UPDATE: January 24th 2018
From Father Paolo M. Siano, Corrispondenza Romana, via Rorate Caeli.
A few days ago, on January 20th there was an important anniversary in the history of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI). On that date six years ago (2012), in our Roman convent on Via Boccea, a meeting took place between the then General Council of the FI and five friars (two Americans and three Italians) opponents of Father Stefano Manelli, founder and Minster General [of the Order].
Along with other professors of the then FI Seminary and those in charge of formation, I was invited by Father Manelli to take part in the event. The meeting, which lasted the entire day in two sessions, was shocking for the amount of vehemence and malicious attacks made against Father Manelli…
The middle portion of the letter includes several very specific examples of deliberate actions carried out in order to privately destroy and publicly “rebrand” the FFI. I encourage readers to visit the full article.
…My vocational future and that of other confreres, who like me defend the person and line of our Founders, is uncertain. In the light of various facts, I’m convinced that at least until the end of this Pontificate, we are liable to be monitored, obstructed and persecuted wherever we go and whatever we do or become. In the meeting of January 21st 2012, those three Italian friars essentially said this to us (I’m a witness to it): “If you don’t remove Latin from the Seminary (at that time, The Theological Seminary of the Immaculate Mediatrix) we will denounce you to the Congregation [CIVCSVA-The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life] where – as you know – the modernists [or progressives] are and who will have you put under a commissioner”. And that’s exactly what happened. We didn’t bend to the threat so the Visit arrived and we were put under the Commissioner…
…With knowledge and in conscience before the Divine Judgment, the God of Israel, we can no longer keep quiet and watch silently and passively at the triumph of injustice and speciousness which indeed cry out for vengeance in the sight of God. May God and Mary Our Blessed Mother, Co-Redemptrix, the New Ester, help us to bear this suffering for the good of the Church. We do not know what our future will be: whether it will be as FI, diocesan priests or be reduced to the lay state. Only an extraordinary intervention of Grace can save us. Otherwise “we will die” vocationally, but with honor, not as traitors.
Translation: Francesca Romana
Original Post, Pre-Updates:
Note: I started this post long before my conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. It was difficult to read about and took me some time to finish. This information is important to post because I love and care for my Catholic brothers and sisters, and it’s a timely example of troubling dynamics within a Christian hierarchy which makes it relevant to all of us.
When we moved to the east coast, we had to set to “parish shopping” which is always a stressful drag. Eventually we tried the TLM Mass at a nearby parish. The Mass was offered by a monk from a nearby friary. They are the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. I checked out their website and wanted to write a simple, happy post here about struggles in finding a parish and how providential it seemed that we would end up within walking distance from a parish with a TLM Mass offered by an FFI priest. And then I learned more about the state of the FFI.
What is happening to the FFI/FSI is relevant to all Christians, Catholics especially. This is self-evident. One of the most disturbing things from dissenting members is the message that others shouldn’t be talking about what happened.
Being the internet, there are gross weird comments from all camps on this issue. I’ve included some comments here that I think are relevant and helpful. Gossip and calumny are real and harmful and sinful. This makes tossing around accusations of “gossip and calumny” in order to shut people up who are trying to inform and assist one another all the more disturbing. I recognize that trick and I am not afraid.
I am posting excerpts because sources have disappeared before, but I encourage people to follow through on the links provided.
Updates may be posted here as the situation progresses, or they may not. It seems like the order will simply be suppressed, as higher-ups insist it has died a natural death.
Because there are so many sources and voices below, my comments will be in orange. All images come from the same site as the accompanying text.
Except for the first link (from the US FI website), these are in chronological order, from various sources, not all of whom agree with each other.
From the Mt. St. Francis friary, near our home:
Mount Saint Francis Hermitage is a Catholic, Marian retreat center and formation house run by the Franciscans of the Immaculate…Here one can be alone with God in silence; here those who are living under pressure, who are worn out by the burdens of daily life, can draw near to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary in prayer. Mount St Francis is open for prayerful visits from dawn until dusk. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered daily at the Oratory located at the Marian Friary (see Mass Schedule). The peaceful surroundings of God’s creation afford everyone an atmosphere of quiet recollection.
From the US website of The Franciscans of the Immaculate:
The Franciscans of the Immaculate was established by Pope John Paul II in 1990 as a diocesan institute. The Institute was erected as a pontifical institute of religious life by His Holiness John Paul II in January 1, 1998, Solemnity of the Mother of God…
Who We Are: A Franciscan-Marian Way of Life
…The community excludes with all promptness everything that brings into the brotherhood the noise, the distraction, the dissipation, and the spirit of the world – radio, television, profane literature, etc. – and during the time and places of greatest activity, efforts increase to preserve the high place of contemplation by means of interior recollection and continued silence…
…Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis declared that he wanted to follow “the life of poverty of our most high Lord Jesus Christ and His most holy Mother,” and commanded his sons and to do the same. This is why in Chapter VI of the Holy Rule for the friars (the Regula Bullata) he wrote that his brothers should “not appropriate anything to themselves, neither house, nor place, nor anything,” but rather should be “as pilgrims in this world”…Even strictly necessary things are not ours, but charitably entrusted to us by our benefactors for our use.
…As for money, it is unthinkable for us to have a reserve of money in safekeeping, or a bank account in our possession. We are to use only the money necessary for the present needs; the remainder goes to the poor…We refuse inheritances, perpetual legacies, fixed incomes, insurance that is not required by law, and anything else of value that does not match our condition as poor persons. For the application of Holy Masses, for the work of the sacred ministry, and for any other work we do, we take no offering unless it be a mere alms. We are ready and glad to give all without receiving anything…
The Franciscans of the Immaculate, who for some time now have increasingly been celebrating the usus antiquior, have now declared their predilection for the Extraordinary Form and explained their reasons for this:
…The Franciscans of the Immaculate avail themselves, with joy and grateful appreciation, of the initiative taken by Pope Benedict XVI with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. […] The choice to predilect the “extraordinary form” corresponds to a legitimate internal choice of the religious family, as foreseen in the same motu proprio, in a Catholic spirit of fidelity to the Pope and to the liturgical tradition of the Order founded by St. Francis of Assisi. […]
At Lanherne in mid-Cornwall a part of Pope Benedict’s quiet revolution is occurring. A youthful order is embracing the 1962 liturgical books in their entirety. Even in far-flung Cornwall new shoots are growing fast!
…The nuns at Lanherne have been using the 1962 Mass Rite on a daily basis since June 2008. Their chaplain – one of their own Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate – and a US citizen had no prior experience of celebrating the rite but is doing very well with the 1962 Missal. The Conventual Mass is sung daily – the Masses are open to the faithful.
…Mass at Lanherne is offered daily at 8.00 am on all weekdays and at 10.00 am on Sundays and Holy Days.
March 25 2009
Ordinations for the Franciscans of the Immaculate
As mentioned earlier, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, today celebrated Pontifical Mass in the usus antiquior and ordained five priests for the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FFI) in the church of St. Francis in Tarquinia (a small town in Latium).
Yesterday now, the Superior of the FFI, Fr Stefano Maria Manelli, celebrated Solemn Mass in the Cathedral of the Pope, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, on the occasion of the Octocentennial of the Approbation of the Rule of St. Francis by Innocent III on 16 April 1209…Here are some images of the Mass, by way of our friends at Rinascimento Sacro.
April 22 2009
Again and Again
It has happened twice this week, both times with the new Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in attendance. It is the Traditional Latin Mass celebrated significantly at the Papal Altar, in the Cathedral of City of Rome, the Mother of all Churches. Traditional Rite ordinations have taken place here before, but not at the Papal Altar.
The presence of the FFI is significant, it is only recently that they, one of the new religious orders, expressed a preference for the older form of Mass. Look at the photographs, there are few of them over 40!
August 1 2009
Franciscan Friars No Longer Homeless
The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have been looking for a home in England for ages, they found one at long last at St Joseph’s in Burselm, Stoke on Trent. Their new Marian Friary opens next Sunday with Mass at 4.30pm celebrated by Bishop Gough.
I can’t help being surprised that it has taken them so long, especially as so many Churches are closing for want of a priest. It would seem some bishops would prefer to see closures rather than inviting the new communities into their dioceses.
The Church is huge and the house is large enough for a community of half a dozen friars, say a prayer for them.
Several good things have happened at Lanherne Convent since my article appeared in Mass of the Ages in the early part of this year. In fact, the full Office (1962) has been sung since Christmas Eve 2008 and the Little Office of Our Lady has been recited (in full on a daily basis) over the last couple of months. The Little Office is said every day except on Mondays, when the Office of the Dead is recited.
