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Vatican backs bishop in closing down seminary over priests’ resistance to giving Communion on hand

The Argentinian seminary was accused of an ‘undisciplined reaction’ to the bishop's directive that Communion only be given in the hand
Wed Jul 29, 2020 - 2:53 pm EST
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Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig

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SAN RAFAEL, Argentina, July 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― An Argentinian bishop, backed by the Vatican, has closed down his diocesan seminary because priests connected to the seminary refused to follow his directive that Holy Communion be only administered to people in the hand.  

Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig, the Bishop of San Rafael, grieved Catholics in his conservative diocese when, after the state permitted churches to reopen, he ordered the laity to receive the Blessed Sacrament only in their hands.  Although the practise of receiving communion in the hand has become commonplace in the Church since its illicit introduction in the 1960s, the Catholics of San Rafael have remained faithful to the traditional practice of receiving communion on their tongues while kneeling. 

After Fr. Alejandro Miguel Ciarrocchi, the rector of the diocesan seminary, defended the right of his seminarians to receive the Blessed Sacrament according to the traditional norms, Bishop Taussig retaliated by dismissing him from his post. Then, as other priests were also administering communion according to the traditional preferences of their parishioners, Taussig shut down the seminary itself.  

In a recent video message posted on Facebook, Father José Antonio Álvarez, spokesman for the Diocese of San Rafael, blamed the clergy of this diocese for their “undisciplined reaction” and said that the order to shut the seminary had come from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

“In accordance with instructions from the Holy See, it has been decided to close the seminary,” the priest said. 

“The measure taken by the Congregation for the Clergy, which is just the dicastery of the Holy Father that has jurisdictions over these cases, takes into consideration that due to the undisciplined reaction of a good portion of the clergy of the diocese, at this moment, this diocese is not able to put together a group of teachers who will conform to the church's discipline,” Álvarez stated.  

“Since that is something that cannot be resolved immediately... Well ... to safeguard the formation of the seminarians so that they can continue with their formation, they will be sent to other seminaries. That is something that will be the subject of an ongoing dialogue in the remaining months of the academic year.” 

The Catholic Church states clearly in Redemptionis Sacramentum that a Catholic “always has the right to receive Holy Communion on the tongue,” a right that cannot simply be taken away. 

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has argued that a bishop oversteps his authority in denying Catholics this right. “Many bishops are abusing their authority right now because…they’re supposed to uphold Canon Law and Canon Law is really clear that the faithful have the right to receive communion on the tongue. That's it,” he said in a July 2020 interview with The John-Henry Westen Show.

Last month, twenty-one Austrian doctors told their country’s Bishops’ Conference that receiving Communion on the tongue is “safer” than in hand. 

An article published yesterday in the Spanish-language Wanderer website questioned whether the decision came from the Vatican Congregation or from the bishop himself.

“It is very rare for the Holy See to take on its own accord such a serious measure - we are talking about the largest seminary in Argentina - closing it in such a short time and without even a visit or further investigation. This is not the way of proceeding of the Curia,” a blogger at the Wanderer wrote.

“What I believe is that Mgr. Taussig himself offered Rome the corpse of his seminary. That is, he communicated things to Rome only according to his version of the events, he told them that he wanted to close the seminary, and Rome, logically, gave its support. And not so much because San Rafael was a conservative seminary, but because that was the will of its bishop, who is a prince in his diocese.”

The blogger also called Taussig’s strategy, which shifted the blame for his decision to his priests, “mean-spirited and duplicitous.” The writer acknowledged that one of his readers had blamed the laity for behaving “recklessly” in the dispute but said he did not believe this was true.

“What the laity did was to respectfully request the bishop to allow them to receive Holy Communion in the mouth and then gather together to pray at the doors of the seminary and the cathedral,” he wrote.  

According to this and other accounts, Taussig is now very unpopular with the people of the diocese. The blogger said that the bishop had behaved with “enormous recklessness” in announcing the closure of the seminary months before its implementation, in December. 

“A prudent ruler would have announced only the appointment of a new rector and, at the end of the year, announce the closure,” he stated. 

“How will the rector govern [in] the remaining months? The atmosphere of the seminaries is always unhealthy; in this case it will be unbreathable. It would not be surprising if within a month, of the forty seminarians only four remain. What reason will the poor boys have to stay there?”

The blogger voiced his hope that the orthodox seminarians would not go to other, less orthodox, seminaries in Argentina but instead opt for such tradition-loving apostolates as the Institute of the Good Shepherd, the Institute of Christ the King, or the Fraternity of the Priests of Saint Peter. 

“Despite the fact that my sins are many and I hope yet to save my soul, I would not want to be in the shoes of Bishop Taussig when, on his deathbed, he confronts his history and conscience and, loaded with those duffel bags, he presents himself before the Divine Court.”

A source known to LifeSiteNews told a reporter that there were 40 “good and well-formed” seminarians who now are unsure what they will do. He called the closing of the San Rafael seminary a “real disaster” as he believes it to be “the last really Catholic seminary in Catholic Argentina.” 

Taussig, the descendant of Czech immigrants to Argentina, was appointed the Bishop of San Rafael by St. John Paul II  in 2004.  He was co-consecrated by the Primate of Argentina of the time, Cardinal Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio (who is now Pope Francis), and a number of other bishops.  

LifeSiteNews’ Gualberto Garcia Jones and Pete Baklinski contributed to this report. 


  argentina, communion, communion in the hand, communion on the tongue, congregation for the clergy, eduardo maria taussig, holy communion, seminary

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