Last month a couple of the nuns of the Fairfield Carmel were seen attending Mass at the FSSP apostolate, our parish in the ancient centre, Santissima Trinita dei Pellegrini. These are the sisters who have become famous throughout the Traditional Catholic world for their attempt to live the Teresian Discalced Carmelite life in the most authentic and faithful way possible.
Puzzling as it may have been for strictly cloistered nuns to be out and about, it was cleared up a few days later with an article announcing that the Fairfield Carmelites are about to undergo the “trial” of an Apostolic Visitation. On September 23rd, the community authorised a press release to alert the Catholic world, which LifeSite published. Anyone who has paid attention to anything in the last 8 years will know what this means:
This coming weekend, we ask that you pray in a special way for our Nuns. More than ever before, they are in need of your love and your support.
In August, they received the news they would be subject to an Apostolic Visitation and the dates have been scheduled for Sep. 25-28, 2021. A Visitation consists of interviews of each sister and a detailed scrutiny of the Nuns’ daily life. It includes an evaluation of their application of the Carmelite charism and their monastic customs.
It is for this reason, we are asking for your prayerful support as they undergo this difficult and stressful trial. We pray that the Nuns may quickly return to their quiet monastic observance.
Why is This Bad?
For those not in the know, an Apostolic Visitation is a process in which the local bishop or, sometimes, a bishop given the task by Rome, investigates the inner life of a monastic foundation to see if everything is going as it should. A bishop or his delegate will spend a few days in the monastery guest house, inspect the property, take a look at the account books and interview the nuns one at a time. He goes home and writes up a report to Rome or the local authorities and, if there are any issues to be addressed, makes recommendations.
In times past, it was a normal part of the life of any established monastic community in the Church. And as long as the episcopate retained the Holy Faith and had the same general goals as the community – namely, the salvation of souls under the guidance and governance of the approved rule of the community, (“Lex suprema salus animarum”) – there were few worries to be had about it. At worst it was an uncomfortable time, humanly speaking, in which an exalted stranger entered the sanctuary of the cloister and asked pointed questions, and everyone relaxed when he left.
Does anyone remember the 1986 film, The Mission? It’s the true story of an 18th century apostolic visitation to the Jesuit Missions in South America where Amazonian Indians had come for shelter from slavery by Europeans. The “good” cardinal, depicted as sympathetic, is dispatched to order the Jesuits to abandon their converts to slavery and death. It gives a brilliant portrayal of how our post-Tridentine concepts (Jesuit inventions, by the way) of “blind” obedience has been distorted and used for evil ends. It’s also a useful and terrifying cinematic lesson in trusting the kind of churchmen – “good” but weak – who smile at you and tell you the kind of things you want to hear until they betray you.
History leaves no room for doubt that an Apostolic Visitation has often been used by bad actors as a weapon against the salus animarum for political reasons, and so it is being used again today.
A Body Totally Corrupt and Dying, Lashing Out
In our times, these ancient political games are being played again by a Vatican that is wholly and manifestly corrupt in every imaginable way. This time the currency is not land or the wool trade of the early monastics, nor the lucrative slave and commodities trade from the early South American settlements. Now the coin is ideology; the “New Paradigm of Church” is being aggressively forced onto the institution by a group of the most morally, ideologically, theologically, sexually and financially corrupt men the Church has had to endure in centuries. It is not going too far to call the Bergoglian Vatican a second “Pornocracy” or “Saeculum obscurum.”
We hardly need to go through the list. For a while I was cataloguing the cases, starting most famously with the Franciscans Friars and Sisters of the Immaculate – nuked by visitators, most likely at the request of the Italian episcopate, who notoriously loathed them for their success, their vigorous growth and their obvious rejection of the Vatican II New Paradigm.
Since then there have been perhaps a dozen-odd communities of priests and sisters in various countries who have had the visitator hammer fall. The things they all have in common: a love of traditional styles of religious life and liturgy plus money or property.
Why the Fairfield Carmel? Obviously because they are successful. But most especially that they are successful as traditionalists. They have grown and prospered and are building their beautiful stone monastery. They are popular and have immense support from the laity. All this while very firmly rejecting the Modernist “reforms” of religious life and liturgy, that in Rome are considered the litmus test for acceptance by the contemporary Church. All of this put together is virtually a death sentence in the current Vatican. The real question should be, “Why did it take so long?”
Who are These People?
