Costa Rican bishop suspends priest for saying Ordinary Form Mass in Latin and ad orientem

Fr. Sixto Eduardo Varela Santamaría Fr. Sixto Eduardo Varela Santamaría has been suspended by the Bishop of the Diocese of Alajuela in Costa Rica after the priest said Mass in the Ordinary Form in Latin and ad orientem. | Parish of St. Peter the Patriarch

ACI Prensa, the Spanish sister news agency of CNA, confirmed that the Diocese of Alajuela, in the Northern region of Costa Rica, ordered Fr. Sixto Eduardo Varela Santamaría to be suspended from all ministries for six months, and will be sent to a psychological treatment clinic for celebrating in Latin the Mass of the Missal of Pope Paul VI, also known as the Ordinary Form or "Novus Ordo."

In a statement issued on behalf  of the Bishop of Alajuela, Bartolomé Buigues Oller, Fr. Luis Hernández Solís, director of communications, explained that Fr. Varela Santamaría was "admonished two previous times" for celebrating one Mass in Latin at his parish of St. Joseph the Patriarch.

According to the statement, his removal from the parish and the suspension of his priestly activities "are expected to be measures that will restore the ecclesial communion and the priest’s well-being; for this, we ask all to unite in fervent prayer."

According to the diocesean spokesman, Fr. Varela Santamaría "continued to celebrate the Tridentine (Traditional Latin Mass) after the publication of Pope Francis' Motu Proprio Traditionis custodes."

But the Summorum Pontificum Association in Costa Rica, which until the release of the motu proprio used to worship in the Extraordinary Form, insists that Fr. Varela Santamaría was not being disobedient. The association maintains that that from the moment the bishops in Costa Rica decided to ban the Extraordinary Form in all the country, Fr. Varela Santamaría has only celebrated the  “Novus Ordo” Mass but in Latin and ad orientem, "something not only permitted by the existing liturgical norms, but not addressed at all by Pope Francis in his Motu Proprio."

A member of the association, speaking for background, told ACI Prensa that the penalty of Fr. Varela Santamaría is the consequence of the ignorant belief that Latin and ad orientem, or facing away from the congregation, are equal to the Extraordinary Form.

The Summorum Pontificum Association explained to ACI Prensa that after the publication of the motu proprio, "we respectfully requested the Bishop of Alajuela permission to continue to celebrate in the Extraordinary Form, something that the group has been doing for 8 years, but the request was denied.

"Bishop Buigues Oller gave as a truly confusing reason: according to him, the only way we could keep celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass  was for us to either be in existence before 1970 or to be related to the schismatic Society of St. Pius the X (SSPX,) something that is not mentioned either by Summorum Pontificum or Traditiones Custodes," the association told ACI Prensa. 

In a WhatsApp voice message sent to his former parishioners and obtained by ACI Prensa, Fr. Varela Santamaría stated, "I believe there was some confusion and more dialogue should have taken place with my Bishop," but he insisted that "since the Bishop's decree I never ever again celebrated the Tridentine Mass, but did continue to celebrate in Latin the Novus Ordo, as a way to accompany some of the faithful." 

The voice message continued: "I am aware that I can start a canonical process, or that I could appeal, I know there are many (legal) options ... but I will do none of that. I love the Church."

Fr. Varela Santamaría revealed that he has temporarily been sent to his sister's home, and that the diocese will send him to a retreat house/clinic that will provide him, "spiritual, psychological and medical attention, at least according to the website of this place."

Traditionis custodes was published July 16 to regulate the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. With this document, Pope Francis modified the provisions given by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, in his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

In a letter that accompanies and explains the motu proprio sent to the world’s bishops, Pope Francis noted that “I am nonetheless saddened that the instrumental use of Missale Romanum of 1962 is often characterized by a rejection not only of the liturgical reform, but of the Vatican Council II itself, claiming, with unfounded and unsustainable assertions, that it betrayed the Tradition and the ‘true Church.’”

The Costa Rican bishops’ conference has been one of those that has responded most harshly against the Traditional Latin Mass after the publication of Traditionis custodes.

In a July 19 statement the Costa Rican bishops declared that “from now on the use of the Missale Romanum of 1962 or of any other expression of the liturgy prior to 1970 is not authorized.”

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