«Sedevacantism»: the other hottie of the schismatic nuns

The mojito chocolate with which the Poor Clares of Belorado became the stars of the Madrid Fusión gastronomic fair in 2020 seems to be choking as the week ends, after last Monday they decided to “erase themselves” from the Catholic Church and become under the protection of the excommunicated false bishop Pablo de Rojas.

His departure from the Vatican fold is served as the result of a particular cocktail where several ingredients are configured, among them the brawl generated by a questioned real estate transaction that included the sale of a convent in Derio and the purchase of another in Orduña, with a “priest” bartender acting as background spokesperson.

All of this, seasoned by an ideologizing overdose that would represent the so-called Pious Union of Saint Paul the Apostle, an organization founded by De Rojas and that considers itself as the authentic “Apostolic, Catholic and Roman Church.” A denier of the Vatican Council, this man from Jaén recognizes Pius XII as the last Pope, considering the other successors of Peter as “usurpers.”

Although a priori these theses may sound bizarre and residual, the truth is that they correspond to a current that, without being the majority, seems to permeate a sector of believers. It is “sedevacantism.” “It is a very small minority of Catholics who consider that at a certain moment in recent history the succession of the papacy has been interrupted simply because what the following Popes say is not in accordance with their own vision of the Catholic faith,” says Luis Santamaría, theologian and the greatest expert on sects in Spain, and who has been analyzing this phenomenon for years, as he explained in detail in a spread from the magazine Vida Nueva, which was published with a certain prophetic air just a month before the outbreak of the “schism” of the Belorado monastery.

The first doses of “sedevacantism” were injected in the middle of the 19th century before the First Vatican Council, but were forged during the pontificate of Pius XII, when ultra-Catholic groups questioned him for opening up to the natural planning of marriages to prevent conception. It was the excuse to consider Pius XI as the last legitimate Pope. Curiously, De Rojas did amnesty Pius The “sedevacantists”, therefore, only recognize the Tridentine mass, in Latin and with its back to the people, with the corresponding pre-conciliar vestments and its clericalized concept of power and women.

Santamaría has no doubt when defining the Pious Union of Saint Paul the Apostle as a sect, among those that “present themselves as the small faithful refuge against the drift of the contemporary Catholic Church.” According to De Rojas himself, it is made up of two “bishops”, seven “priests” and two hundred “numeraries”, adopting the nomenclature of Opus Dei. However, the sect specialist does admit a certain recent resurgence of these groups: «Today there is an explosive mix: the pontificate of Francis and the existence of social networks that are a loudspeaker that magnifies their extremist positions beyond the real follow-up. that they have and are capable of reaching the most unexpected corners through the screens so that their conspiracy speeches nest among people who live in confusion or who view some of the Pope's statements with bewilderment and throw themselves into the arms of these characters. . Hence his concern about the fact that “all these ideas spread by people who have broken with Catholicism are influencing broad sectors of the Church itself.” This breeding ground would be fueled by a political polarization that is also permeating ecclesial forums. An ideological mark that the founder of the Pía Unión himself presented, president of the Federation of Poor Clares of Our Lady of Arantzazu, in his first public appearance with Ana Rosa Quintana in “Tardear”, when he denied the Holocaust and presented himself as “a great admirer of the social doctrine that Franco imposed in Spain.

But how did they manage to recruit the Poor Clares of Belorado to their cause? For Santamaría, several factors add up: “First of all, we must take into account that sects always feed on people's vulnerability.” In this sense, she clarifies that being vulnerable does not have to be synonymous with being illiterate, that is, linking that fragility with a lack of training in the nuns, but with some of the peculiarities of the isolation of the cloister: “These types of leaders and their organizations do not convince them rationally, but rather emotionally. At the same time, he sees “a great complicity between the sectarian leader and the abbess, Sister Isabel, about whom some authorized sources of the Church have pointed to a possible abuse of power towards her community sisters,” adds the researcher.

With that rarefied atmosphere of resistance to Francis that besieged him in these eleven years of pontificate, the virus of “sedevacantism” via De Rojas penetrated the contemplatives of Burgos in just one year, following the story that they themselves have shared. Of course, it was infected silently, since they did not raise any suspicions among the nuns' own chaplain who had celebrated mass with them daily until last week. The person who raised the alarm about the radicalization of the sisters was the president of the Federation of Poor Clares of Our Lady of Arantzazu, Sister María Soto, which led to the opening of an investigation, with the approval of Rome, of the Archbishopric of Burgos and the bishoprics of Vitoria and Bilbao, where the convents of Belorado, Orduña and Derio are located.