Rorate Caeli

Father Manelli’s Pastoral Report to the Franciscans of the Immaculate

The following is a translation of the fourth part of Fr. Stefano Manelli’s Pastoral Report to the Franciscans of the Immaculate titled “The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum for the growth of the Religious Life," issued after the promulgation of Summorum Pontificum. The first parts are available in Italian on Chiesa e postConcilio.  Fr. Manelli, in his Introduction, using St. Ambrose’s image of the Church as the moon that reflects the light of Christ the sun, speaks as follows: 

Mindful of the words and thoughts of the holy Archbishop of Milan let us now turn our attention to the real situation of the Church in which we live.  Let us say first of all that it is certainly not difficult to admit that today the splendor of the Bride of Christ is passing through an eclipse of perhaps singular proportions in her two thousand year history.  This crisis, that embraces the entire inner life of the Bride of Christ, according to the Holy Father Benedict XVI, ‘depends in great part of the collapse of the liturgy’ that happened not in the Council but in the post-Conciliar time.

Father Manelli goes on to offer concrete numbers that show the precipitous decline in the major religious orders.  The main part of the Pastoral Report, using patristic, medieval and post-Tridentine sources, lays out clearly the relationship of the Religious Life and the Liturgy, the Religious Life and the Mass, and the Religious Life and the Divine Office.  Part 4 deals with the consequences of the liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council.


The Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” for the growth of the Religious Life 

 Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, F.I.
(Founder and Minister General of the Franciscans of the Immaculate)

4.  What happened in the decade of the 1960s?

Until the decade of the 1960s, the liturgical patrimony that characterized every single Religious Order remained nearly unchanged, save for the appropriate marginal modifications regarding, for example, the liturgical calendar, which has always been enriched or trimmed under the watchful supervision of the official Church.  In those years the Church still enjoyed an extraordinary fecundity of religious vocations, an accompanying growth in the Missions, and a solidity and maturity of the Christian life of the people of God.

What happened, instead, from the ‘60s and afterwards?  In effect, it happened that after the celebration of the Second Vatican Council, which was an assemblage the likes of which the Church had never had in her past, there was an expectation of liturgical reform. In the actual carrying out of the reform, rather than go about the reform with the purpose of a hoped for increase and growth in the Christian life, the process of reform took a very different  turn, which, when one looks at the facts, has negatively affected the Church, and, even more, has negatively affected above all the framework itself of the Religious Life (especially in the West).

More devastating—let us note this again—has been the negative influence of the Novus Ordo on the Religious Life, as already referenced above (with respect to the devastating losses in nearly all the Orders and Religious Institutes).  And here we cannot fail to mention as well the sadness caused by the closing of so many monasteries and religious houses,  as well as the closing of the greater part of the seminaries for priests and brothers, with the consequence of an aging clergy, the drop in the Missions without a turnover of missionaries, and the continual increase in the number of towns that even in Italy remain without a pastor,  again because of lack of vocations.

And if we want to ask ourselves why the negative influence of the Novus Ordo has been such a problem for the Church and has been even more a problem above all for the Religious Life, the answer is very simple:  because the whole Church lives from the Liturgy, as even Vatican II taught, and as Pope John Paul II said in his letter to the bishops, Dominicae Coenae of February 1980, when he spoke of the “close and organic bond between the renewal of the Liturgy and the renewal of the whole life of the Church.  The Church does not only act in the liturgy, she also expresses herself in the liturgy.  She lives by the liturgy and receives from the liturgy the strength for her life.” (75)  And Pope Benedict XVI affirms that in the liturgy “the Christian finds the Church as such, putting into action her essence, as She who believes and the mediatrix of Grace.  All the rest is secondary.” (76).