Excerpt, emphases mine:
Paix Liturgique, in its newest Italian newsletter, has an interview with Fr Alessandro M. Apollonio, rector of the theological seminary of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FFI), which brings splendid news from this young order which now has more than 700 members. Here is a translation of the part concerning the liturgy:
The vocation of a seminary is to give priests to Holy Church. This year eight of your friars will be ordained in Florence, on the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March. Last year, the ceremony took place at Tarquinia and, for the first time in the history of your institute, the sacrament of orders had been conferred on five of your friars according to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite….[This year, again,] the Pontifical Mass will be according to the older form: can we conclude that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite now becomes the ordinary manner of your ordinations to the priesthood?
Yes, as long as the Pope allows it, in the sense of being the preferred form, not the exclusive.
…Since the Extraordinary Form is the liturgical form closest to our spirituality, as long as the Pope allows this, we will prefer the ancient rite for our ordinations. Of course, if tomorrow we have to ordain some friars directly in Africa or the United States and the bishop prefers to celebrate according to the Novus Ordo, the ordinations will be according to the modern liturgy in its most solemn form.
What brings your spirituality particularly close to the ancient rite?
Our Franciscan and Marian spirituality is characterised by its being theocentric, christocentric and mariocentric. God, the God-Man and the Immaculate Coredemptrix are central to our vocation. And, in its sacrificial and mystical dimensions, the traditional liturgy responds really fittingly to this spirituality of ours. There is salvation only in God made flesh in the womb of the Virgin, died on the Cross and risen, and the millennial liturgy of the Church constantly reminds us of this, even in its most subtle details.
If your friars are now entering the priesthood through the ancient rite, it would seem natural that they might enjoy its treasures every day: What is your position on the breviary for example? Can your priests use the traditional one?
Indeed, to accompany the spiritual growth of every single priest and of our religious family as a whole, the traditional breviary is a valuable tool. So much so that in the seminary, for all our functions in choir, it is now the one which we use. For personal reitation or on mission, the friars can however use the breviary of Paul VI.
How far are you along in the implementation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum in your houses?
In Italy, the Extraordinary Form is the form of our conventual Masses, recommended by the Father Founder, both for the friars and the sisters, and it is ever increasingly being celebrated in our public ceremonies also in parishes when we have the consent of the bishop. Abroad, things are done according to local needs. For example, in the United States, in order to prudently avoid any kind of confusion, things go at a slower pace than in Italy. However, from Brazil to the Philippines, the Extraordinary Form conquers more and more the souls of our brothers and sisters Franciscans of the Immaculate.
August 16 2012
Help the Sisters at Lanherne
Thank you for posting this. My family also lives in Cornwall, and we appreciate the presence of the sisters in our diocese. Please, if there is anyone who can help the sisters buy their convent, then this would be very much appreciated.
(This was) “the first Solemn Masses ever to be celebrated” at this friary and thus certainly mark an important milestone for that community.
Excerpt: [Note: When it comes to Fr. Z I’m including more of his posts here than in the other excerpts. This is because I believe he has important reflections on and advice regarding the matter. I hope Fr. Z will forgive me for lifting so much material in this instance, and I hope that you, reader, will visit his blog regularly regarding matters of the Catholic Church.]
…(In a nutshell,) the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFIs) underwent an Apostolic Visitation which finished 3 July. There was division among the FFIs about Summorum Pontificum, their use of the older form of Mass, and criticisms made by some of Vatican II. As a result of the Apostolic Visitation, a decree dated of 11 July, signed by the Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, João Card. Braz de Aviz (remember him?) and the Secretary Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo (a Franciscan and one of the first appointments Pope Francis made). It was approved by Pope Francis before its publication.
The decree appoints “Commissario Apostolico” ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, a Capuchin named Fidenzio Volpi, over the all the FFIs. It also requires…all FFIs must celebrate the Novus Ordo and that they can celebrate the Usus Antiquior only with permission from competent authorities. This goes into effect on 12 August.
…First, and I don’t think the Prefect of the Congregation, or the FFIs that sparked this take-over by the Holy See, should get a pass: this decree will hurt a lot of lay people [my emphasis]. …In short, a small group of people ruined something great for a lot of people.
…I suspect that faults in charity and prudence on the part of the more traditionally inclined among the FFIs (and the fact that liberals are always ready to shove traddies to the back of the bus) set the stage for this. Others were caught in the middle… I hope people monitor this closely and let everyone know what happens one way or another.
July 29 2013
The FI’s and Pope Francis: Two Updates
(please cut and paste to follow link)
[Note: The above address links to the blog of one of the 5-6 persons who petitioned for the intervention, although this did not become apparent until much later on the blog. I am providing links to his blog because it’s obviously relevant. Originally, I was set to post excerpts here with my rebuttals, but for my own safety and sanity I want to engage with this person and their work as little as possible. This is why his links are in cut-and-paste format.]
Notable reply from the comments section:
The pope may have disciplined the order but it’s not a private matter for the laity who attend parishes staffed by the FFI. They will have to elsewhere for the TLM. In short it’s simply clericalism to say its an internal matter (I.e. none of your business)[My emphasis].
July 30 2013
Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
What is beautifully Franciscan about is the docility of the Friars themselves to the Holy See. Pray for the Friars.
What seems strange to me is that the true docility would have led the Friars to respect the decisions of their General Chapter and their elected Superior, right?
To me, it seems like the minority now are imposing their views on the majority. ..[I agree. One of the more sickening things I’ve noticed in the discourse around this topic is the willingness to use the rhetoric of virtues like charity, mercy, obedience, and avoiding calumny as smug rhetoric to silence people who actually do care about those virtues and are trying to defend a church and tradition that helps to develop them. I’m not buying it and it isn’t the first time I’ve seen modernists in the Church use these kinds of manipulative rhetorical devices.]
I’m perplexed. If the quoted figure of six complainants out of 800 members of the order is correct, I don’t see how it can be counted as internecine strife. The moving force appears to have come from the USA and (again, if correct} some of those complainants are said to have left the order. It’s as clear as mud to me, but the resolution does seem heavy-handed.
…a translation of Roberto de Mattei’s take:
(Rome), the Franciscans of the Immaculate are trying to cope with the new situation. To contradict this publicly, is prohibited by the duty of obedience [My emphasis]. So from this side, there will be no contradiction heard. The signal that is being sent, from these measures against tradition, is but negative and severe. The well-intentioned or naive attempts at damage control which have just begun…Even some in traditional circles are trying to ban their own cares through excuses (“it’s not about the Old Mass, it probably applies only to the Order”)…
…They protested against the decision of the Order’s leadership, to use the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite and to remain bi-ritual for the pastoral care of the faithful. Some of the six dissidents are now no longer in the Order, they were excluded because of disobedience and indiscipline…
If the numbers above are correct, it is amazing – and highly disturbing – that such a tiny minority (less than 1%) could cause such suffering and disruption in their own religious order. Again, the specificity and totality of the injunction made against the FFI’s ability to offer the TLM is truly unprecedented.
The “case” of the Franciscans of the Immaculata is a very serious episode, which [will] have an effect in the Church that is maybe not anticipated by those who have set about to act imprudently [my emphasis].
The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life (better known as the Congregation for Religious) by Rodriguez Carballo OFM has overthrown the General Superior of the Franciscans of the Immaculata…
…In order to “cement” the decree, said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, it received the approbation ex auditu from Pope Francis, to which the brothers have taken every opportunity to appeal to the Apostolic Signatura. [++Burke] The reasons for this condemnation which has its origin in the instigation of a group of dissident brothers to the religious congregation, remains mysterious [my emphasis]. According to the decree from the Congregation and the letter of the new Commissioner of the Franciscans, the only charges appear to be a lack of sentire cum Ecclesia and an excessive attachment to the Traditional Roman Rite.
…In reality we are faced with a manifest injustice which is being done to the Franciscans of the Immaculate [, which is] one of the most flourishing that has been established in the Church, both because of the number of vocations and the authenticity of the spiritual life as well as because of the fidelity to doctrine and to Rome. In the situation of liturgical, theological and moral anarchy in which we find ourselves today, the Franciscans of the Immaculate should serve as a model for religious life. The Pope often refers to the need for a simpler and more spartan religious life.
The Franciscans of the Immaculate distinguish themselves just by the rigor and evangelical poverty in which they live, by their Franciscan charism since its inception. Instead of this, the Congregation of Religious is directing in the name of the Pope, to transfer the General Government of management to a minority of rebellious, progressive brothers, to which the neo-Commissioner will rely upon to “normalize” the Order, or in other words, to lead it into that disaster which it has so far escaped, thanks to its loyalty to Church order and the Magisterium.
