Rorate Caeli

Ciudad del Este Opus Dei Bishop dismissed

Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló, Apostolic Visitator, and Bp. Livieres Plano
The Bishop of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, Rogelio Livieres Plano, an Argentine national and a member of Opus Dei, did not resign, but was summarily dismissed by the Pope in a decision published today. Known as a strong conservative and as one of the world's most Traditional-friendly bishops, he is temporarily replaced by an Apostolic Administrator from among Paraguay's more liberal bishops.

The dismissal came following a visitation that was arranged and made with such uncommon efficiency that it is clear that the result (the bishop's dimissal) had been decided beforehand. Unfortunately, it must be said that the bishop's fall was indeed mostly of his own making. 


There is a horrid predator priest called Carlos Urrutigoity, also a native of Argentina, whose passage has been a disaster wherever he has been. Since the matter has been well-covered in the mainstream media, we have thought it unnecessary to mention by name such a repulsive character who has brought disrepute to traditional-minded institutions in three continents. We now post about this matter as the disastrous result -- for the bishop who unwisely protected him, and for the diocese -- becomes official.

We cannot vouch for all pages regarding all priests accused in this website, but on Carlos Urrutigoity the path and documents it records are clear and credible. As soon as the Society of Saint Pius X managed to get rid of him, he tricked his way into incardination in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The superior-general of the SSPX, Bp. Bernard Fellay, sent the Bishop of Scranton this heartfelt letter which should have brought about immediate dismissal from the clerical state. Instead, Urrutigoity caused immense damage in Scranton with a cult-like pseudo-fraternity called "Society of Saint John", and then, after a new Scranton Bishop finally got rid of him (once again, without obtaining from the Holy See dismissal from the clerical state), he for some reason found himself as Vicar-General of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este.

Regardless of the good things that may have arisen in this diocese -- and these are very many -- it is obvious that such a problematic priest could only be cause for trouble. When the Global Post first covered this in early June, the game was up for Urrutigoity. And, as a consequence of his trail of problems, as we see today, also for Bishop Livieres Plano. Though (so far) there is no news of his past warped behavior being repeated in Ciudad del Este, instead of being dismissed by the Bishop immediately after coming to a knowledge of the problem years ago, the latter dug in. This year, Bishop Livieres accused the Archbishop of the capital, Asuncion, of being himself a homosexual... and his diocese published a long defense of the Bishop's behavior that, among other things, extolled his orthodoxy in comparison with the rest of the country's episcopate. Urrutigoity was only dismissed as Vicar General days before the arrival of the "Apostolic Visitation" in Paraguay.

As said before, the man in the center of it all is so repulsive and has caused so much damage to the image of Tradition that we would have preferred to ignore the matter, but we must here affirm that the action of the Holy Father, while unusually rapid, cannot be considered completely unjust. This is why the matter is so different from the intervention in the Franciscans of the Immaculate -- in the latter case, there is no sign whatsover of moral deviations (and not even the most rabid adversaries of the Founder of the FI have alleged that). As a matter of justice for the Franciscans of the Immaculate, both matters cannot be compared. After the Bishop of Ciudad del Este entrenched himself in defense of such a questionable character as Urrutigoity, there really was nothing left for the Holy See to do but to intervene. The fall of Livieres Plano is the latest event on the path of Hurricane Urrutigoity.

At the same time, even as we understand this action of the Holy Father, we cannot help but compare it with the favor that the Holy Father has continued to extend to, for just one single example, Cardinal Danneels, despite his shocking and extremely scandalous behavior as Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels and his direct hand in the collapse of the faith in a whole country, Belgium. Apparently, discipline is to be meted out in a very uneven fashion at the expense of mostly one side, the "conservatives" and "traditionalists".

But let this also be a lesson to all tradition-minded Catholics: if they believe that they receive more from the Sacred Tradition of the Church, their demeanor must always be more exemplary than the "average" (cf. Lk 12:48). Let there be no room in conservative or tradition-minded environments for any tolerance towards questionable characters, who bring all who are near them into disrepute. If liberals are not punished for this, and sometimes seem even to be promoted due to their recklessness (the Psalmist wrote so many verses on the earthly success of the wretched!), that is a problem of those who must watch over them, up to the Apostolic See itself. Regardless of the double standard of hierarchs, those who know better and believe better must act better.


Now, some may ask, "will all the good works of the bishop be destroyed because of one man's past?" The good works were indeed impressive: Ciudad del Este had at the moment of the intervention more seminarians (estimated at 240) than all the other dioceses of Paraguay combined, attracting them from all over Latin America, including from Buenos Aires, a fact that the then-Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires apparently did not perceive kindly. Ciudad del Este has also attracted small Traditional Catholic or conservative Novus Ordo religious congregations to its soil. Livieres himself offered Solemn Pontifical Mass according to the 1962 books a number of times -- an extreme rarity for reigning bishops in Spanish South America. He ordained to the diaconate, then the priesthood, one of his diocesan clerics according to the Traditional liturgical books. The Traditional Latin Mass became a regular part of the life of the seminary and of the diocese and almost on the eve of the visitation, the Tonsure -- "abolished" by Paul VI -- was conferred on seminarians of the diocese, in a ceremony that used the Traditional rites and was followed by a Traditional Latin Mass.

It was the Bishop's stubborn stance in defense of a priest with such an abominable past that brought upon this visitation -- and now the same Bishop's dismissal.

We end this post with a call to prayer -- for Bishop Livieres Plano, and for the tradition-minded clergy and seminarians now "orphaned" in Ciudad del Este.

September 26 Update Note: some have wanted us to comment the affirmation by Fr. Lombardi today that Livieres' conflict with other bishops was what was "central" to his dismissal, not Urrutigoity. 

It is true, Livieres' conflictive relationship with liberal bishops in his country was the last piece of the puzzle. But let us get real, we have been following this closely and discreetly for years, since the first astounding news of Urrutigoity's naming as Vicar-General became public, and we didn't quite know what to make of it: Urrutigoity, Livieres' right-hand man, was the essential cause and ideal pretext of his conflict with liberal bishops -- regarding the seminary and other diocesan institutions founded by Urrutigoity (which had many good things, but several unclear aspects), regarding unclear financial issues, regarding (as said above) the bizarre and public accusations of homosexuality against other bishops when Urrutigoity's past was brought up. Urrutigoity was not himself the central issue -- the bishop was the central issue -- but he was clearly the first cause and center of origin of all the maze which ended up suffocating the bishop, even if his past in America was not the cause of all the trouble, but the catalyst of its unraveling. It was predictable.

The situation is tragic, most of those who will suffer are completely innocent good Catholics. But it is embarrassing to see the level of denial some tradition-friendly individuals have reached regarding this issue, a kind of denial that they would never entertain were this a liberal bishop. Let us consider things objectively, reject all knee-jerk reactions, and let us thank God that liberal hierarchs hold conservatives to higher standards. Do liberal hierarchs want pretexts? Then conservatives must not give them any pretexts.

For how can conservatives claim to help purify the Church when they don't purify themselves first?