More on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the Vetus Ordo (TLM)

From Inside the Vatican (my emphases):

Minority within Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate wanted to scrap the Old Mass



The decision to appoint a commissioner to oversee the Congregation of Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and the need for the order to obtain authorisation before it can celebrate Mass according to the Old Rite has sparked a heated debate. Traditionalist blogs and websites have voiced disagreements over this. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi says the decision does not go against Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio but is exclusively to do with existing tensions within the Institute. Vatican Insider asked Fr. Alessandro Apollonio, the Procurator General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to answer some questions regarding the decision.  [As I understand it, he is the “spokesman” for the FFIs.]

Why did the Vatican decide to send an apostolic visitor to your Institute?

“Because a few of the friars who don’t agree with the founding Father and Minister general’s style asked for it. They also disagree with his eagerness to promote the Vetus Ordo within the Institute, alongside the Novus Ordo, in accordance with the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”

To what extent did the issue of the use of the old missal influence the decision to send an apostolic visitor?

“It had a big influence on the decision because the group of friars I mentioned before accused the founding Father of imposing the Vetus Ordo on the whole Institute. Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile. This false accusation [GET THAT?  “false accusation”] has spread like an oil slick, with various newspapers and news agencies passing it on. This has seriously harmed the good name of the Institute’s founding Father.”

Traditionalist blogs and websites have reacted to this news – and to the decision that prior authorisation will have to be obtained before the Institute can celebrate Mass according to the Old Rite – by saying that these decisions disavow Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio. Do you agree with this interpretation? What can you say about these decisions?

“Fr. Lombardi has clearly stated that the decisions taken regarding our Institute are not a disavowal of the Motu Proprio. However, we are still waiting for an authentic interpretation of the Holy See’s liturgical provisions for our Institute. For example, it is still unclear who exactly the “competent authorities” who will give the aforementioned authorization, are. Will it be the commissioner, the Congregation for Religious, the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, the local ordinary, one of these or all of these? We hope this is just a temporary disciplinary provision and that we will soon be given authorisation to celebrate according to the Vetus Ordo also, as we have always done. Without all the current restrictions which – unless a better reason can be given – deprive us of the universal right granted to us in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae.”

Have any members of your Institute played a role in spreading the above interpretation?


When you have asked for clarifications regarding some of our articles, you have always stressed that you did not only use the old missal and that all decisions were taken bearing in mind the provisions of the Motu Proprio. Is it true that before the apostolic visit, the “Ecclesia Dei” commission had cautioned the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to be prudent in their use of the old missal?

“Yes, we tried to be as prudent and discreet as possible in exercising our special right which gives the General Chapter in session “supreme authority in the Institute”, in accordance with the Constitutions (§ 81). The last General Chapter held in 2008, established that the General Council (that is, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli and his five advisors) was to draft a protocol for the Vetus Ordo to be introduced in our communities. This was done in the form of a letter sent on 21 November 2011. The Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei” considered this letter carefully, taking account Benedict XVI’s thinking, but this official judgement was not taken into consideration during the developments in our case. We do not understand why and are greatly saddened by this. We entrust our cause to Our Lady Queen of the Seraphic Order.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Francis, Linking Back, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The Drill and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Imrahil says:

    In my understanding, unless explicitly otherwise designed by the Holy Father himself or maybe, I don’t know about what canon law says here, also the Curia,

    the “compent authority” is the general superior of the Institute.

  2. kpoterack says:

    I know it is a wild shot in the dark but, when I saw the mention of the protocol they sent to Ecclesia Dei, I thought: “Is this why Archbishop Pozzo was sent back to Ecclesia Dei? To help sort out this mess?”

  3. Robbie says:

    My frustration level with this story is quite high and growing. Clearly, someone with a considerable amount of authority in the Vatican decided the discontent of a few was a ripe opportunity to limit the use of the Vetus Ordo or TLM. I’m sure someone can explain this to me, but I don’t see how this isn’t a move against SP?

    Probably what caused me to feel a growing sense of frustration on this issue was a poor decision on my part to read John Allen’s glowing piece about the revolution Francis has brought to the Vatican. Essentially, he cheered for Francis for all but rebuking, in style and tone, the papacy of Benedict.

    What really caused my blood pressure to rise though was a comment John Allen made about the clergy and the Liturgy. In the piece, he wrote clergy, who clearly chafed under the perceived liturgical fastidiousness of at the late years of JPII and Benedict, report that ended once Francis was elected. Some were told at Papal Masses they weren’t wearing enough crimson and lace. Horror!

