The blog Rorate Caeli has leveled a new accusation against the authority of the Institute of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. In a recent post there, the blogger makes the accusation that the Apostolic Commissioner, Fr. Fidenzio Volpi, with the approval of Pope Francis, has engaged in the purposeful destruction of the Institute.
The latest “evidence” shown for this is Fr. Volpi’s alleged prohibition of a yearly Christmas Novena of Masses that had been offered in one of our contemplative houses for some time previously. The blogger quotes an unnamed source, which he claims to be one of our former seminarians.
Furthermore, according to this unnamed source the alleged prohibition of the novena has placed a financial burden on the community that threatens its very survival. The blogger then is careful to end the piece by exhorting his readers to pray for the poor friars, especially those in this isolated friary that has been allegedly deprived of this financial help.
Please note the following facts:
Novena of Masses
The Apostolic Commissioner of the FI has never prohibited the celebration of novenas of Holy Masses because he has never questioned the merits of the practice. Only after the departure of the previous superior in Amandola, who initiated the practice, did the new superior of the house question the Institute’s curia about the legality of the stipends collected, as to the manner of applying masses to groups of persons. The curia quite simply indicated the general rules by which the Code of Canon Law and the decree Mos iugiter regulate the matter.
One also must take note of the manner in which the novena of Masses has been advertised on the Internet, and of the Church’s canonical norms that are designed to avoid even the slightest appearance of profit or simony. The superior judged within his competence that it was best to discontinue the collection of stipends. This is not an accusation against anyone else, but simply a statement as to the true reason why the practice was discontinued.
No seminarian of our Institute, as suggested by the post of Rorate Caeli, would be in a position to be aware of the details of the history of the actual deliberation of the curia.
The community of Amandola in the Sibillini Mountains is not “isolated,” if by this one understands that it has been marginalized or neglected by the authority of the Institute. The Commissioner is always quite prompt in action and solicitous in regard to both material and the spiritual needs of each friar and community of the Institute.
Amandola is only isolated in the sense that such a thing would be desirable. It is a contemplative house of the Institute and its location has been chosen for its support of a solitary life. Those who are assigned to any of our contemplative houses are so assigned by their own request.
The members of our Institute are poor by choice, and those in contemplative communities are isolated by the nature of the contemplative vocation, but none of them are financially neglected by their superiors.
The current superior of Amandala has confirmed as of two days ago the following: “We have no material difficulties given the three confrere priests who are able provide support through the stipends they receive.”
The accusation leveled against Fr. Volpi, and by implication, against Pope Francis is a very good example of what I believe is wrong with the Catholic Internet. This is not news. It is gossip and calumny. And the fact that it is gossip about very serious issues pertaining to the salvation of souls and the immediate personal welfare of persons does not make it newsworthy. It just makes the excuse to engage in gossip more tempting.
In certain circles the reputations of Pope Francis, the Commissioner and anyone obedient to them have been destroyed by means of a concerted public campaign. So at this point any accusation seems to have a measure of plausibility, even if it is made without tested evidence. This is truly unfortunate and unjust.