'It was reported in the Catholic online press today that our religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, has been assigned an Apostolic Commissioner by the Sacred Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated life. Pope Francis has ordered the decree which goes into effect on August 12.
Pope Francis has also severely restricted our use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and this has been reported by a major italian journalist as a “contradiction” of Pope Benedict’s permission granted in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.
This is an unfortunate instance of an overeager journalist sensationalizing something he can only speculate about. The restrictions on our community are specific to us and have been put in place for reasons specific to us. Pope Francis has not contradicted Pope Benedict. The visitation of our community began under Pope Benedict and the Commission was recommended by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz who was appointed to the Congregation by Pope Benedict.
What is being reported in the press and what has actually transpired within our community over the course of a number of years are two different things. Many of us - I would hope most of us - Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, welcome the Holy Father’s intervention into our life and trust fully that Holy Mother Church knows exactly what she is doing, even when the journalists do not. We entrust ourselves to her care, just as we do to the Immaculate.'
Please pray for our Institute.
This is very consoling, apart from the fact that the decision came down against those in the community who are devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass. Why is an internal dispute settled by a decisive move against the Mass of Ages by the Pope? I still fail to see how this is not in contradiction to Summorum Pontificum, since a number in the community desire Mass in the Extraordinary Form.
Now let us consider the not so consoling. The implications are that the Supreme Legislator of the Catholic Church can and possibly will move against other communities should circumstances warrant it. What does this mean? A letter or two from parishioners of a Church? A letter from the Diocesan Bishop?
I will be honest in saying that when I spent time with the Franciscans of the Immaculate on the Pilgrimage to Walsingham two years ago the two inspiring Friars present made it clear how devoted to the Latin Mass they are and the important element it played in their spiritual life. This Franciscan Order's new vocations thrive on the Latin Mass - its part of the reason young men join the Order. They are attracted by the beauty of the traditional rite. To the majority (and I think it is a majority) in the Friars of the Immaculate, this may feel like a crucifixion. The traditional rite may well have been the reason they entered the Order.
It is true that this dispute was begun under the reign of Benedict XVI, but do we really believe that Benedict XVI would have come down like a tonne of bricks against the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, requesting permission from Rome for the celebration of the Mass that he himself had enshrined as needing no formal request for its lawful celebration?
Let us leave it there. It is, as Fr Angelo has said, an internal matter and his statement is a model of obedience. We would expect nothing less from an Order that under the care of their Seraphic Father Francis.