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The Truth About the Appointment of a Commissioner to the Franciscans of the Immaculate

Update: Please, keep in mind that these statistics where never intended to be published. In fact, the entire visitation and the resulting decree regarding the appointment of the commissioner and the restriction of the Extraordinary Form for the FI were never intended to be published. Part of the shock of the news of the decree was that all the friars involved had done such a good job at not talking about it as per the request of the Vatican. Few outside the order knew we had any problem at all, even though the visitation had been taking place for about a year. Right at the time when we had the highest hope  (when the news of the decree was privately announced to the friars) of resolving our difficulties quietly behind closed doors, fully respecting everyone’s good reputation, not only was the decree leaked to the blogs that are sympathetic to traditionalism but, as outlined below, they broke the story in a way that made the Pope and the Vatican look bad with the resulting negative firestorm. What a mess! To help remedy this the Vatican has decided to publish the results of the questionnaire that provide good solid numbers to give everyone an idea of why they had to act. Some have taken offense that we are airing problems in our order, showing our dirty laundry. This is, indeed, unfortunate, but it is the only recourse now that our internal conflict has been made public and aggressively used by some outside the order to promote an agenda against the Vatican and our dear Holy Father, Pope Francis.

– Fra Roderic, Web Master

Sept 24, 2013

Publication of data from an internal questionnaire: Regarding the old Mass, 64% of the friars stated that there are problems, and as many as 77% of these said that they could only be resolved with an extraordinary General Chapter or by the appointment of a Commissioner over the Institute.

Vatican Insider



There is significant data blatantly contradicting many articles and bitter comments that have appeared over the last two months on blogs close to the traditionalist world, sites and blogs that attempt to reduce the internal affairs of the Franciscans of the Immaculate to the “traitorous” initiative of handful of friars allergic to the old Mass.

On 19 September, during the course of an audience of the Secretary of the Congregation for Religious with the Commissioner of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Vatican officials authorized the publication of the statistical data emerging from the questionnaire that the Apostolic Visitator submitted to all the members of the Institute in perpetual vows. The questionnaire focused on four multiple-choice questions, suggested by the then Procurator General of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. The results speak for themselves, and demonstrate why the Holy See decided to intervene by appointing a Commissioner to the Institute.

The first point concerned the “style of government of the Superior General,” the founder of the Institute, Father Stefano Manelli. 39% of the friars responded that substantially all is well, while fully 61% wrote that there are problems. 26% of the latter said that the problems could be solved by the ordinary General Chapter (scheduled for June 2014), while 74% of them responded that to resolve the problems either an extraordinary General Chapter would be necessary (to be held urgently, before the next ordinary Chapter) or the appointment of a Commissioner.

With regard to the decision of Father Manelli to extend to the entire Institute the use of the old Mass and breviary, the friars responded:  36% that everything is substantially okay; 64 % that there are problems.  For 23% of these latter friars, the problems could be solved by means of an ordinary General Chapter, while 77% requested that they be dealt with by either an extraordinary Chapter or by the appointment of a Commissioner.

Again, with regard to the decisions of the Superior General and founder, Father Manelli, concerning the formation of young religious and candidates for the priesthood, 48% of the friars responded that everything is basically okay, while 52% thought that there are problems. And of these latter 27% held that they could be resolved by an ordinary General Chapter, while 73% held that either an extraordinary Chapter or the appointment of a Commissioner would be necessary.

Finally, with regard to the relationship of the Superior General with the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate, 47% of the friars claimed that all is well, while 53% said that there are problems. Of these latter, 85% said that the problems are only resolvable with either an extraordinary Chapter or the appointment of a Commissioner.

After the publication by Vatican Insider of an interview with the new Secretary General of the Institute, Father Alfonso Bruno (who stands among those who desire an internal review in order to return to the original charism of the Institute), someone from within the Institute leaked a document, a letter dated 29 May 2013, which contained criticisms of the way in which the apostolic visitation had been conducted and of the questionnaire a document that bore also the signature of Father Bruno, and which consequently made him appear as a turncoat.

That letter had been sent only three months after questionnaire was collated and when the Holy See had already made its decision: the signatures had been gathered in haste.  “The unanimous signing by the members of the Council and the Procurator General then in office” it is now affirmed “does not preclude the critical judgment of any of them, subsequently matured in the light of knowledge and conscience, against the foolish intention to challenge the apostolic visitation itself.” Immediately after signing it at the urging of his Superiors, Father Alfonso Bruno made known to the Holy See that he did not share the opinions contained in the letter.

From the publication—authorized—of data from the questionnaire it becomes clear that there are serious internal problems in the Institute. It also becomes clear how pretentious is the campaign organized by those who have cried foul on account of the Vatican’s appointment of a Commissioner to the Institute and on account of the decision made at that time by the Pope to limit their faculty to celebrate the old Mass, submitting it to the authorization of the Superior, that is, of the Commissioner. This campaign culminated in public appeals to the friars encouraging them to disobey the directives of the Holy See, and in verbally violent attacks against the presumed small group of “traitors” within the Institute.  Finally, one must not forget that the old Mass continues to be authorized in churches under the care of the Franciscans of the Immaculate where there are stable groups of faithful that desire to attend that form of the Mass, as per the provisions of Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum.