"'na roba", the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the New Chess Move of the Congregation of Religious
Other times: Benedict XVI. had allowed that for the first time in 2009 that the Founder of the Franciscans of the Immaculate could say Mass in the Lateran Basilica, "the Mother of All Churches". Now there is Francis
(Rome) There is no end of the Calvary of Father Stefano Maria Manelli, the founder and until his dismissal, head of the Order of the Franciscans of Immaculata. Since July 2013, the young and, until then, flourishing, Order has been under the administration of a Commissar appointed by the Roman Congregation of Religious. Although four years have passed since, and the second Pontifical Commissioner has already overseen the prescription, there is still no official reason for the grave intervention in the Order. An alleged "Lefebvrianian deviation" was attributed to the Order. "What makes this all so comical today is that the Pope is ready to welcome the heirs of Marcel Lefebvre with a Personal Prelature into the Church," as the Vaticanist Marco Tosatti noted two days ago.
The Commissioner and a slander campaign
Tosatti sees "from the outside," a "variety" of reasons leading to the provisional administration of the Order: first the attack against the founder by a group of "young Turks" who wanted to take over the Order, "one of the most flourishing with vocations." Today the vocations must be imported, contrary to the Vatican directives, which provides training on location, from Nigeria), but then also for property, "na roba", the "reason".
What Tosatti does not mention, however, is to be guessed at: that the Order which had changed with Pope Francis, and with the Motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, had changed from the new to the traditional form of the Roman Rite, and yet (or precisely for this reason) attracted numerous vocations while the "modern", "cosmopolitan" orders dried up. Benedict XVI held his protective hand over this extraordinary case among Catholic religious orders. With the new pope, the defeat of the Order began, as it was evidently a thorn in the eye.
The assumption of background touched upon by Tosatti in any case helps to understand the "angry slander campaign" which was unleashed against sisters of the Order because of alleged abuses. The starting point of the campaign in November 2015 was with Corriere della Sera, the flagship of the Italian "quality press". The alleged "scandal" led to investigations by the prosecutor's office, which concluded a year later and was unceremoniously archived. The media claims proved to be what one would call Fake News today.
"However, they will probably have a sequel to some newspapers and websites with severe financial consequences, because they are civilly faced with high claims for damages by the victims," Tosatti said.
There are now fresh actions of the Roman Congregation of Religious. It is not so much about the Cardinal Prefect, the Brazilian João Braz de Aviz, but "about the secretary of the Congregation, the Franciscan José Rodriguez Carballo, who has a direct connection with the Pope," says Tosatti.
Carballo is one of the first personnel decisions of this pontificate. Pope Francis proclaimed him on April 6, not four weeks after his election, as Secretary of the Congregation of Religious. Until then, the Spaniard was Minister General of the Franciscan Order. As such, he is directly involved in the financial scandal that exploded in December 2014 and brought the general leadership of the Order to the brink of bankruptcy. The Swiss public prosecutor's office had seized accounts of the Franciscan Order in October 2014 because of the suspicion of money laundering. The money, several tens of millions of euros, had been invested in ill-fated companies, which are being investigated for illegal arms and drug trafficking. Nothing is known of consequences of any kind against Carballo in the Vatican.
This brings us to ",na roba", which is not insignificant in the Order of the Franciscans of Immaculata (canonically recognized in 1990, not to be confused with the Franciscans, founded 1210/1517). It has about 59 buildings, 17 properties, five photovoltaic plants and a series of banking accounts. The entire property, however, is not in the hands of the Order, since it has the vow of strict poverty, but in the hands of lay associations. The proceeds from the estate were given to the Order for its duties in pastoral care and mission.
When the Order was placed under the Commission, the first Commissioner, Father Fidenzio Volpi, a Capuchin, who died in office in 2015, had the property confiscated. The court then decided completely differently. The entire assets were released again and reunited with the lay associations.
As the Congregation of Religious could not get at the Order through the secular courts, it is now exerting pressure on the now 84-year-old founder of the Order, Father Manelli. Since the provisional administration, he has been under house arrest by the Vatican, "which in 2017 is in extremely bad taste," says Tosatti.
Recent actions of the religious congregation: the "Trap" and the demand
Recently, Father Manelli officially and in the name of the Pope was asked to renew his allegiance of loyalty and obedience to the Pope. The demand appears to be doubtful, since officially no reproaches have been made by the founder of the Order. This, however, has deprived him of the possibility of defending himself for whatever reason. Father Manelli did not contend, but renewed the required oath.
Two weeks ago, he received another letter from the Congregation of Religious. This time he was asked to make the entire property available to the Church, as mentioned above.
"Naively, the founder of the Franciscans of the Immaculata responded," says Tosatti, that he can not provide anything because he has nothing. The above-mentioned assets are not subject to his authority, but to that of the lay associations.
Father Manelli evidently did not see through the "trap" which had been made for him with the renewal of his loyalty first and then the money demand. Maybe he's just too honest, too old or too tired to dodge the trappers with prudentia.
"Perhaps he would have done better to meet with the laity and to present the Vatican demand to them.The laity, who are not under obedience, would have made a decision. But he did not apply this ruse."
The "weapon of obedience" and an "act of disobedience"
His response is now interpreted by the Vatican as an act of disobedience to the Pope. With the letter one wants to turn him with a rope. In other words, in the Congregation of Religious, it is now believed that they have the occasion to impose sanctions against the founder in the Church. And all without being told by the Vatican why the Order is under commissionerial administration, and why Father Manelli was deposed as General-General.
In the Vatican, someone is obviously rubbing his hands. So far, the Congregation of Religious and Pope Francis have been wrong. In which state can sanctions be imposed without charges, without the possibility of defense and without a regular canonical procedure? Now, however, one must not talk about it any more, because one has the statement by Manelli, who answered truthfully, but not satisfactorily. Is this for an ecclesiastical condemnation? In the face of the bad experiences the Order has had to overcome for the last four years, no one in the Order would doubt it.
The real concern, however, is "'na roba", the property. Manelli is particularly stifled, because he can not "relinquish" the possession of valuable property. Legally, he is unquestionably in the right, which is why the Vatican operates the moral lever. The exact disposition of the lay associations are not known, but they can be seen. For a long time the hope existed (and perhaps still exists) that the Order of the Franciscans of the Immaculate could be reestablished in the bosom of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, then it would have the means to continue its work blessedly. Such a new foundation has been prevented by the Vatican for four years. Yet another reason is not insignificant: it can be argued that the benefactors who have given the estate to the Order have left it to the Order founded by Father Manelli. Not to any order or in general "of the Church," but in a very particular order with a very definite charism. However, after four years of commissionership, it is no longer the same order.
"As a sidenote" it is also addressed, again to quote Marco Tosatti, "that it is more and more frequent that obedience is used as a weapon. Let us recall how Fra Matthew Festing, the Grand Master of the Order of Malta, was forced by the Pope to resign and sign a letter of doubtful content, by obedience. A bad habit, which is at the risk of becoming chronic ... "
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Trans: Tancred firstname.lastname@example.org Link...