It’s soon going to be very important for everyone who loves the traditions of the Church to know a lot more about the Congregation for Religious. Pope Francis has abolished the office of Ecclesia Dei and placed all traditionalist groups under this office. What is not widely understood is that the Congregation for Religious is probably the most theologically, spiritually corrupt dicastery of all the grossly corrupt ruling bodies of the Church. With them the issue is more purely ideological than it is with other offices where money and power are mainly at issue.
The Prefect of the Congregation is João Braz de Aviz, a Brazilian Liberation Theology man, who is also deeply embedded in the quasi-occult group Focolare – one of the “New Movements,” founded by the self-proclaimed “visionary” Chiara Lubich, that preaches a pseudo-Catholic doctrine of religious indifferentism and neo-pelagianism. Focolare has been decried as a bizarre cult, but, though it is largely unknown in North American, Anglosphere circles, has immense influence among European, especially Italian, bishops. Braz the Focolarino has made the Congregation for Religious into an instrument of Focolare’s weird, New Age, humanistic ideology and is using the “reform” of contemplative life as a tool for promoting its ends.
The second in command of the Congregation for Religious is a man who arguably is only in the job to be sheltered from prosecution for criminal financial activities. José Rodríguez Carballo was appointed Secretary in one of Francis’ first appointments, only weeks after the Conclave. He’s notable mostly for having thus escaped investigation by Swiss prosecutors for having bankrupted the Franciscan Friars Minor – the original Franciscan order – when it was discovered that tens of millions of Euros of the order’s money was sunk in “investments” in drugs and guns.
The rest of the Congregation’s staff and members are made up of committed ideologues. The un-habited academic, Sr. Nicla Spezzati, was appointed to the third highest position of undersecretary and was undoubtedly deeply involved in the attacks on traditional religious. She has since moved on. In her farewell letter she gave an un-parody-able soliloquy of incomprehensible bureaucratic Vaticanspeak that, if it reads like gibberish at least gives a hint about the mindset of the people in charge:
I think we can bless the Lord together because he has granted us to serve consecrated life in the Church at a time when the invitation continues to resound as an imperative of the soul: ‘Wake up the world.’ A time in which we are proceeding with good will – despite the complexity of the social, cultural, religious climate – to train eyes of contemplation and prophecy in the ferial days of the day; to live with discernment in life decisions; to inhabit the territories in the human encounter; to ignite processes rather than guarding sterile spaces; to use thought, guts and ways of mercy.
The Bureaucrats’ Attack on Contemplatives
However, the Vatican Pornocrats’ particular attention to cloistered nuns seems to be aimed at Carmelites specifically. It has long been noted that of all the ancient religious orders, it was the cloistered Carmelites who have survived the devastation of the post-Conciliar period the best. In short, there still are some. While nearly all the rest, even the great and ancient Benedictines, are on the edge of complete extinction. But Carmelite survival is soon to end.
The weapon most effective against the Carmelite order, particularly the Teresian Discalced variety, has been federations. Absolutely at the core of the Carmelite way of life is autonomy. An individual Carmel was intended by St. Teresa to be independent of the whims and vacillating – often political – interests of bishops or generalates. The house was to have independent control of its own financial life, to make decisions about whom to accept as vocations and how they are formed and to elect and obey its own superiors. All of these are currently under direct assault by this pope and this Congregation’s recent revisions.
Under the new regulations, laid out in the document from the Congregation, Cor Orans, and Pope Francis’ 2016 Apostolic Constitution “Vultum Dei Quaerere,” contemplative houses of nuns will no longer be allowed to organise formation of their own sisters as they see fit. They will lose control over their finances, and their right to elect and follow the leadership of their own superiors.
Death by Federation
But for Carmelites the poison has above all been federations. The idea that all houses of Carmelite nuns be herded into governing groups was enthusiastically adopted among Europe’s houses early on, and the loss of Carmelite autonomy has proven to be deadly. In 2009, the Congregation organised a meeting in Avila, Spain of all the superiors and formators of all the Discalced Carmelite monasteries of nuns in Europe and the Holy Land. The report from that meeting, leaked to me by a Carmelite superior, is horrifying; all but one house (a recent foundation in Croatia) was on the edge of extinction. Every one of these houses was already federated – as part of the post-conciliar “reforms” – long before it was universally mandated from above.
