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PopeWatch: Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

Father Z examines the strange removal by the post of Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano:

 

Keep in mind that while the Supreme Pontiff exercises full jurisdiction in the Church and that his decisions have no appeal, should the Supreme Pontiff want there to be sound rule of law through the Church at every level, he, too, will observe the laws of which he is the Legislator.  So, the removal of bishops by the Pope should have some canonical basis.  It doesn’t have to, technically, but it really should.

Let’s have a look:

Bishop Rogelio Ricardo Livieres Plano, [Argentinian, by the way, and Opus Dei] who was removed from his post in Paraguay, has issued a bitter complaint, charging that other bishops conspired against him [which is plausible] and saying that Pope Francis “must answer to God” for his removal.  [Which is true.  We all must answer to God for all that we do or fail to do that we ought.]

The deposed bishop, in a letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, said that he was being “persecuted” for his orthodoxy, [!] and complained that he had not been given an opportunity to defend himself.

The bishop’s letter, which was leaked to the media in Paraguay, [who knows by whom] said that the action against him was “unfounded and arbitrary.” He angrily charged that although Pope Francis has spoken often about “dialogue, mercy, openness, decentralization, and respect for authority of the local churches,” he did not give Bishop Livieres a chance to “clarify any doubts” about his ministry. [In my discussions with Argentinians recently, I have come to learned, from explanations made by the same Argentinians, that their dialogue tends to be blunt even to the point of rancorous.]

Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, observed that the bishop’s letter was “a very violent reaction.” He remarked to reporters: “Maybe it is easier to understand why there was a problem.” [No.  That actually doesn’t help at all.  “Blunt speech” and “voicing an opinion” are not a canonical basis for removal from office unless the opinion is obviously heresy.]

Father Lombardi had earlier said that Bishop Livieres had been removed from office because of his discordant relations with the other bishops of Paraguay. [Again, how is “not getting along with others” a canonical basis for removal from office?] Most observers have agreed that the case pivoted on the bishop’s decision to promote a priest who had been characterized by an American diocese (Scranton, Pennsylvania) as a danger to children. [And yet Fr. Lombardi clarified the other day that the case of the Vicar General was not a major element in the decision!  So, which is it?  By the way, that choice for VG was really a bad move.  No question.  What was he thinking?]

I am left with some questions, but it is unlikely that we will get answers.  I am not sure we need answers.  However, since some answers that don’t add up are being offered, I am left scratching my head.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have a problem with the removal of bishops who are a disaster.  It may be that removal of this bishop was surely founded on canonical grounds and for good reasons.  But when the reasons given publicly don’t add up very well, I start to wonder what’s really going on.

Go here to read the rest.  The only legitimate accusation that PopeWatch can find against Bishop Plano is the following:

Father Lombardi said the accusations of sexual misconduct against the priest, the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity, an Argentine who had worked for years in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, were “not central, albeit have been debated.”

Bishop Livieres had promoted Father Urrutigoity to be his vicar-general — a position that often includes responsibility for handling accusations of clergy sexual abuse in a diocese — despite warnings to him from the former bishop of Scranton, Pa., Joseph Martino, who called Father Urrutigoity “a serious threat to young people.”

Bishop Livieres, a member of the conservative Roman Catholic movement Opus Dei, had been in disputes for years with theologically liberal priests and bishops in Paraguay. Soon after becoming bishop in 2004, he opened his own diocesan seminary in Ciudad del Este, marked by a more orthodox style than the main seminary in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción.

He publicly accused Asunción’s archbishop at the time of being gay, setting off an uproar.

In July, after the investigation, Bishop Livieres was barred from ordaining new priests, an unusual step, and Father Urrutigoity was removed as vicar-general.

Bishop Livieres posted a long rebuttal to the Vatican on his diocesan website. It asserted that Father Urrutigoity was the target of a defamation campaign and that he had been recommended by cardinals in the Vatican, including Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI.

Father Urrutigoity, who began his priesthood in the schismatic Society of St. Pius X, was accused of molesting sleeping seminarians in Argentina and Pennsylvania, according to news reports, including a four-part series this summer in the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal. The Diocese of Scranton settled a lawsuit in 2004 against Father Urrutigoity, another priest and the diocese for $400,000.

Bishop Plano rejected these accusations and claimed that then Cardinal Ratzinger vouched for the priest when he came to Paraguay:

In a detailed and sharply worded 12-point rebuttal to Rome, the Paraguayan diocese said Urrutigoity has been the subject of “a long and harsh defamation campaign in the U.S.” and said he came “recommended by some cardinals with roles in the Vatican.”

One of those cardinals, it said, was Joseph Ratzinger, who “was elected pope Benedict XVI a few days later,” in April 2005.