…This order was attracting young traditional people all over the world. They want stability and reverence and a total self giving. The sisters don’t want to wear pantsuits, live in an apartment and have a cushy job. They want to be Brides of Christ and the TLM is the liturgy that fills their humble souls.
A clear attempt to minimize the importance of this decree is taking place here and there in the blogosphere, as expected. We are being told that this isn’t really something to worry about; that this is just a particular situation, limited to a particular religious institution, and has nothing to do with how Pope Francis views Summorum. Against these manifestations of the spirit of denial that we have come to know so well since February 28 of this year, we raise the following points.
1) First, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate are not just a small religious Order or congregation occupying a tiny niche of the Traditional Catholic world; with more than 200 priests, 360 brothers and 400 nuns, they are the second largest canonically-regular religious congregation or society among those that primarily or de facto exclusively offer the Traditional Latin Mass. (The FSSP is the largest.) The family of female monasteries and convents under the spiritual care of the FFI have no other parallel in the Traditional Catholic world outside the SSPX. Anything that restricts the ability of the FFI to offer the Traditional Latin Mass will of necessity be deeply felt by the Traditional Catholic world [my emphasis].
2) One justification now being raised is that the FFI’s application of Summorum Pontificum had caused discord in many communities and that the Traditional Latin Mass was “imposed” brutally on priests who did not want it. On the contrary, we in Rorate, who have been closely observing the FFI since 2008, can affirm that the opposite is the case: Summorum was applied in a very gradual manner by the FFI, the Novus Ordo was never forbidden in their houses and sanctuaries, and in many parts of the world the FFI continued to offer the Novus Ordo predominantly. It ought to be noted as well that the FFI, in their promotion of the “Forma Extraordinaria”, have been remarkably free of polemics and public attacks on the Novus Ordo. [My emphasis. People who prefer the TLM aren’t all the rabid, conspiratorial, borderline-sedevacantists that pop up in the worst of the comments sections.]
3) Yet another justification now being used is that this action is acceptable because the FFI were not founded with the TLM as an essential part of their charism. This excuse is incomprehensible as it completely ignores the rights given by Summorum Pontificum to religious priests. Furthermore, if the dissatisfaction of a few is enough to get a whole religious congregation or Order restricted from making use of Summorum Pontificum, this opens an easy way by which the opponents of the old Mass can eventually expel the TLM from all non-“Ecclesia Dei” institutes.
4) Lastly, and most importantly, the decree — by specifically restricting the Traditional Latin Mass — is a clear indication that it is seen as something problematic, something that must be excised from the life of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. If this whole crisis in the FFI is not really about the Traditional Latin Mass, then why is it the target of exclusion and of restrictions, and why does the decree devote so much space to it, and why does the decree take the trouble of noting that this restriction was personally commanded by the Holy Father himself [my emphases]? If the crisis in the FFI is due to the misbehavior of some, then why is the deprivation of the Traditional Latin Mass extended to all?
What happened to the laissez faire Pope Francis who wants the Church to take risks and not worry too much about what the Church authorities (i.e. the CDF) say?
Can anyone give me some advice on how to avoid the sin of despair? I am a recent convert deeply committed to the Old Mass although with few opportunities to attend due to my location. Ever since my conversion I have been dismayed by the disunity within our Holy Mother the Church and now things seem to have reached where even my pessimism had not imagined. Praying hard is all I can think of.
The Byzantine Rite is looking better and better.
From Inside the Vatican. (Note: parts in red are Fr. Z’s commentary.)
The decision to appoint a commissioner to oversee the Congregation of Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the need for the order to obtain authorisation before it can celebrate Mass according to the Old Rite has sparked a heated debate…Vatican Insider asked Fr. Alessandro Apollonio, the Procurator General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to answer some questions regarding the decision. [As I understand it, he is the “spokesman” for the FFIs.]
Why did the Vatican decide to send an apostolic visitor to your Institute?
“Because a few of the friars who don’t agree with the founding Father and Minister general’s style asked for it. They also disagree with his eagerness to promote the Vetus Ordo within the Institute, alongside the Novus Ordo, in accordance with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”
To what extent did the issue of the use of the old missal influence the decision to send an apostolic visitor?
“It had a big influence on the decision because the group of friars I mentioned before accused the founding Father of imposing the Vetus Ordo on the whole Institute. Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile. This false accusation [GET THAT? “false accusation”] has spread like an oil slick, with various newspapers and news agencies passing it on. This has seriously harmed the good name of the Institute’s founding Father.”
Traditionalist blogs and websites have reacted to this news – and to the decision that prior authorisation will have to be obtained before the Institute can celebrate Mass according to the Old Rite – by saying that these decisions disavow Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio. Do you agree with this interpretation? What can you say about these decisions?
“Fr. Lombardi has clearly stated that the decisions taken regarding our Institute are not a disavowal of the Motu Proprio. However, we are still waiting for an authentic interpretation of the Holy See’s liturgical provisions for our Institute. For example, it is still unclear who exactly the “competent authorities” who will give the aforementioned authorization, are. Will it be the commissioner, the Congregation for Religious, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the local ordinary, one of these or all of these? We hope this is just a temporary disciplinary provision and that we will soon be given authorisation to celebrate according to the Vetus Ordo also, as we have always done. Without all the current restrictions which – unless a better reason can be given – deprive us of the universal right granted to us in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”
Have any members of your Institute played a role in spreading the above interpretation?
When you have asked for clarifications regarding some of our articles, you have always stressed that you did not only use the old missal and that all decisions were taken bearing in mind the provisions of the Motu Proprio. Is it true that before the apostolic visit, the “Ecclesia Dei” commission had cautioned the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to be prudent in their use of the old missal?
“Yes, we tried to be as prudent and discreet as possible in exercising our special right which gives the General Chapter in session “supreme authority in the Institute”, in accordance with the Constitutions (§ 81). The last General Chapter held in 2008, established that the General Council (that is, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli and his five advisors) was to draft a protocol for the Vetus Ordo to be introduced in our communities. This was done in the form of a letter sent on 21 November 2011. The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” considered this letter carefully, taking account Benedict XVI’s thinking, but this official judgement was not taken into consideration during the developments in our case. We do not understand why and are greatly saddened by this. We entrust our cause to Our Lady Queen of the Seraphic Order.”
I wonder why so many think the laity should be quiet about what happens with this decision. If the laity make a valid request to the FFI for Masses in the EF according to SP, they must now be denied this right by the FFI or the FFI have to find someone else to service the request.
Many in the laity who are attached to the EF are rightly distressed when that charism is taken away from them.
The mere fact the the founder of an order is replaced when he makes a valid decision to introduce the EF is shocking. How can that not send a direct, chilling message to all other religious institutes that what to have the EF alongside the OF? From what I have read I believe that the founder of an order can make the decision about the form of Mass that is said within the order…
Here are the facts as I see them:
1. The founder decides to introduce the EF into the FFI. He sends PCED paperwork to this effect YEARS ago.
2. He allows the FFI chapters to start using the EF according to the provisions of SP, which tell him he has this power.
3. Some FFI chapters start implementing the EF.
4. Some within the FFI are unhappy with this decision and complain to Rome.
5. Rome steps in, removes the founder, inserts their own appointed leader.
6. The EF is restricted, the members cautioned to adhere to the “Sense of the Church” and the OF is the only form allowed to be celebrated without explicit permission of the NEW person in charge of the community.
If I missed something in that timeline, please let me know. How does this not seem like an open attack on the EF. If I understand it correctly the founder had the right, according to SP, to switch the whole order to the EF if he so wanted. So why, when some are unhappy with the founders decision, does Rome step in and replace the founder and restrict a valid form of Mass of the Latin rite?
And people wonder why the laity are worried what is going to happen to EF parishes and religious communities that are not already using the EF exclusively?
…Reminder: The friars had been using the Usus Antiquior a great deal. A minority didn’t like that. They squealed to the Holy See. The Congregation imposed a Apostolic “Commissar” and restricted the friars right to use the older form, because the older form had become a point of division. That’s the basic sketch.
In a time when Pope Francis is calling for a less “clerical” attitude toward lay people, the Congregation’s move was deeply insensitive to the lay people who frequented the Masses celebrated by the friars. As a result, I suspect that the Apostolic “Commissar” will grant lots of permissions to the friars once things settle down…
Why is it that the introduction of the Vetus Ordo is what’s “divisive” and subject to examination, not the liberal theology that abhors it’s use?
