Rorate Caeli

The Great Division
- Papal Intervention on Franciscans of the Immaculate reaches insanity levels: Commissioner warns Italian bishops in person

Tosatti: "Not a very good atmosphere to breathe right now in the Church."
If one wants a reason why Synod special secretary Abp. Bruno Forte, a man currently very close to the Pope and one of his closest advisers, suffered a major defeat in this week's assembly of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) in the election for Vice-President representing Central Italy (including the Latium...), one must only look at what was going on inside the assembly halls in Assisi, as Marco Tosatti reports below. Despite John Allen's spin to the contrary as not a big deal, the most ultra-liberal of Italian Vaticanists, Marco Politi, was right to identify it as a major message to the Vatican from Italian bishops who are honestly fed up. In an organization so marked by symbols as the Catholic Church, this symbolic message by those bishops in the Bishop of Rome's own country, and own region, was a huge deal

There is a general feeling not only of great unease with the direction a strong cabal around the Pope wants to take the Church on moral doctrine, undoing the hard work of Benedict XVI and in particular of John Paul II - a cabal in which Abp. Forte has a strong presence - but also with the heavy-handedness of it all. As Cardinal George is to say in an interview to be released tomorrow, it seems as if there is a desperate rush to implement irreversible change that is hard to understand - George identifies it perhaps with an apocalyptic view of history. (It is not that, though: it is not so hard to understand it when one realizes that ultra-liberal clerics are in a race against time to refashion the Church.)  Many bishops are feeling suffocated by the authoritarian fumes, a weight of unproclaimed persecution that is getting on the nerves not only of conservative prelates, but also of very many very moderate bishops, who form the immense majority of Italian bishops. By the way, a similar interpretation of the election of the United States Conference's four representatives in the 2015 Synod is not off the mark: most U.S. Bishops are also understandably alarmed. Not to mention the Bishops of Poland, in complete resistance to the very notion of the possibility of communion for "remarried" divorcees - the same position of the Bishops of Ghana at the end of their Conference's assembly this week.

Marco Tosatti shows just one example of what was going on in the CEI meeting in Assisi - in the middle of it all, the Papal Commissioner that has been destroying the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate for over a year warning Italian bishops not to welcome those priests desperate to get out of their ordeal:

FFI: "Watch out" for the fugitives
Marco Tosatti
[Senior religious correspondent for Italian daily] La Stampa
November 16, 2014

A fact that is remarked upon, outside the meetings of the Assembly of Italian Bishops in Assisi, is certainly secondary, but indicative of an atmosphere. Not exactly an idyllic [atmosphere].

The fact is this: who was walking about amid the bishops who took part of the Church meetings was Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, the Vatican Commissioner for the institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The reason for the presence of the Commissioner was not casual. According to what has been reported by sources worthy of the greatest trust, the Commissioner approached at times one, then another bishop, in order to dissuade them, shall we say, from welcoming in their diocese the Friars of the Immaculate who do not recognize themselves in the new administration of the Order, administered by the Commissioner, but above all by his Secretary and spokesman, Father Alfonso Bruno.

As already mentioned in this space, as well as by others, the Intervention in the Franciscans of the Immaculate stands out both by the vagueness of the motivations - in reality, the concrete reasons for which the Congregation for Religious decided the procedure have never been declared, except for an accusation of a "crypto-Lefebrvist" drift - and by the degree of internal conflict it has caused, as well as the severity of the reactions, of which this latest episode is another confirmation.

As an outsider, I ask myself why a religious person who does not feel able to continue inside an institute must be almost forced to remain inside it, instead of bringing his contribution as a priest into a diocese, at a moment in which vocations are not exactly thriving. It could be said, almost jesting, that they are also refugees... And why does the Pontifical Commissioner goes to Assisi to say "Watch out!..." to this or that bishop.

Can we say it already? The climate in which we breathe now does not seem to be a good one. [Source, in Italian]

Tosatti as a general religious correspondent can feel that the atmosphere is becoming unbearable. He is right: the Catholic Church has never felt more like a dictatorship. This is not how she is supposed to work. Even her doctrine is under pressure, as if it could be fashioned at each moment, and not passed on faithfully to each generation. This suffocating atmosphere cannot go on.