New placements announced for seminarians after controversial closure of seminary in Argentina

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San Rafael, Argentina, Dec 16, 2021 / 14:34 pm

The Diocese of San Rafael in Argentina’s Mendoza Province announced the new placements for the seminarians who were attending Santa María Madre de Dios (Holy Mary Mother of God) Seminary which was closed in November 2020. 

The new assignments were published Dec. 10 in the diocesan publication De Buena Fe.

According to the communiqué, the new assignments were determined after a probationary period “as established by the ecclesiastical authority, and the various evaluations that were made of each one of them and that, in due course, were sent to the Holy See for their final resolution.”

Four diocesan seminaries were selected “in consensus with their respective bishops” for the seminarians to continue their formation for the priesthood beginning in 2022.

The following 12 seminarians have been reassigned: 

  • Seminarians Roberto Leonardo Ochoa Segura and Juan Diego Ramos Alonso will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of Mendoza.

  • Seminarians Pedro José Elías Cappa and Martín Andrés Barotto will attend the Diocesan Seminary of Río Cuarto.

  • Seminarians Gabriel Alexis Font, Iván Gabriel Lazo, Tomás Alfredo Campi, and Erik Dante Mendez will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of Buenos Aires.

  • Seminarians Maximiliano Martínez, Tomás Daniel Ramis, Ángel Humberto Reche Romo, and Ezequiel Elías Luján will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of San Juan.

Without indicating their names or number, the diocesan statement explains that “those who had already completed their studies will complete their pastoral training under the direct responsibility of the Bishop of San Rafael, until the date of their ordination.” 

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, asked Father José Antonio Álvarez Domínguez, head of the San Rafael diocesan press office, how many seminarians are in this last group or if there are others who have decided to not continue with their formation. As of press time, no response has been received. 

ACI Prensa has learned that this group that has already completed their studies consists of four candidates to the priesthood, while another group has been sent to talk with the bishops of the dioceses in which they lived before entering the seminary of San Rafael, and a “significant number” have decided to end their priestly formation for different reasons.

The Holy Mary Mother of God Seminary in San Rafael was founded March 25, 1984 by Bishop León Kruk. From its creation it has been noted for its fidelity to the Church and the correct formation that future priests received there.

Given the success of the seminary and the suspicion of other bishops, there was pressure to send an apostolic visitor from the Vatican who came to San Rafael from June 11 to 14, 1986.

The result of the visit was that Pope St. John Paul II confirmed the work of the seminary.

A major controversy erupted last year over the impending closing of the seminary and after a series of protests by the local faithful, it was finally closed Nov. 27, 2020.

Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig had announced in July of that year that the diocesan Mary Mother of God Seminary would be closed by the end of 2020, by order of the Vatican, and that the seminarians would be relocated to other Argentine seminaries.

In August 2020, the bishop said that the Congregation for the Clergy informed him that because the seminary had trouble maintaining a rector — having had seven in the past 15 years — it did not seem worth it to keep the seminary open.

That announcement came amid escalating tensions in the diocese between the bishop and a group of lay Catholics and priests, which began in mid-June, when Taussig announced that Holy Communion in the diocese could only be received standing and in the hand, not directly on the tongue while kneeling, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bishop’s directive, consistent with norms announced in other dioceses in the region, also may have created tensions within the diocesan seminary itself.

A large number of the priests in San Rafael did not comply with directives regarding the distribution of Communion in the hand, among them many former students of the seminary, which was perceived by some to be behind the priests’ reluctance to require Communion in the hand, the bishop said.

This refusal to comply had caused “serious scandal inside and outside the seminary and diocese,” said Taussig.

The bishop said that reception of the Eucharist in the hand or on the tongue are both equally accepted by the Church.

Speaking to TVA El Nevado on July 27, 2020, Father José Antonio Álvarez, spokesman for the Diocese of San Rafael, said that “due to the undisciplined reaction of a good part of the clergy of the diocese at this time, this diocese does not have the possibility of putting together a formation team in conformity with the discipline of the Church.”

On Aug. 20 last year, Taussig announced that he would impose canonical sanctions on priests who persisted in disobedience by giving Communion on the tongue and not in the hand.

After meeting with Pope Francis in late October 2020, Taussig said that the Vatican’s decision to close the seminary “was not up for discussion” and will take effect later this year.

Catholics have repeatedly spoken out against the closure of the seminary, calling for caravans, prayer, and demonstrations outside the San Rafael diocesan headquarters.

(Story continues below)

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In response to protests, Taussig published a letter Oct. 30, 2020 asking Catholics not to “come together for these anonymous gatherings,” as “they aggravate the situation and may harm the seminarians themselves more, whom we all want to care for.”

The bishop called previous demonstrations “acts of rebellion and contention.” Messages stuck to walls and doors included a sign calling for the bishop to resign, another called him a traitor.


Walter Sanchez Silva

Walter Sánchez Silva is a senior writer for ACI Prensa (https://www.aciprensa.com). With more than 15 years of experience, he has reported from important ecclesial events in Europe, Asia and Latin America during the pontificates of Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
E-mail: [email protected]

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