October 13 2013
Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate News
The goal of the group of Friars who are presenting the petition is to have the Extraordinary Form as their preferred mode of celebrating and administering the sacraments without closing the door on the Ordinary Form. In other words they want to use both forms of Roman Rite. However, in parishes it will probably wind up that most of their Masses are in the Novus Ordo, simply because of the circumstances of those parishes. Because their liturgical life and many of the other aspects of their religious life are strongly “pre-Conciliar”, they will be guided by the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei“, which dicastery has competence.
I am sure that you will join me in praying for swift and positive reception of their petition.
ORIGINAL POST Published on: Oct 23, 2013
Since I am in Rome as I write, I was earnestly asked, implored, to post a prayer request.
I was informed that some 200 members of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have petitioned the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” this week to establish a separate institute which would use the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Good idea or not, I suspected that something like this was bound to happen. The divide seemed pretty deep and the conviction of those who desire the older forms is a powerful motivation…If a very large percentage want to have their own branch of the Friars, wouldn’t that be persuasive that there was a misstep?
This is also what results when communities can’t resolve their internal problems: fracture, which is sad but sometimes good in the long run.
So, stop and say a prayer or two. Perhaps the St. Michael Prayer and the Memorare.
December 13 2013
Fr. Z on Fr. Finigan on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
…Fr. Finigan has made some good comments. He has his own blog but he has closed his combox. My emphases and comments™:
…In the case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (who have not contradicted magisterial teaching on faith or morals) [Unlike countless weirdos of one religious order after another who have plagued the Church with their heresy and destroyed the faith and vocations of who know how many…] their superior has been removed, their seminary has been closed, and their members [get this…] are now to be asked to take an oath agreeing that the modern Roman rite is an “authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church.” [The first thing that popped into my mind as I read this was “Oath of Supremacy”.] I hope that I am not being intemperate in describing this as rather harsh. [as opposed to … draconian, cruel, drastic, oppressive, severe, brutal, extreme?] I certainly don’t recall others, whether liberal or traditionalist [Oh, Father! Never a liberal!] being asked to swear to such a specific question of fact. [Let’s imagine the Congregation imposing an oath on the Jesuits not to challenge the legitimacy of the Extraordinary Form or the legitimacy of what Bl. John Paul II called the “legitimate aspirations” of the faithful.] There are after all library shelves full of books by liturgical radicals arguing precisely the opposite: that the Novus Ordo was a a liberation from the encrusted barnacles of tradition and the opening of a bright new future for creative liturgy. Will they be administered an oath in which they must swear that it is an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition? [Rem acu.]It would be reasonable to require those in communion with the Church to accept that the modern rite is, in itself, a valid rite for the celebration of the Eucharist. (Otherwise you would have to say that the Masses of Blessed John Paul, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis were all invalid.) [Pay attention…] The question of whether it is an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church is surely a legitimate matter for debate within the wider discussion of the hermeneutic of continuity or rupture. Famously, Cardinal Ratzinger described it as a “banal on the spot product”: are we not allowed any longer to agree with him? [Oh, dear Father. You are now veering close to official bad-think. You are making… and I can barely bring myself to say it… distinctions. There! See what you’ve done?]
…Right now liberals think they have the big mo. They will – even in an antinomian way – work to oppress those who simply want to make use of the lawful, universal legislation in Summorum Pontificum. They will seek to forbid anyone from making reference to the vision Benedict XVI provided and then established with provisions that have juridical force. They will try to build a wall between Francis and Benedict, as repress those who want the older forms in the name of some new “spirit of Francis”.
Therefore, I urge you to three things.
First, tread carefully. When you seek the implementation of, or continuation of, or expansion of the use the provisions of Summorum Pontificum, put your most cheerful and happiest foot forward. You can lose what you have gained.
Second, do not give up. This is the time to press forward. Keep working for your legitimate aspirations. What Benedict set down is not any less needed today than it was a year ago. It is even more needed.
Third, when there is an opportunity in the parish to get involved with some project involving corporal works of mercy, be the first to volunteer and get involved.
Be exemplary in your joyful mien, your determination, and your charity.
December 14 2013
Fr. Z on Fr. Hunwicke on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
I can say with great pleasure that Fr. John Hunwicke, a Catholic priest of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, is blogging again. He had a blog which was for a while repressed by the “powers that be”. He understands something of what it is to be forced to do things by people with greater power. I have met Fr. Hunwicke twice. He strikes me as being one of those very smart guys, who has learned a lot by a) reaching his age and b) having suffered at the hands of those who should have been the most diligent in his care.
Fr. Hunwicke opined on the situation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who – as reports have it – may be forced to take some sort of oath concerning the Novus Ordo and Vatican II. Since I don’t know the official text of the Oath yet, I hesitate to speculate much about it.
As you know, the Franciscan Friars have internal disputes. Some faction within the group brought the Holy See’s Congregation for Religious into the picture. Unless you are bent on destruction (or are simply kinda dumb) that’s rarely a good idea. The Congregation conducted what seems very much like a hostile take-over of the whole institute. A “commissar” was appointed with absolute power over the Friars. He has used it. Included in his absolute control includes what seems a violation of the Church’s universal legislation in Summorum Pontificum, which was deeply disturbing for many of the traditional bent. I can’t help but think that a lot of the Friars’ problems were to a certain extent brought on themselves, with the help of a lot of zealous lay people.
Enough of that. Here is something from Fr. Hunwicke which, though based on speculation so far, smacks of the truth. Keeping in mind an impending oath to be imposed by the Commissar, we enter in medias res:
…At the basis of all this is a very unpleasant implication. Asking these worthy religious men to make these Undertakings is as offensive as it would be to ask a husband to Undertake not to beat his wife. It implies that the exacting of such an Undertaking is necessary. [There it is.] One recalls Pope Francis’ words about a “persecution which appears a veritable witch hunt” (EG 100). [Rem iterum acu tetigit.] Apparently the Order has been accused of ‘crypto-lefebvreism’. [I haven’t seen that yet, but it sounds as if it could be accurate.] I know no reason to suspect the friars of this. [I have NEVER seen that. Nor, frankly, would someone like Card. Burke be so supportive to them were they so.] But it would be only human if some of them, given the sort of treatment they are being given, had now started to do an audit of what options they had. Is there some faction in Rome deliberately trying to provoke a schism? [I don’t think that category is appropriate in the case of the FFIs. But…] And are there people behind the scenes labouring to ensure that an atmosphere is created in which the regularisation of the SSPX is rendered permanently impossible? [The answer to that, Fr. Hunwicke, is YES.] Let us pray that the Holy Father’s reform of the Curia is rapid and radical. [I wouldn’t be so eager, given who may be put in charge of the reform.]
One of the most important initiatives of Vatican II was the encouragement it gave to the work for ‘Unity’. In my view, there would be something demonic in an ‘Ecumenism’ which was preoccupied with bodies deeply sundered from Catholic Truth while at the same time ecclesial divisions closer home were carefully tended, nurtured, extended, and deepened. If not demonic, then certainly hypocritical. [No. You got it right the first time.] It would be like loving all men, especially those a long way away, while fostering domestic hatreds in ones own household. [Which is exactly what Screwtape recommend that Wormwood foster in his “patient”.] When the Ordinariates were set up, we experienced this mindset: some who had always been so rhetorical in their advocacy of Unity suddenly turned very nasty about an example of Unity actually happening.
I simply do not believe that our beloved Holy Father knows the half of what is being done in his name.
Neither do I. But some who are close to the Holy Father do.
Again, I urge people involved in this to consider something I have learned through the years I have fought many battles for traditional Catholic identity and have obtained many scars.
I redirect your attention to Fat Man’s Rules of the House of God.
Fr. Hunwicke, and many other priests, know that this Rule applies:
VIII. THEY CAN ALWAYS HURT YOU MORE.
When you are in the hands of high ecclesiastics, you had better steel yourselves to the fact that when the pain starts, they are just getting started.
What a farce. The FFI would be in better shape today if their founder were a child molester and their leadership covered it up, or if most of them (like, say, the Sinsinawa Dominicans) wanted to “move beyond Catholicism” or even Jesus [my link]. Think about that for a moment.
….and the Fr. Hunwicke link in question:
Franciscans of the Immaculate; More Oaths
I have tried to remain positive throughout this whole affair and give Volpi and the Curia the benefit of the doubt, but the longer this goes on and the more details emerge, the more strongly I am reminded of St. John of the Cross and the nine months he spent imprisoned in a lightless cupboard, after being kidnapped by his Carmelite confreres who were less than enthused about the Teresian reforms. We can only pray that the current passion which the FFI is undergoing leads to a purification and strengthening of the order, as it did for the Discalced Carmelites!
