Msgr. Rico Paves: "This form of 'neointegrismo' breaks the Ecclesial communion"

Interview with His Excellency Msgr. José Rico Pavés, Auxiliary Bishop of Getafe, Spain, in the aftermath of the recent press release from the bishop’s office that declared the Diocese’s decision not to support any initiatives run by "HazteOir"

by Diego Pacheco. May 1, 2015

On March 10th, 2015 the Diocese of Getafe issued a press release asking the HazteOir Association to refrain from promoting its activities and initiatives at any of the institutions owned by the Diocese of Getafe, given the participation of some of their members in the secret society of the "El Yunque” (the Anvil). Two weeks later, on 26th of March, the Archdiocese of Toledo [seat of the Primate of Spain], followed suit, when it banned HazteOir from the institutions run by the Archdiocese.

We had a conversation on this topic with His Excellency Msgr. José Rico Paves, who is the Auxiliary Bishop of Getafe and one of the most informed persons regarding the developments and activities of these organizations in Spain. The responses are therefore firmly grounded on facts and can be considered as conclusive by readers.

– Can it be said that the recent communiqués from the dioceses of Getafe and Toledo represent the collective opinion of all the Bishops of Spain on HazteOir and El Yunque?

– This question should be answered by the press spokesperson of the Episcopal Conference of Spain (CEE). However, I can say with confidence that there exists a concern that goes beyond the Diocese of Getafe and the Archdiocese of Toledo. Several Bishops from Spain have shown their support and agree with our diagnosis and final position, even though they did not consider it necessary to issue a press release along similar lines, as related incidents in their dioceses are smaller in comparison. Many of them claim however, that the recent press release provides very sound background regarding the dangers in collaborating with HazteOir, which they can very well use to raise awareness among their faithful.

– Has this topic been addressed at the CEE?

– In 2010, the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of Faith (of which I was the Secretary at the time) discussed the issues relating to El Yunque. In the two sessions that were held in June and September, the Commission discussed a report on El Yunque, which was prepared by a layperson from Toledo at the request of the Commission. This layperson had fully committed himself in the campaign to promote the objection of conscience to the course “Educación para la Ciudadanía” (“Education for Citizenship”) through the association of “Profesionales por la Ética” (“Professionals for Ethics”). It was here and in other similar associations such as HazteOir that he discovered the presence of El Yunque and its members.
On that occasion, the Commission had just discussed about El Yunque and some other similar associations promoted by its members, and submitted its report to the General Secretariat of the CEE for consideration by Bishops. This approach was deemed sufficient at the time since the Archdiocese of Madrid had already asked the leaders of El Yunque to abandon its secretive style of operation and to adopt a visible form that is civic or canonical.
Thereafter, HazteOir filed some lawsuits, which included the one against the layperson of Toledo who had prepared the report for the Commission. The courts dismissed the case in May 2014 after which the issue was discussed again by some organs of the Episcopal Conference and some Bishops. So far, the position of the CEE has been that Bishops take suitable action in their own respective dioceses.

– What action has been taken by the Diocese of Getafe on this issue?

– The diocese has taken two actions: the first one was in the form of a letter sent to the President of HazteOir in September 2014, and the second was the recent press release from the Bishop in March 2015.
The letter communicated what would be made public later, namely that from the Diocese of Getafe, we wish to promote the defense of the fundamental human rights, which are violated today, from the standpoint of an unequivocal ecclesial belonging. Even though many of our proposed goals and ends can be shared with the objectives of HazteOir and their various other platforms, the Diocese of Getafe does not necessarily share in the means used by HazteOir to achieve them and as a result, we notified HazteOir to refrain from promoting their various initiatives at our diocesan institutions.
At first, it was not in our intention to publish this letter, which was only made known to monsignors and parish priests from the diocese. It was later publicized in response to a letter that the President of HazteOir had sent to a majority of the Bishops in Spain announcing its convocation of a “March for Life”, which was to be held in September 2014, and requesting for a personal meeting with every Bishop, accompanied with an area delegate, in order to present to them what HazteOir accomplishes.

– What happened then?

– When we received the letter from Mr. Arsuaga [Mr. Ignacio Arsuaga is founder and president of HazteOir] and upon subsequent examination of its contents, we wondered on why it did not refer to the court decision back from 2014, which declared proven that some directors of HazteOir were indeed members of El Yunque, and dismissed charges against the lay person from Toledo? It [the letter] lacked coherence. On the one hand, HazteOir files a lawsuit against a Catholic who was working for the CEE at the request of the Bishops, and on the other hand, as if nothing had ever happened, [their president] turns to the Bishops to seek their collaboration for the promotion of their activities. That did not seem a reasonable approach to us.

