Rorate Caeli

Odd Cancellation: Peronism has reached the Tiber -- by Abp. Héctor Agüer

Archbishop Héctor Agüer
Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata
Buenos Aires, June 5, 2024

I write to deal once again with the case of Abp. Gabriel Mestre, fleeting Archbishop of La Plata. [See first article here] In only eight and a half months he had attracted the attention of the local clergy, free at last from the persecutory ideology of “Tucho” Fernandez. In view of the regrettable fact of the Franciscan request for the resignation of Monsignor Mestre, it would be opportune for the priests of La Plata to make a public pronouncement, discreetly and without fear. I do not believe that his interim replacement, Bishop Bochatey will react against the exercise of a qualified democracy that corresponds, after all, to the polyhedral ecclesiology of Pope Bergoglio.

In this case, I believe that one can make use of the old saying, “think wrong and you will be right”; therefore, I am thinking of the responsibility of Cardinal Fernandez, so close to the Supreme Pontiff, in the cancellation of the deposed. Abp. Mestre wrote: “I am aware of my weakness and the human weakness of the beautiful Church that is my home and my family. Holy Church because of the Ministry of the Trinity, sinful Church because of the fragility of the people who are part of it"

Well said; what happened is a typical Argentine intrigue. It is at least curious that the now former Archbishop was summoned to Rome, by the Holy See, to talk about some aspects of the Diocese of Mar del Plata, which was his former office, and what happened there since November 2023, when Mestre had already been promoted to the Archdiocese of La Plata. I insist on what I have suggested before: the hand of Fernandez can be seen in this. In passing, I point out that he was my successor. I had presented my resignation to the see of La Plata long before, and it was accepted just two days after my 75th birthday. This fact was unanimously considered undesirable; this is not the usual way to proceed. I can, in the light of these episodes, understand the case of the unusual dismissal of Monsignor Mestre. Fernandez was my successor; I thought I should speak to him on some characteristics of the Archdiocese which I had served for twenty years; I must have spoken to him for about twenty minutes. I observed that he was not interested in what I could tell him; he was determined to do the opposite, as he did. Another Argentine intrigue, surely hatched in Rome.

I review the message of Abp. Mestre to the “dear community of the Archdiocese of La Plata”. The Bishop's bond with his people is not that of an official; it is - to use a term repeated in the New Testament - agápē, love. This is how it appears in the letters of the Apostle Paul: a love that does not hesitate to correct when necessary.

The message expresses: “Today (May 27, 2024), I am no longer your pastor. I want to tell you that I have been very happy these eight and a half months and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart... Thank you for making me feel at home! Thank you for the gestures of gentleness and kindness in each of the visits! Thank you for inviting me to be part of your lives! I was truly able to experience the diversity and depth of faith in God of many of you, committed faith that edified and enriched me more than once."

What is going to happen with La Plata? As it usually happens in these cases, names are already showing up; some of them cause me concern and terror. The Apostolic Nunciature, on occasions like these, makes consultations and reviews the background of possible candidates, but I suspect that now things are decided on a higher level. I am not referring to the fact that it is always the Pope who appoints the bishops, but that, nowadays, Argentina is in Rome and the Argentine intrigues are well oiled. It will be said that this is always the case, whether it is the Italian, Polish, or German Pope; no, the Argentine originality is incomparable. For more than a decade, the Argentine Episcopate has been shaped, not only by appointments, but also by the “francisquismo” of the prelates who, as is reasonable, want to keep their posts, or aspire to ascend. The Peronist inspiration gives the Church in the country its own characteristics, and Peronism has reached the banks of the Tiber.

We must be careful not to get caught up in the confusion. The Church's mission always remains that of the Lord's mandate to the Apostles: to make disciples of all peoples. This Mandate comes to their Successors in the sacramental ministry.

Last but not least: Abp. Mestre has become Archbishop Emeritus of La Plata, which I am; unless a titular see is attributed to him. But he is 55 years old. He would have had twenty years left to exercise the episcopate until the fateful 75th year, which Paul VI decreed as retirement age, against what was established by the Second Vatican Council in the decree Christus Dominus. What is he going to do? Perhaps he could help a bishop friend, or get a job as a priest in a parish. And what will he live on? Will he suffer the fate of the cancelled bishops and priests? Justice indicates that the Archdiocese of La Plata must support him. In my case, it pays my pension in the Priests' Home of Buenos Aires, where I live, which is a kind of nursing home for priests. I have already written about the 75-year guillotine. According to the Tradition of the Church, the bishop should die in his diocese, working until the end, just as the Apostles did not retire. The Church is our home, our family, and cannot renounce that condition to become a heartless stepmother.