Pope Restricts Use of 1962 Missal for Some Franciscans

Sandro Magister is billing it as the first time Francis has contradicted Benedict. There are these Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, who appear to be traditionalist-leaning in terms of celebration of Mass in the unreformed pre-Vatican II form with the missal of 1962. And there seems to have been some sort of difficulties among them, such that an apostolic visitation was carried out a year ago. Now a commissioner has been appointed to oversee the group.

In a decree issued shortly before Francis went to Brazil, the use of reformed rite is in the order presented as the norm, and the “occasional” use of the old rite requires special permission. This is significant because Pope Benedict allowed unrestricted use of the old rite to every priest in 2007 with the document Summorum pontificum, with no further special permission required.

Magister writes:

“The Holy Father Francis has directed that every religious of the congregation of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate is required to celebrate the liturgy according to the ordinary rite and that, if the occasion should arise, the use of the extraordinary form (Vetus Ordo) must be explicitly authorized by the competent authorities, for every religious and/or community that makes the request.”

You have to be careful when reading Magister, whose reports are not lacking in speculation and rumors and tendentious interpretations at times. But his report on what the decree says is still helpful and interesting.

It’s hard to know the whole story here. Is this decree a reflection of Pope Francis’ desire to undercut Summorum? Or it is a unique case, tied to particular turmoil in one religious order?



  1. Anthony beat me to posting this article, so I’ll say here quickly what I would have said in my post.

    Is this the beginning of the end for Summorum Pontificum? Probably not. But it is probably the beginning of the tweaking of SP, which some will consider the beginning of a death by a thousand cuts.

    From the outset I thought that a flaw in SP was the unlimited license it seemed to give to individual priests to impose upon a community — whether a religious community or a parish — a liturgical rite that might well prove divisive. At least according to the letter of the law, if a priest judged that the three people in his parish who wanted the Old Rite constituted a stable group, then he could make the 11:00 AM Sunday Mass into an EF Mass, no matter how much others objected, and there would be nothing his bishop could say about it. Of course, SP assumes that no pastor would be so pastorally inept as to do this, but I’ve seen enough pastoral ineptitude (some of it on my own part) as to not have a lot of confidence regarding this.

    I suspect that what is happening here is that one faction within the Friars of Mary Immaculate is quite enthusiastic about the EF and another faction is not, and the celebration of the EF to the near exclusion of the reformed rite has created division within some communities. So SP is being tweaked so as to allow for some oversight regarding when and where the EF is celebrated. I suspect this is less about SP and more about an intervention in a community that has become divided.

    Of course it in some sense is about SP inasmuch as SP seems to ignore the possible need for such oversight. Of course, for some the genius of SP is how it cuts bishops and religious superiors out of the loop. But it seems to me that this aspect of SP is profoundly unCatholic.

  2. Magister obviously from his preceding writings has set out to undermine this Pope.

    However when SP was issued it was clear to me that it was sociologically unstable.

    It gave to priests without a parish (not simply pastors or even bishops) an unprecedented ability to establish a separate liturgical community. It gave priests who celebrate the EF a powerful tool to center communities on their EF ministry rather than integrating them into a broader parish or the diocese. That seemed to me to be more likely to prepare people to leave the church and go into schism rather than to bring people in schism back into the church.

    So complaints were bound to arise, as similar ones have about the Neo-catechumenate ritual. And, of course, Rome had been asked to moderate even already under Benedict. This decision seems likely to have already been in the pipeline. I suspect Francis as Pope just made it easier to publish. And Magister just loves to blame Francis rather than Benedict and set up an opposition which does not exist.

    My suspicion is that Francis is going to side with the authority of local bishops and bishop conferences. However he does have a deep respect for personal lay piety and may well protect EF communities that have a solid lay base, but he is not going to protect self-centered priests.

  3. When SP was issued our bishop requested we do a poll in our parish to see what interest there would be. We had over 200. This led me to offer catechetical sessions on the differences in the EF and OF which over 100 attended. At our once a month Sunday High Mass at a separate time from our normal schedule we now average about 70. If there had been 150 to 200 I would have made one of our 5 Sunday Masses an EF.
    Not withstanding the problems in this community, the bigger issue are those parishes where there are a significant number of laity who desire the EF but are rebuffed by their priests who are unwilling to even offer it once in a while.

  4. I doubt Francis will undermine SP (he seems to care about the people), but the possibility is there if the right people put pressure on him by emphasizing the divisiveness they imagine it causes.

