Rorate Caeli

IMPORTANT: Pope Francis severely restricts the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, imposes the Novus Ordo on all their priests
UPDATE: FULL TEXT OF THE DECREE that abrogates Summorum for the FFI

8/6/13: For our follow-up article see: For the record: Franciscans of the Immaculate - three official responses to Vatican Insider and other official statements - IMPORTANT: Pope Benedict XVI did not order the FFI visitation, PCED supported FFI norms on use of Vetus Ordo in 2012 - Texts and commentary from Rorate


Rorate note: 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. 

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. 

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? 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?


Sandro Magister's latest column (For the First Time, Francis Contradicts Benedict) has the details. The emphases in the quote below are by Rorate. In our update, the full text of the decree.

The importance of this decree -- exquisitely dated July 11, the feast of St. Benedict in the calendar of the Novus Ordo -- is difficult to overstate. In the aftermath of Summorum Pontificum the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate -- the largest "strict observance" movement to be established in the Franciscan family of religious Orders and congregations after the general relaxation of observance in the post Conciliar era -- became far and away the largest religious congregation to adopt the Traditional Latin Mass as their favored form of the Roman Rite, albeit without completely abandoning the Novus Ordo. The FFI soon came to occupy an important place in the "canonically regular" Traditionalist Catholic world, being involved in numerous important conferences promoting Tradition and playing an important part in organizing many Pontifical Masses especially in Rome.

Many Traditional Latin Mass sites are open only because of the ministry of FFI priests; it remains to be seen how many of these Masses will have to be ended because of this decree. As of today we have already been informed that some of nuns under the spiritual care of the FFI are looking for priests to continue celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass for them after the August 11 ban comes into force. 

In addition, the decree virtually ousts from his position the founder and superior of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, Fr. Stefano Manelli FFI, who is in his eighties, whose writings are known for their intense Marian devotion and fidelity to the traditions of Catholic asceticism and mysticism, and who is venerated by not a few as a living model of holiness.

The decree bears the date of July 11, 2013, the protocol number 52741/2012, and the signatures of the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, a focolarino, and of the secretary of the same congregation, Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, a Franciscan.

Braz de Aviz is the only high-ranking official in the curia of Brazilian nationality, and because of this he has accompanied Francis on his voyage to Rio de Janeiro. He has a reputation as a progressive, although that of a scatterbrain fits him better. And he will probably be one of the first to go when the reform of the curia announced by Francis takes shape. 

Rodríguez Carballo instead enjoys the pope's complete trust. His promotion as second-in-command of the congregation was backed by Francis himself at the beginning of his pontificate.

It is difficult, therefore, to think that pope Bergoglio was unaware of what he was approving when he was presented with the decree before its publication.

The decree installs an apostolic commissioner - in the person of the Capuchin Fidenzio Volpi - at the head of all the communities of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

And this in itself is cause for astonishment. Because the Franciscans of the Immaculate are one of the most flourishing religious communities born in the Catholic Church in recent decades, with male and female branches, with many young vocations, spread over several continents and with a mission in Argentina as well.

They want to be faithful to tradition, in full respect for the magisterium of the Church. So much so that in their communities they celebrate Masses both in the ancient rite and in the modern rite, as moreover do hundreds of religious communities around the world - the Benedictines of Norcia, to give just one example - applying the spirit and the letter of the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum" of Benedict XVI.

But precisely this was contested by a core group of internal dissidents, who appealed to the Vatican authorities complaining of the excessive propensity of their congregation to celebrate the Mass in the ancient rite, with the effect of creating exclusion and opposition within the communities, of undermining internal unity and, worse, of weakening the more general "sentire cum Ecclesia."

The Vatican authorities responded by sending an apostolic visitor one year ago. And now comes the appointment of the commissioner.

But what is most astonishing are the last five lines of the decree of July 11:

"In addition to the above, the Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorized by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.”

