VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Outraged laity have published a stinging letter excoriating the Holy See's decision to shut down a conservative seminary in Argentina after its rector and clergy disobeyed the bishop's diktat to administer communion in hand only.
Eduardo María Taussig, bishop of San Rafael, announced Monday in a press statement the seminary of Santa María Madre de Dios would shut at the end of 2020 "following precise instructions issued by the Holy See."
Taussig named Peruvian Fr. Víctor Torres Jordán as the new interim rector replacing Fr. Alejandro Miguel Ciarrocchi, who was dismissed for defending the right of his seminarians to receive communion on the tongue.
Diocesan spokesman Fr. José Antonio Álvarez confirmed via video message on Facebook that the directive to close the seminary was issued by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy, which would have acted on the Holy Father's intervention "due to the undisciplined reaction of a good part of the clergy of the diocese."
The decision to close the seminary "did not occur to the bishop but was under instructions from the Holy See," Álvarez emphasized. "At this time, this diocese does not have the possibility of forming a team of formators according to the discipline of the Church."
"Given the international repercussions of this disobedience," since many of the clergy are graduates of the seminary and also currently formators or teachers, Rome intervened "as the first, not the only measure," Álvarez explained.
"The Holy See understands that the seminary must be closed and the seminarians relocated to free them from such influence so as to allow them to have training that is fitting for the priesthood," he added.
An open letter addressed to Bp. Taussig protesting the seminary closure voiced the laity's pain:
Lay Catholics who claim to be faithful to the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who defend the most elementary truths of all time and who try to transmit to our children the faith received in its entirety, trying to avoid the errors of all the new impieties that day by day they filter into the Church and society, feel pressured and persecuted by this world full of violence, grievances and blasphemies against the Creator and Redeemer God and against his evangelizing work; but the burden becomes especially heavy when those who should be our guides and shepherds are enlisted in the ranks of the enemy.
"You know that it is not the first time that we feel hurt by your communications," the letter, published Tuesday, stated. "We want to tell you that we are not misguided children as you have told us, rather we are children who want to comply with due obedience, but as such we are obliged to offer a fraternal correction if what we are ordered to obey is against a law of the Church, of our consciences and of Christian perfection."
According to Los Andes media, the seminary currently has 39 seminarians — the highest number in Argentina. It has produced the most priests since it was founded in 1984. Priests trained at the seminary minister across Argentina and have also begun a mission in Cuba with three parishes. The seminary also has the lowest dropout rate with only one priest leaving in the last 15 years.
Medical doctor and founder of the Obra Corazón y Voluntad project Miguel Soler said that he found the order to shut down the seminary "incomprehensible."
"I cannot find any logical motivation for such a measure," he commented. "This deeply affects all of us: Catholics, believers, practitioners; and stains the community of San Rafael, even if I am not a Catholic or a practitioner, because a seminary is to train those who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and He is the greatest truth."
"I hope that this measure is not advanced, because it is a very big blow and very bad. It has no justification, nor does it bring any good," Dr. Soler lamented. "There are no reasons to close the seminary, as it has produced so many priests who are doing so much good not only in San Rafael, but also in many parts of Argentina and the world."
"I have two sons who are priests and two daughters who are nuns, and they have been away from our home for years and in situations of danger. And we do it with joy, with joy, because we know that God does not fail," he stressed.
"I ask Bp. Taussig to reconsider, to kneel before God — the Blessed Sacrament — and to listen to our Mother in Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, because she tells us that we must first obey Jesus," Dr. Soler pleaded.
We are convinced that this is a dark time for humanity and for the Church. This is prophesied by the Virgin on several occasions. We have turned away from God, we have changed the gospel and we have betrayed it, and we do not want to do this. For this reason, we are going to pray for Bp. Taussig, for our pastors, our priests, our believing and non-believing community.
Bishop Taussig has insisted that "the measure, although very painful for everyone, is necessary. God will know how to give new fruits of holiness to the entire diocese while we persevere in the communion with the hierarchy that the Lord Himself has arranged to guide the Church."
Earlier, Church Militant reported that Bp. Taussig had angered faithful priests and laity in the country's most conservative diocese for forcing them to receive communion in hand as "the only possible means during the pandemic."
Taussig asserted that not only the Apostles but even the Virgin Mary received the Eucharist in their hands.
Saying that he is ultimately responsible for catechizing his flock, Taussig called on clergy to place "the entire people of God in concert with the practice and teachings of the Church."
On July 3, around 40 Catholics assembled at the front gate of Santa María Madre de Dios seminary to prayerfully protest Taussig's refusal to allow communion on the tongue. The bishop briefly showed himself inside the seminary compound but did not acknowledge the members of his flock assembled outside, sources said.
A much larger crowd of some hundreds showed up at the seminary on July 5, having caravanned from the diocesan headquarters to the seminary on the outskirts of the small Andean city.