– Why did they file the lawsuits?

– Because HazteOir considered that their right to honor was violated by seeing themselves linked to the secret society El Yunque in the report prepared by the layperson from Toledo. The court ruling of May 2014 dismissed these charges, conclusively proved the membership of some leaders of HazteOir in El Yunque, and declared that the report was “essentially true”.

– What happened afterwards?

– In October, the news website "Infocatolica" published an interview with Msgr. José Ignacio Munilla, Bishop of San Sebastián, where he denounces the damage that secret societies cause to the Church, without mentioning names, and the danger they pose to the associations where their members work.
Later, in February 2015, the news website "Aleteia" published an article about El Yunque commenting on the content of the court ruling of May 2014. The publication of this article caused a series of reactions that led to the issuing of press releases by the Dioceses of Getafe and Toledo.
In the article, which followed in part the report of the lay person of Toledo, it was stated that there are members of El Yunque in several associations like "HazteOir", "Profesionales por la Ética", "Instituto de Política Familiar", and "Ayuda a la Iglesia Necesitada" [Aid to the Church in Need or AIN]. The directors of some of these associations turned to Aleteia’s management requesting them to remove the article or to make corrections. As a result, Aleteia contacted me and asked whether the contents of their article regarding El Yunque were correct or not. I responded in the affirmative and added that it does not introduce anything new and only reaffirms what was originally stated in the report. Aleteia then inserted a heading on their article noting that I ratified its contents, and offered me something more than a heading on their article. After some consultations, I agreed to a long interview that Aleteia entitled “El Yunque existe y hace daño a la Iglesia” ["El Yunque Exists and Damages the Church"].
After my interview was published on Aleteia and we had two meetings in the Chancery of Getafe: one with the senior management team of AIN in Spain, and the other with the President and a director of HazteOir. The first meeting took place in an unequivocal ecclesial climate and sincere cooperation that has helped AIN to disassociate itself from El Yunque. The second meeting did not yield the same results.

– How did the press release you issued on March 10th come about?

– The President of HazteOir requested for an interview with the Bishop of Getafe. The interview took place on March 5th and served to evidence that an agreement would not be reached.
We brought two full pages of what concerns us about HazteOir to the interview in order to stay focused on the issue: firstly, the lack of trust motivated by the strange interpretation of the court ruling of May 2014 made by the President of HazteOir; secondly, the continuous denial by the President and the management team of HazteOir to recognize the presence of El Yunque in their association, which is a fact proven at the judicial court; thirdly, HazteOir’s manner of understanding of the collaboration between the Church and other forms of lay apostolate; fourthly, the claim (wherever they please) of the civil character of the association and lastly, deeming irrelevant that their members can belong to a secret society. The key to the disagreement has to do with the topic of El Yunque.
After we read the report that the President of HazteOir had done about our interview, we considered it necessary to issue a press release. He leaves out those main points of concern that had been the fundamental reason for our dialogue and he even attributes to us having affirmed that there is no moral objection to collaborate with HazteOir when in reality we said several times that if we know that there are members of El Yunque in HazteOir and nothing is done to stop it, we would find it extremely difficult to collaborate with HazteOir.
As we insisted on this point, the President of HazteOir pressed on with the civil character of the association and requested that we, as Bishops, refrain from speaking about it. We asked him if he was aware of the danger and serious nature of what he was asking: why cannot Bishops advice Catholics who collaborate with HazteOir that in their association exists a secret society?
In the press release we limit ourselves to mentioning that the main point of disagreement is the problem of El Yunque and we made it clear that they do not attend the diocesan institutions (parishes, delegations, etc.) in order to make themselves known and to promote their activities.

Why, then, is it not irrelevant that there be members of El Yunque in HazteOir?

– In order to see that this is not irrelevant, it is necessary to move beneath the surface and look deep down closer to the issue. To evaluate the problem of El Yunque in HazteOir, and in other similar associations, we can look at it through these three levels of involvement.

The first level is the one on the periphery that has to do with the works it performs. No one questions the commitment of the many people who work in HazteOir and the value of the many initiatives it promotes in order to create awareness of the defense of human rights that are violated today. At this level, it could be discussed what strategy is better or worse, but naturally, it is not our business to do this.
Many people value HazteOir solely for the goals it pretends to promote, they get involved in its strategies, and do not question the means that are used. The majority of the members of the association think that the only means used are the initiatives promoted and do not want to admit what happen to the people who end up wounded after collaborating with HazteOir or with the divisions they are creating between themselves and Catholics of other associations who are promoting the same goals.

