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

By September 30, 2013October 4th, 2013FI Apostolates, Fi News, Franciscan Things, Liturgy, Pope Francis

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.

Fr Angelo

Author Fr Angelo

I am Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate, and a priest for more than twenty years. I am now studying in Rome for my licentiate in Theology.

More posts by Fr Angelo

Join the discussion 25 Comments

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    To be Roman Catholic means to submit to the infallible authority/teachings of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and her Supreme Pontiff (s)regarding issues of Faith and Morals. The issue regarding the Latin Trinidine Mass/Novus Ordo is not complex except to those who are in disagreement with ( some )documents of V2. The Supreme Pontiffs have publically celebrated Mass for decades ~ they have spoken with their beautiful, blessed hands, and with their lips. It doesn’t matter if you fall off the Barque of Peter to the left or to the right ~ you’ve still fallen off boat and run the risk of drowning. Regardless of who penned the New Mass, who we think penned the New Mass, or why, the bottom line is that either the Holy Spirit protects the Church, or Christ is a liar. No amount of incredibly articulate, well meaning, highly intelligent theologian can trump the word of God ~ and HE has spoken.

  • Robin says:

    Cheryl, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Ave Maria! And, thank you.

  • Yaya says:

    I am glad the Holy See saw fir to make the questionnaire and the data collected from it public. Many are vindicated as a result, especially Pope Francis who was maligned by many who claimed he was stripping the Friars of their rights to celebrate the Mass in the EF.

    Let us pray that all can be resolved in a manner that will restore the charism of the community so that they may return to going about proclaiming the Good News.

  • Dan Hunter says:

    “Summorum Pontificum”, in law gives every priest anywhere and at all times the RIGHT to offer the TLM, be they secular priests or priests in an order.

    This is the essence of obedience.

    Obeying the Churches Law.

  • Marie says:

    Obiendience to the Pope is the essence of obeying Christ.

  • apostolate says:


    A pope granted the free use of the TLM in the Summorum Pontificum and a pope placed the restriction on the use of the TLM in the order. What is the problem?

    Fra Roderic

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    The extraordinary number of vicious, vile attacks I have witnessed against Christ’s Vicar on earth, our Holy Father, our Supreme Pontiff ( who was elected with Heaven’s blessings and guidance), because he used the authority and wisdom that Heaven gave him, made it very clear to me what the issue was/is. It isn’t about the Mass ~ it is about individuals who have fallen in love with a rite over and above Christ and His Bride – the Church.

  • apostolate says:

    Part of the problem that Dan and many people have with the decree apart from the fact that the situation is generally unfortunate is the fear that the decree restricting the use of the TLM for the FFI somehow negates or contradicts Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI. This concern is simply not the case. It was directed toward the FFI alone and only for a temporary period until our problems are resolved.

  • Brian Kelly says:

    The point is that every Latin rite priest has the right, the duty, to offer the TLM. The Novus Ordo is just that “a New Order” of Mass. Pope Benedict XVI himself said it was a “fabrication” and was not an “organic” development. It should be abrogated, period. No priest should use this bogus “rite.” It has no tradition whatsoever. What pride! Look at the fruits. It is an outrageous affront to the majesty of God. Rather it is a “Mass for the people.” Why can’t we just call a spade a spade? Paul VI was wrong, period, in approving of this new pathetic liturgy of “variable” canons. Some people seems to think that the pope mandated the Novus Ordo. He did not! No bishop ought should have accepted it. Look what happened. New Mass followed by destruction of altars and putting in tables, etc. etc. This is an outrage.

  • Dan Hunter says:

    “In Masses celebrated without a congregation, any Catholic priest of the Latin rite, whether secular or religious, may use either the Roman Missal published in 1962 by Blessed John XXIII, or the Roman Missal promulgated in 1970 by Pope Paul VI, and may do so on any day, with the exception of the Easter Triduum (when Masses without a congregation are not allowed). For such a celebration with either Missal, the priest need no permission from the Apostolic See or from his own SUPERIOR or Ordinary. The celebrations of Mass mentioned above … may be attended also by members of the lay faithful who spontaneously request to do so, with respect for the requirements of law.” (Articles 2 and 4)”

    This is current Church law, validly promulgated by appropriate authority.