    Most fears surrounding it – of priests forcing it on their parishes because two or three people want it – are unfounded. Most parishes add a Mass at an inconvenient time instead. And I’ve seen it bring more people back to the Church than to prepare them for schism. Hard evidence of division, replacing principal Masses, etc. at the parish level seems virtually nonexistent, yet is parroted as fact.

  5. Another aspect of this action is the perennial problem of the dysfunction of the Curia.

    Under B16, administration of SP was transferred from CDW to the CDF, however this action was by the Congregation for the Religious.

    Francis gave the CDF the go ahead to continue the investigation of American Women Religion, then he basically told the women (through his discussion with the Latin American religious) to be cooperative with the CDF and with the American Bishops but not to abandon their work among the poor. (Do what you have to do to get along, but basically you don’t give up the integrity of your mission seemed to be the message).

    Francis could well have the same attitude toward SP and the EF, namely that priests with an EF ministry need to get along with their fellow religious and with their bishops but they should not abandon their basic ministry when it is good for the people.

    Francis is a go slowly reformer of the Curia, e.g. the IOR. He is looking at all the options, and expects that the people he has appointed will help him solve the problems. While invovled in this process he isn’t going to spend much time micro managing the processes of the Curia, especially when much may end up being changed.

  6. Jack Wayne : Most fears surrounding it – of priests forcing it on their parishes because two or three people want it – are unfounded. Most parishes add a Mass at an inconvenient time instead. And I’ve seen it bring more people back to the Church than to prepare them for schism. Hard evidence of division, replacing principal Masses, etc. at the parish level seems virtually nonexistent, yet is parroted as fact.

    This has been my general observation as well. In most cases the EF adds additional diversity and complementarity to the parish dynamic. In some cases it has rejuvenated (some times literally) a moribund parish.

    In regards to this particular case, I hope it is basically an internal matter similar to the intervention regarding the Legionaries of Christ (which, as may be recalled, was an action of one Pope contradicting another).

  7. To keep this in perspective, it is dealing with one religious order (and a very new one) that was in a serious enough crisis that Rome had a “visitation” over a year ago. so it would seem this has been in the works for a while, started when Benedict was pope, and Francis is just signing off on the recommendation of the visitation. this seems more to do with the crisis of a particular community and the considered opinion of the visitators than with Francis’s views of SP? but of course, this view does not ignite the blogosphere!

  8. In this very specific case, I think it has to be borne in mind that the Franciscans of the Immaculate were not founded as an EF community. Their founder Fr Stefano Manelli imposed the EF after Summorum Pontificum. Some of their friars in parishes were understandably very unhappy about this for pastoral reasons and it was clearly something they had not foreseen or chosen. It now appears that they have succeeded in making their grievance heard in Rome and overturning the decision of their Superior General.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #9:
      Thanks, Mgr Wadsworth. Seems to me that this asserts a sort of “meta-SP” principle, i.e. that the parish priest / pastor, not the bishop or religious superior, gets to decide — not just whether the older rite gets used but also whether the newer one does.

      As Todd notes, it is a “congregationalist” move. I think this is one of several flaws in SP. But, flawed or not, it has to be consistent. If a bishop were to decree that all Sunday Masses in his diocese were to be done from the 1962 book, it would presumably be a parish priest’s right to continue using the new Missal; just as, if the bishop attempted to forbid the 1962 rite, SP gives a priest the right to use it anyway.

      1. @Jonathan Day – comment #10:
        SP would seem, in a meta-sense, to permit pastors to override things far less central: offering the common cup where the bishop said no, rescinding the prescriptions of Redemptionis Sacramentum, using the 1998 Missal.

        In all seriousness, I can recognize the desire not to have believers battered by the whims of clergy and abusive authority. But again: where is this best settled, and what does a Church look like that permits the resolution of conflict? I seriously doubt it involves a hyper-traditional Temple Police reporting to the curia every small transgression that offends large.

  9. More hand-wringing over speculation. I don’t think the Church, as Christ founded it, banks on speculation at all, rather it invests in faith.

    From the outset I thought that a flaw in SP was the unlimited license it seemed to give to individual priests to impose upon a community

    That’s the precise opposite thought I held. I speculated that SP would be the very vehicle by which the older boomer (and maybe a few Gen X ) celebrants could justify their profound disinclination to respond to the faithful who could, politely and with confidence, ask these pastors for one EF Mass a week or a month. It gave articulation to reasons by which they could demur, ie. “competence” or “lack of support ministers” or virtually whatever excuse could be extracted as a “rationale”.

