The Franciscans of the Immaculate: A courageous voice speaks out

By Francesca Romana, January 29, 2018

Father Paolo M. Siano, Corrispondenza Romana, January 24, 2018

A few days ago, on January 20th there was an important anniversary in the history of the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI). On that date six years ago (2012), in our Roman convent on Via Boccea, a meeting took place between the then General Council of the FI and five friars (two Americans and three Italians) opponents of Father Stefano Manelli, founder and Minster General [of the Order].

Along with other professors of the then FI Seminary and those in charge of formation, I was invited by Father Manelli to take part in the event. The meeting, which lasted the entire day in two sessions, was shocking for the amount of vehemence and malicious attacks made against Father Manelli.

With hindsight we see now that those accusations were gradually deployed and developed in the mudslinging and the ecclesiastic, media and judiciary war conducted against Father Manelli, a war promoted and/or backed by some churchmen (even in the Vatican) friars, laity and a somewhat “Tridentine” diocesan priest. Over these past six years I have witnessed the objective devastation of my Religious Family (Friars, Nuns, Laity) the persecution (still going on) of our Founding Father and our authentic FI charism approved by Pope St. John Paul II.

My vocational future and that of other confreres, who like me defend the person and line of our Founders, is uncertain. In the light of various facts, I’m convinced that at least until the end of this Pontificate, we are liable to be monitored, obstructed and persecuted wherever we go and whatever we do or become. In the meeting of January 21st 2012, those three Italian friars essentially said this to us (I’m a witness to it): “If you don’t remove Latin from the Seminary (at that time, The Theological Seminary of the Immaculate Mediatrix) we will denounce you to the Congregation [CIVCSVA-The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life] where – as you know – the modernists [or progressives] are and who will have you put under a commissioner”. And that’s exactly what happened. We didn’t bend to the threat so the Visit arrived and we were put under the Commissioner.

Now one of those three Italian priests (in the meantime one of the two Americans has gone back to the Minor Conventuals) is the chief editor of “The Franciscans of the Immaculate 2018 Calendar” (Why wasn’t it sent here to Ferrara?). In a certain sense it is an official text inasmuch as it specifies that it has been published by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate “with the benediction and supervision of the Apostolic Commissioner Don Sabino Ardito, SDB”.

Strange though to see on the FI Calendar, that Pope Francis’ letter to the Young (January 13th 2017) is alongside a photo of some young people in the company of – Pope John Paul II! Anyway, the photos and texts cited from St. Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Paul VI and St. John Paul II are very beautiful.

Nevertheless, we cannot keep silent about some perplexities in the article from the Editor, “Young People, Families, St. Maximilian and the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate”. A good thing indeed it is to underline our discipleship as the Marian-Franciscan ideal of Father Kolbe. Nonetheless, the exclusion with regard to our Founder Fathers, Manelli and Pellettieri, who are not mentioned at all, is very grave and symptomatic. This is in fact a sign of their damnatio memoriae, which they would like to plant among the new FI (The Editor is one of Manelli’s five accusers and opponents at the FI meeting on 21st January, 2012) with the backing and/ or under the direction of some curial figures.

In effect, what was and should be our “Marian Vow of Unlimited Consecration to the Immaculate”, which was the primary constitutive vow of the FI, is instead reduced by the Editor (and by the Heads) to a “fourth vow (mass-media – and missionary nature…)”. Who knows what the extended dotted line means. All of this would confirm the program imposed from “on high”: to remake, or manipulate – on the drawing-board – our FI charism, history, formation, thought and conscience.

The plan in act was already in some way perceptible in the disgraceful and calumnious interview (Kolbe, not Lefebvre) published in the 2014 March number of the Vita Consacrata Testimoni (EDB) magazine, which certainly does not stand out for its appreciation of the reality of a somewhat “traditional” Religious Life.

In short, the plan of a few individuals was deducible for some time: to calumniate and destroy Father Manelli “identifying him” first, with Monsignor Lefebvre, second, with Father Maciel Degollado, and third, with Friar Elia of Cortona: consequently cutting off the FI from their besmirched Founder and linking them to Father Kolbe; treating the Founders like infidels of the Church and the FI charism; denying their charismatic contribution (eg. The Marian Vow and Franciscan poverty); constructing new “founders” and re-programming the FI, perhaps by making them shift slowly towards a probable “return” to the Conventual or other Minor Orders.

Do not forget that in the great Franciscan Families there is a project in the making for unification. (https://www.corrispondenzaromana.it/il-francescanesimo-del-futuro-annunciato-da-radio-vaticana/). The Editor of the Calendar seems to be even too optimistic, convinced the FI will conserve at the end of the external administration their fundamental characteristics.

It will not be so: The Marian Vow has already been eliminated, and our Marian nature reduced to a so-called “atmosphere”, an act of consecration, no longer a public and constitutive Vow. Not to mention true Franciscan Poverty and the war against the Associations. In short, in light of the last six years, it can be deduced that from the very start a few individuals had the intent to destroy us.

The resistance, even the legal and judicial one, slowed down their plans which nevertheless continue. Another painful point by the Editor is the emphasis that the external administrator is working on FI “doctrinal clarification”. The insiders know well that he is one of those who accused and calumniated us of a “Lefebvrian drift” and of betraying the Church and our charism. In truth, in knowledge and in conscience, we now see a “drift” and it is certainly not in the traditionalist sense. For example, it would be interesting to investigate the positions of the Friars and the Heads of the FI about the matter of Communion allowed to the divorced/remarried who are living “more uxorio”. The one who is writing this on the other hand shares the “Dubia” of the four (now 2) Cardinals and many other more or less well-known prelates and priestsIn effect, we fear that those who have made or have even now been making “discernments” about the FI, in other words, those who want “to re-program us”, are in fact influenced by at least some of those principles that constituted the joint plant of Karl Rahner’s transcendental Thomism and Gustavo Gutierrez’s (1971) Liberation Theology. Churchmen and church workers formed in such a progressive mentality can do nothing other than hope for and cause our destruction. As long as they are influential in the Church we have no way out

Appealing to the Vatican Authorities would appear useless. Our Sisters of the Franciscans of the Immaculate had appealed to the Apostolic Signatura against the CIVCSVA and probably they would have been proven right and gotten justice. However someone from “on high” instead of respecting the correct legal course, perhaps by spurring the Signatura’s sentence, has practically blocked everything, by accepting the CIVCSVA’s request and decreeing another external commissioning.

With knowledge and in conscience before the Divine Judgment, the God of Israel, we can no longer keep quiet and watch silently and passively at the triumph of injustice and speciousness which indeed cry out for vengeance in the sight of God. May God and Mary Our Blessed Mother, Co-Redemptrix, the New Ester, help us to bear this suffering for the good of the Church. We do not know what our future will be: whether it will be as FI, diocesan priests or be reduced to the lay state. Only an extraordinary intervention of Grace can save us. Otherwise “we will die” vocationally, but with honor, not as traitors.

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Translation: Francesca Romana

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