And meanwhile, for all the hullabaloo, the LCWR [my link] has to date been given no more than a stern finger-wagging at which they will shrug and ignore.
May 23 2014
Bavaria and Buenos Aires
….Perhaps [the difference between Benedict and Francis’ papacies] is best illustrated by the different responses to LCWR and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the former initiated under Benedict and the latter under Francis.
The action against the LCWR [my link] has been one of ongoing dialogue, a clear statement of the problems [my link], a firm but patient determination on the part of the Vatican to draw the American religious back into the life of the Church, even if the sisters flail around refusing to dialogue the Holy See still continue making its request, gently increasing pressure on them, whilst at the same time leaving them, the Leadership Conference free to do what it wants, whilst the vast majority of American women religious are completely unaffected.
The way in which the Franciscans of the Immaculate are being dealt with is in complete contrast, the Vatican Commissar has taken complete control over every aspect of the lives of individuals from novices to the founder. No one actually seems to know quite what the problem is, there are no clear complaints, except for ‘tendencies’ which frankly could mean anything. Their problems after all these months seem to be ‘thought crimes.’ In contrast to Fr Volpi’s declining Capuchins or the LCWR the FFI’s were growing, were young, were faithful. Now the same terror is being applied to their female branch, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate.
The LCWR have ‘moved beyond Jesus‘ [my link], the FFI seem just be marginally a little too trad, yet the velvet Benedictine glove is applied to the former and the iron fist of Francis to the latter. The way in which the LCWR is being dealt with promotes growth and inclusion whereas the way Fr Volpi is dealing with the FFIs seems destructive and violent…
….There was a comment on Fr Hugh’s blog by Macunius that has been nagging away at me.
Father, I have a distinct feeling that in these rather bitter personal attacks on characters who really don’t exist except in his imagination or memory, [Pope Francis] is referring back to aspects of middle-class Argentina in the peronist postwar period…There is some autobiography here that we can only half-glimpse, some personal complex. We’ve already seen it in his strangely mocking remarks [my link, which I was sad to discover] about those who offered him a spiritual bouquet, and his rather strange view of the Traditional form of the Rite as the ‘personal taste’ of a small clique – which of course it is not.
Perhaps he needs to set up the ‘clericalist church’ bogeyman to defend the change of heart (and lurch towards the left) that he made (or felt forced to make) in the 1980s after the (according to his early friends) extremely conservative and orthodox provincial was demoted and exiled by the Jesuit order, and left to ‘reflect’ – ie to fall into line with the new revolutionary clerical politics reacting against the changing landscape of military dictatorship in Buenos Aires.
Not a coincidence, surely, that his spokesman Cardinal Maradiaga recently (April 8th, at the meeting of Franciscan provincials in Florida) asserted that Francis “feels called to construct” a church “free from all mundane spirituality” and “free from the risk of being concerned about itself, of becoming middle-class, of closing in on self, of being a clerical church.” For like Maradiaga (though perhaps not as openly) has the Holy Father perhaps rather a complex about the middle classes and their desire for social and ideological order? a complex about not being one of them, feeling snubbed and attacked by them, needing to defeat them to survive…it’s a very Latin American thing.
But if it has potential liturgical, theological and pastoral consequences for the Universal Church, then Houston, we definitely have a problem.
Your post hits the target. And Macunius´s paragraph is perfectly accurate.
Pope Francis is fighting ghost that probably his generation here in Argentina knew well in the 50s, early 60s…Its like a generational thing: fear of bitter nuns, sourpusses…And he thinks…that traditional catholics are that…
All we have seen are silly smiles, nonsense chants in this back to 70s…I have a nostalgia for something we just have in a brief glimpse when Pope Benedict XVI opened the windows to Tradition. With just that, he converted me and my family.
…TLM are quite clandestine here, and the general clerical atmosphere is unbreathable. And it has been like that for so many years of bad jesuitism. In a way is the same pharisaical cruelty in a different form. Hippy smiling form.
So, fight hard to preserve our liturgical, cultural catholic treasure, endure the time being, and be part of the lead to the restoration of the Faith.
Your blog is just wonderful.
And this generation in command now, will pass too.
May 25 2014
State of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
(please cut and paste to follow link)
…I am one of the original five friars who appealed to the Holy See concerning the problems within our Institute. I mention this in the interests of full disclosure.
May 27 2014
I’m Praying for the Sisters of the Immaculate
I met these Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate yesterday at the Ramsgate Mass for St Augustine. Without commenting on it they seemed a little anxious about the impending visitation. I said I would offer Mass for them…I tend to have sympathy with a comment made by friend:
There really is nothing here to justify the drastic action taken. Since it would appear that the overwhelming number of friars supported the direction the institute was taking, surely it was for the five to ask to be transferred to an institute more to their taste; there is no lack of non-traddy Franciscan congregations, most of whom are desperate for vocations [my emphasis]. In fact, this response confirms my view that the action taken by Aviz, Volpi and others is disproportionate, scandalous and downright cruel. His entire defence is simply a more elaborate way of saying that the Friars were getting too traditional for his taste.
I find the lack of precision in the language used about this situation by both sides of the argument very questionable, disturbing and irritating. People talk about “traditionalism” as if that is something readily identified, defined and obviously in itself a ‘bad’ or a ‘good’ thing. Does it mean an affection for the traditional devotion, sacred music, church architecture, attachment to the extraordinary form of Mass? Or does it mean rejection of Vatican II, (not the same as debating how to interpret some parts of the Council) and a desire to get rid of the Missa Normativa? and so on … I don’t know what has been going on with this religious order, but it seems to be very bad government and bad example to allow real nature of the fault being disciplined to be so unclear. The intervention of Fr. Murphy even used the word “radicalized” of the sisters. What does that mean? Are they becoming jihadist Muslims? If he means that they are espousing schismatic views, then he should say so. Otherwise it allows the thought to linger that people are being persecuted simply for taking a certain view of matters that are legitimate debate, and exercising a preference for spirituality they have a canonical right to embrace. Of course it isn’t helpful that many self-styled “traditional” Catholics do seem to regard themselves as belonging to a separate faith group from anyone who attends Mass in the Novus Ordo [emphases mine].
June 23 2014
Francis and the Franciscan Friars Have a Meeting
From Vatican Insider with my emphases:
The meeting was held on Tuesday 10 June in the chapel of the Santa Marta Residence in the Vatican…Around forty seminarists, novitiates, and theology and philosophy students were present, along with their teachers and the pontifical commissioner, [aka Commisar] father Fidenzio Volpi.
The Franciscan Friars sang the Ave Maria di Fatima and renewed in the hands of the Pope their vows of total consecration to the Immaculate. Questions were then put to Francis on the most contested themes regarding the internal operations of the institution. Pope Bergoglio proved to be well informed on all issues, following the matter closely, and several times showed his appreciation for father Volpi, quelling rumours that the actions of the government of the commissioner and his collaborators were undertaken without the Pope’s knowledge. [So, the Pope knew what was going on.]
…[NB] On the motu proprio, [Summorum Pontificum] Pope Francis said he did not want to deviate from the line of Benedict XVI, and reiterated that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate remained free to celebrate the old mass, even if for the moment, [?] in light of the controversies surrounding the exclusive right to use that missal – an element that did not constitute part of the founding charisma of the institution – they required “a discernment” with the superior and with the bishop if it concerned celebrations in parish churches, sanctuaries and teaching houses. [Excuse me, but… why?] The Pope explained that there must be freedom, both for those who wish to celebrate with the old rite, and those who wish to celebrate with the new rite, without the rite becoming an ideological banner. [And clearly it had. But, now that this trip to the woodshed (fairly or unfairly) has been prosecuted, why not just let them get on with life? Also, if Pope Francis is okay with the juridical changes made by Benedict, then why is the group getting hammered? Is this a way of testing them? Is this something that a former Jesuit provincial would do? Force the group to make choices and test them?]…
…Meanwhile, the fact of this meeting makes me scratch my head a little…Could this be damage control? It’s pretty ugly, after all.
I pray for the peaceful resolution of the situation and the relief of the Friars from the super-invasive aegis of the Congregation.
The whole thing makes no sense. The only explanation that makes any sense is that there is something else going on that has not been made public.
June 25 2014
Catholic Identity and You
While other people might be trying to make the FFIs into a mascot for oppressed traditionalists (read: Rorate), I am not convinced that this is the case in the least. Instead, I really don’t see anything other than a localized problem of religious life in a relatively new institute…I don’t have my knickers in a twist worrying about persecution of traditionalists as a consequence.
