The convent in Pienza, Italy, near Siena, which has become a matter of contention
Letter #75, 2023 Thursday, March 23: Viganò, Nuns of Pienza, Part 2
The letter below is from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, 82.
It is dated March 5, 2023.
This is the second letter he writes in regard to the case of a convent of 12 Benedictine nuns and their mother abbess in the town of Pienza, not far from Siena, in Tuscany, in central Italy. (The first article, dated February 26, and published on February 27, is at this link.)
This case is a case to which Archbishop Viganò has clearly given special attention.
Note: We just announced our special pilgrimage in the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI, from June 28 to July 6, which will begin at the tomb of the late Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica, then head north to the place of his birth and baptism, in southern Germany. It will be a wonderful to understand and get to know better the mind and heart of the late Pope. This trip may fill quickly. For all the details, click here.
(continued from above)
From the length and detail of Viganò reconstruction of events, it is clear that he has followed every twist and turn of this case, finally arriving at the conclusion that this small group of nuns have been unfairly treated by both Church and civil authorities in Italy; hence, his desire to speak out on their behalf.
The nuns came to their present convent in 2017, and since last month, February 2023, they are being asked to submit to four Church decrees decided upon after a “visitation” of the convent in November 2022, decrees which will remove their abbess and change their daily lives.
The four decrees
Viganò questions the wisdom and validity of the decrees — which, in essence, will remove the present abbess, Mother Diletta, and, over time, change the pattern of life of the nuns — because he thinks the “visitation” that preceded the decrees was not carried out properly.
“The first decree provides that the Monastery ‘shall become a member of the ‘Picena’ Federation of Benedictine Nuns in Italy.’ The second decree provides for the entrustment of the government of the Monastery to the Federal President and the Council pro tempore of the aforementioned Federation. The third decree imposes exclaustration for three years on the Abbess, Mother Diletta, with the injunctive order that she must leave the Monastery within one week of notification of the decree. The fourth decree requires the Prioress, Sister Margherita dell’Annunciazione, to transfer for a period of one year to the ‘monastery’ of Bose within one week of the communication of the decree. Practically speaking, with the first decree the Nuns have been placed at the mercy of the Federation and thus have lost any prospect of being able to maintain their ‘traditional’ charism, while with the second, an Abbess has been imposed, Mother Vacca, who is to act as executress of Vatican orders.”
“The exclaustration of Mother Diletta, after twenty-one years of cloistered life, is an extremely severe measure, in the absence of serious reasons, with which the Abbess has been de facto put out on the street for three years, without guarantees for her religious identity, without any means of subsistence, and without certainty about her future. Imagine how a cloistered nun must feel, expelled without reason and punished without being able to defend herself, and who is ordered to return to live in the world that she has chosen to abandon to follow her contemplative vocation. The ruthlessness of such a provision should horrify us.”
Why the “visitation” was problematic
As for the “visitation” which led to these decrees, which he believes was improper, he writes:
“From what has emerged so far it is evident that, contrary to every norm of law and against the Charity that should mark every disciplinary action of the Shepherds of the Church, everything was done to make the Visit [the November visitation of the convent by Church authorities] as traumatizing as possible by hiding the motivations, conducting the interrogations of the Nuns in an intimidating way, looking for laughable pretexts such as the orientation of the altar or the sale of jams, and disrespecting the privacy of the religious, thereby making it impossible for them to know the accusations against which to defend themselves.”
Finally, Viganò mentions a March 2 article (here) in Italy’s leading newspaper, La Repubblica, which he says “shines light on the intentions of the Diocese regarding the use of the property of the former Seminary, which is currently intended for the Nuns.”
According to what La Repubblica reports, Viganò continues, the convent of contemplative Benedictines could be fully transformed and (and what follows are not the archbishop’s words, but are words he cites from the La Repubblica reporter) “could soon become a welcome center for immigrants and refugees, which are now too many, even in the region of Siena, for the buildings of the territory. With the nuns themselves able to give a hand, if they are available. It is a destination entirely in line with the ‘Church of the poor’ dear to the heart of Pope Francis…”
“Valley of tears”
I should note that I have been receiving letters and emails about this case, and other cases, concerning the life of contemplative nuns in the Church today, some from nuns themselves, bringing to my attention facts and arguments I am still evaluating as I attempt to understand more clearly the true nature and meaning of these controversies and ecclesial decisions regarding cloistered life. I am still engaged in that process, and not yet close to being finished, yet hope to be able to write more on these matters soon.
Clearly, it is in the interest of everyone in the Church that all seek to learn as much of the truth, in charity, of each situation as is humanly possibly, then to act in accord with the highest of all the laws of the Church, which is that the salvation of souls is the Church’s “suprema lex” (“supreme law”), above all other considerations.
But what is the way that leads most surely to that end: the soul’s salvation?
