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Married 43 years; a priest since '87

The Rev. Ivo Schmitt, a Roman Catholic priest here, was discussing celibacy when his wife, Adulina, walked in from the vegetable garden carrying the couple's clean laundry. "From what we know, at least 10 of the apostles were married," the priest said as his wife heated water for a pot of tea.

Long nurtured in a cozy blue and white cottage here, the Schmitts' domestic life suddenly became the focus of international attention this month as a worldwide synod of bishops debated in Rome whether priests should be allowed to marry.

For over a millennium, the Catholic Church has maintained that a priest's best companions _ indeed, his only companions _ should be God and the church.

Recently, however, growing numbers of Catholics have blamed this celibacy rule for a worldwide shortage of priests.

Last week, apparently sensing that the Vatican wanted to sidestep a discussion of the issue, Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider, archbishop of Fortaleza, Brazil, publicized the fact that two married men were recently ordained in Brazil with Vatican approval.

In addition to Schmitt, the Rev. Jorge Cabral Falcao serves a parish in Heliopolis in Bahia State.

Falcao, who was ordained in 1986, has lived apart from his wife for more than a decade.

It was the case of Schmitt that Lorscheider knew best. Both are descendants of German immigrants and grew up in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state.

In the five-hour drive from Porto Alegre, the state's coastal capital, radio stations fade into static and ox carts become increasingly common.

Windbreaks of eucalyptus and pine divide a patchwork of emerald pastures and ocher fields plowed in swirling contour lines.

In this remote farming center, 30 miles from the Argentine frontier, the paperwork of chastity was a topic of conversation Monday behind the white lace curtains of the tiny cottage on November 15 Street.

The Schmitts married in 1947, and six years later they conceived a child.

Because of malpractice by a midwife, Mrs. Schmitt not only lost the baby but also suffered problems that resulted in a hysterectomy and further complications that the Schmitts said left her physically unable to have sex.

At that point, Schmitt said, they began living in celibacy.

When her husband applied in 1986 for permission to be ordained, Mrs. Schmitt was required to submit medical records certifying her inability to have sexual relations.

"I had to sign a document giving up my rights as a wife," added Mrs. Schmitt, 66, recalling the certificate she submitted pledging celibacy to fulfill another requirement made by church officials.

Schmitt, a lawyer by training, submitted letters of recommendation from his parish priest, from the director of a seminary where he studied and from his professors of Bible studies and ethics.

He also signed a document promising that, if he was ordained, he and his wife would "sleep in separate beds."

A former altar boy, he had nurtured a lifelong ambition to become a priest. As the eldest son of 12 children, he had to work on the family farm in the 1930s while a younger brother attended seminary.

On Dec. 20, 1986, a summons came from Bishop Bruno Maldaner of the Frederico Westphalen diocese.

"I assumed that Rome wanted more documents," the 69-year-old recalled, his eyes twinkling behind steel-rimmed spectacles. "But Dom Bruno told me: "I have a Christmas present for you.'

"

The ordination was scheduled for the following May.

"Honey, get the photo album," the priest asked his wife, then added, "I never remember where I put things."

Over 800 people packed Santo Antonio, the red-brick neo-Gothic cathedral that dominates the skyline of this town of 40,000 people.

Seated in the front pew and dressed in their Sunday best were the new priest's wife, his adopted son, his daughter-in-law and his two grandchildren.

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