Thursday 29 May 2014

Which Tradition is to be followed: the Franciscan or the Roman?

I have received a comment from Sonia which asks a well-founded question:

“Father…which tradition is to be preserved, protected and fostered in the case of FFI where the friars profess fidelity to the Rule of St Francis i.e. “…Brother Francis promises obedience and reverence to his holiness Pope Honorius and his lawfully elected successors and to the Church of Rome. The other friars are bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors.”?  Surely, if the FFI adopts a Lefebvrian mindset then it could only mean that they were never meant to be Franciscans and will only vindicate Rome’s intervention.

I think the writer of this has a point: either we are faithful to charism of St. Francis and to Rome or we are not. Personally, I think the FFI ARE faithful to St. Francis and to Rome. There is a subtle difference between the SSPX and the FFI/FSI in that the SSPX refused to follow a legitimate act of Rome in absolutely rejecting the New Missal (which, in my opinion, they ought to have accepted and used at least on occasion while continuing to lobby for its modification). This would be in line with the position I was told Dietrich von Hildebrand took of “We obey, but we do not agree”.

In that the FFI/FSI have not ‘banned’ or outlawed the New Missal within their Order or transgressed any canon law, they are not in the same position as the SSPX: they simply live a more disciplined Franciscan life. They are, it seems to me, seeking and doing no more than St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross did in seeking a more disciplined life within their Order. Indeed, the humble submission of the FI/FSI in their current situation demonstrates their striking obedience to Rome, which cannot be said for liberal catholics who take pride in pushing at the boundaries of orthodoxy as though change all equals growth not all change is good: some change, some growths, are malignant.

The Tradition to be preserved is that which the Church has held for 2000 years; we have no option about this since it is Divine Revelation that it communicates to us. To obey Rome simply because it is Rome who has spoken is a new and dangerous kind of ultramontanism. It is an ultramontanism by which one gives such blind obedience to the Rome of one’s own day that one can fall away from union with the Rome of the last 2,000 years –thereby intrinsically beginning a new Church devoid of roots. We have to avoid such ultramontanism; we have to remember that we retain the right to say “we obey, but we do not agree”, and lobby for change.

To fall into this new kind of ultramontanism is just as wrong as that of which the SSPX are sometimes accused: failing to move on. In fact it is more dangerous in that it denies its own past; it cuts itself off from its own roots. Failing to move on at least values and protects those roots, whereas a tree cut off from its roots undergoes a change called ‘decay’; a malevolent change by which the tree withers away. 


  1. Does this not point to a situation we have all seen & suffered from? It seems that the 'liberals' within the Church have a fear of those who support the older version of the Church. By that I don't mean the mindset of "pay, pay & obey" but the mindset where we show openly our Faith. I have made comment in this month's N Cross about the evident lack of respect shown in our churches by children (badly formed?), by adults (who knows why?) and more worryingly by priests & religious. The perfunctory 'bob' as they pass the tabernacle, the chatter (& shouting) & running around church after Mass. Don't these show as signs of a (God forbid) lack of respect & knowledge of the Real Presence? I wonder whether if God showed an unnatural light from the tabernacle we would more easily believe? Of course we would but God asks us to have FAITH. As Jesus said to Thomas "Blessed are they who have not seen & yet believe"
    Don't you think that this is largely behind our difficulties today?

  2. Thank you David.
    I believe that erroneous Catechises and community-centred liturgy are the problems we face today. We need solid teaching and God-centred worship.
    God Bless.

  3. Yes, she has a point. Obedience to Honorius and his successors is surely required – and that includes Pope St Pius V who stated quite categorically, as a considered matter of Faith, and the expression thereof, that the standardised Ancient Catholic Mass was that of the Catholic Church “in perpetuity”.

    Now as he would have been the first to point out it was not the only form, i.e., the Dominican, Milanese, Mozarabic, the recent Ordinariate, as well as the many forms of the Novus Ordo.

    The Franciscans are required to obey valid authority from Rome. But as Benedict XVI pointed out, the illegal attempt to suppress the Ancient Mass in the post Vatican II period was, well, just that, illegal. It could not ever have been legitimately done, and does not require consent.

    1. Thank you, Jacobi.
      Sonia is of course correct, that we do have to obey Rome. That is why I think we can go only so far as "We obey, but we do not agree, and we seek a change in line with Tradition". As log as the FFI/FSI do not call into question the validity of the Novus Ordo or Vatican II they are not Lefebvrian. That does not mean we cannot question some of the text in Vatican II, nor a modification of the Novus Ordo. Indeed, if the first Revised Rite of Baptism had to be "re-called", and redone I think the Novus Ordo Missae can too.
      God Bless.


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