Rorate Caeli

Totalitarian Dictatorship in the Franciscans of the Immaculate: Pontifical Commissioner Illegally Suspends Without Due Process Six Friars Who Sought Shelter

Fixed and Immovable
The ongoing affair of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate has arrived at a point at which Commissioner Fidenzio Volpi, who is responsible for this disaster, is wildly delivering blows like a giant Polyphemus, beyond every rule of Canon Law, common sense, plain charity, and even human logic. Rorate has learned that Volpi has in fact suspended “a divinis” six Friars (names withheld for their protection) who are under the care of bishops outside of Italy who have welcomed them and are awaiting their dispensations from their vows from the Congregation for Religious.

The cause of this incredibly violent ecclesiastical censure is in fact their wanting to leave the Institute. This is incredible because the general rule, confirmed by a very long canonical tradition, is that a suspension “a divinis” is a penal action to be imposed only for a grave transgression, and above all, after a normal procedure that includes the right to defense and only after two admonitions administered within a certain period of time. Commissioner Volpi instead communicated to the Friars the admonitions and the suspension at the same time, sending three letters at the same time, and in this way lacking the formal conformity to norms that is expected in these situations. The “crime” committed is the fact that these Friars were outside of their monastery, an act that takes them out of Volpi’s jurisdiction and therefore an act of disobedience to the Pope. They were treated in this account as if they were schismatics…!

Canon Law, together with plain common sense, has been completely trampled upon. The reason why these Friars and many other Friars left the house in the first place to find refuge among reasonable and understanding bishops is that the atmosphere within the Institute had become intolerable and suffocating for them, with extremely grave effects both physical and psychological. To save their vocations and to not lose their faith altogether, they decided to ask for the dispensation of their Religious Vows that bound them to the Commissioner, and to ask various bishops to incardinate them in their dioceses as simple priests. 

Clement XIV
A number of bishops in Europe, in Asia and in Africa have welcomed these legitimate requests, which are common affairs: the Congregation for Religious grants every year in an expeditious manner thousands of dispensations to Religious of both sexes who, for various reasons, want to leave their Religious Institutes. The Franciscans of the Immaculate constitute the first case in which, in an act that violates the conscience of the Religious, they are being completely and collectively blocked from leaving their Religious Institute, forcing them to live in an atmosphere that is highly repressive. The Friar, Volpi's right-hand assistant, who continues to direct these operations with a certain Professor as consultant, has declared that according to the will of the Pope the Congregation will not give any dispensations for three years. Is it truly possible that this is what Francis means by “mercy”? Father Volpi and his right-hand assistant should ask themselves why so many Friars want to leave the Institute. Everyday the number of Friars who ask for their dispensation to leave the Institute grows. Can they be held there by force? Why the intent to force them to either stay or leave religious life (and even the priesthood) entirely?


Catherine II of Russia
The actions of Clement XIV at the time of the suppression of the Jesuits were much more lenient, and, despite the collective harshness and injustice of the measure, were filled with charity for the individual priests, appropriately placed in different settings where they could be useful for the Church (usually as diocesan priests). And at this moment in history there is no Catherine the Great stubbornly unwilling to enforce exterior orders and to protect by chance innocent priests from abuse, as the Jesuits of Poland. So much for aggiornamento and modernity and respect for the "rights of conscience" in the post-Vatican II Church: the weak Pope Ganganelli who wanted to please the rulers of the world and the Russian-German "Enlightened Despot" were much more reasonable than the "merciful" prelates of the present age!  If only the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate had already been dissolved as the old Jesuits: one longs for the mercy of Clement XIV. 

It certainly cannot be true that Pope Francis is aware of the Pharaoh-like hardened heart of Commissioner Volpi who is not willing to listen to the Voice of true mercy asking, "Let my People go!" Surely the Pope cannot be aware of it. Surely.