Pope Francis severely restricts the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from celebrating the Traditional Latin Mass, imposes the Novus Ordo on all their priests.
Sandro Magister’s latest column (For the First Time, Francis Contradicts Benedict) has the details.
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 Caeli 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