Francis and the Franciscan Friars have a meeting

Andrea Tornielli tells us that the Holy Father granted an audience to the embattled Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

Oddly, we didn’t hear about this meeting before.  It happened on 10 June.  Usually the Pope’s meetings are listed in public sources, such as the Bolletino.

From Vatican Insider with my emphases:

The Pope speaks with the young Franciscans of the Immaculate

The meeting, which lasted an hour and a half, took place on Tuesday 10 June in the chapel of Santa Marta. On the Council, Francis endorsed the hermeneutic proposed by Benedict XVI

ANDREA TORNIELLI
VATICAN CITY

The meeting was held on Tuesday 10 June in the chapel of the Santa Marta Residence in the Vatican, despite the fact the Pope had been feeling under the weather and cancelled some appointments the previous day. For an hour and a half, Francis entertained around sixty Franciscans of the Immaculate, the order founded by father Stefano Manelli that last year the Holy See put under temporary receivership to resolve internal differences regarding the government, administration, relationship with the female branch and the use of the by new exclusive [sic] old missal and the interpretations of the last Council. Around forty seminarists, novitiates, and theology and philosophy students were present, along with their teachers and the pontifical commissioner, [aka Commisar] father Fidenzio Volpi.

The Franciscan Friars sang the Ave Maria di Fatima and renewed in the hands of the Pope their vows of total consecration to the Immaculate. Questions were then put to Francis on the most contested themes regarding the internal operations of the institution. Pope Bergoglio proved to be well informed on all issues, following the matter closely, and several times showed his appreciation for father Volpi, quelling rumours that the actions of the government of the commissioner and his collaborators were undertaken without the Pope’s knowledge. [So, the Pope knew what was going on.]

Following the assignment of commissioners and restrictions applied to the use of the old missal, which, as opposed to what happens under motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, in the case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate it can be used without prior authorisation from superiors, there were defections in the friars and the seminarists. Of 400 members in the world, around 40 have requested to be released from their vows, and around half of these are seminarists and therefor still students who had only made temporary vows.

[NB] On the motu proprio, [Summorum Pontificum] Pope Francis said he did not want to deviate from the line of Benedict XVI, and reiterated that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate remained free to celebrate the old mass, even if for the moment, [?] in light of the controversies surrounding the exclusive right to use that missal – an element that did not constitute part of the founding charisma of the institution – they required “a discernment” with the superior and with the bishop if it concerned celebrations in parish churches, sanctuaries and teaching houses. [Excuse me, but… why?] The Pope explained that there must be freedom, both for those who wish to celebrate with the old rite, and those who wish to celebrate with the new rite, without the rite becoming an ideological banner. [And clearly it had.  But, now that this trip to the woodshed (fairly or unfairly) has been prosecuted, why not just let them get on with life?  Also, if Pope Francis is okay with the juridical changes made by Benedict, then why is the group getting hammered?  Is this a way of testing them?  Is this something that a former Jesuit provincial would do?  Force the group to make choices and test them?]

One question concerned the interpretation of the II Vatican Council. Francis once again expressed his appreciation for the work of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, defining it as “the best hermeneutic” of the Council. [DI YOU HEAR THAT, FISHWRAP?  Remember what Pope Francis wrote to Marchetto?  HERE] He then responded to the objection according to which the II Vatican would only be a castoral [sic… I don’t think “beaver-like” but rather “pastoral”] council, which has damaged the church. The Pope said that although it is has been pastoral, it contains doctrinal elements and is a Catholic council, reaffirming the line of the hermeneutics of reform in the continuity of the one-subject church, presented by Benedict XVI in his speech to the Roman Curia in December 2005. He then reminded them that all councils have provoked uproar and reactions, because the demon “does not want the church to become strong”. [“the demon… il demonio”, which is The Devil.] He also said that we must move forwards with a theological and not ideological hermeneutic of the II Vatican.

Francis also said that he had wanted the closure of the theological institute within the Franciscans of the Immaculate (STIM), so that the seminarists would study in the pontifical theology faculties of Rome. He then explained that the Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope. [His Holiness, if he thinks that, should pay closer attention to his old colleagues at the Gregorian.]