The second level refers to the people who end up being hurt after having worked generously for HazteOir. These are not just two or three. Every now and then we obtain news of more people who are wounded and the cause is always the same: the presence of members of El Yunque in HazteOir. The damage results in broken marriages because one of the spouses considers the oath to El Yunque as more important than marriage vows. Families are wounded because of children being influenced and subsequently captured by El Yunque when the rest of the family was working in HazteOir. When these affected persons have communicated these issues to the management team of HazteOir, all they have received is dead silence, or discrediting remarks, and some even have had to go through lawsuits. We asked the President of HazteOir if the members of HazteOir had been consulted when his association took legal action against the lay person from Toledo for having prepared the report on El Yunque for the Episcopal Commission for the Doctrine of Faith and if the members agreed that the time, money, and energy they dedicate for the defense of human rights be applied to file lawsuits against other Catholics. This has happened again recently. HazteOir had organized a Congress on persecuted Christians with speakers of outstanding caliber and at the same time, an Italian group of lawyers, who were hired by HazteOir, announced to Aleteia that they would initiate legal actions if it does not remove or correct the article about El Yunque.

What do these type of actions correspond to?

– It is hard to believe that all that is being defended in court is the right to honor because of the close relationship between El Yunque and a director of HazteOir, a fact that has already been proven by the court ruling of May 2014. The reactions from catholic news websites after Aleteia published the article have served to uncover the essence of this controversial matter, which is a new form of “integrismo” that pretends to gain positions of power to acquire its ends. Let us not forget that the website of Aleteia is the most visited catholic website in the world after the webpage of the Holy See, and that the international version of HazteOir, the CitizenGo platform, is expanding.
That is what we find on the third level. It justifies the way in which the president and several directors of HazteOir understand the relations between the Catholic Church and the associate apostolate of the laity. The underlying problem is very serious for it denotes a distorted understanding of the Church and of the way the laity collaborates, either in civil or in canonical associations. The predominant vice of El Yunque is to justify the lies and the falsehood in order to avoid revealing the membership in that association because they think that in this way they will be more effective in achieving the ends they pretend to represent, which is to establish the Kingdom of Christ in the world. However, the disagreement that arises from a dialectic vision that continually confronts the faithful with the hierarchy is just as dangerous to the Church as the “integrismo” of those who, believing being covered by “right doctrine”, justify whatever means (lies included) are used to defend a noble end. The result in both cases is the same, the division between Catholics and the perversion of the Church’s evangelistic mission.

– Do the members of El Yunque not understand the well-known moral principle that the end does not justify the means?

– El Yunque emerged at the beginning of the fifties in Mexico as a young catholic university student’s solution to the continuous attacks faced by the Catholic Church from freemasonry. Inspired by the Cristeros, this young man devises a secret society, which is “discrete” and “reserved” as they say, where its members consider themselves half monks and half soldiers and reclaim for themselves, inspired by a text from Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the firmness and constancy of an anvil [“yunque” in Spanish]. They think of the anvil as a way to sanctification and join themselves to the organization through a lifelong oath that obliges them to keep their membership in secret.

After the website of Aleteia published the interview where I spoke about El Yunque, a person who had belonged to this secret society sent me the following message [His Excellency quotes], "what the Bishops should also do is to say that the oath of El Yunque does not have any value. There are many who would like to leave but do not do so as they think that they cannot be unfaithful to their oath. They have impressed upon themselves that their membership is the way to sanctification. And what needs to be clearly said is that something, which obliges one to live in a lie, cannot be the way to sanctification". The legitimacy of the use of a lie brings to the surface other serious problems that will never be justified no matter how noble the end being pursued. Among those problems are the recruitment of young people and their training using paramilitary methods, the infiltration and manipulation of catholic associations, or the harassment of those who leave the organization.

– What reactions have emerged from the March press release?

– After the press release, we have received letters from people, who after several years in HazteOir insist that the issue relating to El Yunque is a rumor and even if it appears as true, it is a minor problem compared to all the good done by HazteOir. To these, we have responded by inviting them not to remain on the surface of the initiatives they promote, and to think about the people that have been damaged by El Yunque while they were collaborating with HazteOir. However, there have been many more persons who have contacted us to thank us for the courage we demonstrated in issuing the press release and who have communicated to us that for the first time in their lives they have felt being heard and welcomed by the Church after going through the horrible experience in El Yunque. Some have opened up to us and shared the “Calvary-ish” experience they have been through until they were liberated from the bonds of this secret society. It is also not insignificant to note that El Yunque recruited these persons while working in HazteOir and in other similar associations.