I wrote about it in 2018 for the Remnant:
The reports from each region showed that many of the provisions found in Cor Orans were already in place: federations with broad powers, including financial control and combined formation courses, “religious assistant” priests appointed by the federation and overseeing individual monasteries and superiors giving up their authority to the federations. Given that this was 2009, it is clear that the plans to force all contemplative monasteries in the world into this disastrous European mould were well under way long before Pope Benedict was even considering resigning.
Average ages were 65-80. Half the houses across Europe had already closed and nearly all the rest expected to be shuttered within a decade. Whole monastic communities were living out their last days in state run nursing homes. Some were attempting to merge with “dynamic” new methods of organisation dreamed up by the federations, but were finding even their youngest members were too old to take on the responsibility. None expressed the slightest hope there would be a reversal of the trend. They all just seemed resigned; they had obviously been convinced that merely returning to the traditional observances was impossible, and that extinction was in some way the will of God.
And the creepy part was that this body showed not the slightest interest in attempting a restoration. The Belgian delegation – federated in 1997, average age 73 with one sister in formation for 11 monasteries – offered as “possible solutions” only, “We want to continue along the path we have begun.”
Very little is said of any efforts being made to increase vocational outreach using the internet or through diocesan contacts. And perhaps most telling of all, not one word is offered of applying any systematic religious solutions; no one is suggesting increased prayer or fasting, Rosary campaigns or novenas in what has to be the Carmelite Order’s most desperate hour. Nothing is said of increased intensity of devotion to the charism, study of the foundress or returning to sources, still less of strengthening the Carmelites’ traditional independent self-governance or reconsidering the wisdom of ‘the path taken.’ Indeed, in one case in Spain, the sisters themselves advocate abandoning traditional Teresian autonomy altogether.
And this all seemed very much to the satisfaction of the Vatican officials at the event. Sr. Enrica Rosanna talked about “two great challenges to our contemplative life… the challenge of globalization and the challenge of irrelevancy.” She warned the nuns against bringing vocations from other countries to keep their monasteries alive, and exhorted them to “stay awake to welcome the dawn” of a bright new future. It seems impossible not to conclude from these bizarre comments and the recent total “lockdown” of all contemplative nuns into a regime that has proven totally lethal to religious life, that extinction is in fact the desired outcome.
A Final Note to Carmelites and Other Contemplative Nuns: Resist
The Carmels that have survived and even thrived are those who have maintained at least a modicum of this traditional independence. But this survival is, as always, mainly a North American phenomenon, and it is, as we are seeing with the Fairfield sisters, under direct attack.
If I were being asked by a house of Carmelites what they can do to avoid being sunk by the Roman Pornocrats’ torpedoes I would advise the following:
- Retain legal counsel immediately, both in secular and canon law.
- Calmly but with absolute tenacity refuse all “invitations” to join a federation.
- If you are already federated, start the process of withdrawing formally as soon as possible. (They won’t let you. This is why you need a canon lawyer.)
- Transfer ownership of real assets to a legally separate lay-run non-profit entity that has no legal connection whatsoever to any institution of the Church.
- Do not accept any financial or material support from the local diocese.
- Be prepared to pull up stakes and move.
- At the ultimate point, get ready to have to decide between continuing to be an officially, canonically recognised house of Catholic religious and living the authentic charism of your order. Get ready to be forced to decide between 1. disbanding/dissolving, 2. withdrawing from formal, canonical association with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (“going independent”) 3. applying to the Society of St. Pius X for shelter.
This is a time requiring great courage and determination. There is not the slightest doubt that the aim of the current regime in Rome is to see the total extinction of all traditional forms of religious life in the Church. And they are not going to stop until there is no trace of it left anywhere – they are implacable ideologues who hate the Faith and especially seem to hate contemplative religious life. They will not leave anyone a corner to hide in anywhere. If you are a house of religious, these realities, however difficult, are the most important you will have to face.
 It is not to be forgotten that the Congregation for Religious has continued to demand that the founder of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, Fr. Stefano Manelli, hand over an estimated 30 million Euros in real assets, despite Italian courts having already ruled they have no right to it, since it is legally the property of a separate lay association.
 I’m seriously not making it up. https://www.ricognizioni.it/lo-scandalo-finanziario-dei-frati-minori-mons-rodriguez-carballo-nellocchio-del-ciclone/
After two dream-like years living in Norcia, the cradle of Western Monasticism, Hilary moved unexpectedly with her three cats to the area near Perugia, where she gardens a great deal and tries not to worry too much.