Pope Francis restricts celebration of EF Mass by Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Courtesy of l’Espresso (emphasis mine):

ROME, July 29, 2013 – One point on which Jorge Mario Bergoglio was eagerly expected to weigh in, after his election as pope, was that of the Mass in the ancient rite.

There were those who predicted that Pope Francis would not distance himself from the stance of his predecessor. Who had liberalized the celebration of the Mass in the ancient rite as an “extraordinary” form of the modern rite, with the motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum" of July 7, 2007 …

And there were instead those who prognosticated on the part of Francis a restriction - or even a cancellation - of the possibility of celebrating the Mass with the rite prior to Vatican Council II, even at the cost of contradicting the decisions of Benedict XVI with him still alive.

To read the decree issued by the Vatican congregation for religious shortly before the voyage of Francis in Brazil, with the explicit approval of the pope himself, one must agree more with the latter than with the former.

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.

In general, against a decree of a Vatican congregation it is possible to have recourse to the supreme tribunal of the apostolic signatura, today headed by a cardinal, the American Raymond Leo Burke, considered a friend by the traditionalists.

But if the decree is the object of approval in a specific form on the part of the pope, as it seems to be in this case, recourse is not admitted.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate will have to comply with the prohibition on celebrating the Mass in the ancient rite beginning Sunday, August 11.

Utterly dismayed. Time to pray for our Holy Father, the FFI’s, and for the whole church.

The motu proprio does not in fact apply to religious orders. Which Mass to celebrate ultimately is the decision of the superior or superior general according to the constitutions of the order.

Clearly in this case there were internal dissensions which is something extremely corrosive for community life. You have to keep in mind that a conventual Mass is primarily for the community itself and not for the tastes of the laity. This is, and should rightly be considered, an internal matter of the community involved and not a statement of the Holy Father’s view on the EF Mass. The primary goal is the health of the community. It’s a family matter as it were and I’m positive the Holy Father approached it in that light.

There is not enough information here to make a judgment.

For religious orders, Summorum Pontificum is different that for Diocesan Ordinaries.


If an individual community or an entire Institute or Society wishes to undertake such celebrations often, habitually or permanently, the decision must be taken by the Superiors Major, in accordance with the law and following their own specific decrees and statues

Art 3.

Unlike a Bishop, there is no requirement under S.P. for a Superior Major to grant such permission, in fact, they are required to use their own decrees and statues in the decision process.

So the question then becomes, did the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate have the correct permission from the Superior General and did they follow the relevant decrees.

If not, they violated the conditions of S.P and their vows of obedience and +Francis would have acted correctly . If it was true, I don’t think that +Benedict would have acted any differently.

Note I AM 100% supportive of the E.F., and I am of the personal opinion that the Superior Generals of all the Orders should grant very liberal permission to use the 1962 Missal. But I also recognize that my personal opinion on this matter is meaningless, as neither the Holy Father, nor the Superior Generals saw fit to seek my counsel :rolleyes:

Exactly this. I logged on to CAF just to post this, but you beat me to the punch. :slight_smile:

Yep. Hit the nail on the head! I am afraid the author has inferred meaning that is not there.

It is entirely possible – gasp! – that the Holy Father knows more about the situation than we do. :eek:

Thanks for the link.

Great replies above. The knowledge here is why I come here. Thanks. :thumbsup:


The FFI is a Pontifical rite order, so this type of decree would have to come from the Holy Father (i.e. The local ordinary has no authority over the FFI )

Many of the FFI priests assist at TLM communities, so there actually is a threat of the TLM spreading (oh, my) – this order from Pope Francis is devastating to tradition, however, God’s will be done.

St. Philomena, ora pro nobis !

No one’s argued otherwise. It’s still a tragedy for a number of our fellow Catholics.

As the above posters pointed out S.P. applies differently to religious orders than to dioceses. As Catholics, we should always give our Holy Father (whoever he may be) the benefit of the doubt. I’d hesitate to declare the sky to be falling re: the EF unless Pope Francis begins to roll back the real provisions of S.P., especially in regards to the right of the laity to attend the EF in their parishes. God bless.


