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Expert Answer Forum

by Catherine Frakas 23 Oct 2001

Secular Organizations QUESTION from Ross September 11, 2000 I'm searching for a Catholic organization as a means of living the faith more fully. The Secular Franciscans is one such group that I'm considering.
Are the Secular Franciscans in general faithful to Rome, the teachings of the Catholic Church and do they provide a useful service to the mission of the Church? Are there other groups that may be better to consider becoming affilated with? There are many lay Catholic organizations in the D.C. Metro area.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on November 20, 2000 Dear Mr. Ross:
I will probably get in trouble for saying this, but then I am always in trouble for telling the truth. There is a secret that many of the rank and file faithful are not fully aware of. Unfortunately many if not most of the old established religious orders have lost their original charisms and have indulged themselves in liturgical irregularities, sometimes outright rebellion, and even heresy and worshipping false gods.
I personally know a Franciscan nun who left her convent to start another convent from scratch because the sisters where she was at had begun worshipping goddesses. The Carmelites (O.Carm) are promoting occultic and New age spirituality on their national (U.S.) website and in retreats. I have seen Benedictine monasteries violate the liturgical law of the Church and promote new age in retreats. In fact most of the retreats in the U.S. should be considered suspect and checked out case-by-case as to their orthodoxy regardless of which religious order operates them.
One of the reasons there are so many new orders being established is that the old ones are becoming corrupted. St. Teresa of Avila was called by God to reform the Carmelite Order. Often God calls for reform when corruption occurs. But when there is such a wholesale departure from the faith and/or discipline God sometimes calls and raises up new communities instead of reforming the old ones. We are seeing a plethora of new communities being formed around the world.
I think personally, that God is raising new communities because sometimes the corruption is so endemic and pervasive that the best solution is to raise up new blood, to start over anew. And in these new communities, most are standing squarely on the shoulders of the ORIGINAL charism of people like Francis, Benedict, Elijah, etc., while at the same time looking forward with the Church to the new millennium. Thus the newer communities are often more loyal to the ancient founders and to the Church and Pope than the orders named after the original founders.
As far as the Secular Franciscans are concerned, as a community in-and-of-itself, I have not heard anything bad that I recall. But I have had bad things reported to me about individual chapters of the Secular Franciscans.
Thus the bottom line is to check the national literature -- such as at the website for the Secular Franciscans and see if they are getting into anything improper such as new age. Even if the S.F. look okay nationally, then look closely at the local chapter you intend to join.
This must be taken on a case-by-case basis. I find this state of affairs sad, but nevertheless the case.
The only community I can guarantee will be orthodox is my own -- the Legion of St. Michael. And we do have a Secular Expression that is similar to the Secular Franciscans.
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