Many EF masses that were offered by FFI priests have been lost to Catholic faithful [my emphasis, yet again]. To cite one, the daily early Mass at the Church of the Annunziatta, at Lungotevere Vaticano 1 a few hundred meters from the Vatican, attended by people working for the Curia before going to work, is now gone…
…If there is some unknown reason why this order should be suppressed then we should be told. This is the 21st century after all of educated laity and universal communication. If there is no such reason then things are in a sorry state indeed.
July 10 2014
I Believe in Ghosts, or Even More on Crypto-Lefebvrism
(Please cut and paste to follow link.)
The more I read from this particular blog above, the more I had a very familiar, uneasy feeling. Taken as a whole, but especially partly evident in the post above, the blog broadcasts the following implications:
Everyone should stop talking about this except me. I control the narrative.
Not only should people stop discussing the situation, they should also stop defending themselves against speculation and accusation.
I can make the accusations, but you cannot confront them.
If you confront them, it proves you’re guilty.
Your concerns are imaginary and foolish.
No material difference is being made in anyone’s life, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
The worst will be assumed of anyone who objects to these things.
If anything goes wrong, you are partly to blame because you asked questions in the first place:
You asked for it.
This is not unique. It mirrors typical dynamics I’ve seen in abusive familial and romantic relationships, in radical political circles where one person is vying for power or popularity, and across all sorts of dysfunctional human relationships and communities, religious or otherwise. In fact, I’m hesitant to call out this behavior because I know what happens when people do.]
October 25 2014
The Bad Breath of Corruption
So tightly did things appear to be controlled, so lacking in clarity during the Synod, I had a dream that chained and dressed in their blue-grey habits emaciated and pale from their months in prison would be brought into the Synod Hall singing Nebucco a coffle of Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate. They were an example of justice in the Church to anyone who might have the temerity to go against the predetermined plan. Their crime after all these months has not been disclosed, either to the the Church at large or to them themselves. Their suffering appear to be that they have simply ‘displeased’. The refusal to disclose the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of the Friars offense is one of the looming injustices of the Church today.
Justice and Truth cannot be separated, they are objective realities and there is a connection between Justice and Truth, and Transparency. Justice must not only be done but be seen to be done, and it must be done honestly and by men who are themselves Just. The Holy Father recently in an address to representatives of the International Association of Criminal Law said ‘The corrupt person is a person who takes the “short-cuts of opportunism” that lead him to think of himself as a “winner” who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. “Corruption is a greater evil than sin”, and more than “be forgiven, must be cured”. For myself I had always thought corruption was the result of sinful men who like the ‘unjust judge had neither fear of God, nor regard for men’ Lk 18:2…
By any objective standards, the treatment of the FFI is bad.
This Order, with a strong tendency towards continuity in liturgy, towards using a form of the liturgy of the Mass which is accepted as co- equal at least with the many official and non-official forms of the Novus Ordo, a form which according to Quo Primum, is set as the normal form of Mass of the Western Church, has been publicly, and consistently, badly treated.
This is frankly, one of the great scandals of the 21st Century Church. It is still somewhat obscured, but sooner or later it will emerge, publicly and questions will have to be publicly answered.
I believe it is time for my soul’s sake and for tranquillity of mind to withdraw from the fray and devote my time to more prayer and spiritual reading. [Hear hear, I take weeks long breaks from compiling this post because it’s so difficult to deal with. I started it months ago.]
June 8 2015
What Now? After the Death of Commissar Volpi?
I saw at Corrispondenza Romana the news that a new Commissar has been appointed over the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.
The new Commissar (Apostolic Commissioner) is a canonist, Salesian Fr. Sabino Ardito. Two assistants were also appointed, also canonists, a Cappuchin and a Jesuit.
The first, former, Commissar, Fr. Fidenzio Volpi died in June.
Let us pray that prudence and justice are applied in all judgments concerning the FFIs.
My parish’s small TLM society has asked an FFI priest nearby to take over as chaplain once our priest-in-residence returns to Africa later this month. He is more than willing but must get permission first. Please pray for us.
June 23 2015
No Place for Tradition — Not Even on the “Margins”
In July 2013, the Roman Congregation of Religious under the direction of Cardinal Prefect Cardinal João Braz de Aviz banned the Franciscans of the Immaculate from celebrating the traditional rite. In this emergency situation an Argentine military chaplain was brought in to help…In February 2015, however, the late Apostolic Commissioner Father Fidenzio Volpi closed the monastery of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate on in Teramo. The San Domenico church was closed. The faithful attached to the traditional rite were literally shut out.They were locked out of the church.
…In the parish 25 km distant from Teramo where (Don Gaston Munoz Meritello) worked as a chaplain, he received permission to use the remote chapel (for the traditional rite). ..Although the chapel is tiny, it lit up this remote place with all the splendors of the Sacred Liturgy in honor of God and a blessing to the faithful and the entire Church. This felt as though the Congregation of Religious and their own bishop had driven them to the underground, but they were glad to be back to have a Mass location.
With the transfer of Don Gaston Munoz Meritello to the mountain parish of Faieto, the old Mass community had to return to wandering, this time in the mountains.
The path to the “margins of the church”, not a virtual, but a quite literally has continued to take them to the margins. In the mountainous region, a single priest is in charge of seven parishes. The parishes are very small, but are far apart…
The faithful began with Don Gaston at their own expense, to beautify the mountain church and to make a number of liturgical purchases. But even this exile did not last long. Bishop Seccia has ended (this) now without prior (communication) with Don Gaston Munoz Meritello. Reasons were not disclosed. Since he was only “borrowed”, Don Gaston must therefore leave the Diocese of Teramo-Atri. His next mission will be decided by the Argentine Military Ordinariate.
(The new Pastor is) Father Giovanni Maria Manelli of the Franciscans of the Immaculate…Father Manelli is indeed to take over the remote mountain parish, but is limited by the prohibition he is not to be allowed to celebrate the traditional rite the Holy Mass.
The faithful are once again on the road, driven by those who should be their shepherds. For them, it seems in the “New Mercy” has left no room at the inn, not even in the Church.
…What began as an inquiry into the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI) in July 2013 when the Vatican named Capuchin Father Fidenio Volpi as commissioner turned quickly into a complete dismantling of the order.
The Vatican never brought forward clear allegations, but it was evident that the Franciscans in the Vatican’s Congregation conspired with liberal members of the FFI itself in order to clean the order of all links to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The seminary was closed and the brothers dispersed. A majority of the brothers left and found refuge in the Philippines where they were incardinated. The Vatican’s commissar, Fidenzio Volpi, died in 2015 from a stroke and was replaced by Sabino Ardito. Allegations of fraud against the founder, Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli, were settled by an Italian civil court and Manelli was proven innocent. Yet the order suffered greatly.
Now the Vatican commissioners for the male branch of the Franciscans, the Salesian priest Sabino Ardito, the Capuchin Carlo Calloni, and the Jesuit Gianfranco Ghirlanda – who is also a member of commission investigating the Knights of Malta – will draft new constitutions of the order. Marco Tosatti claims this will happen even before Easter or at least by September…The FFI was one of the most flourishing examples of Franciscan spirituality, with countless vocations and an exemplary poverty in the spirit of St. Francis.
The female branch, the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, have been under investigative visitation by Cardinal Braz de Aviz since 2014. Sister Fernanda Barbiero of the Institute of the Sisters of St. Dorothy, an “up-to-date” nun with moderately feminist tendencies, was nominated commissioner over the order; she was succeeded by Sister Noris Adriana Calzavara from the Sisters of the Rosary.
February 11 2016
What Has Happened to the Womb of the Church?
…The Catholic, and to a great extent the Orthodox, notion of Christianity is pretty hard edged; like pregnancy, either one is one isn’t. Either the Eucharist is the Body of Christ or it is simply bread, either God became Man and dwelt among us or he did not. The Ratzingerians taking the patristic path of bringing clarity, even if it is a ‘both and’ theology, the Rhannerian (and at the more extreme end Kung) following the 19th century German philosophers delighting in ambiguity and uncertainty, ultimately in the the theology of Doubt, which more than occasionally rears its head in the Pope’s off the cuff remarks. The truth is, at least in its effects, that doubtful and anonymous Christianity in the world of creates doubtful and anonymous Christianity in the Church. It is not unusual for people to ask, ‘what is a priest for?’ or ‘what is religious for? perhaps increasingly and rather frighteningly, ‘what is a Christian for?’ Doubt and uncertainty, Christianity without any knowledge or understanding of Christianity is mark of Christianity in the recent past, like parasitic liberal it simply cannot survive, it is dying and within a generation or two will be completely dead. The attempts of old men to revive it are simply a death rattle.
