Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig had announced in July of that year that the diocesan Mary Mother of God Seminary would be closed by the end of 2020, by order of the Vatican, and that the seminarians would be relocated to other Argentine seminaries.
In August 2020, the bishop said that the Congregation for the Clergy informed him that because the seminary had trouble maintaining a rector — having had seven in the past 15 years — it did not seem worth it to keep the seminary open.
That announcement came amid escalating tensions in the diocese between the bishop and a group of lay Catholics and priests, which began in mid-June, when Taussig announced that Holy Communion in the diocese could only be received standing and in the hand, not directly on the tongue while kneeling, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bishop's directive, consistent with norms announced in other dioceses in the region, also may have created tensions within the diocesan seminary itself.
A large number of the priests in San Rafael did not comply with directives regarding the distribution of Communion in the hand, among them many former students of the seminary, which was perceived by some to be behind the priests' reluctance to require Communion in the hand, the bishop said.
This refusal to comply had caused "serious scandal inside and outside the seminary and diocese," said Taussig.
The bishop said that reception of the Eucharist in the hand or on the tongue are both equally accepted by the Church.
Speaking to TVA El Nevado on July 27, 2020, Father José Antonio Álvarez, spokesman for the Diocese of San Rafael, said that "due to the undisciplined reaction of a good part of the clergy of the diocese at this time, this diocese does not have the possibility of putting together a formation team in conformity with the discipline of the Church."
On Aug. 20 last year, Taussig announced that he would impose canonical sanctions on priests who persisted in disobedience by giving Communion on the tongue and not in the hand.
After meeting with Pope Francis in late October 2020, Taussig said that the Vatican's decision to close the seminary "was not up for discussion" and will take effect later this year.
Catholics have repeatedly spoken out against the closure of the seminary, calling for caravans, prayer, and demonstrations outside the San Rafael diocesan headquarters.
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In response to protests, Taussig published a letter Oct. 30, 2020 asking Catholics not to "come together for these anonymous gatherings," as "they aggravate the situation and may harm the seminarians themselves more, whom we all want to care for."
The bishop called previous demonstrations "acts of rebellion and contention." Messages stuck to walls and doors included a sign calling for the bishop to resign, another called him a traitor.