[…]

Meanwhile, the fact of this meeting makes me scratch my head a little.  What I have been hearing is that some of the men want to leave the FFIs, maybe to form something else, perhaps under the aegis of the PCED.  So, it could be that some people are getting nervous.  Could it be that the powers that be have become aware of how many people are watching the situation of the FFIs?  Could this be damage control?  It’s pretty ugly, after all.

I pray for the peaceful resolution of the situation and the relief of the Friars from the super-invasive aegis of the Congregation.

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32 Responses to Francis and the Franciscan Friars have a meeting

  1. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Castor oil council?

  2. Genna says:

    I’m beginning to trust very little which comes out of the Vatican these days.

  3. Joseph-Mary says:

    Could it be that the Holy Father only knows ONE side of the issues within that holy Institute? Perhaps if he met with the founders and some others, it would be a more well rounded opinion?

  4. Amerikaner says:

    What I find odd:

    1) No true discussions with the Founders.
    2) A secret meeting with a handful of friars.

    I hope such ways do not become normative.

  5. Tamquam says:

    The whole thing makes no sense. The only explanation that makes any sense is that there is something else going on that has not been made public. Games within games.

  6. Holy Father… why?

    I bite my tongue. This is a trial of enormous magnitude and pain.

  7. TomO says:

    Father,

    When the article speaks of the “rite becoming an ideological banner”, you said “clearly it had”. Why? While I don’t know the Friars personally, I have not yet seen any proof that they twisted the Usus Antiquior into a ideological banner. Rather it seemed to be logical attraction from their liturgical sensibilities as faithful friars rooted in the tradition of the Church. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  8. RJHighland says:

    Words, words, words, oh what do they truly mean? Let us actually see what happens and the actions will bring better meaning to the words. Let us see if the progressive boot is lifted from the throat of the Friars of the Immaculate. So the Devil doesn’t want the Church to be strong, that’s a valid statement. Did Vatican II and the Novus Ordo strengthen or weaken the Church over the last 50 yrs? If it hasn’t strengthened the Church who’s principles had the most influence on the council and the modifications to the mass, God or Lucifer? Forcing the Franciscan Friars to study in a pontifical theology facility in Rome is like closing Holy Innocence in NYC and combining them with an existing Gay Pride parish, yeah lets see how that works out.

  9. Bosco says:

    Schizophrenic.

  10. excalibur says:

    Perhaps God used Vatican II to test His people, to see if they were made of sterner stuff. Many fell away in the aftermath.

    And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God. Romans 8:27 (DR)

  11. Gratias says:

    I thought the VC2 was a pastoral, not dogmatic Council. Oh my.

  12. moon1234 says:

    It appears that only groups devoted specifically to EF and those Diocese with friendly bishops will be spared these “woodshed” visits in the future. Rome is probably worried of another EF exclusive group with large numbers becoming established. Hence the “damage control.” It is all very transparent though [That is the one thing that this is not.] and the isolation of the founders seems like something out of the middle ages.

  13. Phil_NL says:

    Tamquam,

    My thoughts exactly. I’ve said several times before that what we know of the situation and the Holy See’s actions makes no sense, not even remotely, if this were about an OF vs. EF kerfuffle. In addition, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either if this was about someone going after the FFI as an institute (even though that may be the effect).
    I still strongly suspect that something was thoroughly amiss within the FFI, a disciplinary issue the FFI itself couldn’t get a grip on.

    It’s sad to see all the collateral damage though.

  14. The Drifter says:

    To anyone vaguely familiar with the Italian mindset (and the Holy Father is, after all, of Italian origin and of Piedmontese descent) this looks like a classic example of “cerchiobottismo” i.e. trying to make both sides content at the same time, if at alternate moments. To this one should add the very particular Jesuit-style system of command and control. This would explain the semingly contradictory elements that appear in the above article

  15. Vecchio di Londra says:

    Is it really true that at the meeting the Holy Father, citing St Ignatius Loyola, told the friars that ‘if the Pope says that black is white then we should believe that it is white’?
    Even the papally-loyal St Ignatius did not say that – he said that ‘To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.’
    Of course, the term is not completely definable, but ‘magisterium’ is an appropriate equivalent.
    Is the Holy Father asserting that he alone *is* the magisterium, and the Church?
    We would indeed be in deep waters.

