Spain archbishop on schismatic nuns: ‘I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences’

Spain archbishop on schismatic nuns: ‘I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences’

The schismatic decision of the Poor Clares "seems absolutely wrong to me" but we must see "if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it," said Spanish Archbishop Mario Iceta. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, May 21, 2024 / 12:26 pm (CNA).

Archbishop Mario Iceta of Burgos, Spain, in whose jurisdiction is located the convent of the Poor Clares of Belorado and Orduña, expressed his surprise and concern over the nuns there going into schism and noted: “I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences” of their decision.

The prelate made the remarks May 17 on the “La Linterna de la Iglesia” (“The Church’s Lantern”) program broadcast by the Spanish radio station COPE following the schismatic decision of the Poor Clares of Belorado to leave the Catholic Church to place themselves under the authority of Pablo de Rojas, a false bishop excommunicated in 2019. 

“I’m worried about the situation, thinking about what has come about in such a surprising way on Monday [May 13],” Iceta said. Regarding what surprised him the most, the archbishop responded: “First of all, the secrecy with which all this has been proposed and that, indeed, when early on Monday morning, around 6 in the morning, I receive a WhatsApp message from a priest telling me that these nuns are leaving the Catholic Church, I thought it was fake news.”

“After that first surprise and verifying with the vicaress of the congregation itself, of the monastery itself, that this was the case, little by little we have learned the news. First of all [they said] that it was unanimous, and the next day a sister left [the monastery].”

In fact, on May 16, Sister María Amparo left the convent and said that she left “above all, so as not to belong to this sect,” noting that before her departure she endured “three days without Mass and without anything” and that “I suffered total surveillance so that I couldn’t speak with the older sisters,” she complained.

In the conversation with “La Linterna de la Iglesia,” the archbishop of Burgos commented that he was able to speak with that nun and that “it’s clear that they didn’t want her to be well informed about what was happening and she found out on Sunday afternoon when Pablo de Rojas showed up.”

The prelate also said that recently a person wrote a letter in which he praised the “fervor” of the nuns during Holy Week, which is why what has happened is even more surprising. “It’s all absolutely strange and I don’t know if the sisters themselves realize the consequences,” Iceta lamented.

Schism of the Poor Clares of Belorado

On May 13, when they announced their departure from the Catholic Church, the Poor Clares of Belorado indicated in a letter and a declaration that they recognize “H.H. Pius XII as the last valid Supreme Pontiff,” a decision that was explained through an attached 70-page text titled “Catholic Manifesto” claiming that “the see of St. Peter is vacant and usurped.” 

At the time, the nuns stated that their community “is leaving the Conciliar Church to which it belonged to become part of the Catholic Church.” They complained that in recent years there have been “contradictions, double and confusing language, ambiguity, and loopholes in clear doctrine have been coming from the Chair of Peter.” 

The archbishop stressed that if for them ”after Pius XII everything that follows is invalid, then the ministry of apostolic succession is invalid and this means that all the sacramental acts, except baptism, are invalid and evidently all vows and legal issues. Therefore this means that they haven’t taken vows as religious either.”

“When I saw on a television network that they were happy, content, well I am glad that they are well but I don’t know if they are really aware that this is not like changing your room or changing your habit or dress,” the prelate continued. 

“I don’t know if they realize the profound consequences that this step has and that is why my option or my opinion is that this should not be done precipitously, let this media tidal wave pass, let’s see if it’s possible to establish a relationship with them and dialogue and look at these issues and give them time to reconsider this situation that seems so surprising and strange to me,” the archbishop said.

After pointing out that Sister Paz, the vicaress, told him that the decision to separate from the Catholic Church was unanimous, Iceta said that on the contrary, “the sister who left [the monastery] says that there was no chapter, there was no vote, and therefore it is totally irregular” since “the proper capitular and voting mechanisms of the congregations” have not been respected.

Path of reconciliation for the Poor Clares of Belorado

A possible path of reconciliation for these Poor Clares, the Spanish prelate noted, involves “first a meeting and a reconsideration, and also listening to them about how they got to this point. They express discontent, they express difficulties, things that they have not conveyed to the [bishop’s] delegate for religious” nor to the chaplain.

Then it is necessary to listen to “what are the reasons for profound discontentment, because life is complicated, but to the point of saying I am leaving the Catholic faith to embrace another type of doctrine, it seems to me to be so extreme.” 

This decision of the Poor Clares “seems absolutely wrong to me,” but we must see “if it is possible to heal it, cure it, reverse it” and “give time for this to happen,” he emphasized.

“It seems to me that a 90-something-year-old nun, after 70 years” of religious life, can’t just go over to “another worldview of life.” For these sisters, the archbishop said, it would be good to spend “the last years of their lives in the Catholic Church.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.