True and charitable obedience — pleasing to God and neighbor

Pope Francis and Franciscans of the Immaculate

Pope Francis and Franciscans of the Immaculate

It seems that these days everyone wants to gripe and whine about the pope, bishops, and the synod on the family, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) or the Mass of Paul VI (Novus Ordo).  Then there are such subjects as abortion, same-sex marriage, contraception, divorce, remarriage and Holy Communion and women’s ordination.

Yesterday, I saw another article claiming that Pope Francis has done great harm to Summorum Pontificum, the document written by Pope Benedict clarifying that the Tridentine form of the mass for the Roman Rite was changed a bit by Pope St. John XXIII, but never abrogated.  The gist of this complaint is that allegedly Pope Francis told the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate that they may not celebrate the Tridentine Form without asking for specific permission to do so.  To some people, this is a form oppression and a violation of law.

To get past this point, let’s clarify that the Franciscans of the Immaculate were never founded to be a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) community.  When they were founded, the Mass of Paul VI or Novus Ordo was the ordinary form of the mass for the Latin Church.  Secondly, Summorum Pontificum clearly states that the superior general alone can make rules about who and when the TLM is celebrated in public or in community, but he must make these rules in keeping with the proper laws of his institute.  This means that he must look at the constitutions of his institute and see what they say about the older rite and the newer rite, if they say anything at all.  In most cases the constitutions do not speak to this point, because they were written before this became a hot question.  Therefore, there is nothing in proper law that allows a superior permission to make the Extraordinary Form of the mass (TLM) to become the norm for his community.  The question needs to be put on the table to the community to vote on.  Once the community votes on it, the Holy See must approve the change that is to be made to the constitutions.

Let’s remember that the Franciscans of the Immaculate, like any other religious community owe obedience to the Holy Father.  At the end of the day, the Holy Father is the legitimate superior general of every institute in the Catholic Church, because he alone exercises universal jurisdiction.    Therefore, we cannot accuse the pope of overstepping his boundaries or of abusing power.  If you have the power to do something or to prohibit something and you make use of it, how can it be an abuse?

Some will argue that the pope cannot use his power to do harm.  This is true.  No one can use power to do harm.  Power is given to us for the common good.  There are times when we use power with the intention of doing something good and somewhere in the process something goes wrong and the end result hurts more than it helps.  This was not the intention of the person exercising the power.  This was the result of many random acts that were against the idea in the first place.    In this case, one can say that the end result was that the lay faithful who were benefiting from the TLM celebrated by the priests of the Franciscans of the Immaculate no longer had that benefit.  Obviously, they were hurt by Pope Francis’ decision to stop the TLM among the Franciscans of the Immaculate.  Did the Pope intend to hurt these folks?  I don’t think so.  He intended to put out a fire within the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

This does not mean that the TLM is prohibited or that the Franciscans of the Immaculate are being suppressed.  It means that people who had come to depend on the Franciscans of the Immaculate to provide a TLM mass have to look elsewhere, which is an inconvenience.    In fairness to the Pope and to the friars, this congregation was never founded for the explicit purpose of celebrating the mass in the Extraordinary Form (TLM Form).  The congregation’s mission is to walk the Gospel in the footsteps of St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Francis of Assisi under the protection and patronage of the Immaculate.

Did something go wrong?  Yes.  I don’t know what went wrong.  I’m not a member of that community.  I can see what’s going wrong outside of the community.  Pope Benedict XVI started an investigation into the Franciscans of the Immaculate, not Pope Francis.  Pope Francis inherited it, but almost everyone blames Pope Francis for it.  Like most popes, Pope Francis is not too enthusiastic about people using the mass for their political battles.  Therefore he restricts the permission to use the Tridentine Form to those who have specific permission to use it.  He never said that it could not be used.  He said that one must ask first.

Whatever Summorum Pontificum says about what priest can celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the mass, we cannot forget that the Motu Proprio does not bind the pope, including the one who wrote it, much less the pope who succeeds him.  He is free to abrogate it, edit it and interpret it.  It is not up to us to tell the pope what he can or cannot do with law.

Boniface VIII in “Constit.” reminds us that the sovereign pontiff is the most fruitful source of . . . law; he can abrogate . . . legislate to the whole Church or part thereof, a country, or a given body of individuals . . . he is not legally obliged to obtain the consent of any other persons and his power is limited only by Divine law.

