Argentina: Controversy Over Seminary Closure

August 26, 2020
Cathedral of the Diocese of San Rafael

The closure of the San Rafael diocesan seminary is creating a misunderstanding. It is not due to a lack of vocations or teaching staff that is causing the seminary to close, but the refusal of the clergy to follow a decision by the bishop, Msgr. Eduardo Maria Taussig.

The spokesperson for the Argentine diocese of San Rafael, Fr. Antonio Alvarez, explained that the decision to close the Santa Maria Madre de Dios Seminary was made because of the disobedience of the majority of the clergy of San Rafael, who refuse to distribute Holy Communion only in the hand, as decided by their bishop.

Fr. Alvarez specifies that “the decision was not made by the bishop but on instruction from the Holy See.” “In view of the extent of the disobedience” of a large part of the clergy, many of whom are graduates, and many of whom are currently instructors or professors, Rome intervened.

“As a first step, and not the only one, the Holy See insists that the seminary be closed, and the seminarians moved so as to be freed from this influence and properly formed for the priesthood. According to them, the lack of discipline is so pervasive that it has made it impossible to find instructors for the seminary from among the clergy.

This decision surprised many. In fact, the Santa Maria Madre de Dios Seminary is the most populous in Argentina currently having 39 seminarians; it has had the highest number of ordinations since its founding in 1984. Finally, it has the lowest rate of desertion, since in the last fifteen years only one priest has abandoned the priesthood.

A diocesan priest explained the position of his confreres to the Los Andes newspaper: “It is not disobedience to the Church, since the universal Church allows the faithful to receive communion on the tongue or in the hand; it is their right and we cannot deny it. And there are ways to fulfill health guidelines without infringing on this right. It is only a matter of opposing an abusive decision by the bishop.”

Bishop Taussig has been Bishop of the Diocese of San Rafael since 2004. He was consecrated Bishop by Cardinal Bergoglio, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires. His episcopal motto is: Paterna atque fraterna charitate, with paternal and fraternal charity… would that his clergy could appreciate that!