    This John Allen piece works back to the FFI story, at least in my view, because I believe the modernist forces see a renewed chance to “strip the altar bare” and marginalize anything related to tradition. Whether Francis supports this or not, those who seem to be his greatest supporters seem to believe they have a free hand to act.

  4. jacobi says:

    It is always a good thing in these situations to look at the basic facts.

    Summorum Pontificum was a Motu Proprio issued by a reigning Pope on the grave matter of the form of expression of Catholic belief and worship. It is therefore a binding document in the absence of any hitherto unknown matter to the contrary.

    It is not open to arbitrary reversal – by anyone.

    SP stated that the ancient Catholic Mass in the latest form as decreed by Pope John XXIII was one of two valid co-equal forms of the Roman Rite.

    It was not, had not been, and could never have been, abolished

    Any priest has the right to say it without prior permission from the Holy See or from his Ordinary.

    Any group of the faithful who wish to worship in this form of the Roman Rite have to be given the means to do so

    The recent decision to, apparently, withdraw such open permission from priests in the FFI and make permission subject to the (arbitrary) permission of the superior, is therefore invalid, and if enforced must be considered a grave matter indeed.

  5. wolfeken says:

    “Vatican Insider asked Fr. Alessandro Apollonio, the Procurator General of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to answer some questions regarding the decision. [As I understand it, he is the ‘spokesman’ for the FFIs.]”

    Wait, so Father Angelo Geiger is not the spokesman, founder, president, superior general, blogmaster, emporer, and chief policy maker for the Franciscans of the Immaculate?

  6. Bosco says:

    OK, Father Z., in your opinion who stuck the knife in and why?

  7. jbas says:

    SP was good while it lasted.

  8. jbas says:

    I sometimes wonder if the Holy Father loves us Latin Catholics who “adhere with great love and affection to the earlier liturgical forms”. We may not be as dear to him as some others of our brethern, but does he still have at least some love for us? He is our pastoral father, and we are his spiritual children, so I’d like to know.

  9. Robbie says:


    Rorate Caeli seems to believe Cardinal Braz de Aviz initiated the review of the FFI on his own.

  10. jbas: Or is he partial to “Latin Catholics” of a different sort than those to whom you refer. That is, to ones whose liturgical tastes run more to Latin-American pop strains rather different from Gregorian chant.

  11. Bosco says:

    Is that the same Cardinal Braz de Aviz who seemed to publicly criticize the CDF’s handling of the LCWR reform this past May?

  12. Hieronymus says:

    It seems the traditionally minded friars were not the ones being intolerant and resisting proper authority after all. Fancy that.

  13. And in other news, a progressive rampantly disobedient order, one that hasn’t been publicly named yet, was ordered to obtain authorisation before it can celebrate Mass according to the New Rite. To maintain unity with the ancient practices of the Church, the order must continue to observe the old Rite in saying Masses and all other practices.

  14. JARay says:

    Speaking to a friend the other day, he told me that people in a small town here in Western Australia were annoyed because the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who live in a former convent on the property of their church, refuse to say the Mass of the Novus Ordo. This results in a diocesan priest having to travel quite a long way to say the Novus Ordo Mass in their church. Rather a strange situation I think.

  15. gracie says:

    The Eastern Rite Churches are beginning to look better and better to me.

  16. Di says:

    Let GOD arise,
    Let His enemies be scattered;
    Let all who hate Him flee before His Holy Face.
    ~Psalm 67
    For they loved the glory of men, more than the glory of God.
    ~Luke 12:43
    This makes me think of something a very good friend said to me while we were praying. I was very distraught over something that happened at Mass. She said to me”Always remember where Jesus is, so is satan”. We have to remember in these terrible times satan is running a muck and we need to pray harder for priests. Offer and extra Rosary for them. This is the one that I do daily
    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes ….and against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”
    ~Ephesians 6:10-12.
    ¡Viva Cristo† Rey! ¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

  17. The Rock says:

    Dear JARay,

    I am afraid that your friend is completely mistaken regarding the situation of the FFI priests in the “small town of Western Australia”.
    As one who frequents their mass almost everyday, I can assure you that the extraordinary form of the Mass was only celebrated once a week on Mondays, and now of course is not celebrated at all, i.e. all masses celebrated by the friars are in the ordinary form.