Another important point here is that this is a situation between a pope and a religious community of Pontifical Right.  Meaning . . . that the pope is the highest ranking superior, above whom there is no appeal and who has absolute authority over the religious community.  He need not speak ex cathedra to be obeyed.  If we look at the writings of St. Francis, he promises obedience to the Bishop of Rome, commands that all the brothers obey him and his canonically elected successors for all time.  In essence, Francis binds everyone to obey the pope, regardless of the matter involved, except sin.  To put it more bluntly, it’s not for any of us, outside of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, to demand to know what happens within the community or to speak as if we had the authority to make a judgment on a situation that does not fall under our jurisdiction.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the good brothers have not asked us for our help, comments, opinions and interventions.  These are well educated men, free to ask for help if they need it, and who have a good understanding of how the legal system in the Church works, should they choose to make use of it.  Instead, it seems that they have chosen to apply one of our Seraphic Father’s admonitions.

The Lord says in the Gospel: he “that doth not renounce all that he possesses cannot be” a “disciple “and “he that will save his life, shall lose it.”  That man leaves all he possesses and loses his body and his soul who abandons himself wholly to obedience in the hands of his superior, and whatever he does and says—provided he himself knows that what he does is good and not contrary to his [the superior’s] will—is true obedience. And if at times a subject sees things which would be better or more useful to his soul than those which the superior commands him, let him sacrifice his will to God, let him strive to fulfil the work enjoined by the superior. This is true and charitable obedience which is pleasing to God and to one’s neighbor.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I apologize for any unintended lack of charity, but I must say, The TLM is the TRUE mass!

    Sure I owe obedience, but honestly, there’s no way that the two masses are the same thing. No way.

    The renewal didn’t happen. It was the opposite. People should face it.

    Faith is required, but should faith completely contradict reason?

    I don’t care what anyone says, those are most definitely NOT the same thing. The Church wants me to accept 2+3 = 4.

    [Edited by webmaster]

    • Dear MilitantMillennial:

      Pax et Bonum!

      The Franciscans of Life are a community of laymen and are not directly involved in the liturgical movement. We have touched upon the topic on a few blog posts (see links at the end) for the benefit of some of our brothers who occasionally attend the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, which is allowed by our Statutes. The FFV proclaim the Gospel of life by prayer, atonement, and works of charity for the preborn child, the terminally ill, and the immigrant who is poor and feels hopeless. We are happy to worship the Most High in any Church in full communion with the See of Peter, whether Latin Rite or Eastern Rite, Ordinary Form or Extraordinary Form. We seek our Eucharistic Lord, who is the source and summit of our life and the love of our hearts. In this we imitate our Seraphic Father who prayed: “​We adore you, o Christ, and we bless You, here and in all the Churches of the whole world, because by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world”.

      Allow me to present some food for thought.

      First: there are over a dozen different masses in the Latin Church, many of which are more ancient than the TLM. Consider the Ambrosian Rite, the Mozarabic Rite, the Rite of Braga. Then there are the Eastern masses, which trace back to the apostles or Church Fathers: the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Syro-Malabar Rite, etc. It is not logical to say that only one of these liturgical rites is the “true” mass. There are many valid masses. That includes the latest revision of the Roman Missal, the “Ordinary Form” of the Roman Rite, and the 1962 Editio, the “Extraordinary Form”.

      Are there differences?  Was there rupture?  Did the renewal happen? ​​Allow me to refer you to a recent letter by the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, H.E. Robert Sarah. You can find it here (scroll down because the English is after the German).

      With regards to faith and reason, we are taught that ​faith enlightens reason​, not the other way around. A great work on this subject is called, in fact, ​Fides et Ratio.

      The “I don’t care” behavior is something we must all learn to leave behind. We must keep our minds open to the voice of the Holy Spirit, because our thoughts are not God’s thoughts. We must also be attentive to how God speaks to us through legitimate authority, particularly the Magisterium of the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him. We do not have to like the individual, nor feel comfortable with the message. But we must make an effort to pay attention. God speaks through his shepherds. He will give us the grace to understand.

      You say the Church wants you to accept that 2+3=4. Sometimes the Church actually does demand this of us. The question is: does the Church have the authority to do so? To answer it, I  will quote the Western master of spiritual discernment, St. Ignatius of Loyola, from “the Spiritual Exercises”:

      “To have the true sentiments which we ought to have in the Church Militant, let the following rules be observed:

      – All judgment laid aside, we ought to have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical.

      – To praise all precepts of the Church, keeping the mind prompt to find reasons in their defense and in no manner against them.

      – To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls.”

      Thanks for visiting our community blog! May the Most High shine His face upon you, and may the Immaculate Virgin intercede for us all.

      PS: here are the links:

      To Be Held as Precious

      Disagreement Not Equal To Aggression

      Spare me the Liturgical Geometry lesson

      Aftereffects of Holy Mass

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