The former Bishop of Botucatu, he was excommunicated by Pope Pius XII for doctrinal and canonical issues (such as clerical celibacy). Duarte Costa has been canonized as "St. Carlos of Brazil" by the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church.
Carlos Duarte Costa was born in Rio de Janeiro on July 21, 1888, at the residence of his uncle Eduardo Duarte de Silva. The son of João Matta Francisco Costa and Maria Carlota Duarte da Silva Costa, he completed his primary studies at the Salesian College Santa Rosa , in Niterói. At age nine, he received his first communion in the cathedral of Uberaba from the hands of his uncle, Dom Eduardo Duarte da Silva (now a bishop), on July 24, 1897. That same year he was taken by his uncle to Rome to study at the Pontificio Collegio Pio Latino Americano, a Jesuit minor seminary. In 1905 he returned to Brazil for health reasons and entered an Augustinian seminary in Uberaba, where he completed his philosophical and theological studies.
After ordination as a deacon, Duarte Costa served under his uncle, Dom Eduardo de Silva, in the cathedral church of Uberaba. On May 4, 1911, Duarte Costa was ordained to the priesthood at the cathedral by Archbishop Joaquim Arcoverde de Albuquerque Cavalcanti. He then returned to Rome to further his education and obtained a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University. After returning to Brazil, he worked once again with his uncle in Uberaba as secretary of the diocese. Duarte Costa was awarded the title of monsignor for his publication of a catechism for children and was later named Protonotary Apostolic and General Secretary of the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, serving in this capacity until 1923.
On July 4, 1924, Pope Pius XI nominated Duarte Costa as Bishop of Botucatu. His episcopal consecration occurred on December 8 that year at the metropolitan cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, presided over by Cardinal Sebastian Leme da Silveira Cintra.
In the 1930s Duarte Costa became deeply involved in the social and political changes taking place in Brazil. Brazil's economy had collapsed in 1929 as a result of the Great Depression and a populist military regime had taken over the government in 1930. Led by Getúlio Vargas, the new government had an erratic policy record in its early years, sometimes anti-clerical and anti-aristocratic, sometimes swinging the opposite direction. In 1932, Duarte Costa became a leading spokesman for the Catholic Electoral League, which was organized by the church to lobby for Christian principles in the laws and acts of the government.
In 1932, Duarte Costa played an active role in the Constitutionalist Revolution, a failed attempt to restore constitutional government to Brazil. Duarte Costa formed a "Battalion of the Bishop" to fight on the side of the Constitutionalist troops and helped finance the rebellion by selling off most of the diocese's assets along with his own personal possessions. Duarte Costa's support for the Constitutionalist Revolution earned him the animosity of President Vargas, signaling the beginning of a long period of difficult relations between Duarte Costa and the Brazilian government.
In 1936, Duarte Costa made his second ad limina visit to Rome, meeting with Pope Pius XI. He presented the Pope with a list of quite radical requests for the Church of Brazil.
In September 1937, Duarte Costa resigned from his episcopal post and was appointed titular bishop of Maura. Duarte Costa left the diocesan quarters but remained in Rio de Janeiro as Bishop Emeritus of Botucatu and titular Bishop of Maura. He obtained the support of a protector, Cardinal Dom Sebastião da Silveira Cintra, who granted permission for him to keep a private chapel. At this time he established the magazine Nossos ("Ours") as a vehicle to spread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Soon, however, Duarte Costa resumed his vocal criticism of the government and the national church administration, which he saw as an accessory to the mistreatment of the poor in Brazil. He openly criticized certain papal periodicals and encyclicals, including Rerum novarum (Leo XIII), Quadragesimo anno (Pius XI), and Divini Redemptoris (Pius XI).
In 1942 several priests and nuns of German and Italian ethnicity were arrested in Brazil for operating clandestine radio transmitters, presumably passing information to the German and Italian governments. Duarte Costa publicly said that these individuals were just the tip of the iceberg, and claimed that most German and Italian clergy in Brazil were agents of the German Nazi and Italian Fascist regimes. In light of their allegedly mixed loyalties, Duarte Costa called on all German and Italian clergy to resign.
In 1944 he gained further notoriety by writing a glowing preface to the Brazilian translation of The Soviet Power by the Very Reverend Hewlett Johnson, the Anglican Dean of Canterbury known as "The Red Dean" for his uncompromising support of the Soviet Union.