    The Friars are not the parish priests of the attached parish church (which has been the case since they came here in 1997), so the assigned parish priest comes from a nearby location (25kms) to celebrate the mass for HIS parish on the Saturday evening

    The Friars assist by celebrating the Sunday morning mass.

    Hope this clarifies things for you.

  18. jacobi says:

    Jbas :

    SP “lasts” still and cannot be ”unlasted”, except by another Motu Proprio with due and hitherto unknown reason.

    The priests of FFI are free to say the ancient Catholic Mass, and do not need permission to do so.

  19. Jerry says:

    It’s interesting that some seem to think the magisterium of laity is somehow more legitimate than the magisterium of nuns…

  20. Gratias says:

    Fr. Alessandro Apollonio is indeed the only spokeswoman for the friars. He must be a very brave man, for this prohibition comes with the approval of Pope Francis S. J.

  21. Fool_for_Christ says:

    For the sake of clarity: The Summorum pontificum gives the priest the right to celebrate in both forms of the Roman Rite if there are no people (this, indeed, is contradicted by the Decree against the FFI).

    But with regards to the habitual or permanent use of the Vetus Ordo with the faithful or in the community the decision must come from the Major Superiors. They had that permission and continue to have it up to August 11th. Now that their Founder has been removed and once the Decree goes into effect for the Mass, it would seem that the Commissioner and his appointments would fulfill that role. At any rate, here is what SP says:

    Art. 3. Communities of Institutes of consecrated life and of Societies of apostolic life, of either pontifical or diocesan right, wishing to celebrate Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962, for conventual or “community” celebration in their oratories, may do so. If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues.

    So according to SP, no, a community could not habitually celebrate the Vetus Ordo without permission from the Major Superiors.

  22. Phil_NL says:

    Received wisdom is that this is about the EF versus OF. I still maintain that the info we get fits at least equally well – and in my book, better – with a situation where the true issue is one of obedience, and the ordo simply a weapon in the war, rather than the real aim.

    Of course, that would be a good disguise, as there have been bloody battles that revolved around which ordo to use, but really, “Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile. ” suggest a severe breakdown of normal hierarchical relations (either very unreliable leadership, or extremely obtuse people down in the pyramid). For all we know, that was the cause, rather than the effect – it would fit much better with the one known fact, that the Vatican very quickly parachuted its own man in to sort the mess.

  23. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “The priests of FFI are free to say the ancient Catholic Mass, and do not need permission to do so.”

    Jacobi, maybe it is a matter of saying the ancient Catholic Mass in a public fashion… or not? (I do not know, I am speculating here)

    Let me explain. There is a retreat center in my neck-o’-the-woods which the FFI are guardians of. They have been given permission by the archbishop to say Mass (an exceptionally reverent Novus Ordo) *once a month*, open to the public, on Sundays (obviously this is every day, and in particular Sundays, for those attending retreats).

    The reason given by the archbishop is so the retreat center *will not* take away attendance at local Catholic parishes.

    Now, as you correctly cite from SP, it seems to me if the FFI *wanted to* (before the current turn of events, anyway) they could say the Vetus Ordo on that one Sunday per month. I do not know the Father Guardian’s preference for *public* celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of this retreat center or if he has used his authority to make sure it is N.O. only. (just speculating)

    For all I know any of the Friars could have celebrated the V.O. if they wanted to (with or without the Abp’s or the Fr. Guardian’s “permission”) until the recent decision from Rome.

    What are your thoughts?


  24. av8er says:

    ““It had a big influence on the decision because the group of friars I mentioned before accused the founding Father of imposing the Vetus Ordo on the whole Institute. Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile.”

    This is what makes this whole mess disappointing. I hope Phil_NL is right.

  25. Tim says:

    “It had a big influence on the decision because the group of friars I mentioned before accused the founding Father of imposing the Vetus Ordo on the whole Institute. Although the accusation is completely unfounded, people believed it and our attempts to prove it was false proved futile.”

    The power struggles within the Catholic Church are becoming more apparent. I would say that with the “retirement” of BXVI, at least some senior shepherds have become emboldened and are using Pope Francis as an opportunity to advance their agendas. “Never let a crisis (either real or manufactured) go to waste” seems to have become the mantra of more than just the US Executive Branch.

  26. Montserrat says:

    to Tina in Ashburn,

    don’t do that to me. For a minute I almost thought I could begin to breathe again.