Perhaps that is the question at the heart of these disputes about how human life should be led so as… to draw closer to Christ… to abide with Him, in His will, under His guidance, in conformity with His Spirit… in this fallen world… in this temporal life marked so profoundly and tragically by self-will and sin… and marked also by that “sign of contradiction” which is the Cross… and yet marked also by the sublime hope, which is the “Good News” — the Gospel — of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead and His consequent abiding presence with us as we pilgrimage through “hac lacrimarum valle” (link) — literally, “this, of tears, the valley” — this valley of tears…. —RM
P.S. We have been selling subscriptions to Inside the Vatican magazine for several months at a reduced price of $20 per year in honor of our 30th year of publication. We will continue this rate for just one more week, then return to the regular price of $49.95 per year. After March 31, the offer will no longer be available…. Click here to take out subscriptions at this reduced rate for friends, family members and anyone you think might like to receive the magazine.
P.P.S. Here is a link to our Special Edition on Mary, which many are saying is “the best issue of your magazine you ever made.” This beautiful issue about Mary, on special high-quality paper, is suitable for display on a coffee table, and may come to be regarded as a collector’s item (link)
P.P.P.S. If you would like to support this work, here is a link to our donation page. Thank you in advance.
The Case of the Monastery of Pienza. Second Text by Archbishop Viganò. (link)
March 7, 2023
From Marco Tosatti
Dear friends and foes of Stilum Curiae, we receive and gladly publish this text from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, regarding the monastery of Pienza. The first article is at this link. Enjoy reading.
to restore the truth about the situation
of the Monastery “Maria Tempio dello Spirito Santo” of Pienza
This second part of my intervention in defense of the Nuns of Pienza, after the first part dedicated to the sequence of events (here) and a third part (soon to be published) regarding the initiatives that ought to be undertaken, addresses the canonical measures adopted by the Holy See with the collaboration of the Diocese of Chiusi-Pienza-Montepulciano and the Picena Federation of the Benedictine Order. These observations are based on the official documents delivered to the Nuns and on those of third parties of which they have become aware, as well as on the unanimous testimonies of the Sisters and the evidence they have preserved (such as informal communications on WhatsApp).
In the first part, I highlighted the reasons that led these young nuns to Pienza and the chronological sequence of events beginning with their installation in the former diocesan summer seminary, which at the time was unused. For this chronology I refer to the period from August 2017 – when the Sisters arrived in the diocese – up to the most recent measures at the end of February 2023.
I. The first anomaly
As already mentioned in the first part, the first anomaly that we can find in the story of the Maria Tempio dello Spirito Santo Monastery dates back to its canonical erection by the then-Bishop Msgr. Stefano Manetti. It was thanks to him that in February 2019 the Monastery obtained the status of being sui juris – that is, directly dependent on the Holy See – despite the fact that the Bishop had not provided them with the ownership of the property and ensured them having adequate means of subsistence, probably hoping that he would be able to subsequently rectify a situation that he considered provisional, having declared himself the guarantor of the Nuns’ stability.
The transfer of Bishop Manetti to the Diocese of Fiesole and the appointment of Cardinal Augusto Paolo Lojudice as Bishop of Pienza – an appointment which formally took effect on 21 July 2022 but which had been communicated informally the previous April – drastically changed things, forcing Bishop Manetti to try to hastily rectify his forcing of the canonical norms, which would certainly have caused his successor to have questions. Let’s not forget that the trait d’union between Manetti and Lojudice is given by Don Antonio Canestri, the former Rector of the Seminary (whose property was later assigned to the Monastery), who was promoted to Vicar General by Manetti and confirmed in that position by Lojudice, of whom he is a long-time friend.
It is not superfluous to note that the appointment of Cardinal Lojudice to Pienza was made in persona Episcopi, that is, by assigning the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza to him personally, along with the diocese of which he was already Archbishop, that is, the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle Val d’Elsa-Montalcino. This appointment in persona Episcopi would not have been possible without the transfer of Manetti to Fiesole.
The most straightforward solution in conformity with Canon Law would have been to definitively assign the Seminary building to the Monastery, with a multi-year lease agreement, or else a similar structure immediately available and habitable; and this should have happened from the beginning. But instead of following the path of common sense without creating further problems for the Sisters, Bishop Manetti tried to persuade them to leave, and did so informally, without ever leaving anything in writing, announcing that this would still be their destiny as soon as the new Bishop was installed.
II. Communication of the Apostolic Visitation
Given that with the Apostolic Visitation the Roman Pontiff, through his delegates, immediately implements the supreme and immediate jurisdiction that belongs to Him for any and every part of the Church, it must nevertheless be specified that this inspection instrument always has an extraordinary character, motivated by circumstances that are for the most part serious and which must be indicated in the Brief of appointment of the Visitators. Those who are the recipients of the Visitation are therefore guaranteed the right to know precisely why they are subject to an inspection by the Holy See, and also what powers are assigned to the Visitators in the document of assignment.