The problem is that anonymous Christianity, like the theology of doubt, is so uninspiring. If one reads ‘the signs of the times’ we seem to be leaving that period of doubt and anonymity behind. At the time of Vatican II it was possible to be both a Christian and a non-Christian, Graham Greene’s novels deal beautifully with this ambiguity, the drunk faithless priest, the devout adulterer, and so forth, but we have moved on, these are images from fifty years ago.
The blood of Christians in the Middle East announces clearly that either you are willing to die for Christ or you are not a Christian at all…What has changed is that ‘ethnic’ or ‘cultural’ Christianity is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. Maybe it still exists in Argentina and South America but elsewhere in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America, it is being expunged by violence or government diktat or the various lobbies that oppose it, sometimes replacing it with something quite Satanic. At the peripheries of the Church there is no longer a gentle slope strewn with Christian values and people at least friendly to Christianity and willing to embrace a Christian ethos even if they reject Christ himself but now that is a sheer rocky drop into something which is increasingly anti-Christian and rejecting of Christianity [my emphases].
As far as vocations are concerned, certainly where religious life is concerned, there is great need for renewal, the models of fifty years, where women religious and to some extent men left off the habit and any regular life to live as leaven in the community, seems to have failed and needs replacing urgently. Such communities though they often did good work, rarely inspired anyone to join them and often the work they started has been taken over by lay people at best but more often by people intent on a secularist agenda.
The Gospels give two models: the idea of leaven lost in the lump or the city on a hill or the lamp on a lamp-stand. I visited the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Gosport recently. They are perhaps typical of many young religious communities. They had just been joined by a priest Fr George who is probably well over 60 but the other 6 members of the community were all under 40. If we look at other religious communities that are thriving, both of men or women they are all very much committed to a deep and unambiguous spiritual life. They might well be gentle but they are tough and single minded.
…Where religious communities pray and therefore make Christ their centre there is growth, where they choose something else, even if it has the flavour of Christianity it dies… no-one can serve two masters….
…Attorney Enrico Tuccillo lodged a complaint two weeks ago, of slander, and the formation of a criminal organization. In this way the founder is defending himself, in the name of his brothers and sisters against the ongoing “slander campaign,” which was directed initially against the men’s and subsequently against the women’s branch of the order. On November 4. 2015 the Corriere della Sera made an appeal from direct or indirect statements by “concerned parties” in an article series with various horror stories about the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Similar slander campaigns have happened in the past already against other religious communities and have mostly had their origins in inner-ecclesiastical conflicts. The mass media has likewise been ever ready themselves to assist progressive circles.
The Congregation of Religious reacted with the introduction of an Apostolic Commissar to the female order and justified this step just as they did the Commisarate administration of the male branch in July of 2013. The sisters were accused that they “did not succeed in assimilating the riches of Concilar doctrine and the subsequent papal magisterium in their consecrated life in a reasonable way and to use it in the context of their apostolic life and mission.”
…Rome has not named till today any reasons for the radical clampdown on the blooming religious order, which from many points of view represent an anomaly among Catholic religious communities [my emphasis]. It has been maintained from different sides, that the Congregation for Religious have only reacted based on a petition from members to this Congregation. The internal opponents of the founder, Father Manelli, have never been officially identified. The letter actually does this. Less believable is that it was the catalyst for the various interventions of the Congregation. The Order was a thorn in the side of the Congregation and other heads of religious communities for a long time. Under Benedict XVI., who stood fully behind the Franciscans of the Immaculata, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious, dared not move against the young order. Under Pope Francis, who makes no bones about his antipathy to the traditional Rite, the playing field was fundamentally altered.
With Pater Manelli’s legal conplaint, the names now lay on the table. That is, “not an easily introduced step, which has become necessary for the protection of many of the Order’s brothers and sisters,” said Manelli’s attorney.
The complaint is against the three religious sisters or former sisters, Lattanzi, Turturiello und Lovine, against six priests and two laymen. Among the priests there is Pater Alfonso Bruno, who is considered the actual instigator and leader of the uprising against the founder. Father Bruno already belongs to the leadership imposed by the Vatican and was, under the late Apostolic Commissar, Father Fidenzio Volpi, who as his right hand as General Secretary, actually became the new highest ranking member of the Order. Also mentioned in the complaint is Father Alessandro Calloni, who has been the General Delegate of the Order for Italy.
The two laymen are alleged to be guilty of have disseminating an “anonymous dossier with false contents,” to discredit the former leadership, who have a severe vow of poverty, among the brothers and sisters, the faithful, the Church authorities and especially the media. “It is no accident that the same subjects now have leading positions within the Order,” says the complaint.
“The moral of the story? The new message of Rome to Religious Orders appears to say: if you give in to your sexual desires, lie, steal, betray, deny doctrinal truths and dogmas, disturb ecclesiastical order and promote liturgical abuse, it doesn’t matter, the main thing is that you do not hit out at the Vatican Council II and the achievements of the post-conciliar epoch.”
This is true in dioceses as well, not just religious orders.
…With the death of the first Commissioner, at least, the influence of Father Alfonso Bruno seems to have declined. Alfonso Bruno was the Media Representative of the order’s earlier leadership. He is considered the real brains behind the rebellion against the founders and the charism of the order. Officially, he does not seem to be among the five brothers, who had turned to the Congregation of Religious with a letter to complain against the exclusive use of the traditional rite in the order. In the concern for pastoral care, the order had actually remained biritual. Yet the letter was the incentive to intervene by the Congregation of Religious.
Commissioner Volpi appointed Alfonso Bruno Secretary General and was influenced by him. Otherwise, the Commissioner had mad false claims against Founder Stefano Maria Manelli, for he was convicted of defamation in a state court judgment. The execution of punishment was kept from him only by his unexpected death.
…Meanwhile, the first vows were conducted without the typical consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Brazil and the Philippines. It was replaced by a simple expression of willingness to go on mission. The consecration to Mary is a fourth vow a characteristic of the order. In addition to the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, which is common to all religious communities, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate make a fourth Marian vow which precedes the others.
The abolition of the consecration to Mary is the second concrete imposition upon the charism of the order. “It raises the question: Was this consecration the problem? And if not: Why do you force upon the order such a change of its original charism,” wrote Libertà e Persona [emphasis mine. It is such a simple question].
…Since the provisional administration, numerous brothers have wanted to leave the Order. They want to maintain the lifestyle to which they have committed themselves through their vows. The planned start-up of an old rite order was banned by the Congregation of Religious. It’s another indication that it is opposed to tradition and the traditional rite. Commissioner Volpi threatened the bishops not to allow Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, leaving their order. At the same time he presented accused those “entrusted” to him, of wanting to overthrow Pope Francis.
The brothers want to remain faithful to their consecration to Mary, the full devotion to the Immaculate. Its abolition represents a serious encroachment on the identity of the order. It is a cause of uncertainty and anger that there is no recognizable connection between the abolition and the introduction of the provisional administration.
According to credible sources this intervention is to be extended to the female branch and thus also to the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate to place them in a moral dilemma, who have vowed loyalty to a particular charism that has been accepted and confirmed by Pope John Paul II in 1998. The media always finds new horror stories to publish about the Order. Comparable hate campaigns had appeared in the German language are endured by the Opus Dei, the Engelwerk that Auerbacher SSND and also includes The Work. Monastery walls seem to inspire outlandish fantasies not only for journalists.
With the cloister in Florence, 15 convents have been closed. The provisional administration is leaving a veritable trail of destruction.
60 brothers have officially asked to be released from their vows to leave the order. Since Rome fears the establishment of a new order, the applications are not being accepted. The majority of them have been blocked for almost three years. As this path has proved a dead end, more brothers have given up an application.
With a Rescript ex audientia from April 4, 2016, which was made public only last May 11th, Pope Francis has revoked the previously self-evident right in church history of the right of diocesan bishops to recognize new religious communities. On June 1st received the approval by the Holy See. With the Rescript, Francis noted that the establishment of an order by a diocesan bishop without the consent of Rome is null and void.
The centralization ordained by Francis is the exact opposite of the other “decentralization” represented by him for the Church is as it carried out concerning the nullity of marriage, where the diocesan Bishop alone can decide today, or aiming for the admission of remarried divorcees to Communion.
Bishops close to Francis confirm, as the progressive magazine Il Regno reports, that although much of collegiality and synodality is talk, that the concentration of power in the hands of the Pope had never been so great in Church history…
If the brothers and sisters of the FFI are neither being allowed to stay in their monasteries, nor to leave their order, there may be an alternative that would allow them to live their actual charism, but outside the control of the hierarchy: the Beguines and Beghards. These are private individuals living together without vows. Well, they’ve already taken them, so they are just living them out. It might be a way of getting around the situation for now.
