Catholic authorities in Spain excommunicate, expel renegade nuns — By: Catholic News Agency

The decision was announced by Mario Iceta, archbishop of Burgos. / Credit: Archdiocese of Burgos, Spain

ACI Prensa Staff, Jun 24, 2024 / 17:00 pm (CNA).

The Catholic Church in Spain has decreed the excommunication and expulsion from consecrated life of the Poor Clare nuns of Belorado for committing the crime of schism.

Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law states that schism is “the refusal of submission to the supreme pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.” The penalty for this crime is excommunication.

In a June 22 press release, the Archdiocese of Burgos “has communicated the decree of declaration of excommunication and declaration of ‘ipso facto’ [immediate] expulsion from consecrated life of each and every one of the 10 sisters who have incurred schism.”

The decision was announced by Mario Iceta, the archbishop of Burgos, who is also the pontifical commissioner and legal representative of the monasteries of Belorado, Orduña, and Derio in Spain.

The statement also points out that these “are the same sisters who have presented their free and personal decision to leave the Catholic Church. Given this decision, it is necessary to remember that the declaration of excommunication is a legal action considered by the Church as a medicinal measure, which prompts reflection and personal conversion.”

“The Church always shows her profound compassion and, as a mother, is ready to welcome her children who, like the prodigal son, trust in God’s mercy and begin the journey back to the Father’s house,” the statement explained. 

In addition, the Archdiocese of Burgos indicated that “there continues to be a monastic community made up of the sisters who have not incurred excommunication, as they have not supported the schism: They are the five older sisters and three other sisters who, although at this time are not at the monastery, they belong to the community by being incardinated in it.”

Finally, the archdiocesan statement noted that “the older sisters continue to be a priority in our concerns. The Federation of Poor Clares of Our Lady of Aránzazu has planned a way to immediately care for these sisters in the Belorado Monastery itself, moving some sisters from other monasteries of the federation to live in the monastery.”

The Poor Clares decision

On May 13, the community of Poor Clare sisters of the monasteries of Belorado and Orduña, located respectively in the Archdiocese of Burgos and the Diocese of Vitoria in Spain, made public a manifesto and a letter in which they announced that they were leaving the Catholic Church and placed themselves under the tutelage of the excommunicated false bishop Pablo de Rojas. The nuns claimed they were leaving “the Conciliar Church [i.e., post-Vatican II] to which it belonged to become part of the Catholic Church.” 

At the end of May, the Vatican appointed Iceta as pontifical commissioner with full powers. When he began to take measures, the nuns filed a complaint with the National Police, alleging “abuse of power” by Iceta.

At the beginning of June, the Archdiocese of Burgos formally informed the nuns that they had to appear before the ecclesiastical court of Burgos to answer for the crime of schism defined in Canon 751 of the Code of Canon Law, punishable by the penalty of excommunication. The deadline expired on Friday, June 21, with the nuns failing to appear.

What is excommunication?

Briefly, excommunication can be defined as the most serious penalty a baptized person can incur, which consists of being placed outside the communion of the faithful of the Catholic Church and denied access to the sacraments.

Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, major penitentiary emeritus of the Church, once explained that the purpose of excommunication is to bring “the guilty to repentance and conversion.”

“With the penalty of excommunication the Church is not trying in some way to restrict the extent of mercy but is simply making evident the seriousness of the crime,” he noted.

Why is a person excommunicated?

Excommunication is not only a punishment and goes beyond restricting access to holy Communion.

According to Canon 1339 § 2, along with excommunication “in the case of behavior which gives rise to scandal or serious disturbance of public order, the ordinary can also correct the person, in a way appropriate to the particular conditions of the person and of what has been done.”

What happens next?

Since the nuns have declared themselves no longer members of the Catholic Church, by remaining in the monastery they find themselves occupying the property of the Church to which they do not belong and have no legal right to stay there.

The archbishop has told them that they need to vacate the premises as a consequence of their actions but is taking a patient approach, hoping they will do so of their own accord by early July without having to be forcibly evicted. 

The archbishop pointed out that although the nuns do not recognize his jurisdiction nor that canon law applies to them in this case, as established in Article 1.4 of the accord between Spain and the Holy See, Spain’s civil law recognizes the Church’s Code of Canon Law as governing in these matters such that “civil law abides by what canon law says in ecclesiastical entities,” just as the Spanish state recognizes the validity of a marriage officiated by a Catholic priest.

Regarding the false bishop Rojas and the false priest Ceacero, Iceta explained that “it’s been almost four weeks since they were told that they should not be in the monastery and in a steadfast and contumacious way they persist in being there,” so the legal authorities will act against them, probably more quickly than with the excommunicated women.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA, along with related ACI Prensa content from here.

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