The communication of Cardinal Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, bears the date of 14 September 2022 and the protocol number 27887/2014. The reasons for the visit are not indicated, while it is explicitly stated that the action of the Visitators concerns “the conduct of the government, the life of the Community and of the individual Nuns, as well as their initial and ongoing formation, the perspective of the future and the economic management of the Monastery.” Attached to the communication is a copy of the decree appointing the Visitators – Abbot Dom Giordano Rota and Abbess Mother Roberta Lanfredini – also dated 14 September 2022, with protocol number 36256/2017.
These communications from the Dicastery, however, were never sent to the Monastery, and it was only on 1 November 2022 that the Nuns learned by telephone from the Visitator that he would be arriving two days later (except that instead he arrived by surprise the very next day), after also having presented himself the previous 11 October. On that occasion, he presented himself without warning in Pienza together with the Visitatress and Cardinal Lojudice while the Nuns were on retreat in another location. The delivery of the Vatican document therefore only took place during the visit itself and at the insistent request of the Abbess, a month and a half after its issue, in completely irregular ways and without it clearly indicating the reasons for the visit.
As we saw in the first part, Cardinal Lojudice, asked by the Abbess if he was aware of the Visitation, first denied and then reluctantly admitted that he had accompanied the Visitators on their 11 October visit, thus confirming that he was aware of what was being prepared in Rome.
From what has emerged so far it is evident that, contrary to every norm of law and against the Charity that should mark every disciplinary action of the Shepherds of the Church, everything was done to make the Visit as traumatizing as possible by hiding the motivations, conducting the interrogations of the Nuns in an intimidating way, looking for laughable pretexts such as the orientation of the altar or the sale of jams, and disrespecting the privacy of the religious, thereby making it impossible for them to know the accusations against which to defend themselves and even keeping silent about the results of the Visit itself.
III. The modalities of communication of the results of the Visit
On January 30, 2023, the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life issued four decrees, signed by Msgr. José Rodriguez Carballo, Secretary of the same Dicastery, identified by the same protocol number 27887/2014, which also seems to be reported incorrectly and with a chronological reference to the year 2014. In fact, the decree appointing Visitators also has an anomalous protocol number – 36256/2017 – which seems to have been registered in 2017. Is this a simple oversight?
The first decree provides that the Monastery “shall become a member of the ‘Picena’ Federation of Benedictine Nuns in Italy.” The second decree provides for the entrustment of the government of the Monastery to the Federal President and the Council pro tempore of the aforementioned Federation. The third decree imposes exclaustration for three years on the Abbess, Mother Diletta, with the injunctive order that she must leave the Monastery within one week of notification of the decree. The fourth decree requires the Prioress, Sister Margherita dell’Annunciazione, to transfer for a period of one year to the “monastery” of Bose within one week of the communication of the decree. Practically speaking, with the first decree the Nuns have been placed at the mercy of the Federation and thus have lost any prospect of being able to maintain their “traditional” charism, while with the second, an Abbess has been imposed, Mother Vacca, who is to act as executress of Vatican orders.
The exclaustration of Mother Diletta, after twenty-one years of cloistered life, is an extremely severe measure, in the absence of serious reasons, with which the Abbess has been de facto put out on the street for three years, without guarantees for her religious identity, without any means of subsistence, and without certainty about her future. Imagine how a cloistered nun must feel, expelled without reason and punished without being able to defend herself, and who is ordered to return to live in the world that she has chosen to abandon to follow her contemplative vocation. The ruthlessness of such a provision should horrify us, especially when the courtiers of Santa Marta are not ashamed to celebrate Bergoglio as “the pope of tenderness” and point out as “rigid” those who denounce the doctrinal and moral drift into which he has plunged the Church of Christ.
It is no less absurd to send the Prioress to Bose, which sounds like a cruel condemnation to her “re-education” in a mixed community that is notoriously uncatholic, ecumenical and ultraprogressive, where it will be impossible for her to find serenity and follow her vocation. We can therefore see that as a result of the (secret) Agreements between the Holy See and the communist regime in Beijing, the Church’s silence on human rights violations in China is also accompanied by the Bergoglian hierarchy’s acquisition of those methods of “reprogramming” to which the opponents of Xi Jinping’s dictatorship are subjected.
Although the date of the decrees is 30 January 2023, they were delivered brevi manu to the Sisters on the following 13 February by two priests (Father Raffaele Mennitti, Head of Vocations Ministry and Religious Institutes of the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza, and Don Paolo Mancini, who calls himself the “Secretary of Cardinal Lojudice.”) This delivery took place in violation of the duties of confidentiality, informing the whole Community even of the measures concerning the Abbess and the Prioress (can. 220).
The two priests asked the Sisters to sign a receipt, without however issuing them their own regular copy (can. 37) and without mentioning in any way in what capacity they had been commissioned to notify and implement the decrees.