As long as he enjoyed the protection of Cardinal Dom Sebastiao Leme da Silveira Cintra, Duarte Costa's political activism proceeded without much trouble. However, soon after the cardinal's death, Duarte Costa was formally accused by the Brazilian government of being a communist sympathizer. He was arrested on June 6, 1944 and imprisoned in Belo Horizonte. The following month the Ecclesiastical Chamber forbade him from preaching or hearing confessions, as punishment for his undisciplined outspokenness. He remained imprisoned until September 6, 1944, when he was released in response to pressure from the embassies of Mexico and the United States on his behalf.
After his release from prison Carlos Duarte Costa soon found himself in trouble again. This time it was a result of his accusations that the Vatican Secretariat of State had issued Vatican passports to some high-ranking German Nazis, a practice referred to as the Ratlines.
In May 1945 Duarte Costa gave newspaper interviews accusing Brazil's papal nunciate of Nazi-Fascist spying, and accused Rome of having aided and abetted Adolf Hitler. In addition, he 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), personal confessions and the praying of rosaries would be abolished and bishops would be elected by popular vote.
In response to Duarte Costa's continued insubordination, the Vatican finally laid against him the penalty of excommunication on July 2, 1945. Upon being informed of his excommunication, Duarte Costa responded by saying, "I consider today one of the happiest days of my life." He immediately titled himself "Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro" and told the press that he hoped soon to ordain ten married lawyers and professional men as priests in his new church.
A few days after learning of his excommunication, Duarte Costa established the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church (ICAB). Its articles of incorporation were published in the federal register on July 25, and the church was legally registered as a civil society. On August 18, 1945, Duarte Costas published a "Manifesto to the Nation", in which he again criticized the Roman Catholic Church and promoted his new national church. Although he had already been excommunicated, on July 24, 1946, he was declared "excommunicado vitando". This effectively discourages Catholics from associating with him.
After establishing the ICAB, Duarte Costa continued to use the same vestments, insignia, and rites as he had in the Catholic Church. This provoked the cardinals of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to appeal to the Minister of Justice and the President himself for an injunction against both him and the ICAB. On September 27, 1948, the ICAB churches were closed by the courts, on the grounds that they were deceiving the public into thinking they were Catholic churches and clergy. Duarte Costa quickly filed an appeal, and in 1949 the Supreme Court ruled that the ICAB could reopen its doors on condition that the church use a modified liturgy and its clergy wear gray cassocks to minimize the potential for confusion with the black-colored Roman Catholic clergy.
With the formation of ICAB, Duarte Costa implemented a number of reforms of what he saw as problems in the Roman Catholic Church. Clerical celibacy was abolished. Rules for the reconciliation of divorced persons were implemented. The liturgy was translated into the vernacular and in emulation of a short-lived experiment in France clergy were expected to live and work amongst the people and support themselves and their ministries by holding secular employment. According to Randolph A. Brown, within a short time ICAB began to be identified as “The Church of the Poor”.
Shortly after founding the church, Duarte Costa consecrated two more bishops, Salomão Barbosa Ferraz (August 15, 1945) and Luis Fernando Castillo Mendez (May 3, 1948). These three bishops went on to establish similar autonomous Catholic national churches in several other Latin American countries. Duarte Costa served as consecrator or co-consecrator of eleven additional bishops, each of whom took a leadership role in either the Brazilian church or one of the other national churches.
Duarte Costa served as leader of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church and its international affiliates for sixteen years until his death in 1961, by which time the church in Brazil is said to have grown to 60,000 members.
Duarte Costa died quietly in his sleep on March 26, 1961 (Palm Sunday), in Rio de Janeiro at 72 years of age. At that time, ICAB had 50 priests and 37 bishops, with many of the congregations meeting in private homes. Duarte Costa was accredited and praised by the Church for his acts of charity for the poor and his strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Eucharist.
The bishops consecrated by Duarte Costa went on to consecrate dozens of additional bishops, many of whom had only tenuous relationships with the Brazilian Church. Bishops tracing their apostolic succession back to Duarte Costa have formed numerous other independent Catholic denominations in the United States, Europe, and Latin America, most of which have no formal ties to the Brazilian church. These bishops are not considered valid by the Brazilian church due to a perceived defect in intention. Only those bishops aligned with the Brazilian communion are considered valid. Even bishops in the Worldwide Communion of Catholic Apostolic Churches have all been consecrated sub conditione to ensure recognition of their lineage. Many consecrated bishops also hold apostolic succession to current Old Catholic bishops.
In the years since his death there have been many reports on graces and miracles resulting from people praying through Duarte Costa's intercession. On July 4, 1970, after officially acknowledging his work for the poor and the church, the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church held a canonization Mass in Rio de Janeiro and officially granted Duarte Costa the title "San Carlos do Brazil". He is considered to be the patron saint of ICAB and Independent Catholicism.