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  17. DrBill says:

    . . . the isolation of the founders seems like something out of the middle ages.

    Surely, being “out of the Middle Ages” is a good thing. Did you mean to say that the isolation of the founder is a good thing?

  18. BLB Oregon says:

    “…free to celebrate the old mass, even if for the moment…”

    My sense was that he was merely keeping it obvious that these are persons who have taken a vow of obedience. It does not matter if you are “right” or “left.” Obedience is not going to become optional for anyone.

    My overall sense of the Pope is that he wants the sheep to be left very free to roam within the boundaries of their pasture, but does not want to give the impression to anyone that there is no fence or that the shepherds will be abdicating their right and duty to use their croziers, whether or not the sheep agree with their directions. On this account, he can seem permissive and authoritarian by turns from the outside, while from his vantage point his attitude is entirely consistent.

  19. jhayes says:

    Gratias wrote: “I thought the VC2 was a pastoral, not dogmatic Council. Oh my.”

    The Pope said that although it is has been pastoral, it contains doctrinal elements and is a Catholic council, reaffirming the line of the hermeneutics of reform in the continuity of the one-subject church, presented by Benedict XVI in his speech to the Roman Curia in December 2005.

    In which Benedict said

    It is precisely in this combination of continuity and discontinuity at different levels that the very nature of true reform consists. In this process of innovation in continuity we must learn to understand more practically than before that the Church’s decisions on contingent matters – for example, certain practical forms of liberalism or a free interpretation of the Bible – should necessarily be contingent themselves, precisely because they refer to a specific reality that is changeable in itself. It was necessary to learn to recognize that in these decisions it is only the principles that express the permanent aspect, since they remain as an undercurrent, motivating decisions from within. On the other hand, not so permanent are the practical forms that depend on the historical situation and are therefore subject to change.

  20. JustaSinner says:

    NO ONE EVERY SUSPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!
    Our chief weapon is surprise and fear. Our TWO main weapons are surprise, fear, and an almost fanatical devotion to the Church. Our THREE weapons are surprise, fear, and almost fanatical devotion to the Church and these snazzy red robes….oh drat, let me come back in and start again!

  21. kpoterack says:

    Well, there actually are a number of good things in this – things that are heartening. (The restatement of the hermeneutic of continuity, the statement that he will not alter Pope Benedict’s disposition for the EF.) Honestly, I don’t know what is going on with the FFI’s. I have never been in a religious order, however I do work and live in a community of orthodox Catholics of various stripes. There can be ‘tempests in teapots’ and flare-ups over various things such as liturgy that lead to metaphorical blows. This seems all too familiar to me. One faction in the FFI’s felt that another faction was moving things in a direction it didn’t like and complained to Rome. Rome has taken a side. I will pray for them, but I don’t anymore fear this as a sign of bad things to come outside the FFI’s.

  22. kpoterack says:

    Another point. What I think some conservative commenters miss when they claim this as a form of oppression of conservatives/traditionalists – and at least implicitly claim, “why doesn’t the Church do this sort of thing to liberal orders?” – is that the FFI’s brought this on themselves (or at least a faction of them did). The libs NEVER would do something like this. It would make no sense. (Liberal order: “Rome, please intervene and make our order less orthodox, or heterodox to the degree we are comfortable with.”) Rome actually has intervened a few times in liberal orders/dioceses (e.g. the Jesuits and the Archdiocese of Seattle in the 1980’s) and it has been extremely difficult because they had no welcome – no internal allies. Only conservatives invite Rome in to settle disputes. That’s just the nature of things.

  23. jhayes says:

    According to Rorate, the Vatican Press Office has clarified how the people present at the meeting with the Pope were chosen: they were all of the seminarians of the FFI.

    “On the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Both the Commissioner, Fr. Volpi, as well as all seminarians of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, were received by the Holy Father on June 10, in Domus Sanctae Marthae. A gesture that shows the interest with which Pope Francis follows the situation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate and his closeness to the work being done by the Commissioner in the name of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life [Congregation for Religious]. The Holy Father is informed with exactness of all steps that are carried out. In this moment, a house is being searched in Rome where the student friars of said Institute who will attend a Pontifical University of Rome to carry on their studies may live.”