Another anomaly: the acts delivered bear, instead of the stamp of the Roman Dicastery, the stamp of the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza, with the date of February 9, 2023 and an additional protocol number no. 03.A.54. It is not clear why the decrees of the Holy See were sent to the Diocese rather than directly to the Monastery, since the Monastery is not subject to the jurisdiction of the Ordinary; nor is it clear why the decrees have been disclosed to third parties, in violation of the duties of confidentiality and ordinary discretion that protect the right to good reputation of Religious Institutes and ecclesiastical entities.
These serious formal shortcomings render the decree arbitrary, absolutely groundless, and therefore manifestly null and void (cf. can. 51), also because of the consequent and manifest absence of the indication of any “serious reasons” that would have led the Dicastery to dismiss the legitimately elected Abbess and Prioress.
The failure to communicate detailed reasons for as well as the lack of results in the prescribed final report of the Apostolic Visitation seriously harms the personal and inviolable right of defense of the Nuns. On the other hand, the fact of not having received any notice or any relief from the Visitators, together with their prolonged silence – from the beginning of November 2022 to February 2023 – had led the Religious to believe that the Visitation had not detected any issues that were critical enough to justify the very severe measures which were then surprisingly and unexpectedly adopted.
And this is not all: the Dicastery, with the first decree has ordered the ascription of the Monastery to the Picena Federation (i.e., that it must become a member of the Picena Federation); with the second decree, it has ordered the entrustment of the government of the Monastery to the Federal President, Mother Vacca, and to the Council pro tempore of the Federation itself. Since the Council chaired by Mother Diletta has not been declared lapsed, the entrustment of the government to other subjects is impossible, given that those who are holders are still such.
And again: unlike affiliation, which would entail the suppression of the Monastery with its sui juris status, the ascription to the Federation does not produce, ipso facto, the decadence of the leaders of the same nor does it involve the entrustment of the Government to subjects external to it. Articles 57 and 59 of the Cor Orans Instruction, cited by the Dicastery in the second decree, seem not to be integrable, given that art. 54 of the same applicative Instruction the Apostolic Constitution Vultum Dei Quærere mentions affiliation, and not ascription, specifying that “affiliation is a particular form of aid that the Holy See establishes in particular situations in favor of the community of a Monastery sui juris that presents an autonomy that is only asserted, but in reality is very precarious or, in fact, non-existent.” The autonomy of the Maria Tempio dello Spirito Santo Monastery is not at all “only asserted,” “precarious,” or “non-existent,” nor can it be said that the justifying reason is the irregularities caused by Bishop Manetti, which he himself had undertaken to rectify, because they were already present at the time of canonical erection. In any case, neither on the occasion of the Visit nor subsequently was the autonomy of the Monastery contested to the Nuns. Nor would this have been possible, since the lack of owned property is not attributable to the Sisters, and no change has subsequently occurred to change the situation. Moreover, it is completely anomalous that a community of thirteen young religious sisters is judged to be incapable of autonomy, when most convents and monasteries in Italy and in almost all countries of the world have a much smaller number of sisters.
Affiliation should be understood as “a help” to those communities that, due to the small number of sisters, their advanced age, and the objective difficulty of managing the Monastery need to be assisted by other federated monasteries, so as to be able to have sisters who take care of them, assist them, and take on the most onerous tasks. It is not, and cannot be, an instrument with which to subject communities of young nuns to a commissariat, solely because their legitimate choices in the liturgical sphere or religious life do not please the Superiors, who are notoriously progressive and opposed to any form of contemplative life and traditional Catholicism.
In the second decree, the Dicastery cites art. 57 of Cor Orans, which provides: “With affiliation, the Holy See suspends the status of autonomous monastery, making it ‘donec aliter provideatur’ a house dependent on another autonomous monastery of the same Institute or on the Federation, as established in the present Instruction and any other provisions on the subject given by the Holy See itself.” The norm of reference on which the measure claims to be based, makes the affiliated monastery “dependent on another autonomous monastery […] or on the Federation,” but the President and the Federal Council pro-tempore are not a Monastery, nor are they “the” Federation. And where art. 58 speaks explicitly of the “Major Superior,” in the Roman decree this is not mentioned. Entrusting, therefore, the government of the Monastery “jointly” to the President of the Federation and her Council has no normative basis, but rather constitutes an abuse of authority that does not even take into account the necessary and elementary form to guarantee validity and effectiveness to legal acts.
A further inconsistency should also be highlighted: the same monasteries of Mother Daniela Vacca and Mother Roberta Lanfredini – which have very few sisters – were not the first to comply with the provisions of Cor Orans. In essence, the Visitatress and the Federal President have not fulfilled in their Monasteries that for which they reproach the nuns of Pienza. And the paradox lies in wanting to remove an Abbess, Mother Diletta, on the pretext of not having federated her Monastery, to replace her with another, Mother Vacca, belonging to a Monastery that does not comply with the provisions of Cor Orans. It should be noted that the Visitatress, Mother Lanfredini, also comes from a Monastery that did not comply with the provisions of Cor Orans.
