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I have not been among those who have had concerns about Pope Francis.  This, however, gives me pause:

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:

Go here to Sandro Magister’s site to read the rest.  Of all the orders that Pope Francis could crack down on, he chose one of the most orthodox and flourishing?  The attitude towards the ancient rite of the Mass that seems to be contained in the decree is vastly disheartening.

Update:  Go here for Father Z’s take.  As usual, I tend to agree with his assessment, although that may simply be my default optimism shining through.  We shall see.



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  1. I too was worried about this, but right after I got worried I stopped and said, I should know better when there is an implicit Good Pope Bad Pope narrative (in either direction).

    If it turns out you don’t like the proceedings, know that they were initiated under ++Benedict. Francis is just finishing the job. So whatever this is, it is bigger than a particular pontiff’s whims and fancies.

    A Franciscan Friend knows about this congregation, and although while not having read the visitation reports, tells me there were efforts being made to incorporate particular orders of Mass into the very charism of the order. He told me that was totally absurd and wrong, and was asking for deep trouble. So basically this was an intra congregational disciplinary issue.

    I know squat about religious order canon law et al, so I may have botched the paraphrasing of his explanation somewhat. But remember, ++Benedict apparently thought there a big enough concern to start this process.

  2. The “core group” of dissidents (some reports say six, others nine) are a very small minority; all are from the United States and at least one has subsequently left the order. In dealing with what appears to be a local problem the Pope has seen fit to override article 2 of Summorum Pontificum in respect of all the friars world-wide. As a result, the priests of the FFI no longer have the same rights as all other priests, both regular and secular. The contemplative sisters at Lanherne in Cornwall, who decided when they set up their community that they would use only the older books, and learned to sing the entire Office from scratch, will need to find a priest from another order, or a secular priest, to celebrate Mass for them.

    This heavy-handedness with regard to those attached to the Usus Antiquior was a feature of the last decade of Paul VI’s reign, and it is why the SSPX is ‘outside’ the Church, and any number of de facto heretics are still ‘inside’ it, and likely to remain so.

  3. I love the latin mass. Is it not possible that those who are so insistent on using any mass but the ordinary are acting out of ego and need to feel special or exclusionary and Pope Franceis seeing that it has become a source of friction and disunity has acted responsibly?

  4. James, possible but improbable. Groups like the FSSP and ICKSP which use only the older books (including for their ordinations) are not seen as a threat since they keep the Usus Antiquior ‘corralled’. Parish priests and even bishops who mostly use the Novus Ordo but celebrate the Vetus Ordo occasionally similarly pose no real threat. But here we have a new and rapidly growing movement which celebrates in both forms but which is showing a marked tendency, as individuals and communities, to prefer the Mass and Office as it was in 1962 over the revised form, even though the latter can be done exclusively in Latin, thus preserving a lot of the traditional elements. If this is allowed to continue unchecked, and if the Old Rite is seen to be attracting young men to the priesthood (and there is growing evidence that it is) then it will over time undermine the Novus Ordo. I suspect that this might be the opening salvo in a long campaign. Pope Francis doesn’t want to further divide the Church or be a recruiting sergeant for the SSPX, but he has an authoritarian streak which was absent in Benedict, and which could be a good or a bad thing. Who is advising him? Is anyone? Merry del Val, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

  5. “…undermine the Novus Ordo.” What does that mean? I’m asking with a very genuine tone. I am a member of a private facebook group of women, half of whom are not only devoted to the EF, but hate the OF. It does get tiring to listen to rants about those of us who consider ourselves faithful Catholics, and enjoy the OF. There are even a few SSPX people there that don’t believe they’re not in line with the Magisterium. That being said, I’ve never been to the EF, so I don’t know what I’m missing (apparently), but I don’t have an interest in it. I do see, however, a prevalent attitude that OF Catholics can’t be devout, and we all wear tank tops & short shorts to mass. Again, I’m not trying to be defensive. I’m just wondering what “…undermine the Novus Ordo” means. I don’t really understand the conspiracy theories about how the Vatican wants to oppress the EF.

