Priests say they were told Cardinal Cupich made an apostolic visitation before the dismissal of the Puerto Rican bishop – Catholic World Report

Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres. / Diocese of Arecibo.

Arecibo, Puerto Rico, April 28, 2022 / 10:34 p.m. (CNA).

Four priests from the Diocese of Arecibo in Puerto Rico say they were informed that Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago made a secret apostolic visit there before the dismissal of Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres, according to an investigation by ACI Prensa.

Pope Francis fired Torres on March 9. The Vatican gave no explanation for Torres’ ousting, although Archbishop Roberto Octavio González Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said the decision was made due to “insubordination to the pope.”

The four priests spoke to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news agency, on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The Archdiocese of Chicago did not respond to ACI Prensa’s requests for comment.

The priests told the news agency that a few days after Torres was sacked, they were summoned along with other diocesan clergy to a meeting with the apostolic administrator of Arecibo, bishop emeritus Alvaro Corrada. del Rio de Mayaguez.

Asked about what some saw as Torres’ unjust dismissal, the Jesuit bishop emeritus told assembled priests and deacons that the Vatican had “secretly” sent Cupich to the diocese as an apostolic visitor to investigate Torres at the end. of October last year, the four priests told ACI Prensa.

Cupich visited Puerto Rico between Oct. 25 and 28 in his capacity as chancellor of Catholic Extension, an American organization that raises funds for projects to help Catholic dioceses in need.

In a statement released Oct. 28, Catholic Extension said the visit was part of an effort to help Puerto Rico’s six dioceses in the wake of recent hurricanes and earthquakes.

“Cardinal Cupich’s visit to various Catholic Extension ministry sites in Puerto Rico was well publicized and neither his purpose nor the content of his meetings were secret,” Catholic Extension said in a statement to ACI Prensa. “Presenting them as such is wrong.”

One of the priests interviewed by ACI Prensa said that Corrada del Rio remarked that “Cardinal Cupich came, and he came as the person who was going to report, he reported and stayed here for A few days”.

Another priest told the news agency that Corrada del Río said Torres didn’t reveal ‘everything he knew’ about his sacking, ‘because he knew there had been a visit Apostolic” by Cupich.

Torres, however, told ACI Prensa that he was unaware of any apostolic visitation.

“I have never been informed or made aware of any apostolic visitation to the Diocese of Arecibo or related to this servant, and Cardinal Cupich has not indicated anything about it,” Torres said.

“This statement covers not only the recent period but the entire duration of my service to the Diocese of Arecibo as Bishop,” he added.

ACI Prensa also sent a request to Corrada del Rio regarding his alleged statements regarding a secret apostolic visitation by Cupich.

“I only know that Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, visited the Diocese of Arecibo. My guess is wrong,” he told the news agency.

Lack of due process criticized

ACI Prensa identified at least two factors that may have influenced the Holy See’s decision to sack Torres.

The first factor was his refusal to transfer seminarians from his diocese to the new interdiocesan seminary in Puerto Rico, approved by the Vatican in March 2020.

The second factor, ACI Prensa found, was Torres’ defense of the right of Catholics to conscientiously oppose mandatory vaccination against COVID-19, in accordance with guidelines issued by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Torres refused to sign a joint statement from the Puerto Rican Episcopal Conference saying that “there is a duty to vaccinate and we do not see how conscientious objection can be invoked from Catholic morality.”

These positions would have led other Puerto Rican bishops to accuse him before the Holy See for an alleged lack of collegiality, found ACI Prensa.

During this meeting with Corrada del Río, several priests criticized the lack of due process in the dismissal of Torres.

One of the priests noted that no bishop in Germany suffered a similar fate, despite several statements against the teachings of the Catholic Church linked to the country’s synodal path. The contentious process debates sexual morality, the priesthood and how power is exercised in the Church, among other issues.

Another priest interviewed by ACI Prensa expressed frustration at what he described as “sending a spy, not an apostolic visit.”

“I understand that the apostolic visitation is announced. It is not announced to the four winds, but it comes with an agenda,” the priest said.

“We (the Arecibo clergy) should have been questioned, not just the Episcopal Conference,” he added.

“If they did that to the bishop, imagine what they would do to us,” one of the four priests told ACI Prensa.

Another said he felt “sad” because “I believe the Church should not act arbitrarily, I think we all deserve a trial”.

“Even if it’s me tomorrow, God forbid I’m accused of something as a priest. I want a clear and fair trial,” he said.

This story was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency. The story was translated and edited by CNA.

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