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.