The decrees challenged by the nuns, therefore, have serious legal holes in them, both as regards their juridical basis and also because of the form in which they are presented. In addition to the lack of reasons and regulatory references, the modalities that allow the recipients of the decrees to challenge them have not been indicated, making them unjustly immediately enforceable, creating a very obvious intimidating pressure.
And it is disconcerting that the means adopted by these ecclesiastics are significantly mirrored by those used by supranational institutions to force the governments of the countries belonging to the World Economic Forum to adapt to the Agenda 2030. The method of economic blackmail – (If you do not legalize homosexual marriages and gender ideology, I will not grant you the funding you need) – is also accompanied by the use of forms of “color revolutions” fomented by George Soros’ foundations to lead to regime change and the imposition of a Head of Government friendly to the system. They did it in Ukraine, they are trying to do it in Moldova, in Belarus, and in Hungary. At the same time, Bergoglio’s courtiers act in the same way to replace the “unwelcome” Superiors of religious Communities or Bishops who in their own Dioceses do not adapt to the new course.
IV. Aqua et igni interdictio
It is useless to look for some trace, I do not say of Christian Charity, but even only of humanity in this affair. In addition to the abuses and formal and substantial irregularities, there is a series of elements whose evaluation contributes to composing a picture that is alarming, to say the least, about the disastrous situation in which the Vatican finds itself, having dramatically degenerated in the last ten years. The emissaries of the Holy See have reached the point of applying persecutory and heavily punitive methods, which in ancient Rome were reserved for those deprived of citizenship for very serious crimes. Among these, there was the punishment of aqua et igni interdictio, that is, the deprivation of any support and help from other Roman citizens, in order to force the guilty into exile.
This aqua et igni interdictio has materialized on two fronts. The first is the bank’s revocation of the Abbess Mother Diletta’s delegation to use the current account of the Monastery, at the request of the self-styled new legal representative, Mother Vacca, without informing her. This would not have been possible without the complicity and connivance of the employees of the Montepulciano office of Banca Intesa San Paolo. The revocation of the delegation adds to the serious irregularities of these measures the deprivation of the means of daily sustenance for the sisters, with clear intimidating intent, if not even blackmail. To aggravate the situation, consider that Mother Vacca, in a threatening communication sent to the Sisters on February 14, 2023, declared that she had assumed the legal representation of the Monastery Body also for civil effects on February 3, i.e., ten days before the Sisters were notified of the decree. This not only represents yet another violation of the law, but also demonstrates on the part of the Dicastery a persecutory will completely unjustified and seriously detrimental to the rights of the Nuns, not separated from having recourse to vile stratagems to prevent the Nuns from protecting themselves by withdrawing their savings in time.
The second form of aqua et igni interdictio took the form of the communication, disseminated to the media, with which the Diocese declared: “It should be noted that no money is authorized in any way to be sent to accounts of the Monastery or even less in the name of individual persons.” In this way the Nuns, deprived of the possibility of using the current account on which they deposited their savings – no less than six thousand euros for thirteen Sisters – are being forced by the “merciful” unsigned intervention of the Curia of Pienza to not even be able to resort to the charity of the faithful. If we consider how the Papal Almoner, Cardinal Krajewski – known as Don Corrado – personally went to reopen the electricity meters of a building illegally occupied by a far-left social center (here), offering to pay all the back bills (which then did not happen), we understand to what extent the hierarchy of values to which Bergoglio’s court refers has been inverted.
Needless to say, the Diocese has no right to prohibit fundraising at the Monastery: no one can prevent free donations from the faithful. But it is worth highlighting the ruthless hardness of these ecclesiastics, for whom “your neighbor” is the illegal immigrant, the transsexual, and the anarchist extremist, but never those who profess the Catholic Faith, be it a cleric, a religious sister, or a simple member of the faithful. Such unequal treatment reveals a harmful ideological approach that contradicts the Gospel and shows those who promote it for who they really are.
I would like to mention a recent news event, in order to help people understand the unequal treatment reserved for these nuns compared to real cases of serious scandal. The Jesuit Marko Rupnik, known for having defaced many churches with his horrible mosaics, who was convicted of very serious crimes – including the rape of dozens of nuns and boys, as well as the violation of the Sacrament of Confession – benefited from the lifting of his excommunication by Bergoglio (with no regard for the fight against corruption in the Church). Some nuns had appealed to the Jesuit Hans Zollner, to denounce the harassment they suffered, without any follow up from him. Well, on March 2, the Cardinal Vicar Angelo de Donatis appointed Zollner as a consultant for the protection of minors of the Diocese of Rome (here). We can easily imagine how effectively he will act to protect the victims of perverts who infest Catholic institutions. And if for the Roman Pharisees the Abbess Mother Diletta deserves to be exclaustrated, without even knowing why, know that Rupnik was not even removed from the Aletti Center. This shows the measure of the hypocrisy that has reigned behind the Leonine Walls for the last ten years.