  10. to follow up with Msgr Andrew’s post, i do not think this situation is about the implementation of SP. it is about a religious community with an internal problem and the visitators were offering a solution forward.

    Just see the situation in reverse, what if a community founded on celebrating the EF as an expression of its charism was told by a superior that everyone must celebrate the liturgy according to the OF.
    the whole unity of the community would be shaken. the issue is not EF or OF but of respect, unity and finding a way forward for the community.

    since the visitation started under Benedict and was done properly, it would have been crazy if Francis did not follow their suggestion.
    I do not think more can be read into this……I give Francis much more credit, when he is ready he will give direction to the universal church on this issue, but i am sure he is not playing some kind of read between the lines, or hidden agenda game.

  11. As Todd notes, it is a “congregationalist” move. I think this is one of several flaws in SP.

    Well no, not really. Leaving aside the extraordinary form, the pastor of a parish is normally the one who sets the Mass schedule, decides if the Masses will be in English or Spanish, or Polish, whether there will be music or not. According to the universal legislation, a pastor has the power to schedule all his Masses as Latin Novus Ordos celebrated ad orientem, etc. Or to make them all Spanish Masses with guitar music. Summorum Pontificum’s provision requires that pastoral care be given to those attached to the older form (either by the pastor, the bishop or through appeal to Ecclesia Dei) and allows the use of the EF to provide it. SP doesn’t restrict bishops from taking the same sort of action they would to supress a Spanish Mass in a parish or an Italian Mass or whatever.

    1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #14:
      “According to the universal legislation, a pastor has the power …”

      Quite true. Clergy have power. But power does not guarantee virtue, especially prudence. The Gospel is about service, including self-sacrifice. That is the quality missing too often from discussion and practice–something Pope Francis has been rather clear about.

      1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #16:
        Congregationalism, as I understand it, is the exaltation of the local church above the ordinary hierarchical structure. A rogue priest, with or without congregation in two, is likely a congregationalist in deed, if not in explicit philosophy.

        “Is it just my squeamishness that makes me do a double take when people talk about individuals wielding power in the context of the Eucharist?”

        Not just you, Alan. I think it betrays a lack of understanding of the Real Presence.

    2. Actually I don’t feel that your statement is entirely correct. SC states that a priest is always free to celebrate mass in latin EXCEPT where the local bishop schedules a public mass to be said in the vernacular. I’m 99% certain it’s SC but haven’t got the reference to hand.

      Presumably a bishop could schedule all or any or a particular parish mass in the vernacular thereby obstructing the scheduling of a tridentine rite mass. I wish some of the English and welsh bishops had made use of this power to stop the quite a few parishes where the main sunday mass and various weekday masses were changed to the tridentine rite on the whim and imposition of the traditionalist leaning priest. The disruption and division caused by such unpastoral pastors has been documented in our quality catholic press here such as The tablet.

    3. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #14:
      Regarding: According to the universal legislation, a pastor has the power to schedule all his Masses …”

      – As a view from the pew; yes, but today a pastor, presbyter or bishop, does not, or ought not, do any of this without consulting the parish’s pastoral council. Hopefully, the pastor also makes himself aware of the sense of the faithful by consulting parish groups such as the catechists, liturgical ministers, the altar society, people he greets in the narthex, and so fourth. Thus the pastor acts for and serves the people of God in that place.

  12. Fr Z’s analysis of this situation is worth reading. I don’t agree with all of it (e.g. the obligatory slap at “libs”, “liberals”, “progressivists” etc.; or the mandatory reference to “The Biological Solution” — which he now capitalises — ugh.)

    Nonetheless, he’s got some balanced, thoughtful perspectives.

  13. This is a very interesting development indeed that may signal the eventual abrogation of SP. The action against the Franciscans should be viewed in light of what the Pope said the other day to CELAM, when he outlined the ways the Gospel is made into an ideology. One, in particular, he labeled the “Pelagian solution.” Here is his description of it:

    d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

    He mentions here some “new” religious congregations, which I believe describes the Franciscans of the Immaculate. So he decrees against their use of the EF before he leaves for Brazil, and while he is there he gives the rationale for his action, without calling attention to the congregation itself. I do not think this is a mere coincidence. Francis has obviously thought about the effect SP has had on the Church itself.