  1. S.P. is for the laity attached to the EF (Many priests/bishops ignore it here in the USA).

  2. Religious orders (except those of Pontifical rite) must obey the local ordinary of the diocese in which they reside (Though many bishops, I believe, allow them autonomy).

  3. The FFI are an order of Pontifical rite, so any “cease and desist” order regarding the EF must come either from the superior of the FFI or the Holy Father himself.

I can’t see any good coming out of this decree, however, the will of the Holy Father is the will of God (unless it’s a command to sin – which wouldn’t have to be followed). :frowning:

We all know Pope Francis isn’t as focused on the liturgy in any form (and especially in the extraordinary form) as was Benedict. I don’t see his action here as a shot over the bows of the EF or any indication that he wants to or will roll back SP in any way or attempt to reduce the EF in the life of the those non-religious members of the laity (like myself) who are attached to the EF. Francis isn’t as focused on the liturgy. He saw dissension in the ranks of the FFI and wanted to quash that ASAP and not being attached to the EF himself, he decided this is the best course of action. I can’t say I disagree with him (although I’m saddened for the loss of more EFs in the world) because religious take a vow of obedience and ought not to be clamoring for their individual wishes in anything, including which rite they celebrate Mass in. Community is also paramount for religious and if the OF/ EF was rupturing community, something had to be done. I can’t imagine Francis (or Benedict) forbidding the OF - that would be a radical move - so taking this step is the logical choice. The only other course of action would have been allowing FFI to split into two separate orders, one celebrating only the EF, one only the OF. This would also have some serious drawbacks, especially as FFI is a rapidly growing community.

I can’t say I disagree with him (although I’m saddened for the loss of more EFs in the world) because religious take a vow of obedience and ought not to be clamoring for their individual wishes in anything, including which rite they celebrate Mass in.

Funny you should say that, because this investigation only started after some members decided they couldn’t live with the EF anymore.

They started “clamoring” and they got their way. They even got their founder removed. Who really had a problem with obedience?

This strikes me as a restriction for a narrowly defined group for a particular reason. I wouldn’t read into it as though it were indicative of some upcoming trend.

I’m curious to see if Brother JR will come to offer his insights. I know that when he posts, it usually makes me aware of just how much goes into these things that I am absolutely clueless about. :stuck_out_tongue: :o

A canonical visitation or apostolic visitation is “an exceptional initiative of the Holy See which involves sending a Visitor or Visitors to evaluate an ecclesiastical institute such as a seminary, diocese, or religious institute. Apostolic Visitations are intended to assist the institute in question to improve the way in which it carries out its function in the life of the Church.” vatican.va/resources/resources_glossary-terms_en.html

When I was a Franciscan for a few years we had a visitator come to “visit” the OFM province. He spoke to every individual from the provincial (the head) down to the newest novice at great length, and then he led small and large group meetings in every house and for the Province as a whole, and was present at the Chapter too.

A visitator is a big deal. It’s like having Rome arrive on your doorstep.

What he says goes.

And nothing he says is frivolous.

I would guess (with 99.9% certainty) that this decision in this case has more to do with the actual community involved than with Pope Francis’ opinion on the EF or the Ordinary Form of the mass.

I would disagree. I was a Diaconal student at Sacred Heart Seminary when they had their Apostolic Visitor come in as part of the visitations of US seminaries going on at that time

I too had an interview. He had gone to seminary at the Josephinum in Columbus, OH (and I went to Michigan State) so we shared several Univ of Mich jokes.

I would classify those as ‘frivolous’ and not as a final Pontifical announcement on the condition of Wolverine football :stuck_out_tongue: :wink:

Agreed. This is very disappointing news.

It depends on what the decision of the relevant Superior General was. Without that permission, per the moto proprio, the EF could not have been used.

If we hold that all clergy everywhere should be bound by obedience to obey the dictates of the moto proprio, then any acts contrary to that moto proprio should be condemned, correct?

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