On the surface it seems that the Friars of the Immaculate are being treated with great harshness. Compare the treatment of the Legionaries of Christ under Pope Benedict, with gentle paternal patience of Cardinal Velasio De Paolis and what is happening with the Friars under Fr Volpi. A loyal son of the Church can only conclude that the Holy Father who speaks continually of 'mercy' is completely unaware of what is happening with the Friars. There appears to be a brutalism Fr Volpi is exhibiting that seems reminiscent of the Inquisition or something from Eco's In the Name of the Rose. His measures are pretty strong.
Their houses of studies have been closed
Diaconal and priestly ordinations have been cancelled for this year.
Chaplains from the order to their nuns have been removed.
Their lay institute - 3rd Order- has been suspended, their publishing house closed down.
Individual members of the Order have been sent 'to gain missionary experience' or sent into what seems to amount to internal exile.
We do not know what crimes or heresies or what plots these secretive; silent Friars are guilty of. Their crimes must be horrendous, certainly they must be more dangerous than those of those American nuns 'who have moved beyond Jesus' or those who the Pope cited whose superior told them to not bother about morning prayer but to 'bathe in the Cosmos'.
What seems to be the problem, according to Rorate's reporting of Fr Volpi, is that they are "crypto Lefebvrists" or even if they aren't, he says, they have a tendency towards that kind of thing. I really don't know what that means, one might presume that they intended to ordain their own bishops, without a Papal Mandate or at the very least intended to send their students to Econe or something similar, however no evidence has suggested this. Indeed all that seems to have happened at the most extreme is an attempt to open up some kind of friendly dialogue with the SSPX, something very much in the spirit of Vatican II and Benedict's Pontificate.
Their crime seems to be that they took Summorum Pontificum seriously and used it as basis for their spiritual lives. What really seems to be happening is the beginning of a war on Pope Benedict's liturgical theology, obviously not of Pope Francis' making but at least in this case by one of his over eager lieutenants.
Many others have commented on Fr Volpi's demand that those presently in formation must personally subscribe to a formal acceptance of the Novus Ordo 'as an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church'.
I know most commentators have suggested there is little problem with this, I am not sure I agree. I have no problem in saying the Novus Ordo, or believing it to be valid, or even that it is now 'the Mass' of the Latin Church but to say it is 'an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church" is a little more complex. It goes beyond a simple filial acceptance of something proposed by the Church. In short I do not what the phrase means.
In these day when Pope Francis has indicated a decentralisation or de-Romanisation of the Church, I would go so far as to say that throughout the history of the Church the liturgy has 'developed' by two methods; from below, where Rites developed locally and organically and slowly spread by being handed on to other Churches, a truly organic development. The other method, which always involves rupture, is from above, the Pope decides something and hands it down. It could be argued this was virtually unknown before the invention of moveable type, I am sure that the Tridentine reforms were very necessary but I would have difficulty in saying they were, 'an authentic expression of the liturgical tradition of the Church', though one could argue over the centuries they became so. Even innovations such as the introduction of Sacral Latin by Pope Damasus or the introduction of the Filioque clause were gradual and organic. I accept what is handed down, as every Catholic priest or lay person does but I, along with Eastern Christians, would question, when pushed, whether this can really be described as 'authentic', in the way in which both East and West would understand it.
As Pope Benedict wrote, before his election, as a private theologian, the Novus Ordo was created ex nihil. This is a personal view but it is precisely such a personal view, coming from the other direction, that Fr Volpi is demanding of the Friars. It seems what he is really asking for is a certain understanding of history and hermeneutics, which I suspect Ratzinger himself and many others would have serious reservations, including of course those Cardinals who have shown themselves supportive of the Friars. It would obviously be wrong to see this as an anti Ratzinger thing. I repeat I have no problem with the Novus Order but in conscience if Volpi's question were put to me in the form of oath, I couldn't take it in good conscience, others might prevaricate, I could not.
I pray this kind of action is not a first demonstration of the future work of other lieutenants.