  27. cl00bie says:

    My wife and I attended the EF with the FFIs at their hermitage this past (first) Friday. There was no mention of any restrictions, and I chose not to bring it up, not wishing to cause sadness or consternation.

    Should they be restricted, I can rest assured that first Fridays will be NO celebrated in Latin, ad orientem, kneeling for communion on the tongue. The OF form ot the Holy Mass will be celebrated in a careful and respectful manner as Vatican II intended. I will probably have to wait until the 11th of this month to find out.

    I have no worries.

  28. jacobi says:

    To: Midwest St Michael,
    Kind of you to ask. I am not a theologian but a mere retired scientist/business manager, who has learned to read.
    According to SP,
    1. The Ancient Catholic Mass without people is always permissible
    2. A decision by a Community Superior such as was taken in the case of the FFI, is always valid. Replacing that Superior to produce another decision would render that second decision invalid.
    3. The faithful can attend any of these Masses


    1. The decision to restrict the EF in the FFI was invalid in the absence of another Motu Proprio from the Holy Father giving due and hitherto undisclosed reasons.
    2. I very much doubt if that was the considered decision of the Holy Father. He has wider things to worry about as he gets his feet under the Petrine Table. It was probably slipped through by someone else?

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  30. jonh303 says:

    Here’s my take on the situation:

    Its unfortunate in one respect, but maybe something good will come from it indeed.

  31. OtherMary says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf, with all due respect, I can’t help but notice that you and many other bloggers are regularly posting controversial material regarding the FI’s. Information available online at this time from various sources show lots of pointing of fingers to the point that it is clear that someone is giving MISinformation. We keep seeing “official communications” from the Order, but it is quite obvious that there are two sides being taken, and you are clearly favoring one side. The fact is, right now Fr. Volpi is put in charge – he should be the spokesperson. Obviously sides are divided in the order, and the initial information provided on the net pushed in favor of those being accused of “forcing” the EF on the Order. This fact, however, does not mean that the initial information is the correct information. If there could be problems in the hierarchy of the Order, to the extent that the Holy Father saw fit to put an Apostolic Commissary in charge, should we not reserve comment, not knowing who within the Order to trust, and respect the request of the Order that was posted recently?
    “…the Religious Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate … APPEALS TO ALL to maintain SILENCE, RESPECT AND PRAYER regarding the matter, in order to allow the competent authorities to carry out their task in peace for the good of the Church and of the Institute.”

    We do not have all of the facts. We do not know which friars to trust. An investigation is underway. We really don’t need to keep stirring up hornets’ nests by quoting this friar or that friar. Fr. Volpi will speak when there is something we need to hear. This is an internal matter. Even the FI’s, if there is nothing wrong with what they are doing, should just “maintain SILENCE, RESPECT AND PRAYER” while the decree is instituted. But instead there is continuous defending and commenting.

    As a Third Order Franciscan with the FI’s, I am disappointed that there seem to be daily “official communications” from the “suppressed” hierarchy when there should be respectful acceptance of the decree and patient prayer while awaiting further instruction.

  32. OtherMary says:

    If I may add one more item. As I said, I believe that Fr. Volpi, as Apostolic Commissary to the Institute, is an official commentator. It might be of interest to readers to see Fr. Volpi’s letter to the Institute, as was provided to me as a Third Order member by my superior in the Order.

    Rome, July 22, 2013
    The Friars and Others of the Fraternity
    of the Congregation of the
    Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
    Their Headquarters
    Pace Bene!
    The Holy Father Pope Francis has entrusted me with the delicate task of Commissioner
    Apostolic of your Congregation. Attached is the Decree of the Congregation for Institutes of
    Consecrated Life of July 11, 2013. Although I am aware of difficulty of this task I accepted the assignment because of my desire to take you on a journey of renewed ecclesiality. In order to do this with the certainty that corresponds to the “wishes” of the Magisterium, I can find no better way than to recall the passage of a recent speech by Pope Francis: ecclesiality is “one of the constitutive dimensions of the consecrated life. It is a dimension that must be constantly reclaimed and deepened in life. Your vocation is a fundamental charism for the journey of the Church, and it is impossible for a consecrated man or woman not to “think” with the Church. “Thinking” with the Church begot us at Baptism; “thinking” with the Church finds one of its filial expressions in faithfulness to the Magisterium, in communion with the Pastors and the Successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome, a visible sign of unity. Proclaiming and witnessing to the Gospel, for every Christian, are never an isolated act. This is important: for every Christian the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are never an isolated act of an individual or a group. No evangelizer acts, as Paul VI recalled very well, ‘in virtue of a … personal inspiration, but in union with the mission of the Church and in her name” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, n. 80) […] Be aware of the
    responsibility that you have in forming your Institutes in the sound doctrine of the Church, in
    love for the Church and in the ecclesial spirit. (Speech of Holy Father Francis to the Participants
    of the Plenary Assembly of the International Union of Superiors General, May 8, 2013).

