming the habits of the people, while on the other hand he proved to be impulsive and not preoccupied with first consulting the ecclesiastic authorities of a society he did not know. The scale of the conflicts he engendered, along with the radical nature of his reaction, seem to indicate that he was ill-adapted to his milieu, for he did not follow the prudent advice he was given, before he left, about the need to remember the non-canonical liberties of the land. In the end, his behavior worsened the already complex relations between the Church and the State, as it also unleashed deep ruptures in the midst of the ecclesiastic structures, which were already divided, as had become clear before, during the 1684 uprising, when, in the time of bishop Gregório dos Anjos, many members of the clergy and religious orders had taken part in the expulsion of the Jesuits from the captaincy of Maranhão.
In what concerns other aspects of his pastoral activity, during the brief three years he was in Maranhão, he was responsible for numerous ordinances, among the Jesuits, for which he was heavily accused (particularly for granting minor orders to soldiers, as well as to persons of offensive generations, for which the ex-governor Gomes Freire de Andrade felt he should be reported to the Holy See). This was similar to what had happened to the previous bishop, which proves that these situations were more wide spread and structural, than exclusive to one or another prelate. In his absence, a number of Carmelites and Mercedaries went by land to Salvador in 1711, to be ordained, but would be killed at the hands of the natives.
Like Dom Gregório dos Anjos, he preoccupied himself with instituting the assembly of friars, but with no success: on June 28, 1697, he wrote to the secretary of State Roque Monteiro Paim about the need for at least three dignitaries to be named, referring to the demands of his conscience to justify his actions before the Roman Curia. The Overseas Counsel, however, would be opposed, alleging the state of the royal treasury in Maranhão, as well as the lack of secular priests.
While his brief presence and grievous problems, and also possibly his desire to be in harmony with the Jesuits, who were his supporters in the diocese, did not allow the bishop to intervene in the missionary sector, the proof of his interest in this sector can be found in a passage of a letter he wrote to the Pope, in which he complains that the missionaries, with the approval of ecclesiastic patronage, did not allow the bishops to visit the villages. In the beginning, he also asked for a village of natives to evangelize, by invoking the one that Dom Gregório dos Anjos had had, which indicates that these requests were normal. The village of his predecessor was unknown in official circles, as can be deduced from the surprise manifested by the Overseas Counsel, which denied the request on March 16, 1697, as it had also done with the predecessor.
Friar Timóteo do Sacramento died on December 9, 1713, at the age of 60. He was buried in the convent of Our Lady of the Conception in Alferrara, which provoked the resentment of his congregation. His tombstone contains the epitaph: "Here lies the Illustrious Friar Themoteo do Sacramento, Bishop of Maranhão, who died on Dec. 9 of the year 1713."
LARCHER, Maria Madalena PESSÔA JORGE OUDINOT, Coesão e Revolta no Maranhão Seiscentista: os Conflitos entre Poderes Civis e Eclesiásticos in Rebelión y Resistencia en el Mundo Hispánico del Siglo XVII, Actas del Coloquio Internacional de Lovaina, Lovaina, 1992, p.192-204.
Idem, Tensões Entre Episcopado e Clero Missionário na Amazónia na Transição do Século XVII para o XVIII, in Actas do Congresso Internacional de História da Missionação Portuguesa e Encontro de Culturas, 4 vs., Braga, 1993, v.III, p.671-697.
Idem, A Vida Religiosa no Estado do Maranhão ? A Diocese de S.Luís, da Fundação ao Desmembramento do Pará (1677-1720), tese de doutoramento, Universidade Católica de Lovaina, Louvai-la-Neuve, Dezembro de 1997 (policopiado).
Author: Madalena Larcher
Translated by: Rosa Neves Simas