    This is obedience to the Godhead.

  • JP Borberg says:

    The presentation of the statistics is a little misleading. For those who didn’t notice, the number given for those desiring extraordinary action was a percentage of the percentage of members who thought there was a problem.

    If you work out the numbers as a percentage of all members interviewed, in ever single category less than 50% thought extraordinary action was required, and in two of the four categories more members were satisfied with the status quo than thought there was need intervention.

    So comparing percentages of all members:

    Relationship with Superior General:
    Satisfied: 47%
    Desire extraordinary intervention: 45%

    Decisions regarding formation:
    Satisfied: 48%
    Desire extraordinary intervention: 37%

    Style of governance:
    Satisfied: 39%
    Desire extraordinary intervention: 45%

    Us of the old Mass:
    Satisfied: 36%
    Desire extraordinary intervention: 49%

    While the numbers desiring intervention are still quite high, but making all of the percentages be of the same population gives a clearer view of the situation.

    • apostolate says:

      Ave Maria!

      Good point JP

    • Fr Angelo says:

      JP Borberg @ October 1st, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      The article was clearly written.

      Any way you cut the numbers, those are extraordinarily high percentages of friars who indicated a desire for an intervention. That the percentages are not majorities is really not to the point. What was truly misleading was the previously too often repeated contention that the Commission was simply the result of a handful of dissident malcontents.

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    Dear Brian, If that is the way you feel then how do you still consider yourself a Roman Catholic? I ask you seriously. The Popes have publically celebrated Mass for decades ~ which Mass have they publically celebrated? The Popes are infallible in teachings of Faith and Morals. Am I right? Since the Mass is at the heart of both Faith and Morals then either Christ lied, and the Holy Spirit does not protect the infallibility of the Church ( then, seriously, why be Catholic?) or you are wrong. You are confuscating liturgical abuses ( removal of altar rails etc.) with authentic V2 teaching. I would really like to encourage you to separate the liturgical abuses that were the fruit of those with a personal agenda with authentic Church doctrine.

  • Dan Hunter says:

    So it seems that there is not unity within the FFI.

    This division is not a salutary thing.

    I will pray for unity amongst the good friars,

    My brother is a novice at Griswold and I love him dearly.

    “Summorum Pontificum” of the Holy Father provides the key.

  • Fr Angelo says:

    Brian Kelly @ October 1st, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Brian you are taking Cardinal Ratzinger’s preface to Gamber’s book out of context. That is a bit of prooftexting.

  • Steve says:

    “Summorum Pontificum, in law gives every priest anywhere and at all times the RIGHT to offer the TLM, be they secular priests or priests in an order.”

    Yes, because our Lord said, “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven – except for Summorum Pontificum”.

  • Brian Kelly says:

    Cheryl, what opened the door to the abuses? The Novus Ordo Missae did. Vatican II did not promulgate a New Mass. Paul VI did, by approving the new Mass fabricated by a Liturgical Commission headed by a freemason, arch Annibale Bugnini, with the help of Protestant advisers. The NO was promulgated in 1969, after many “experimental liturgies” were sampled throughout the West. How can you defend the pope’s approving of three novel committee-made canons? I do not say the NO is heretical. I say it is banal and unworthy of God, exception being Canon I. No pope dared to touch the Canon since the last martyr was added to the Nobis Quoque Peccatoribus in the fifth century. Furthermore, what right did the pope have to approve of a truncated Offertory with the addition of a homocentric prayer about wheat and wine, the “work of human hands”? The pope is infallible when he defines. The New liturgy is not a definition of Faith. And my Faith forbids me to believe that the New Mass is heretical or invalid in itself. That does not mean it is “inspired” by God. Can you tell me why these past popes have permitted these abuses that flow from the new liturgy? The scandal is that liturgical loons took over the liturgy and, with the pope’s approval, initiated the abuses from Rome. That is the scandal.

