The Ecclesiastical Court of the Archbishopric of Burgos in Spain has formally accused the Poor Clare nuns of the Monastery of Belorado with schism, launching proceedings that could soon result in the excommunication of the renegade nuns. 

The accused nuns themselves posted on social media the letter received from the court to this effect. The letter, addressed to Sister María Sión de la Trinidad, cites the referenced mother superior to appear before the court to testify about the schismatic positions the nuns made public last month. The letter warns the Catholic religious that, if they maintain these positions, they are subject to being convicted of the crime of schism, punishable by excommunication in accordance with the Code of Canon Law.

The court’s letter specifies that both the nuns’ so-called Catholic Manifesto and alleged letter of schism, signed by Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, as well as their letters requesting guardianship and acceptance by the excommunicated false bishop Pablo de Rojas “constitute the crime of schism, typified in the Code of Canon Law in accordance with Canon 751, the penalty for which is provided for in Canon 1364 § 1 and which entails expulsion from consecrated life.”

Canon 751 defines schism as “the rejection of subjection to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

The Archbishopric of Burgos established a period of 10 calendar days from receipt of the decree to appear before the court. If the cited sister is not accompanied by a lawyer, one will be assigned to her ex officio so she “can exercise her right of defense by expressing her position” on what has taken place. 

If she does not appear within that period, “the corresponding decree will be issued, in accordance with the law,” that will establish the penalty associated with the crime of schism, which is excommunication “latae sentenciae.”

The group of Poor Clares responded through their social media account on Instagram, stating that “our Catholic manifesto and our subsequent statements are clear and should have had the automatic consequence of our exclusion from the scope of application of canon law.” In addition, they accuse the archbishop of Burgos, Mario Iceta, of having “usurped” their legal representation “by accessing the administration of the properties and the control of the bank accounts, to which we stopped having access on June 4.” 

Presence of the archbishop’s envoys in Belorado

On May 29, the Holy See appointed Iceta as pontifical commissioner.

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According to the Archbishopric of Burgos, on June 6, three people sent by the pontifical commissioner visited the Monastery of Santa Clara de Belorado “in order to establish some line of dialogue and dialogue with the nuns, particularly with the older ones.”

The delegation included Sister Carmen Ruiz, secretary of the Federation of Poor Clares of Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu, Rodrigo Sáiz in representation of the Pontifical Commissioner, and Carlos Azcona, notary of the ecclesiastical court, “responsible for transmitting the pertinent notifications of this court regarding the opening of the canonical process corresponding to the declaration of abandonment of the Catholic Church” and notary María Rosa Garrido.

Summarizing the visit, the archbishopric reported that the former abbess of the community, Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, made it known through Sister Belén and Sister Sión that, except for Garrido, “the others ‘were not well received’ in the monastery and that they should leave.” 

For the archbishopric, both the complaint filed by the Poor Clares against Iceta as well as its ratification in the courts, in addition to the response to the June 6 visit, “can be interpreted as gestures of hostility that manifest the null intention of the community to establish any dialogue with the person designated by the Holy See and his team. Even so, the pontifical commissioner maintains his desire to build bridges and find appropriate ways to reach a solution.”

The nuns, for their part, maintained: “It is really difficult for us to classify all these events as signs of patience and dialogue.”

Since the decrees were delivered by hand on June 6, the deadline for Sister Sión to appear to testify in court is Sunday, June 16. 

Not all the nuns face excommunication

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There are 15 nuns left in the Belorado Monastery after the departure of Sister Amparo, who decided to leave last month “so as not to belong to that sect.” 

On May 15, 10 of the sisters defended their position on television. Five have not spoken publicly. These are the older ones, whom the archbishopric considers outside the sedevacantist manifesto and the schismatic declaration.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.