Announcement of the Mercedarian Province of Chile:
Pope Francis Acknowledges Dismissal of the Former
Superior General from the Priesthood and Order
(Rome / Santiago de Chile) On April 20, the Chilean Mercedarian Province published the scarcely noticed news that the most severe Church punishments have been imposed by Pope Francis upon the former Superior General of the Order, Mariano Labarca Araja. The Vatican has not given any opinion on this.
The message of the Order, the silence of the Vatican
The Chilean Mariano Labarca was from 2004-2010 the 86th Superior General of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy for the Ransom of Prisoners (Ordo Beatae Mariae de Mercede redemptionis captivorum) founded in 1218, better known as Mercedarian Order. Since 1574, the General Magister has been elected for six years.
The Chilean Province said:
"Father Pedro MLA (ex-General Superior) was dismissed from the priesthood and the Order by decree of HH Francis, so he is no longer a priest and no longer a religious. This decision, which is irrevocable, has been taken after careful examination of the case brought to light in 2013, because of the serious damage to the priestly dignity and religious vows."
According to Spanish and Latin sources, the "reported case" appears to have involved sexual abuse. The case started in May 2013. The extent to which Pope Francis himself has been personally interested in the matter or has routinely signed the laicization decree is not known.
It is more astonishing that "there are cases of priests who are broadly and publicly treated and accused, and others, of whom we hear nothing, or just as good as nothing, as is the case here. The Spanish Catholic columnist, Francisco Fernandez de la Cigoña, is an attentive observer of the Church's developments in Latin America.
Mariano Labarca, for six years as a Superior General, led this Order rich in tradition, which included numerous Saints, including the founder and first General Magister Petrus Nolascus, Raimund of Peñafort, Raimund Nonnatus, Petrus Armengol and Seraprion, the first martyr of the Order. All these saints lived in the first 100 years of the Order, which at that time developed a very extraordinary charism.
The Mercedarian Order - For the Ransom of Enslaved Christians
The Mother of God had appeared to the Occitan nobility, Petrus Nolascus, in 1218, who asked him to found an order to buy Christians, who were in Islamic captivity. Even then the south of Spain was still under Islamic rule. Until the eighteenth century, Islamic princes, army leaders and pirates sailed all over the Mediterranean and the European coasts. They attacked ships and Europe's coastal areas and, according to recent estimates, carried at least two million Christians as slaves to North Africa and the Middle East.
The Mercedarian Order collected money to buy the enslaved Christians in the south of Iberia, as well as in North Africa, which, because of the great hardship caused by the slaving of the Muslims in Iberia, also a few other Orders. When no money was available, the Mercedarians offered themselves as pledge to obtain the release of other Christians. Their actions were a "triumph of mercy" in the history of the Church.
Because of this original charism, the Order is still active in the prison system.
During the period when the Habsburgs also ruled over Spain, a Mercedarian monastery was established in Vienna, but in 1782 it fell victim to the Josephine sack of the monasteries.
Determined defense by the progressive side
Today, the Order is only a shadow of its former greatness. Today, however, little is known about the names of the great saints from the beginning of the Order. In 2015 it counted 581 members, but in large part this is over aged. The Mercedarian Order is responsible for the most important place of pilgrimage in Sardinia, the Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria, named after the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.
While the Labarca case is hardly to be read in the media, the former priest and former Mercedarian, the Basque Xabier Pikaza Ibarrondo, published on the progressive Spanish news site Periodista Digital an unconditional defense of the former Superior General. The contentious, progressive theologian Pikaza was not laicized punitively, but gave up his priesthood and left the Order to marry.
Pikaza criticizes the "zero tolerance" as unchristian. It contradicts the commandment of repentance and reconciliation. Labarca, who until a few years ago played a considerable role in the Church of Chile and was described as a possible bishop, had not been condemned by any secular court. His ecclesiastical condemnation had taken place in the silent chamber. The possibility of defense was doubtful, no one knew with what he was being charged. He, Pikaza, had tried to contact his old religious brother during the proceedings, which was not possible. He had only been informed by the Order that the ex-Superior General should not be in contact with the outside world on the instructions of the Vatican.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Mercedarian Chiles / Wikicommons (Screenshot)
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