September 17 2016
Destruction of the Order of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
Nothing seems to sum up the new brutality of Church life than what has happened to the Franciscans of the Immaculate. To his discredit Fr Volpi, the now deceased Papal Commissioner, brought various spurious legal actions against them all of which were thrown out by the Italian courts. Now gossip, innuendo and intimidation are the weapons used against them.
…If the liturgy has a vital impact on all of ecclesial life, it is easy to imagine the primary influence it exercises on the religious life in particular. The post-conciliar liturgical confusion, in fact, has redounded upon the religious life with such devastating force that we ought not to be talking to you today about “the growth of the religious life,” which is the title of this piece, but rather of the “renewal,” or even more the “recuperation” or “rescue” of the religious life.
…If, in these fifty post-conciliar years, the religious life continues to experience a disastrous decline, not to say a self-destruction, no one can deny the concrete responsibility of a liturgy lacking the strength to do what ought to be its connatural office of nourishing and sustaining the religious life. Let us reflect briefly.
The religious life is the consecration to God of the whole person, and manifests in the Church that wonderful institution intended by God, which is the eschatological sign of the life to come…This uninterrupted worship of God finds just here its most ample and complete manifestation in the sacred liturgy, which regulates and animates every day of the religious community through the Holy Mass and the celebration of the Divine Office, which marks the very hours of the day like a poem.
…Liturgical prayer, therefore, is the prayer most appropriate to religious, so much that it can be said that every hour of the monastic day, or of the religious fraternity, is marked by it. In Religious Institutes, in fact, that which is usually understood as “common life” has as its first and special meaning just that “prayer in common,” or liturgical prayer, which becomes the soul of the religious community. Gathered in choir, united in one voice, the religious render to God that cult which is due Him on behalf of all humanity…
…Until the 1970s, the liturgical patrimony unique to each religious Order remained nearly unchanged, except for several marginal and opportune modifications regarding, for example, the liturgical calendar, that always enriched and streamlined the sacred rites under the vigilant supervision of the official Church. In these years the Church still enjoyed an extraordinary fecundity of religious vocations, a consequent growth of Missions ad gentes, and a solidity and maturity of Christian life among the people of God.
What has happened, then, from the ‘70s onward? In effect what has happened after the celebration of the Second Vatican Council [is that] the liturgical reform that had been promised, instead of achieving the hoped-for and expected growth of the Christian life, managed to cause a turn-around that has impacted negatively on the whole Church and people of God . Even more, it has impacted with especially negative force on the establishment of religious life (particularly in the West).
In consequence, a liturgy that is well established, sturdy, and solid is demonstrated and guaranteed as such especially by the vitality and the fecundity of the monastic and religious life. And vice versa, a monastic and religious life that is strong and fruitfully growing demonstrates and guarantees in the most certain manner the authenticity of the liturgy of the Mystical Body of Christ; whereas a monastic and religious life that is in ruinous decline, as today, can be nothing other than a testimony to a liturgy with a deficit of substance and “vital force,” to use the very expression of Pope John Paul II.
February 7, 2017
Posters Critical of Pope Francis Appear Around Rome
Posters of a stern-looking Pope Francis appeared on walls around Rome on Saturday, condemning his actions against some conservative Catholics and asking, “Where is your mercy?”
…The poster reads, “You’ve put congregations under supervision, removed priests, decapitated the Maltese and Franciscan orders and ignored cardinals… But where is your compassion?”
August 10 2017
Return of the Vocations Crisis
This piece includes several examples of several traditionally-inclined parishes and orders thriving, as well as their being targeted for investigation for often vague/flimsy reasons (especially considering the madness that goes barely– or un-checked.) An excerpt:
It seems that Rome keeps a particularly piercing eye on religious orders that revere tradition, and that happen to enjoy many priestly vocations…There is the case of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (FFI). A relatively new order, rich in vocations both in Europe and in Africa, the FFI was inspired by St. Maximilian Kolbe and approved by John Paul II. Four years ago, it was put under the authority of a Vatican commissioner, and nobody knows when this arrangement will end…The only known accusation against him and his followers is that of “Lefebvrist drift.” One of the problems seems to be FFI’s love for Church tradition, and for the old form of the Mass. Vocations of both sexes to FFI dropped after this intervention by the Vatican.
No one can doubt the need to root out aberrations in new, growing orders, which today tend to be traditional. But one wonders why similar attention is not brought to the great established orders, which are now shrinking. Compare the light treatment of the progressive nuns in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious with the heavy discipline imposed on the traditional priests in the FFI, and it is hard not to notice a double standard. Meanwhile, a weakened Church finds its vocations once again in decline.
- The FSI (Sisters) were assigned a commissioner (Noris Adriana Calzavara of the Suore Rosarie di Udine) and two co-commissioners by a decree of the Congregation for Religious. Since the Congregation did not have its decree approved in forma specifica by the Pope, it was open to be challenged in the Signatura. The challenge resulted first in a reduction of the powers of the commissioners. It looked as though a further challenge would lead to the decree being be overturned altogether early this year.
- However, before it was overturned, the Congregation went to Pope Francis and got his personal approval for a fresh assignment of the same commissioner. This was obviously very demoralizing for the sisters, who thought they were about to regain their autonomy.
- The FSI have been ordered by their commissioner not to accept postulants for three years. The Sisters, which we are told numbered around 500 before these attacks, now amount to half of that.
- The FSI are closing their House in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which ends their North American Mission as there will be not a single convent left in the United States.
- The FFI (Friars) were forced to close and end their Australian Mission earlier in the year. We hear the Sisters may leave as well, but do not have solid enough reporting on this to say it’s 100%. But we feel compelled to report it if there’s any chance of exposure and pressure stopping the move.
- About that same time of the Austrian Mission ending, Archbishop Ramon Cabrera Argüelles of Lipa, was “resigned” from his episcopacy. He was guilty of having approved a public association of the faithful made up of ex-FFIs, but since that’s not a crime, he was accused of — and apparently framed for — something unrelated.
- In late January/early February, the FFI commissioners spoke of having the General Chapter of the Institute this past September. The Chapter would approve the new constitutions and elect the new Minister General, and the Congregation’s approval of this would end the period under a commissioner. Multiple sources tell us the principal targets of the reform appear to be the Marian Vow and poverty in common (i.e., the rule that not only individual members, but also the Institute as a legal person, are not capable of having property).
- The Marian Vow has, in the view of many Friars, been eliminated in the new formula of profession promulgated with “dubious legality” and used in the professions in Italy in September of last year. The Friars did not vow to live in total consecration to the Immaculate (which comports three juridical obligations defined in their present constitutions), but vowed total availability to go to the missions in view of their consecration (which is the third of those obligations).
- It was surprising to those who asked for a commissioner that the issue of the traditional Latin Mass has disappeared and been replaced by other changes they did not desire. Some sort of prohibition in this sense might be included, but it is clearly not the main interest of the commissioners.
- The General Chapter has obviously not been held. It is reasonable to think that this is because it would not achieve the desired end (the gutting of the constitutions), although no reason has been announced.
- The number of Friars interested in eliminating the Marian Vow could probably be counted on one hand, and perhaps on one finger. Therefore it is necessary (1) to significantly stack the deck in terms of voting members of the chapter, or (2) to convince those voting that the Marian Vow has not been eliminated, but merely clarified, or (3) to find Friars willing to vote for constitutions they don’t like but are willing to accept for secondary motives (exaggerated respect for the Holy See, fear of suppression, etc.
- Another possible (and likely) reason why the General Chapter has not taken place is that the commissioners have still not succeeded in getting control of the goods the Institute uses. These goods belong to non-profits, which are controlled by laymen, so that the Institute does not have effective ownership of anything. At the beginning of February, when the Congregation and the commissioners thought they could hold the chapter is September, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli was ordered to hand over ownership of the goods to the Institute, but he simply replied he has no legal power to do so.
- While we can say the Sisters have been halved to 250 with some confidence, we cannot report on the current number of Friars, although we know of many who have left the order to another, or left for the world. We know of seminarians — some who were ready to be ordained to various positions the day after the seminary was closed! — who lost their vocations. There used to be a yearbook listing all of of the friaries and Friars, but the commissioners no longer publish them. They don’t even distribute a list of addresses and phone numbers for the friaries.
- The Sisters’ future is linked with that of the Friars. Since their legislation is similar, if the Friars approve the new constitutions, the Sisters will be expected to pass similar constitutions.
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