Franciscans of the Immaculate and the crisis within the Church: why we cannot remain silent (by Alessandro Gnocchi – Mario Palmaro)
As so often happens with tragedies, it is the details that give the idea of their enormity, and the case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, to whom a commissioner is being sent, is no exception.
The detail is there, towards the end of the decree of the Commission for the Institutes of Consecrated Life signed by the secretary, the Franciscan Josè Rodriguez Carballo. It states:
“Lastly, it is up to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate to reimburse the expenses sustained by the said Commissary and by his collaborators, who will be nominated by him, as well as to pay the fee for their service.”
Just like that, with a slash that calls to mind the use of the totalitarian regimes in charging the families of those who are condemned, with the cost of the bullets used for their execution. The image could also seem to be strong, but it is the clamorous significance of the event which suggests this.
In a single move, not only has the Founder of a flourishing order and the General Council which assists him been deprived of their authority, but also the Motu proprio of Benedict XVI which liberates the celebration of the Mass in the Gregorian rite, the Pope who issued it, and the Mass itself. Because, after the details of the expenses had been laid upon the victim of an unjust action, there is the final lunge: “the Holy Father Francis has established that every religious of the Congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate has to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary right and that the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorised by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community which makes such a request.”
Being the only explicit order contained in the document, it is therefore evident that this is the problem: the Mass in the ancient rite. And to what the terrible vice of celebrating such rite leads, the commissary, Fr. Fidenzio Volpi explains, in his letter of introduction composed of the meek salutation ‘Peace and Good!’ in which he gives an extremely long quotation from the reigning Pontiff and a brief ending which exhorts with a threat: “I believe I need add nothing to a thought of Pope Francis which is so clear and pressing.”
According to Fr. Volpi, the terrible vice of the ancient rite would lead to the crime of “ecclesiality”: a concept which says everything and nothing. Perhaps, in order to understand what this term contains, it is necessary to think about what happened in Rio di Janeiro during the World Youth day, precisely when the Franciscans of the Immaculate came to be commissioned. It is enough to think, to give one example only, of what the media have baptized “the Woodstock of the Church,” of the grotesque exhibition of bishops who dance the Flashmob: a spectacle which not even an actor of the golden age would have been able to stage.
If this is “ecclesiality,” it can be understood why the Franciscans of the Immaculate violate it constantly: they wear the habit, fast and do penance, pray, celebrate the Mass, practice and teach a rigorous morality, go to the missions to bring Christ before the aspirin, they do not fight against Aids with condoms, they have a Marian doctrine which does not please the separated brothers of every order and degree. And then they are poor and humble in deed instead of in word. Apart from all that, the disciplinary resoluteness with regard to this institute leaves us in amazement only to a certain point. Certainly such harshness is amazing in the context of the contemporaneous Church.
A Church in which, once the bell had been rung for the break, recreation began which no one has been able to end. In the dioceses and religious congregations around the world all kinds of things happen: they teach doctrine with is not Catholic, praise liberation theology, are disturbed by the discipline and rules of the ancient orders, and contest the authority of the Church.
There are entire “national churches” which sign en masse appeals for the abolition of celibacy, or for the acceptance of a female priesthood, churches in which the habitual cohabitation of parish priests has become a normal fact which is tolerated by the hierarchy. A Church in which only the most naïve of persons are able to rejoice because of the three million participants of the World Youth day, whilst in reality the ship of Peter advances into the stormy sea without a precise destination. And if this is not enough, on the ship the crewmembers are few. Whilst the Congregation for the religious Institutes uses these methods with the Franciscans of the Immaculate who have many vocations in all the continents, in a great part of the other religious families there is a frightful crisis. Whilst at Rome they are anxious to impede the Franciscan Friars from celebrating the Mass which for centuries formed saints and sanctity, Carmelites and Dominicans, Cistercians and Carthusians enter by right to form part of the protected species of the World Wildlife Fund.
But in this panorama, for the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life, the problem is the Franciscans of the Immaculate, who celebrate using the two forms permitted by the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum; with the result that the prohibition to celebrate the ancient rite establishes a rule on the Mass which overrides that which is contained in the document of Benedict XVI. Evidently, this disciplinary action is to be inserted in an anti-ancient Mass act of a wider spectrum contained in the hazy concept of “ecclesiality.” A plan that is not disposed to acknowledge that the Mass in the Gregorian rite is even capable of producing the spiritual fruits that the extemporaneous magisterium of Pope Francis has acknowledged regarding the Muslim’s Ramadan.
And yet, the liturgical field is that in which the laissez faire of Rome has reached the highest peak of tragicomedy: priests who dance and sing popular songs whilst they celebrate a marriage, bishops who, whilst being televised worldwide, fling themselves about as if in a Alpine village, prelates who celebrate the novus ordo letting ciboria and sacred hosts be raised by embarrassed young girls wearing shorts, priests who accompany the consecration with marvellous soap bubbles… And the problem on which they concentrate their disciplinary action would be the Franciscans of the Immaculate who celebrate the ancient Mass. It is necessary to recognise that, unfortunately, there is logic in all this.
To conclude, the processional modalities of the inquest leave one perplexed. Rome has been called to intervene by a group of religious dissidents of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. The accused, however, have not been able to examine the cards which would show that they had entered upon a pre-conciliar drift. Therefore they have not enjoyed that elementary right of defence which consists in knowing, in detail, the charges and the head of the accusation. Moreover, the Vatican Congregation wants to impede the Franciscans from making an appeal, opposing the direct will of the Pope as the basis of the disciplinary action. In conclusion, from a formal point of view, the post-council Church of mercy, when it wants, knows how to brush up on the methods of the holy inquisition.
Let us believe and hope that the Franciscans of the Immaculate will make a canonical appeal and strongly defend their rights as priests of the Catholic Church to celebrate the Mass also in the ancient rite. Because, if these excellent friars should ever accept the diktat, soon other more severe repressions towards those who in the world celebrate and follow the Mass of the ages, would follow. The unjust exercise of power bases its strength on the silence of its victims and even claims their consent. But history teaches that it is those who before injustices did not remain silent, got the better of it, because contesting an unjust act legitimately means to shake to its foundations the power which has imposed it. The time to speak has arrived. (Alessandro Gnocchi – Mario Palmaro)