The astonishment stems from the fact that what is decreed contradicts the dispositions given by Benedict XVI, which for the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite “sine populo" demand no previous request for authorization whatsoever:

"Ad talem celebrationem secundum unum alterumve Missale, sacerdos nulla eget licentia, nec Sedis Apostolicae nec Ordinarii sui" (1).

While for Masses "cum populo" they set out a few conditions, but always guaranteeing the freedom to celebrate.

In general, against a decree of a Vatican congregation it is possible to have recourse to the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, today headed by a cardinal, the American Raymond Leo Burke, considered a friend by the traditionalists.

But if the decree is the object of approval in a specific form on the part of the pope, as it seems to be in this case, recourse is not admitted.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate will have to comply with the prohibition on celebrating the Mass in the ancient rite beginning Sunday, August 11.

And now what will happen, not only among them but in the whole Church?

Rorate has learned from its own sources that the "internal dissidents" were led by an American member of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate who was notable for his opposition and hostility to the any criticism of Vatican II, in direct contrast to the Italian friars of the FFI, many of whom adhered to the "Gherardini line" of loyal but unflinching criticism of at least some elements of the Conciliar documents.



The text of the decree in Italian is transcribed below. The last paragraph, with the specific papal order abrogating Summorum Pontificum for the priests of the FFI, is exactly as reported by Magister.

Full text (Italian - source Messa in Latino):


PROT. N. 52741/2012


La Congregazione per gli Istituti di vita consacrata e la Società di vita apostolica, attese le consiedrazioni formulate nella Relazione presentata dal Mons. Vito Angelo Todisco a conclusione della Visita Apostolica disposta con decreto del 5 luglio 2012, al fine di tutelare e promuovere l'unità interna degli Istituti religiosi e la comunione fraterna, l'adeguata formazione alla vita religiosa e consacrata, l'organizzazione delle attività apostoliche, la corretta gestione dei beni temporali, ha ritenuto necessario nominare un Commissario Apostolico per la Congregazione dei Frati Francescani dell'Immacolata con le conseguente attribuite dal diritto particolare ed universale al Governo Generale del citato Istituto religioso.

Atteso che la suddetta decisione il 3 luglio 2013 è stata oggetto di approvazione in forma specifica a norma dell'art. 18 della cost. ap. Pastor Bonus dal Santo Padre Francesco, con il presente decreto si nomina

il Reverendo P. Fidenzio Volpi O.F.M. Cap.
Commissario Apostolico
ad nutum Sanctae Sedis,
per tutte le Comunità e i sodali della Congregazione dei Frati Francescani dell'Immacolata

Nell'espletamento delle sue mansioni, il P. Volpi assumerà tutte le competenze che la normativa particolare dell'Istituto e quella universale della Chiesa attribuiscono al Governo Generale.

Sarà inoltre sua facoltà avvalersi, se lo riterrà opportuno, di collaboratori scelti a sua discrezione e da lui nominati previo assenso di questo Dicastero, a cui potrà chiedere il parere quando lo riterrà necessario.

Il P. Volpi ogni sei mesim, dovrà informare questo Dicastero del suo operato, inviando una dettagliata relazione scritta circa le dicisioni adottate, i risultati conseguiti e le iniziative che riterrà utili realizzare per il bene dell'Istituto.
Infine, spetterà all'Istitutodei Frati Francescani dell'Immacolata sia il rimborso delle spese sostenute da detto Commissario e dai collaboratori da lui eventualmente nominati, sia l'onorario per il loro servizio.
In aggiunta a quanto sopra, sempre il 3 luglio u.s. il Santo Padre Francesco ha disposto che ongi religioso della Congregazione dei Frati Francescani dell'Immacolata è tenuto a celebrare la liturgia secondo il rito ordinario e che, eventualmente, l'uso della forma staordinaria (Vetus Ordo) dovrà essere esplicitamente autorizzata dalle competenti autorità per ogni religioso e/o comunità che ne farà richiesta.

Nonostante qualunque disposizione contraria

Dato dal Vaticano, l'11 luglio 2013 Joao Braz Card. de. Aviz

+ José Rodrìguez Carballo, O.F.M.
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