The Religious Life, then, has been subjected even more to the negative influence of the Novus Ordo, because it is above all a life that is “liturgical”, as explained above, and as a consequence, the Religious Life has not been able and is not able to be shaped by the Liturgy in its most vital foundations.  It is with the liturgy that the Religious Life has a relationship of simbiosis and synergy, whether in times of fecundity or times of barrenness. One could also say that the Liturgy and the Religious Life stand or fall together.  This is the perennial supernatural dynamic of the Religious Life grafted on to the Liturgy and the Liturgy grafted on to the Religious Life.

As a consequence, a Liturgy well grounded, stable, and solid is proven and assured as such above all by the vitality and fecundity of the monastic and religious life; and, in turn, a monastic and religious life that is solid and fruitful in growth, is proof and guarantees in the most secure way the authenticity of the Liturgy of the Mystical Body of Christ.  But a monastic and religious life that is in the devastating condition of in reverse gear, so to speak, of not walking forward, as is the case today, can only be a testimony to a Liturgy that lacks that foundational consistency and “vital force”, according to the precise expression of Pope John Paul II.

74.  If one looks at the reality of the situation regarding the people, it is by now obvious to all that the attendance of the people of God at Holy Mass on days of obligation, in the past 40 years, in our Italy, has literally fallen from a precipice: from an average of 60% in attendance at Mass that was the average in the ‘50s to 9-10% today (this is without speaking of the median Mass attendance in Europe of 5%!).  And what does one say about the collapse in the number of those going to the Sacrament of Confession, of the delaying of or refusal to baptize children, of the striking increase in marriages that are only civil, of the frightful increase in contraception and abortion (without even speaking of homosexuality or pedophilia)?  But it is easy when discussing this phenomenon to feel the obligation to oppose this line of thinking with the counter argument that it is not the fault of the Liturgy if society has taken this disastrous path.  To offer that argument, however, shows a rejection and a putting down of what is the great salvific mission of the Liturgy in the world.  We must not forget that the threefold basis of the true Christian life is built on the three “Lex”: Lex orandi, Lex credendi, Lex vivendi. The link between these three laws is ab intus, from within.  One cannot stand without the others.

As a consequence:  a soild Lex orandi (namely, daily prayer that is constant and faithful; liturgical, Eucharistic, Marian; vocal, mental, affective, contemplative), is the matrix for a solid Lex credendi.  A solid Lex credendi (namely, to believe all the truths of faith that the Church sets forth to be believed; to receive the Sacraments, to follow the Magisterium of the Church, in obedience to the Pope), is the matrix for a solid Lex vivendi.  A solid Lex vivendi(namely, living a life of Grace, avoiding sin, combatting vices, practicing the Christian virtues in familial obligations and those owed to society) is the matrix of a Christian life that is holy and sanctifying!

But if the Lex orandi is not genuine and solid, what does one find? One finds the fruits according to the gospel teaching of Jesus: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit”. (Mt. 7,18).  One sees the poisonous fruits of a faith that is confused and fragile, of a faith perhaps syncretistic or distorted to the point of denying the truths of the Catholic faith concerning the Most Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, most holy Mary, the doctrine of Hell (closed or nonexistent), the Eucharist, Confession, etc…One sees the poisonous fruits of a Christian life that is disordered and misled by the passions and the world, that gives assent to moral deviations (divorce, abortion, euthanasia, contraception, concubinage, homosexual acts, indecent ways of dressing, pornography, etc…..)

One finds, more and more in the social sphere, the profanation of Sunday (against the Third Commandment) in mass culture, the shocking fall in Mass attendance and practice of the Sacraments (Confessions, Communion, but also Baptism for infants), while at the same time there is a proliferation of drugs, discos and gay bars, with crowds of people at stadiums, at “festivals” of all sorts, in theaters, slaves to the TV, suffering from the disease of hedonism with all of its terrible costs.  Poor society, poor humanity!

75.  John Paul II, Dominicae Coenae, 1980
76.  Benedict XVI, Davanti al Protagonista. Alle radici della liturgia, Ed. Cantagalli,

Translation and Introduction by Father Richard G. Cipolla