V. The appeal of the Nuns
It is for these reasons that the Sisters presented a formal Remonstratio to the Dicastery for Religious Life, asking for the wholesale revocation of the decrees and access to all the acts, including those originally sent by Bishop Manetti to Rome for the canonical erection of the Monastery. They are also asking for clarification about the anomaly of the same protocol numbers for different documents.
The law of the Church recognizes that recipients of a measure have the right to appeal, and it also provides for the suspension of the enforceability of the measure until the issuing body examines the arguments made by the appellant. The Roman Dicastery will therefore have to respond to the objections raised by the Monastery of Pienza, which are both procedural as well as substantive, and also allow the Sisters to see the acts which concern them so that they are able to legitimately exercise their right of self-defense.
It should be noted that, when there is a pending appeal, the enforcement of the act being appealed is suspended. This means that the two emissaries of the Dicastery and their zealous companions had and still have no title to claim access to the Monastery and drive out the Abbess and Prioress.
VI. The act of Signification and Notice
On February 24, at the ANSA website (here), it was reported that a formal notice had been given to the Nuns by the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza and by the Picena Federation. The Act of Signification and Notice, written by Attorney Alessandro Pasquazi, was then published on the diocesan website (here): the Nuns are ordered by it to execute the decrees of the Holy See.
The surreal thing is that this act was never communicated to the Nuns, but instead it was made available to the media, which among other things is in violation of the duties of confidentiality to which both the Diocese as well as the Picena Federation ought to be held.
In the act there is not the least mention of the appeal that the Nuns legitimately made against the Vatican decrees, such as to suspend their enforceability, but it reproaches them for having fueled “an undue debate in the media,” even though the reality of the facts disavows this accusation, which instead is valid against the Diocese, which is responsible for having disclosed notice of the act without the Nuns having received any notification, which still to this day has not happened. And it is disconcerting to say the least that the authors of these “cries” of Manzonian memory seek to insinuate the suspicion that the “instigatresses” of the “revolt” are solely the Abbess and Prioress, while the Community of Sisters is solid and united in facing this scandalous affair and opposing the violation of their rights. I wonder: what is the role that Bergoglio wants to give women in the Church? Is it for them to suffer in silence while tyrannical authority embezzles their funds without even being able to defend themselves, in the name of a distorted concept of obedience that applies only to those who are faithful to their vocation, while religious and clergy who are corrupt, heretical, or fornicating can violate the law with the certainty of impunity?
The final intimation of Attorney Pasquazi ought to be applied above all to his patrons: “It will not be allowed in any way to convey biased and misleading reconstructions of this complex case, which has been the object of a decision by the Holy See,” above all considering that the “biased and misleading reconstructions” originated with the press releases of the Diocese and the Federation, as well as with the many critical issues contained in the decrees of the Vatican Dicastery.
VII. The violation of the norms of the concordat
The raid made on 17 February by Madre Vacca and Madre Di Marzio, along with a layman (the assistant financial officer of the Diocese of Montepulciano) and other people took place in the presence of the Marshal of the local Carabinieri station and two other members of the military police. It is not known in what capacity these three soldiers intervened or who called them, although it was obviously not the Nuns.
As I have already emphasized in the first part, this involvement of the “secular arm” disavows the presumed conciliatory will of the Diocese and the Roman Dicastery, according to whom the reactions of the Sisters is the result of a regrettable misunderstanding. It is also configured in its clear intimidating value, also in relation to the subsequent investigative activity undertaken by the Carabinieri in an informal manner, who summoned the Nuns’ relatives – as several of them have testified – and interrogated them about the management of the Monastery, trying to bring to light a non-existent and absurd manipulation of the sisters by the Abbess and the Prioress.
According to what was reported to me by the mother of one of the Nuns, who was summoned by the Carabinieri of Ancona on February 28, the questions that were addressed to her in the course of a intense and traumatizing interrogation were of this tenor: Are you able to visit your daughter? How often? Have you ever seen her sad or worried? Has she ever complained about how she lives, or has she shared in confidence about problems in the Monastery? Who keeps the phone in the Monastery? Can your daughter send messages and use WhatsApp, in addition to calling? The Carabinieri, without having a mandate, also pressured the nun’s mother to show them the contents of her cell phone. I note that the people summoned by the Carabinieri were not given a copy of the transcripts of their interrogation, despite having asked for them. This too, in point of law, is absolutely inconceivable and censurable.
The behavior of the carabinieri is also surprising. They carried out the interrogation without respecting the recent amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides that notice is to be given to the person being interrogated about the possibility of recording the interrogation. The treatment to which the relatives of the Nuns have been subjected will be evaluated by lawyers for further action.
It should also be noted that in Monasteries and religious houses faithful to the Rule and to their own charism, it is normal discipline to limit or not allow the use of the internet, as well as regulate relations with the outside world.