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    I would like to post a humble reflection. Pope Francis, is about to consecrate the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is a once in a lifetime event, a twice in 2,000 years event. The, FFI, is the order dedicated to promoting and hastening the reign of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Yet, the world of Catholic blogs is dedicated, not on the upcoming incredibly blessed event, but on the division… The priests of the FFI are Our Lady’s foot soldiers… if you fight amongst yourselves then you not only break the heart of Our Mother, you weaken the line of defense Our Lady set you up to defend. May I humbly ask you to take the MIM to task, after prayerful, unified contemplation and give us our marching orders. We are supposed to be preparing the world for this consecration, not doing battle with each other. What do you want us to do? You beautiful, FFI priests, are closer than brothers, because you’ve sealed yourselves together with a vow to God, to protect, defend and advance the cause of Our Mother. God Bless you.

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    Dear Brian, Thank you for taking the time to respond. I know who Anabal Bugnini was, or who people say/think he was. They may be right; I don’t know. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter. Either the Holy Spirit protects the Church regarding issues of Faith and Morals, or Christ lied. The Pope is protected in his teaching on Faith and Morals, this was officially declared in the Infallibility Doctrine. What Mass have the Popes since V2 prayed publically for decades? To be Roman Catholic we submit to the authority of the Pope. What opened the door to the abuses were those who were looking to promote their own agenda, which they did, to their own destruction. It isn’t the Mass that is the issue. The issue are those who allowed authentic Catholic Catechesis to fall by the wayside.

  • JP Borberg says:

    Fr Angelo,

    I said nothing about the writing in the article; my point is simply that the statistics as presented misrepresent the proportion of members who desired immediate intervention.

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    Dear JP, I understood the statistics, as presented, in the article. I was very surprised by them. Thank you, though, for posting them in the form that you did above. It makes the gravity of the situation much more clear. God Bless you.

  • JP Borberg says:

    Good on you Cheryl. You’re welcome.

  • Cheryl Connor says:

    I have been doing a lot of contemplation, lately. I have been somewhat confused/angered/questions left unanswered by the arguments that pertain to this situation. I don’t like being confused. I have asked God to show me ~ here is what I have discerned. I yield to those who are smarter and more in tune with the voice of God then I, so if I err, God I’m sorry. This reflection and my understanding culminated, but did not end with a letter I found to Pope Paul the VI ( the famous ‘installer’ of the New Mass ) from St. Padre Pio. It is the most beautiful letter a Pope could receive, from one of God’s most humble servants. The letter contains not just humble obedience, but authentic love, and authentic, unyielding fidelity to the, Vicar of Christ, on earth. A disposition that I find almost entirely absent in our Catholic culture, and almost entirely lacking by those who claim they are obedient to Holy Mother Church ( just completely disagreeing with the ‘obviously horrendous’ decisions Her Vicar makes ~ like the installation of the New Mass ). All of the heresies that we fight today were birthed, in an era, when the Latin Mass reigned ~ jansenism, arianism, pantheism, freemasonry, etc. Am I correct? So when, Brian Kelly, states that all of today’s problems ( or the vast majority ) stem from the instillation of the New Mass, he can’t be right. No greater mishap has the Church seen then the revolt of, Martin Luther, a devout Catholic priest who served the Latin Mass, probably daily, and revolted along with John Calvin, and a good many ‘devout Catholics’ who had only ever heard/prayed a Latin Mass. The issues faced today cannot, therefore, be pinned on the New Mass. I believe that silence, apathy, and neglect of authentic Catholic catechesis, and NOT the Mass were (and still are) the biggest threat to Catholicism ~ all sins that are birthed in a celebration of what “I” think over and above LOVE and unyielding fidelity to Christ’s Vicar on earth. It doesn’t matter if “I” think that birth control is OK, and flip off the, Barque of Peter, to left, or if “I” think that, Pope Paul the VI, was an idiot for installing the New Mass, and flip off to the right. The water is the same on both sides, and we risk drowning. I believe the solution to this issue lies in this letter ~ not begrudging obedience while still holding onto what “I” think, but authentic, loving, Holy, unyielding obedience to Christ’s Vicar. Here is the letter:
    God Bless you.