  14. The release of the text of the decree to the Franciscans of the Immaculate: http://blog.messainlatino.it/2013/07/blog-post_29.html, clarifies a certain number of issues in this discussion:

    – the decree follows an Apostolic Visitation of the Order (presumably requested by some of its members)
    – the result is the imposition of a Cappuchin friar who will serve as Superior General
    – all priests of the Order are to celebrate according to the OF, having recourse to the relevant authorities in relation to the celebration of the EF.

    A priest of the Order has confirmed that this intervention was already underway during the pontificate of Pope Benedict and entrusted to superiors appointed by him. http://maryvictrix.com/2013/07/29/the-fis-and-pope-francis/

    These clarifications cast the developmnent in a less sensational light and cast it in the realm of a pastoral intervention to restore order and unity in a religious community which has been through turbulent times.

    1. @Msgr Andrew Wadsworth – comment #20:
      I appreciate Msgr. Wadsworth’s comments. I’m a bit hesitant to offer my own judgments because I (we) don’t know the full story about the turbulence and problems in this religious community. We also don’t know how much the final decision to limit Summorum was made in the last few months (ie, under Francis) or was already in the works under Benedict. So we don’t know – unless someone has further inside information – how much this is a change in course from the last pontificate.

      It is striking, though, that the decree limits the 1962 missal, a direct revocation of Summorum, precisely for the kind of group that Summorum was intended for. If it doesn’t work for them… Why wouldn’t the decree reassert Summorum and restate that every priest has full liberty to use either form? That is the interesting question in this.


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #23:

        My understanding is that this order, although not originally an EF order, is a large provider of EF Masses to the faithful, and that there will be many who may no longer be able to attend an EF Mass (unless permission is given).

        Now maybe the permission will be easy to come by if it is apparent that the demand from the laity is there. If that happens then the original thrust of SP, easy access to the EF, may not be nullified.

        However, the underlying issue may be about whether or not a religious order can restructure itself as an EF order. Is that up to superiors? To the majority of members? Do people who joined the order when it was not so EF oriented have some rights?

        This issue may also be relevant to parishes and dioceses. Can a parish or a diocese restructure itself so that it is primarily an EF oriented parish or diocese?

        SP was written in order to open up what Benedict and others thought was an unwillingness upon the part of pastors and bishops to provide the EF.

        The basic message of this action may well be that if anyone gets out of hand and begins to impose the EF upon people who do not want it, then Rome will simply suspend the liberal use of the EF in SP for that entity, and reinstitute the need for permission.

        In social science language the issue may not be about either the EF itself or about Management of a religous order, diocese, or parish itself but rather the interactive effect of Management and the EF.

  15. Is it just my squeamishness that makes me do a double take when people talk about individuals wielding power in the context of the Eucharist?

  16. I think this acknowledges the danger of individual priests or congregations going rogue in terms of their individual or collective idiosyncrasies. I don’t know much about this order. But I have experienced individual priests celebrate their own private EF Mass even when an OF Mass was available for them to concelebrate and within hours of the time of this private EF Mass. That is odd.
    As a pastor, I would die of a stroke if a visiting priest or parochial vicar decided on his own, that for his Mass, there would be no female servers, lectors or communion ministers. That he would celebrate all of his OF Masses ad orientem or make his Masses EF exclusively. This would be disastrous in a parish. And certainly a bishop would be wise to intervene with any of his priests, pastors or not, who disrupt the unity of a parish or the diocese.
    So there needs to be limits to what an individual priest can and cannot do and what religious communities can and cannot do in this regard.
    One of things that puzzled so many about Pope Benedict is that he modeled many things but didn’t mandate any of it in terms of the OF Mass. He never publicly celebrated the EF Mass, but had clear mandates in SP. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect in all of that.
    So Pope Francis is exerting his authority to legislate. Let’s pray that he is consistent not only with traditionalists who do dumb things, but with the other extreme that do dumb things too and in abundance.
    However, in making mistakes pastorally, Pope Francis seems to have his limits at least in one direction, but time will tell if this is true or not.

  17. Whether the investigation of FFI were begun under Benedict is not significant. The decision of Francis to abrogate SP for them is. Is this a decision that Benedict would have made were he still Pope? Most likely not. This order was his favorite and some have likened it to a non-schismatic SSPX. So without having to be sensationalist, one can observe the seriousness of Francis’ decree for both for FFI and the people it serves largely through provision of the EF. If the issue were not in some way about SP and the EF, why is the restriction of it the particular penalty imposed?

  18. What is not clear to me in this decree is who the proper authority would be that would allow their priests to celebrate the EF Mass, the local bishop, local superior or the Vatican congregation for religeous? Anyone know?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *