Saturday, December 21, 2013

On the Franciscans of the Immaculate

It's probably surprising to people that they haven't, for the most part, heard my opinion on the situation of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Here are a few reasons. It can take a few hours to put together posts such as my post on December 16, and it would take far more time than that to write on the Franciscans of the Immaculate considering the issues that seem to be at stake. One doesn't wish to slip into, God forbid, heresy or schism, or to be extremely polemical, thereby distracting everybody from holiness. Certain Italian writers such as Sandro Magister are not helping things very much when they add commentary to their reportage.

With that as my background, I'd like to look at this. I have been made more aware of the need for obedience.

In Antigone, the great Sophoclean tragedy of the fifth century before Christ, Antigone, one of the daughters of Oedipus, is seeking to bury her brother who has attempted a revolt ("the Seven Against Thebes") against Cleon, the tyrant of Thebes, tyrant being understood in the Greek sense, one that only overlaps with our modern pejorative use of the word.

It seems there is a natural tension found in obedience. Antigone is correct in her pursuit of the proper burial rites for her deceased brother-obedience to religion- while Cleon is correct in demanding obedience to lawful authority, a rather proto-Christian idea later taken up by the Angelic Doctor. This is rather difficult to resolve in issues of the state. Noticeably, Christianity implicitly marked disobedience to the Roman Empire. Christos kyrios, not Kaisar Kyrios. Paganism was the cult of the state, and Christians refused, as exhorted in the Epistles, to avoid anything that even remotely supported the pagan ways, such as participating in purchasing sacrificial animals or using contraception. Because we are not perfect Judges, we sometimes step outside Justice in administering human authority, hence this tension is present, and the resolution isn't clean on Earth.

So how does this relate to the Franciscans?

It came up at my sister's basketball game, of all places, from one of the moms. (When you are involved in authentically Catholic things, good discussion tends to emerge.) She said that they need to be obedient, no matter how confusing and unjust the situation seems to be. I hadn't even considered this issue to be honest.  St. Thomas Aquinas has an excellent point on this in the Summa Theologica, second part of the second part, question 104, article 5, response to Objection 3.
Religious profess obedience as to the regular mode of life, in respect of which they are subject to their superiors: wherefore they are bound to obey in those matters only which may belong to the regular mode of life, and this obedience suffices for salvation. If they be willing to obey even in other matters, this will belong to the superabundance of perfection; provided, however, such things be not contrary to God or to the rule they profess, for obedience in this case would be unlawful. 
Accordingly we may distinguish a threefold obedience; one, sufficient for salvation, and consisting in obeying when one is bound to obey: secondly, perfect obedience, which obeys in all things lawful: thirdly, indiscreet obedience, which obeys even in matters unlawful.
I am not aware of any moves into schism, which is good, even though it comes to mind since the rather unfortunate (to say the least) loss of the Society of St. Pius X. So obedience to the Bishop of Rome is not the issue. But there are lots of issues going on, and quite frankly they don't make much sense proportional to the situation, nor do they seem to make much sense as far as Church law and its administration, at the forefront of which is the assistance in each Catholic's pursuit of holiness.

We would do well to keep in mind that if Fr. Volpi, the apostolic commissioner for the order, is obeyed, then good fruit will be brought forth. I would encourage the friars who wish to leave for a new Institute or seek for the decisions to be reversed to lay low for a while. There's nothing wrong with obeying while using the proper canonical channels to find a resolution. But on the other hand, this sacrifice of the Vetus Ordo, of the situation with the seminary, of the lay activities, and even of their holy founder Fr. Manelli, is worth it. I won't deny that grace is at work in the Holy Mass and that I have particularly strong opinions on this as it relates to the usus antiquior. But the Mass is the Mass (Christ is always present!) and the Franciscans of the Immaculate choose the best possible options in the Novus Ordo. The Third Order and the lay movement associated with the FI is important, granted, but I believe we will be led to other worthy exercises of devotion in the interim.

A few more thoughts will follow this piece. In the meantime, we must pray to Our Immaculate Mother for the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

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