July 15, 2024 | 4:20


The scandal of the excommunicated bishop and the Poor Clare nuns

Jesus Carames

May 14, 2024 | 8:00 a.m.

Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco, schismatic and excommunicated bishop, has unleashed controversy by becoming leader of the Clarisas nuns of Belorado, who risk excommunication due to their economic drift

Imperial duke, prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire and five times Grandee of Spain. This is how Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco presents himself, the schismatic bishop – excommunicated in 2019 – who has established himself as the 'Pope' of the Poor Clares of Belorado. These nuns, risking excommunication, have plunged into an economic trend that has taken many by surprise. Although not to all, since in April, the Church had opened a file against the nuns. The nuns did not open their doors to the representative of the Bishopric, nor to the faithful who came to the convent for a private mass, according to images published by the convent.

The schismatic Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco and his influence on the Poor Clares of Belorado

Pablo de Rojas Sánchez-Franco founded the Pious Union of San Pablo Apóstol, an organization that is considered "a kind of Warrior Militia predestined to excel above everything that exists," according to expert Luis Santamaría del Río in his book Just outside the cross. Sects of Christian origin in Spain. The Pious Union proclaims itself as the true Church of Christ, and its leader always presents himself as a "Catholic, apostolic and Roman bishop."

The 16 Poor Clares of Belorado have adopted these theses, even at the risk of being excommunicated. According to Santamaría, these ideas are radically contrary to the Second Vatican Council, which they call "the sect of the council," and deny the legitimacy of all the Popes since John XXIII. Sánchez-Franco is not a typical sedevacantist, as he rejects the validity of post-conciliar sacraments and those administered by other schismatic groups, such as the Lefebvrians, because Monsignor Lefebvre was ordained by a supposedly Freemason bishop.

Sánchez-Franco has been linked to the Palmar de Troya sect, although he denies it. He considers his organization the "true Church of Christ." He affirms that in the Pious Union "we follow the statutes given by Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer to the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross and Opus Dei", written before being recognized by John Paul II, whom he calls a "heretic."

The economic background of the conflict: the frustrated sale and purchase of the Orduña convent

La Pía Unión has been registered in the National Registry of Associations of the Ministry of the Interior since 2021, with number 622.513 and headquarters in Bilbao. On his social networks, Sánchez-Franco prohibits his followers from getting vaccinated against Covid-19 "under penalty of mortal sin." Referring to the dictator Francisco Franco as "our undefeated leader", he considers Sixtus Henry of Bourbon-Parma the legitimate king of Spain. In 2021, he called a conclave to elect a legitimate pope, although nothing more was known about the event.

Sister Isabel de la Trinidad, the abbess of the Poor Clare community of Belorado-Orduña, has been in her position for decades. Her mandate was to expire on May 29, but the diocese of Burgos rules out that this fact is related to her decision to abandon the Catholic Church and declare the Popes after Pius XII heretics.

For months, Sister Isabel had avoided personal meetings with Bishop Iceta or his representatives. The meetings were held through the convent's turnstile. Some think that the nun could have died. Not even today did she attend to the archbishop of Burgos, who spoke with the vicar, who confirmed the community's unanimous decision to separate from Rome.

Behind this schism there is an important economic component: the frustrated sale and purchase of the Orduña convent. This building was abandoned in 2002, and in 2020, the Poor Clares of Belorado agreed to buy it for 1,2 million euros. They contributed 100.000 euros and set semiannual payments of 75.000 euros, but they never paid. The non-payment led to the contract being terminated, but the nuns did not accept it and sued their congregation sisters.

In March 2024, Sister Isabel stated that she had a benefactor willing to buy the Monastery and resell it to the nuns of Belorado, financed by the sale of another monastery in Derio. Given suspicions about the benefactor, the bishop of Vitoria and his vicar tried to speak with the abbess, who refused to receive them. The nuns said they did not know the name of the buyer.

On May 7, the Belorado community was summoned before a notary to terminate the purchase and sale contract. Sister Isabel and other nuns claimed 1,6 million euros for works and damages. Not accepting the termination, they took the matter to court. The vicar of the diocese received a WhatsApp message with the nuns' decision to leave the Catholic Church.

This religious-real estate scandal has taken many by surprise and reflects a complex conflict that mixes economic, religious and personal elements, showing the tumultuous reality of some religious communities.

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