Benedict, who resigned in February 2013, has been praised for toughening church policies against abusive priests. Before his election as pope, he ran the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all abuse cases.

Urrutigoity was accused of abuse in a highly publicized lawsuit in Scranton, Pa., in 2002. At the time, he and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, now closed. The diocese reportedly reached a $450,000 settlement in the case in 2006.

Timlin’s successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, who is also retired, in 2005 shut down the Society of St. John, a conservative group that Urrutigoity had founded; the group was known for promoting the old Latin Mass and for lavish spending.

By then, Urrutigoity had moved to Paraguay, along with a number of priests and lay people from Scranton, to reconstitute the society under the auspices of Livieres, a member of the Opus Dei order who had developed a reputation as an outspoken conservative, even in the Paraguayan hierarchy.

Stay tuned.  PopeWatch believes there is more to come in this story.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

11 Comments

  1. The Canon law has long recognised a process of suspension ex informata conscientia, which is not a penalty, but an extraordinary remedy.
    Since 1983, it has no longer been available to diocesan bishops, but the Holy See can use it.
    It is, perhaps, not without significance that a similar summary power of dismissal figures in the Jesuit Constitutions and it is a jealously guarded privilege of the Society, frequently confirmed by the Holy See. A pope who is a former Jesuit superior might well regard it as an essential weapon in his armory.

  2. This particular bishop sounds like someone of exceedingly poor judgment. Bp. Timlin was cautious in his supervision of the Society of St. John and only took action after considerable deliberation (for which he was berated by shnooks like Rod Dreher). It is difficult to believe that Urritigoity and Ensey were traduced. Bp. Williamson of the SSPX also waved red flags in front of Bp. Timlin about this pair. The lavish spending by the Urritigoity et al was reported to the diocese by Fr. Longinus Young, OCD, who was employed by the order for spiritual direction. (I’ve met Fr. Young (he’s impressive) and was for a time associated with a parish administered by a St. Gregory’s instructor. He did not comment on the mess as it was going down (not being any more employed there)). Urritigoity and Ensey took down St. Gregory’s with them.

    That having been said, I doubt Francis would notice any of it were it not for the devotion to the traditional rites in that diocese.

  3. “He publicly accused Asunción’s archbishop at the time of being gay”
    .
    FWIW: Being gay is not a sin. Practicing sodomy is a sin because sodomy is a sin. Both gay and straight persons are being taught that the practice of sodomy is not a sin. Sodomy is a sin. A person cannot consent to commit a sin without having committed a sin. Therefore, the sin of sodomy, no matter who practices it, is assault and battery of another human being, self-abuse and a violation of God’s creation. Encouraging sodomy even while not practicing sodomy is a sin.
    .
    Priests, who having been led astray into believing that sodomy is not a sin, are leading the young innocent souls into believing that sodomy is not a sin.
    .
    Saint John Paul II’s teaching on the dignity of the person counteracts the demeaning act of sodomy.
    .
    If Pope Francis cannot rise above knowing that sodomy is corrosive of the human soul or cannot accept an underling exposing that the emperor has no clothes, Pope Francis needs to say more rosaries and perhaps confine himself to the Vatican Chapel, where John Paul II spend many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, the Real Presence, WHO has been removed from the laity’s eyes and hearts.
    .
    Now, If Pope Francis ordered all bishops to lead the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade with the Eucharistic procession, Pope Francis would earn his title as Holy Father. like holy water on the devil.

  4. “He publicly accused Asunción’s archbishop at the time of being gay, setting off an uproar.”

    He obviously does not cooperate well with colleagues, or contribute tot he smooth working of the church in Paraguay, surely one of the first requirements in a diocesan.

    How long do you imagine a government minister would last, who made such a remark about another member of the government? He would be out, neck and crop.

  5. “How long do you imagine a government minister would last, who made such a remark about another member of the government?”

    Of course the Church is supposed to have much higher standards than Caesar rather than observing a code of omerta as to the misdeeds of clerics.

  6. How long do you imagine a government minister would last, who made such a remark about another member of the government?
    =-

    Please see the article by Ralph McInerney some years back on the change in the meaning of ‘clericalism’ between different generations of the episcopacy. (He was comparing Cdl. McIntyre to Auxilliary Bp. James Shannon, ca. 1966).

    I would not be surprised if this particular charge was not true. This bishop does not seem someone who sorts arguments and evidence well. Still, we need our bishops to stop behaving like a fraternity refusing to acknowledge each other’s failures. Bp. Bruskewitz has been one of the few in America who were manifestly unlike that. One vector in the scandals here has been the tendency of bishops to take an excessive interest in the welfare of priests as opposed to parishioners and as opposed to the Church’s mission. (And see Fr. Shaugnessy on ‘sociological corruption’. It applies here).

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