Rorate Caeli

A passionate plea to Pope Francis for the Franciscan Friars

As our readers know, Rorate has done everything possible to report the travesty that is the situation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI) over the past year -- and done so with great care and diligence.

The media, outside of the Associated Press (see here), has pretty much either ignored the story or purposely tried to spin it with nakedly biased reports like the one from Catholic World Report (but that's nothing new for them, see here and here).

Most conservative Catholic bloggers have either sided with the Fr. Volpi-driven interdiction or for the most part are now staying silent -- even now that the facts clearly show the harshness with which the Vatican is acting towards an order whose only crime was clinging to what was handed down to them.

While this open letter to Pope Francis from our friend Pat Archbold run in the National Catholic Register -- and re-purposed on his popular Creative Minority Report blog -- doesn't contain new information, it does show one positive development: the possibility that more Catholics who identify as conservative and not necessarily traditional are stepping up in defense of the FI. May more of them follow suit:

Holy Father, Please Help! 

Dear Holy Father,

I urgently need your help and so do others. I have heard all you have been saying for months and I want to believe it is true. I want to believe the you want to decentralize the authority of the Church. I know that you don't want us to be hung up rules that limit our worship to just one way of doing things, that you want to do away with arbitrary rigidity. I know that you are concerned about the little guy, those in the Church with no voice.

Well, this is where I need your help. Holy Father, there is a group within the Church that currently has no voice and is being abused by that arbitrary, rigid, and centralized Church that is so destructive of evangelization.

Holy Father, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate need your protection from that very Church. As you know, months ago you appointed Rev. Fidenzio Volpi as special commissioner to oversee the FFI after five priests complained about the traditional direction of the order, with Mass in the extraordinary form a particular concern.

At the time, their ability to say mass in the extraordinary form as guaranteed under Summorum Pontificum was suspended. We were assured at the time that this was simply to make sure that those in the order that did not prefer the EF did not have it unfairly forced upon them. While the move was shocking to me and to many in traditionalist circles, we understood the need for fairness for all in this matter and we took a wait and see approach.

We have waited and we have seen. What we have seen has frightened and scandalized us to no end.

In the past few weeks, Fr. Volpi "has closed the friars' seminary and sent its students to other religious universities. He suspended the activities of the friars' lay movement. He suspended ordinations of new priests for a year and required future priests to formally accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and its new liturgy or be kicked out. And he decreed that current priests must commit themselves in writing to following the existing mission of the order."

Holy Father, we have rarely if ever seen such sanctions even against groups in open defiance of the Church and in open heresy. But why is the Church, this centralized authoritarian Church, dealing so severely with this group? There have been no public accusations of wrongdoing or heresy. Nothing like that.

Fr. Volpi himself has stated, in response to criticism, that the reason for such draconian and disproportionate measures is that "the founder and ex- MinisterGeneral, Father Stefano Maria Manelli, in January 2012, had already evaded constructive dialogue with the religious who had complained of a crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift."

Crypto-lefebrvrianism? A traditionalist drift?

Dear Holy Father, is faithful traditionalism within the Church now a crime? Is becoming more traditional a sign of deficiency within an order? Holy Father, that cannot be!

Perhaps the FFI did not manage this transition as well as one would hope, but certainly this response is disproportionate and wildly severe. I believe you must agree with me, for back in June of this year you said to a group of religious in Latin America:

"They will make mistakes, they will make a blunder [meter la pata], this will pass! Perhaps even a letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine (of the Faith) will arrive for you, telling you that you said such or such thing... But do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward... Open the doors, do something there where life calls for it. I would rather have a Church that makes mistakes for doing something than one that gets sick for being closed up..."

Holy Father, perhaps the FFI has made some mistakes, but why are they being prevented from moving forward?

Holy Father, After reading the above, I cannot believe that you know the full detail of what is occurring. Holy Father, if these draconian and disproportionate actions of Fr. Volpi are allowed to stand, I fear that one message will be loud and clear:

Faithful Catholic traditionalists no longer have a place in the Church.

Holy Father, I do not believe for one second that this is the message you intend to send.

Please Holy Father, please help.