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Marco Tosatti, Italian daily La Stampa's best Vaticanist, about the FFI

(Source: Rorate Caeli)

20121204: What did the Franciscans do?
20121205: respons by Father Fidenzio Volpi O.F.M. Cap.
20121206: More on the Franciscans of the Immaculate….

On the 4th of December he posted an article consisting mainly of a letter from "a member of the laity who is close to the Franciscans of the Immaculate" (FI), which was soon followed on the 6th of December with another article featuring a long response by Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, Capuchin, the Apostolic Commissioner appointed by the Holy See for the Franciscans of the Immaculate. 

Both articles appear below, followed by links to the harsh December 8 letter of Fr. Volpi to the FI announcing further sanctions and measures versus the community.

Notable are Fr. Volpi's affirmation that the intervention into the Franciscans of the Immaculate was "specifically ordered by the Vicar of Christ" and his speculation that the FI "has become the battleground of a struggle between different currents in the Curia, with the specific involvement of persons in opposition to the new pontificate of Pope Francis"!

These documents, and especially the two interventions from Fr. Volpi, speak for themselves and confirm what we already knew: the intervention in the Franciscans of the Immaculate was precipitated by their increasing attachment  to Traditional Catholic theological positions  --  not just to the Traditional Latin Mass.

We always maintained this position  despite the denials and rationalizations invented by some non-expert commentators.   One must not feel secure that this will end with the FI -- and if we say this, it is because we have a true basis for saying so. 

It should be noted for the sake of truth that the accusation of "crypto-lefebvrianism" is a red herring: a religious Congregation that in practice continued to celebrate the Novus Ordo in the great majority of its apostolates even as it made liberal use of the provisions of  Summorum Pontificum  can scarcely be accused of "Lefebvrist" tendencies! The accusations of "embezzlement" (explained at length in the Dec. 8 letter of Fr. Volpi, the 3rd document in this post) also refer to events that occurred after the appointment of Fr. Volpi, and therefore could not be held as the reason for the Vatican's intervention. 


Here is the respons (interesting also because of its style) by Father Fidenzio Volpi O.F.M. Cap.

With regard to the article on Dr. Marco Tosatti’s blog, on the 4th of December 2013, with the title “What did the Franciscans do?”, in order to re-establish truth and charity inside our Religious Institute, for which I have been appointed Apostolic External Administrator ad nutum Sanctae Sedis, I extend my sense of duty for justice and mercy also towards unaware readers, long time victims of misinformation, with its aim of vindictive, personalized targeting towards worthy and respectable religious, “guilty” only of having indicated abuses and irregularities in their Institute and of having obeyed the Church with the subsequent calling into question of the ex-government of their religious family.

Their petition, which was favorably received by the Congregations of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, the Societies of Apostolic Life and the Doctrine of the Faith, determined the dispatching of an Apostolic Visitor to the Institute with the nomination CIVCSVA dated 5th July 2012, decree no. 52741/2012.

The result of the investigation, based on numerous testimonies from bishops, parish priests, clergy, religious, ex-religious/as well as lay people connected or not to the Institute, in turn activated the external administrative measures, by nominating me on the 11th of July 2013, this, fortified by specific formal approval from the Holy Father, Francis,on the 3rd of July 2013.

Despite making the effort to act in a brotherly fashion, by looking for the fullest collaboration from the friars and without ever resorting to any disciplinary measures, this decree approved and coming from the highest Church Authorities is still depicted like it was a usurpation, followed by the installation of an arbitrary regime.

Along with the positive and encouraging aspects pertaining to the Institute, not a few difficulties   inherent   to unity have emerged: the apostolic activity, the initial and permanent formation of the friars, the style of government and the administration of temporal goods.

The founder and ex- Minister General, Father Stefano Maria Manelli, in January 2012, had already evaded constructive dialogue with the religious who had complained of a crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift [in the community]. To my recent invitation of clarification this past 16th November, in search of recomposition and also to request an account of all the works, temporal goods and the property of the Institute, entrusted to its family and spiritual children during the external commissioner’s [visit], Father Manelli answered with a medical certificate which came from a private clinic where he is still a patient at his own request.  

In this certificate, the doctor declared that the patient had to have “complete physical rest” and not only could he not travel, but could not even receive visitors, all of which rendered vain my intention of going to visit him.

Given the importance of the questions that I had to put to him, I therefore sent him a letter. However, the replies I received were unsatisfactory.

On the 29th of November, from the same clinic and from the same doctor, I received an identical certificate with the added assertion that it was impossible for Padre Stefano Manelli “to write or receive correspondence” (sic). With regard to the Friars who were transferred, I would call to mind that itinerancy is a characteristic of the Franciscan tradition which does not recognize monastic stabilitas loci. Every change of government, in all institutions be they civil or ecclesiastical, involve a parallel revision of functions with related transfers.

The Vow of Obedience implemented for the Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate with a specific Marian Vow, would always require adherence to the Will of God: readily, joyfully and lovingly, as our Founder himself wrote.

I recall that most of the religious who were transferred were involved in formation, the constituent sector - one of the knots that the Holy See asked me to loosen.

It is always a good thing for clergy to have pastoral and missionary experience, in virtue of their vocation and priestly ministry.  

It is from this wealth of experience that they will be able to transmit more concretely some values to the youngest in formation.

I have always acted in perfect harmony with the Apostolic See and - in some cases – the Diocesan Bishop even thanked me showing his approval.

Having clarified these points, I will now go into that last part of my reply which refers to my dispositions of the 27th of November 2013.

The suspension of the activities of the cenacles and the MIM plus the Third Order Fraternities was contested by the anonymous layman (or perhaps laywoman?) “close to the Franciscans of the Immaculate.”

We read – and I quote: “ a war without limits also against the lay faithful” , with “ the support of Father Alfonso Bruno.”

Regarding the Secretary General of the Institute, to the esteem that he enjoys both from me and the Holy See for the sacrifices and services he rendered to the Church, prior to and during the External Commissioner’s visit, a constant increase in gestures of solidarity from ordinary lay people can be added. The latter know how to read between the lines and understand the one who is truly patient, the one who is truly being attacked, the one who truly loves the Church and the Institute. And this is what truly counts!

If I disposed a mere suspension of the lay activities connected to the Institute, it was to avoid every meeting being transformed into an occasion of derision against the Pope, against me and against other friars, something which has already happened.

The lay movement belonging to a religious Institute lives its choice with coherence if it recognizes legitimate authority and if its path leads to Christ - not to men.

Otherwise we will find ourselves in the presence of a sectarian dynamic.

The Church, Mother and Teacher to the baptized, has always been concerned about correcting errors and deviations whether they be doctrinal or disciplinary. The agitation on blogs and in the MIM Cenacles disclose and confirm new and deeper problems, which confirm the goodness of the measures [implemented] by the External Commissioner, still in course.

If it is true that the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have done and continue to do many good and beautiful things for the glory of God, it is also true that some of them, at one time in the governing or in assigning positions of responsibility, “have done something” not so good and beautiful…”

Father Fidenzio Volpi O.F.M. Cap.

External Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate