Fra. Angelo: State of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

Fr Angelo at 2011 Marian Symposium
In the interest of full disclosure, I love the FFI and pray for the friars I know daily by name.

I suspected that Fr. Angelo was one of the friars who appealed for intervention.  This is the first time he publicly admitted such.  I thought Fr. Angelo had written some good pieces on the topic of traditionalism vs. tradition.  It's along the lines of something Michael Matt talked about a while back asking what is this whole "tradition-minded" thing versus "traditionalist."  At any rate, there's distinctions to be made along those lines, but the point is Fr. Angelo was planning on publishing a book on the topic but it seemed to go by the wayside after the intervention began, and perhaps a sign of the struggles within the FFI.
I am one of the original five friars who appealed to the Holy See concerning the problems within our Institute. I mention this in the interests of full disclosure.
State of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate(full article there is a must read on the topic)

I do not ask the Friars at the Guadalupe Shrine anything on the topic of the visitation; I am on the outside looking in like everyone else.  Because Fr. Peter Fehlner wrote the forward to Fr. Angleo's book, I have assumed it would be a fair assumption that he also felt a visitation was needed for the order.

Also you may have seen that the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate have now been placed under visitation.  

For the most part I have not posted on this topic much(I guess this is probably my first time commenting at length).  I have appreciated efforts of the Rorate Caeli blog covering the story, and although Fr. Angleo has stated that it's a personal matter to the FFI and Rorate should butt out and quit stirring up the masses, I am one of the faithful whom go to the Friars for instruction and sacraments, so I don't feel like it's idle gossip or war mongering to try to learn the facts.  I mean, to have a religious order charge with "crypto-lefebvrian and definitely traditionalist drift" has so many implications it's hard to imagine why such a vague and quite frankly a non-criminal charge was brought.  Calling a religious a "crypto-lefebvrian" is like calling an American a "closet-communist."

Okay, so Father Angelo has posted details on why the visitation was called for and the current state.  The visitation was called for in January of 2012, one year before the resignation of Pope Benedict in 2013(I think an important point to note).  The list of grievances "definitely" brought forth at that time:
  1. the authoritarian implementation of Summorum Pontificum,
  2. the manipulation of the General Chapter of 2008 in this regard,
  3. the traditionalist drift in the seminary and apostolic work,
  4. our association with known sympathizers of the traditionalist movement,
  5. the arbitrary character of the government of the Institute and absence of any mechanism to address this problem,
  6. the ways in which all these problems had been affecting the formation program,
  7. the influence of the former Mother General of the Sisters on the Founder,
  8. and the increasingly radicalized character of the sisters’ community.
Number 4 seems to be an indication of a relationship with the SSPX or its members, although still at issue is what constitutes "traditionalist."  In this context, "traditionalist" seems to essentially equate to the SSPX.  But we can see that it was this original intervention that also lead to the recent intervention on the Franciscan Sisters (but honestly, I had assumed the intervention was all along on both orders considering their relationship).

And I guess this is what it boils down to, indeed an incredibly hefty charge, Fr Angelo states that the FFI founder,  Fr. Stefano M. Manelli,  directed the Friars to support a hermeneutic of rupture - or that specifically the Vatican II Council is fundamentally flawed and cannot be read within the tradition of the Church - and later claims the use of "every Machiavellian tactic" to suppress opposition.

The author presumes to suggest that the Founder and the friars who support him advocate the “hermeneutic of continuity” taught by Benedict XVI, when, in fact, under the Founder’s direction our Institute became one of principle instruments of the traditionalist movement in Italy to undermine the authority of that same hermeneutic.
Anywho, I'd highly recommend reading the article to those following the situation.

The order seems on the road to a definite split.  


