For the record: Letter of the Apostolic Commissioner of the Franciscan Friars
Fr. Volpi has issued his defense. We post it for the record, as everyone deserves the right to be heard:
Letter of the Apostolic Commissioner of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to All the Religious of the Institute
Object: Clarification concerning the civil lawsuit brought against the Apostolic Commissioner and some comments published on the subject
Pax et Bonum!
I wish to address you paternally, aware of the concerns that the dissemination of news concerning me may have aroused in your minds. This information has been spread with the clear purpose of harming fraternal communion in the Institute—a communion that distinguishes our common, united effort to restore among the Franciscans of the Immaculate the original charism that has characterised the service the Institute has rendered to the Church.
I ask you, therefore, to give your careful attention to the following account of events in which I have been involved, and in respect of which there is a malicious attempt to generate scandal.
The divine Master said: “Oportet ut eveniant scandala—It must needs be that scandals come”; this principle certainly applies to us all, so long as we are capable of discerning the truth from falsehood, and we know how to draw the correct lesson from the events we encounter.
On the occasion of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in 2013, celebrating our Heavenly Patroness, I wrote a circular letter to all of you, summarizing the events that had taken place since my appointment as Apostolic Commissioner.
In that letter I could not fail to address one of the more difficult trials that, together, we have tackled and overcome, in a Franciscan spirit and with the heavenly protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary: I refer to the subtraction from the Institute of the capacity to use the temporal goods conferred upon it that are necessary for the accomplishment of our mission.
Referring to changes made to the Statutes of the two Associations with legal personality under civil law which own the physical assets of the Institute, I stated that these goods had been placed under the control of persons that include some family members of Fr. Manelli. This statement was no lie, and could easily be verified.
However, the brothers and sisters of the Founder (I mean, brothers and sisters according to flesh and blood), together with a brother-in-law, considering themselves offended by what I asserted in my circular letter, took up a civil action against me to obtain compensation for the damage which they had allegedly suffered.
According to current civil procedural regulations, any action may give rise to a judgement only after mediation between the parties has been attempted.
In these circumstances, on February 12 this year, “pro bono pacis” and in the fraternal spirit of our Seraphic Father, I reached for a settlement agreement with the opposite party which did not involve any acknowledgment on my part except by way of a clarification, and which had the sole purpose of avoiding further civil proceedings before the Court of Rome, with consequent additional costs to the Institute.
On the basis of this agreement, I committed myself, among other things, to publish on the official website of the Institute a clarification, agreed with the counterparty.
I was about to do what had been agreed, when, on 15 February, an article appeared in an electronic publication, whose “sole source”—in the words of its editor—was a certain “don Camillo”, qualified as “close to the Manelli family”.
In this text, it was stated verbatim as follows:
“Padre Volpi, dopo avere ammesso il suo reato di calunnie e menzogne, il 12 febbraio è stato condannato… — Father Volpi, after having admitted his crime of slander and lies, was sentenced on the 12 February...”
The intention of the author, identified expressly as linked to the family of Fr. Stefano Maria Manelli, seems clear enough: to diminish my prestige and the authority conferred upon me in the sight of you all, dear Confreres.
I have not, in fact, been convicted of any offence, nor subjected to any criminal proceedings; nor have I ever—in court or outside—admitted committing a crime, or uttering slander or lies.
I have therefore instructed my lawyers to prepare a lawsuit for the crime of defamation through the press against those responsible, and I have made known to the members of Fr. Manelli’s family my intention to no longer comply with the terms of the agreement signed on February 12, 2015, which I consider no longer valid on account of a severe failure of compliance by the counterparty.
I know I rely on your “sapientia cordis” in considering you partakers of the sentiment that makes me regard the campaign of defamation waged against me once again—taking advantage of the Franciscan spirit with which I had resolved to put an end to the dispute with certain relations of Fr. Manelli—as an attempt to undermine the harmony which, until now, has animated all of us in promoting the good of the Institute and the Church.
I invite you therefore to strengthen further the bond of solidarity that unites us with the Holy Father and with the whole Church militant, just as it unites us among ourselves, under the mantle of the Virgin, Mother and Patroness of the Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. Let us raise to Her our united prayer for heavenly grace in a particularly difficult moment in our history.
I embrace you all, reminding you of the saying in the Gospel: “NON PREVALEBUNT!”—and I bless you.