It seems clear to me that “someone” deliberately made the Carabinieri believe that they were dealing with a sort of “psycho-sect.” But the same “accusations” that according to the press were supposedly hurled at the Nuns for spending too much time on the internet – even condemning them for having their own website, like almost all religious Communities – are in contradiction with their supposed inability to communicate with the outside world. In any case, the Nun’s lawyer will verify who requested the intervention of the Carabinieri by suggesting the possibility that the Nuns were being psychologically manipulated, and will ask for an account in the appropriate offices to find out whether the “tip” came from the Curia or from an intervention from higher levels, for example from the Secretariat of State or the Ministry of the Interior. Because, if this was the case, the danger of a manipulative authoritarianism by the Abbess should have been declared in the reasons for the Visit and in the final report, something which did not happen precisely because there was a deliberate absence of reasons, in violation of the provisions of canon law.
It sounds disproportionate, to say the least, that the Holy See, which is so committed in words to distancing itself from mingling with the temporal power and so zealous in preaching the separation of Church and State, would not hesitate to unleash public force against thirteen Sisters whose only wrong was having wanted to remain faithful to their proper charism as Benedictines – ora et labora – without having to suffer first the undue meddling of Kiko Argüello, then the financially motivated meddling of the Curia, and even the ideologically ordered meddling of the Vatican.
This involvement of the “secular arm” further constitutes a very grave violation of the Concordat Norms, and creates a dangerous precedent that adds to what already shamefully happened during the pandemic farce when the police broke into churches and forced the celebrant to interrupt Mass with the excuse of the delusional health regulations then in force. The precedent being created in this Pienza case is that the civil authority may intervene with force in order to execute provisions issued by ecclesiastical authority, thereby violating the principle of the independence of the two powers that is the basis of the Concordat.
Another element not to be overlooked is that the Carabinieri assisted with this operation that was totally forced, without even realizing that it is collaborating in a true authoritarian and illegitimate oppression by the ecclesiastical Authority, which is also unjustified because of the pending appeal at the Dicastery, as well as the failure to communicate these documents to the interests parties. Those who are not familiar with the canonical issues will be able to understand the enormity of this fact by considering that it could be compared to the police claiming to proceed with the seizure of property or the arrest of a person without presenting a warrant or an order from a judge. In any case, some of the Carabinieri themselves have expressed embarrassment and discomfort at being involved in this operation.
VIII. New disturbing details: the welcome center
Just as this second part of my intervention was about to be published, two articles appearing in Repubblica, have brought to light further elements confirming the total speciousness of the measures taken by the Holy See and its emissaries.
The first article, published on March 2 (here) shines light on the intentions of the Diocese regarding the use of the property of the former Seminary, which is currently intended for the Nuns. According to what Repubblica reports, the Monastery “could soon become a welcome center for immigrants and refugees, which are now too many, even in the region of Siena, for the buildings of the territory. With the nuns themselves able to give a hand, if they are available. It is a destination entirely in line with the “Church of the poor” dear to the heart of Pope Francis, and with the episcopal charism of Augusto Paolo Lojudice, who has been Archbishop of Siena since 2019 and since last September also head of the Diocese of Montepulciano-Chiusi-Pienza, along with a history of a long commitment of service in the peripheries of Rome.”
The suspicion of real estate speculation – a suspicion that was entirely reasonable, given the behavior of the protagonists of the story – now seems to give way in favor of an operation of ideological propaganda: the “church of the poor” would like to give lodging to refugees and immigrants in the heart of Tuscany, in a town of Val d’Orcia of just two thousand souls that relies on tourism. I do not dare to imagine what the response of the inhabitants will be to this demagogical decision of Cardinal Lojudice, who, believing that he cannot be attacked in the media for revealing his “inclusive” intentions, while now find himself against all of Pienza, legitimately worried about the consequences of such an improvident decision. It is not a mystery that welcome centers present problems of public order and control of their “guests,” as all similar cases invariably demonstrate. At that point the Carabinieri will have much more to concern themselves with than interrogating the Sister’s relatives.
In the same article, mention is made of the fact that the Decree of the Dicastery is supposedly “burdened by the pontifical secret.” Not only is this not true, but it is not even possible: how could the Nuns defend themselves against accusations that were never laid out in detail, whose acts have not been notified, and whose decrees, according to Repubblica, are secret?
According to the article, the Nuns were “transferred from Holland, removed precisely because of their non-aligned charism,” while their sending abroad was supposedly decided by Kiko in accord with the Bishop of Amsterdam in order to open a new Community, and their decision to abandon that Monastery was taken in order to remove themselves from interference from the leadership of the Neocatechumenal Way. In short, there is not a “history” of transfers or removals of a punitive nature, but rather a painful testimony of coherence, whereby the closer the Nuns came to Tradition the more they were the object of the attention of their ecclesiastical Superiors.
