Friday, 26 September 2014

Sad developments in Paraguay

An ugly case has come to light in Paraguay: The Bishop of Ciudad del Este, Mgr. Rogelio Livieres Plano, has been dismissed as Bishop by Pope Francis and the diocese put under administration.

It is sad because Mgr. Livieres Plano was in fact a highly successful and orthodox Bishop: according to some reports, his diocese had about 240 seminarians, more than the rest of the country's dioceses combined, and his tenure had sparked a revival of the Faith in the diocese. He was also very supportive of the traditional liturgy and critical of Liberation Theology and Pansexualist ideology.

But the good Bishop was apparently also an appalling judge of character. His dismissal is connected with his employment, and promotion to Vicar General (i.e. second-in-command of the diocese) of one Fr. Carlos Urrotigioity, an Argentinian priest with a track record of creating serious trouble.

Rorate Caeli have an in-depth analysis which is rather lengthy and contains some diversions so I will summarise the main points below. Additional information is available here (note that while this article refers to Fr. Urrotigoity as a 'pedophile', I have not seen anything that indicates that he is suspected of molesting minors, only inappropriatly touching young seminarians under his care).
  • Fr. Urrotigoity started his priestly career in the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (FSSPX), but was dismissed after a short while because he exhibited questionable character traits (having a guru-like influence on other priests and seminarians) and was suspected of homosexual behaviour.
  • The priest instead was incardinated (employed) in the diocese of Scranton. When the superior of the FSSPX, Mgr. Bernard Fellay, found evidence of indecent behaviour towards a young seminarian while he was in the FSSPX, he wrote the Bishop of Scranton a letter disclosing all and strongly recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Fr. Urrotigoity. 
  • Nothing happened, however, until the advent of a new Bishop of Scranton, who seems to have taken the charges seriously and dismissed Fr. Urrotigoity from the diocese. It is not clear if new accusations emerged at this time.
  • However, no procedures were undertaken to reduce Fr, Urrotigoity to the lay state, and thus he was allowed to be incardinated in Ciudad del Este, where apparently he won the trust of Mgr. Livieres Plano and was promoted to Vicar General.
  • When this came to the knowledge of the Bishop of Scranton, he informed the Vatican and the ecclesiastical authorities in Paraguay. When the leader of the Church in Paraguay, the Archbishop of Asunción, learnt of the allegations, he demanded that Urrotigoity be dismissed from his position. But Mgr. Livieres Plano refused and embarked on a rampant counter-offensive, publicly accusing the Archbishop of being a homosexual and all his other brother Bishops in Paraguay of being heterodox.
  • The Vatican announced a visitation of the diocese (a fact-finding mission), and at its recommendation eventually both Fr. Urrotigoity and the Bishop were dismissed.
It is a sad end for what appears to have been a fruitful episcopal reign, but given the Bishop's horrendous dispositions it was probably inevitable. Not only did he hire a priest suspected of inappropriate behaviour towards young men - that could have been forgiven had he agreed earlier on to comply with the recommendations to dismiss him, but he verbally abused his brother Bishops in the public forum and thus created serious rifts in the entire Church in Paraguay. I suspect it was the latter consideration which led to his dismissal rather than anything else, though one can also speculate that the visitation concluded that the Bishop's erratic behaviour was due to a malign influence from Fr. Urrotigoity that made him unfit to be Bishop.

What now of the Bishop, and of Ciudad del Este diocese? I hope all will accept the decision of the Pope; the last thing Paraguay needs is that a group of priests and laypeople led by Fr. Urrotigoity, or even Mgr. Livieres Plano himself, break away in schism in protest. Of course, Rome will also have to be responsible in choosing a new Bishop who will find acceptance among the apparently Conservative/Traditionalist-leaning clergy and laity of the diocese and who can build bridges between all factions in the Paraguayan Church.

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