Pope's crackdown on order alarms traditionalists.
VATICAN CITY -- Pope Francis may have been named Time magazine's Person of the Year, but he has come under scathing criticism from a growing number of traditionalist Catholics for cracking down on a religious order that celebrates the old Latin Mass. The case has become a flashpoint in the ideological tug-of-war going on in the Catholic Church over Francis' revolutionary agenda, which has thrilled progressives and alarmed some conservatives.
The matter concerns the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a small but growing order of several hundred priests, seminarians and nuns that was founded in Italy in 1990 as an offshoot of the larger Franciscan order of the pope's namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.
Then-Pope Benedict XVI launched an investigation into the congregation after five of its priests complained that the order was taking on an overly traditionalist bent, with the old Latin Mass being celebrated more and more at the expense of the liturgy in the vernacular.
While the order was in turmoil over this liturgical issue, the dispute at its core comes down to differing interpretations of the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, which include the use of local languages in Mass that some considered a break with the church's tradition.
The Vatican in July named the Rev. Fidenzio Volpi, a Franciscan Capuchin friar, as a special commissioner to run the order with a mandate to quell the dissent that had erupted over the liturgy, improve unity within its ranks and get a handle on its finances. In the same decree appointing Volpi, Francis forbade the friars from celebrating the old Latin Mass unless they got special permission, a clear rollback from Benedict's 2007 decision.
Four tradition-minded Italian intellectuals wrote to the Vatican accusing it of violating Benedict's 2007 edict by restricting the Latin Mass for the friars, saying the Holy See was imposing "unjust discrimination'' against those who celebrate the ancient rite.
Volpi, though, was undeterred: He sent their founder, the Rev. Stefano Maria Manelli, to live in a religious home while he set about turning the order around.
And on Dec. 8, he took action, issuing a series of sanctions in the name of the pope that have stunned observers for their seeming severity: He closed the friars' seminary and sent its students to other religious universities in Rome. He suspended the activities of the friars' lay movement. He suspended ordinations of new priests for a year and required future priests to formally accept the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and its new liturgy or be kicked out. And he decreed that current priests must commit themselves in writing to following the existing mission of the order.
Traditionalists have charged that a double standard is at play, with a conservative, tradition-minded order being targeted for particular sanction on ideological grounds by a pope with a progressive bent.
"I hope that I am not being intemperate in describing this as rather harsh,'' wrote the Rev. Timothy Finigan, a British priest whose "The Hermeneutic of Continuity'' blog is much-read in traditionalist circles.
Francis has called Benedict's 2007 decree allowing wider use of the Latin Mass "prudent,'' but has warned that it risks being exploited on ideological grounds by factions in the church; Francis has made clear his disdain for traditionalist Catholics, saying they are self-absorbed retrogrades who aren't helping the church's mission to evangelize.
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|Publication:||Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)|
|Date:||Dec 15, 2013|
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