    [And…so?]

  24. Tony from Oz says:

    And here is an extra bit about the FFI’s encounter with Pope Francis from Rorate Caeli blog:

    “— In fact, Rorate can add this was the whole reason for this strangely hidden meeting: the need to stop the hemorrhage by showing that all this is the will of the Holy Father. At the meeting, Rorate has learned, the Holy Father, quoting Loyola,† told the friars that if the Pope says that black is white then we should believe that it is white. Rorate can also ascertain the interesting fact that no one representing the opposing view of the minority who caused the intervention to happen or the former government of the institute was present or even invited. Rorate has also learned that one of those present, offended by the sight of another slight to the majority of the Institute, including the Founders, asked the Holy Father to his face why they were having another secret meeting without the presence of the others, those who are now maligned. All who were present could see that the Holy Father was quite taken aback by the unexpected boldness of this desperate friar. Quite a lío! —”

    † Or paraphrasing, but the reference is exact and obviously is that of the Spiritual Exercises, in which Saint Ignatius says, in the 13th rule of true sentiment in the Church Militant: “To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it.”
    I cannot recall any Pope ever actually invoking the ‘if I say black is white, then it is’ line…

  25. robtbrown says:

    I think Fr Z is probably right in saying that people might be (read: are) getting nervous. IMHO, this meeting was for show.

    What I understand is that a few years ago some neo-con friars complained to the Congregation, and Papa Ratzinger, urged by Cardinal Braz de Aviz, authorized the investigation. After BXVI left office, the Cardinal Prefect, who already knew this pope, got permission to drop the hammer. Cardinal Braz de Aviz is a Brazilian who brought his own provincialism to Rome with him. He saw the FFI’s as an opportunity to suppress any growth of the EF by putting out a little grass fire.

    Then half the novices and students left. I wonder whether the report is true that it only included those in temporary vows. Generally, those who leave a religious institute don’t need to be released from temporary vows. They just leave, and the vows eventually expire.

    Worse, a number of the friars, perhaps as many as half, seems to have petitioned to leave and start their own group with exclusive use of the EF (release from vows not necessary). Presumably, they would be under the PECD. The little project of the Prefect and the OFM Secretary is blowing up in their faces. Not since the papacy of Paul VI has there been such incompetent leadership in the Curia.

    I have written here before that this pope is in OJT. He’s a Jesuit, and the SJ approach to liturgy is utilitarian—there is no sense of sanctification through the liturgy. And he came to the papacy with absolutely no international experience of the Church. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have made the imprudent comments that did little except offend good Catholics. And his comment, reported by a bishop, about the desire for the EF being a fad, indicates that he has not really understood how great is the demand.

    Jesuits are thought to be flexible (sometimes too much so), but consider a 77 year old priest who discovers that the way he has looked at things for years isn’t going to work in the papacy. And here is a pope named Francis who has permitted a man he has known for almost 20 years to make a mess of probably the only Franciscan branch in the West that is flourishing.

  26. robtbrown says:

    Tony from Oz says,
    Rorate has also learned that one of those present, offended by the sight of another slight to the majority of the Institute, including the Founders, asked the Holy Father to his face why they were having another secret meeting without the presence of the others, those who are now maligned. All who were present could see that the Holy Father was quite taken aback by the unexpected boldness of this desperate friar.

    I can believe that both happened. This pope is from a generation that would never say anything so bold to a superior, much less the pope.

  27. Sam Schmitt says:

    I urge everyone to read the Mary Vitrix blog, written by one of the FFI’s who petitioned the Vatican to get involved. He answers many of the questions and concerns people have expressed here – or at least answers them as much as he can given the necessary discretion about the internal workings of his order. You may not like what he has to say – he vehemently disagrees with Rorate Caeli’s take on all of this – but at least he can vouch for what he says (unlike RC, which has used anonymous sources for their assertions). He was one of the first in his order to learn and celebrate the extraordinary form, so he certainly has no animus against the EF, to say the least.

    His contention is that a particular brand of traditionalism was being foisted upon the order, something that was not part of the original charism. He admits that while many opinions held by traditionalists – even some he does not agree with – are acceptable in principle and not opposed to the Faith, it is a very different matter when these are being promoted in a religious community, esp. one not founded along traditional lines. The FFI are not a traditional order (like the FSSP), and this is not what he (and most of the other friars) signed up for, though he loves the traditional liturgy.

    The larger point is not that the traditionalists are right or wrong, but that the FFI should not go in a direction that veers from its original charism without the proper procedures (i.e. vote by the General Chapter, as per SP no. 3), which, as he explains were not followed, though some claimed they were. He tried to remedy this working within the order before going to Rome, but in the end, he felt he had no choice but to appeal to the Vatican.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Sam Schmitt,

    I went to the blog and read various comments. Nothing new there. And I still think the situation was bungled by the Cardinal Prefect.

    And I don’t understand how using the Extraordinary Form would buy lake the original charism

  29. jhayes says:

    His contention is that a particular brand of traditionalism was being foisted upon the order, something that was not part of the original charism. He admits that while many opinions held by traditionalists – even some he does not agree with – are acceptable in principle and not opposed to the Faith, it is a very different matter when these are being promoted in a religious community

    This may tie in with the decision to close the FFI seminary and move all the seminarians to the pontifical theology faculties in Rome – and Francis’s meeting with all the seminarians this month at which (according to Tornielli) “The Franciscan Friars sang the Ave Maria di Fatima and renewed in the hands of the Pope their vows of total consecration to the Immaculate” and Francis said that “the Church guarantees orthodoxy through the Pope”.

  30. Sam Schmitt says:

    robtbrown:

    Nothing new? He offers cogent explanations I have seen no where else, particularly on traditionalist sites where the take is heavy on unconfirmed sources and a pathetic persecution complex (Fr. Z is particularly valiant in fighting against the last). Every development is seen through the lens of celebrating the EF while I think he makes a solid case that it’s not all about that. At the very least is always healthy to get out of the “bubble” and get a different perspective.

    And he doesn’t claim that using the Extraordinary Form threatens the charism (if that’s what you meant – I didn’t understand your last sentence) – he was one of the first in his order to celebrate it.

    I’d be interested in your perspective on what he says. Ignoring a first-hand account – even if you disagree with it – doesn’t seem like a wise move, IMHO. Things often don’t follow the simple narrative we’re comfortable with.

  31. robtbrown says:

    Sam Schmitt,

    By “nothing new” I meant that what he said was what I expected: Overzealous (but undereducated) proponents of the TLM saying imprudent things, (most likely lifted from the SSPX) and trying to implement them.

    The puzzling last sentence is a function of using voice recognition software on a smart phone, then not checking–it should be “violate”. My point is that if promotion (imprudent or not), rather than just use, of the TLM violates the original charism, do the Constitutions contain some notion of liturgical orientation?

    BTW, I know of an order in the US that had similar problems, except with liberalism. Some of their houses were using texts not approved for liturgical use (read: inclusive language). There was no intervention by the Congregation.

    I also don’t think he’s right on the origin of the FSSP. It was not a group of priests looking for juridical status. Generally, in those situations groups exist first with Diocesan right, then petition for Pontifical right. Rather, it was planned before the 4 episcopal consecrations that the SSPX would become the FSSP. When the SSPX declined the offer of union, Rome went ahead with the FSSP. That’s why the Fraternity says it is the only religious institute in the history of the Church created by the Pope.

    I made some other comments, but they are “awaiting moderation”.

  32. Sam Schmitt says:

    robtbrown,

    Thanks for your comments.

    If it were just a matter of “Overzealous (but undereducated) proponents of the TLM saying imprudent things, (most likely lifted from the SSPX) and trying to implement them” – then I wholeheartedly agree that this would not merit the intervention of the Vatican, at least not in the form that it has taken. But, according to MaryVitrix, this is precisely what is not going on. It’s more than just the promotion of use (imprudent or not) of the EF.

    I defer to you on the question of the origin of the FSSP.