  1. Dear Steve,

    We do not have the FFI down here in Houston, unfortunately, despite my several requests (by email, so maybe not the most pressing) that they come down here, but I have been trying to follow the situation from afar, through the blogs that Fr. Angelo, with whom I have corresponded and like personally, wishes would stop. From what I have seen, it appears that the split within the FFI almost mirrors the split within the Matt family, Fr. Angelo, Fr. Peter Fehlner, FI, and the others of the "five" equating to the Wanderer side of the Matts, while the apparently Fr. Manelli and the others equate to the Remnant side of the family. Now, it is true that I subscribe to The Remnant and no longer subscribe to The Wanderer, but I have a lot of respect and affection for The Wanderer folks as well. I just note a seeming paradox: The Wanderer seems over the years to have adopted the view that any questioning of Vatican II calls into question the whole teaching authority of the Church, and thus would open the floodgates of dissent and dissolution, and so such an attitude is to be crushed by all legitimate means, while The Remnant seems to take a more "liberal" view that a discussion amongst friends would be most welcome, and asks for the clarification of the questions submitted by Msgr Gherardini, Msgr Livi, Prof. de Mattei and others. I seem to recall a series of videos by Fr. Fehlner, for example, strongly indicating his adherence The Wanderer line on this. Well, I cannot say that I like The Wanderer's approach, and evidently the correlative view of the "five" on this, especially not the heavy handed manner of repression of discussion, but in my better moments, I would like to say to both sides "I'm with you fellers" (recalling O Brother, Where art Thou?), but in my darker moments I am inclined to think that the "five" should have just gone somewhere else and let diversity continue within charity. What, after all, did the Chinese (Communists, no less) use to say: "Let a thousand flowers bloom".

    1. Ha, interesting corollary between the FFIs and the Matts. Yeah, I guess we have to wait until the whole thing has completed to find out what the investigation found, like what specific actions were wrong. This is still left ambiguous. It could very well be that (hypotetically) a bunch of sedavacantists are teaching in their seminary or something and that Fr. Manelli put them there. Well okay, that seems like an appropriate reason for a visitation. But we are still in this grey area of what a Catholic can in good faith say about Vatican II without being a heretic.

  2. Fr. Geiger calls the founders of his Order unscrupulous and also says that all the seminarians and laity in Italy were 'in rebellion' so has to be suppressed. Hmmm. So everyone is rebellious but the 5, or so it would seem. Whatever 'imposing' was claimed as to the TLM, certainly not all friaries even offered it at all. Father admits to meeting behind the back of the founder. Also there is a great dislike evident against 'traditionalists' and this has been evident in his speech and writing for some time. Could it be hypothesized that certain ones stirred up the pot for some years against the founder??? There should a split because there can be no unity after the hostile takeover of a holy Institute that was quickly growing. People yearn for the fullness of the Church's traditions and not to be in schism or anything like that. Instead they are still treated as second class citizens and mercy is extended everywhere but to them. But back to the FFI----in following the stories, parents of seminarians have posted how the holy young vocations were harassed, threatened and intimidated and when they still wished to follow the charism of the founders, they were all dismissed. Is that not heavy-handed, even worse than it is claimed the founder did???? What about the suppressing of the lay apostolates? So you have holy lay people spreading the devotions to Mary but they need to be silenced? Fr. Geiger's rebuttal does not wash--rather, it makes the other side look even better. There should not be sides, of course, but those who did not like the direction of the Order have brought this division about.

  3. Steve, thanks for the update. It boils down to pretty much what I thought was going on as I "read between the lines". Something that BadgerCatholic readers need to remember is that a split is not inevitable nor is it ever as easy as "just [going] somewhere else". Any split means a new order is being established. As an institute of pontifical rite the Pope would have to approve of this. Also, all must remember that finally professed members are not free to just simply up and leave. However, the real issue here is not even traditionalists vs. everybody else. The real issue is clearly governance. Most don't realize that even founders don't get to do whatever they want. All finally professed members have a vote. When political gamesmanship starts ruling the day there is a problem. Hence, the visitation. Please continue to pray for all. This is a wonderful order and I am confident that they will continue to flourish once these issues are resolved.

    1. Agreed Father, it seems like what it really boils down to is number one on the list "the authoritarian implementation" and we could really perhaps stop there. Religious have canonical rights. If I were in the FFI that's exactly what I'd be trying to communicate to the outside, I wouldn't even bring up the rest of it.

    2. Steve,

      Thanks for the fair assessment. Fr. May is exactly right.

      And we tried to limit the amount we shared and continue to do so, but there has been an eight month long a narrative of calumny against the Holy See and just saying that there was authoritarianism doesn't really do anything to change the narrative.

      It is not just the people on the outside that are scandalized. The friars themselves are discouraged and confused and certain elements like De Mattei are lobbying for an exodus.

      People need to understand the damage they are doing with this narrative. Traditionalists in particular need also to appreciate that they are doing there own cause great harm by trying to embarrass the Holy See.


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