  6. Missy, I entirely agree with you. The Novus Ordo, Ordinary Form, whatever you want to call it, is the form of Mass most Catholics attend, and most priests celebrate. I have met people who would not attend an EF Mass celebrated by a priest who also celebrates the NO, or go to a church which has ever allowed a celebration of the NO, and as far as I am concerned they represent the lunatic fringe. Examined textually, the NO is obviously not the classic Roman Rite and in fact was never intended to be simply a revision of it; that does not render it invalid, nor even without certain merits.

    However, it admits a wide variety of languages, styles of celebration, and musical accompaniment that the classic Roman Rite quite simply does not (which is not to say that the latter is entirely uniform, particularly as far as music is concerned). What is more worrying is that it (the Novus Ordo) also seems to attract liturgical abuses, some of which were retrospectively authorized by the Vatican (Communion in the hand, women in the sanctuary) but some which continue despite having been formally reprobated (departure from the text, misuse of EMHC).

    The problem with the classic Roman Rite is that its continued existence challenges a lot of assumptions and prejudices. Since we now know it was never abrogated (and arguably never could have been) it stands as an objective standard against which a rite of recent manufacture must measure itself. It stands in fact as a contradiction, which is why many of the V2 generation in clerical positions oppose it so strongly.

  7. Or maybe this is an example of this pope’s attempt to step in early and prevent any authoritative conflicts from building …. rather than seeing them go astray and trying to pull them back in later (as has happened to often). The fact it is an orthodox group may not be the issue ??

  8. Missy – There’s a lot of confirmation bias in this. A lot of people when they hear the words “Novus Ordo” picture the three worst abuses they ever witnessed (or heard about indirectly).

    I currently attend an ordinary-form Mass. I attend it mostly for the convenience of the time and location, but also a little bit for the sacrifice. For myself, church-hopping leads to a bad way of thinking. There’s something to be said for obedience.

    If I were pope, I think I would have handled this Franciscan congregation differently. Perhaps that’s why the Holy Spirit aggressively campaigned against me becoming pope. Again, for me, it becomes an issue of obedience.

  9. The last time I flat-out called something a papal mistake was when John Paul approved of altar girls. I still think I was right on that, but I feel less comfortable criticizing the Pope these days. Or maybe I’ve just gotten used to having a pope that I didn’t believe was wrong in practical matters. The next years may prove to be a real test for me. But always I think about the way dissidents have handled themselves lately and I want to make sure that I never scandalize anyone the way they have.

  10. Pinky, I had the misfortune to live through the papacy of Paul VI and saw not only the collapse of the liturgy but in the years 1968-1978 a Church in free-fall. The Vatican’s treatment of such loyal sons of the Church as Cardinal Mindszenty and Archbishop Lefebvre was worse than shameful. Although the truth didn’t emerge until the early years of this century, those years saw the peak of clerical sex abuse. When Paul referred to the “fumo di Satana” in 1972 he must have been acutely aware that it happened on his watch, and was ultimately his responsibility. He was a truly tragic figure, a man of great ability who was the victim of his own indecisiveness. It just shows how difficult the top job is. Pope Francis needs our prayers.

  11. 1. Thanks for the post Don and link to Father Z’s analysis.
    2. Thanks for raising some interesting points of discussion, Missy.
    3. Thanks for the excellent insights shared by John Nolan and Pinky.

  12. The New Revised Edition of the New American Bible had to be revised because of the horrid translations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church had to be revised because of the horrid interpretation of the Doctrine of the Faith. It seems that although Pope Francis has the authentic authority over the Franciscans of the Immaculate to direct their progress, The Latin Mass was never banned, the faithful are entitled to the TRUTH, the Last Supper was said in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, and Latin is the most accurate translation of the Holy Scripture, Pope Francis will give liberal approval of the use of the Latin Mass. No more will the faithful suffer the insult of being referred to as “a thing” as in the use of the pronouns “that” and “which” and “it”. God created them male and female. God, the Supreme Sovereign Being is a person, Jesus is a person and God, the Holy Spirit, is a person. Persons are referred to as “Him” and “Her” and “WHO”, never “that” and “which” and “it”. It is correct to say: “He placed the child in their midst”. The most horrendous consequence of calling a person by the incorrect pronoun is that the rational, immortal soul of the human being is omitted. If the dignity of the human person, body and soul, is to be acknowledged, if the unalienable rights of the sovereign person are to be acknowledged, only “he”, “she” and “who” may be used, Otherwise, “that”, “which” and “it”, reduce the human person to collateral, chattel, and animal.

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