    I believe it not necessary to add anything further to a thought so clear and so pressing as that of
    Pope Francis, who is rightly concerned with the “sentire cum Ecclesia” because only in this way
    can Consecrated Life respond to what the Church awaits from it, and thus become the light of the
    gospel upon the world for the faithful who need to know and follow the truth that Christ has
    revealed to us.

    In the spirit of this obedience required by Our Holy Father St. Francis in A Letter to a Minister, I
    greet you fraternally in Christ.

    P. Fidenzio Volpi, ofmcap
    Apostolic Commissioner

  33. Dadto12sofar says:

    Boy, from that letter it sure seems that Fr. Volpi was appointed to correct some kind of deep seated unfaithfulness to the Magesterium from the superiors of the FI. I mean, he wants to “take (them) on a journey of renewed ecclesiality” so that they can “sentire cum Ecclesia” (think with the Church)? It’s also strange that Pope Benedict XVI used the same phrase (“sentire cum Ecclesia”) when he addressed and exhorted the FI in an audience last year. Could he have had the same sentiments as Pope Francis in mind? Surely this whole ordeal can’t be just about the TLM. If it is, then why has just the FI been singled out? There is more here than meets the eye.

  34. Gratias says:

    The words of Pope Francis cited were unclear to me. The Commissary should have offered a better explanation of what the expectations for ” sentire cum Ecclesia ” are. Poor friars.

  35. moon1234 says:

    I wonder why so many think the laity should be quiet about what happens with this decision. If the laity make a valid request to the FFI for Masses in the EF according to SP, they must now be denied this right by the FFI or the FFI have to find someone else to service the request.

    Many in the laity who are attached to the EF are rightly distressed when that charism is taken away from them.

    The mere fact the the founder of an order is replaced when he makes a valid decision to introduce the EF is shocking. How can that not send a direct, chilling message to all other religious institutes that what to have the EF alongside the OF? From what I have read I believe that the founder of an order can make the decision about the form of Mass that is said within the order. It would be similar to a father deciding his children will say the Rosary in Latin some of the time instead of the native language. Some of the children do like this so they complain to the parish priest. The parish priest then takes the bold step of replacing the Father as the decision maker in this area and puts in a Church appointed leader who then decides to restrict the Rosary to English only. He then cautions the members of the family to adhere to the sense of the Church.

    Here are the facts as I see them:

    1. The founder decides to introduce the EF into the FFI. He sends PCED paperwork to this effect YEARS ago.
    2. He allows the FFI chapters to start using the EF according to the provisions of SP, which tell him he has this power.
    3. Some FFI chapters start implementing the EF.
    4. Some within the FFI are unhappy with this decision and complain to Rome.
    5. Rome steps in, removes the founder, inserts their own appointed leader.
    6. The EF is restricted, the members cautioned to adhere to the “Sense of the Church” and the OF is the only form allowed to be celebrated without explicit permission of the NEW person in charge of the community.

    If I missed something in that timeline, please let me know. How does this not seem like an open attack on the EF. If I understand it correctly the founder had the right, according to SP, to switch the whole order to the EF if he so wanted. So why, when some are unhappy with the founders decision, does Rome step in and replace the founder and restrict a valid form of Mass of the Latin rite?

    And people wonder why the laity are worried what is going to happen to EF parishes and religious communities that are not already using the EF exclusively?

  36. RJHighland says:

    I say let the Holy Father’s will be done with the FFI and let us see whether it continues to bare fruit or dies on the vine. You know if this ruins the FFI Pope Francis could be up for immediate canonization. I think this could be a perfect case study as to what draws vocations. Is it Vatican II and the mass of Paul VI (revised several times) or the mass of all time, latest addition by John XXIII, and the traditions set forth by the Church prior to Vatican II. You will know them by their fruits. If you keep mixing the forms you never get a true picture. Typical Vatican II speak “This action in no way contradicts the Motu Proprio of Benedict XVI.” Yea and this apple that I hold in my hand is actually an orange, you better believe it cause I said so.

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