And while we find out from the press that the Monastery will be converted into a welcome center, to the delight of the residents of Pienza (and, I imagine, of the local Carabinieri station), we cannot fail to notice that, in Lojudice’s pauperistic delirium, the Benedictine charism of the cloistered life of the Sisters has not been taken into any account, deciding motu proprio to transform them into social workers. And this is not all: prudence alone should have advised against putting young Nuns with immigrants and refugees who – because of their religion and culture – could create serious problems. But perhaps this is precisely the purpose: to make an apparently conciliatory proposal to the Sisters, but which for them is so incompatible with their charism as to force them to abandon the Monastery. And if this were to happen in conjunction with the legitimate protests of the people of Pienza against the opening of the center, at that point the sale of the property would probably be considered preferable and desirable. There is no denying it: the property of the former Seminary turns out to be a source of profit whether it becomes a welcome center or is sold or leased to third parties, whereas at the moment it is not yielding any profit at all. As for these thirteen Nuns and the supernatural role of prayer that they carry out in the Church, it does not matter at all to these miserable gray Vatican officials.
The second article, published on March 4 (here) and indicated as by the ANSA agency, reveals disconcerting news about an investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in view of which the Carabinieri are said to be collecting testimonies. If this turns out to be true, it will be difficult for the Diocese and the Picena Federation to demonstrate the legitimacy of unnotified measures, and to claim the enforceability of decrees that, having been challenged by an appeal, are by law to be considered suspended. We may say that this news, expertly disseminated to ANSA, serves more than anything else to intimidate and psychologically wear down the Nuns.
What is instead interesting is that this article too reaffirms Lojudice’s intentions to “transform the convent of Pienza into a structure for refugees,” “with the sisters (if they want) lending a hand, so as to not expose the convent to the risk of suppression and themselves to reduction to the lay state.” A full-blown blackmail: first the conditions are created to exacerbate a situation that had been normal until then; then, following the legitimate reaction of the Nuns, they are reassured that they will not have to leave, only to discover that their fate – which Repubblica casually dismisses as “lending a hand” – renders the proposal inadmissible and thus forces them to reject it, making them appear to be disobedient and “rebels.”
But if a newspaper’s management promised all the journalists in an editorial office not to fire them so long as they would accept working as secretaries or janitors, would they agree to “lend a hand”? And above all: would they silently accept being passed off as insubordinates when they only wished to continue doing the work for which they had been hired? Would they let their reputations be tarnished by unfounded accusations and insinuations that questioned their professionalism or their honesty? If the management asked them to give up being journalists in order not to be fired, would they not consider this proposal to “lend a hand” as a provocation and a blackmail? Perhaps many of those who uncritically report the line of the Diocese and the Federation ought to pose these questions, and understand that behind this squalid affair there are real people, young women who in a materialistic and immoral world have decided to offer their lives to God in prayer, and who see their own future jeopardized without having done anything wrong. And all this takes place in an objectively inverted ecclesial context, where the Communities faithful to Tradition are persecuted, while those responsible for grave doctrinal and moral deviations – too many to count – are tolerated or even encouraged and protected.
To be clear: assistance to the poor and the needy has always been one of the spheres of action of the Church and the religious Orders, as well as a work of mercy. What is morally reprehensible is the desire to want to hypocritically use the welcome of refugees and immigrants – not without an economic windfall, given the contributions that the government gives to welfare institutions – as a means of committing unjustified abuse against thirteen young Sisters. And to want to present them as insensitive and selfish simply because they are not able to accept the distortion of their freely assumed choice to enter the contemplative life.
Those who hope to clear their conscience by shrouding the persecution of the Nuns with humanitarian aims are discovering at their own expense that dishonesty and lies are coming to light, and that behind the promise not to suppress the Monastery is hidden the intention to force contemplative vocations into a life that has nothing contemplative about it; which is then the ultimate goal of Cor Orans and the demolishing fury of the Bergoglian court. Here it is, the “inter-ecclesial conflict” between “traditionalist anti-Bergoglian sectors” and “the ‘Church of the poor’ dear to Pope Francis, as well as to Archbishop Lojudice,” of which Repubblica speaks. A true conflict, in which the spiritual mission of the Catholic Church clashes with a demagogic and hypocritical vision of those who think only of pleasing the world and dismantling the religious Orders judged to be out of fashion and unprofitable. I would be curious to know if the Holy See would transform the Centro Aletti (Fondazione Agape) into a structure for refugees, whose substantial profits for Rupnik’s mosaic “works of art” would hardly be compensated by the lucrative hospitality business. But the real problem is the Nuns’ marmalades.
Beyond the analysis of the documents and the legal considerations that arise from them, it is completely undeniable that those who claimed that this affair was limited to a simple change of leadership of the Monastery rather than intending to eliminate it had a gravely deceptive and lying attitude. And if the fears of our Nuns appear unjustified, in order to understand that they did indeed have a thousand reasons to oppose these criminal maneuvers it is sufficient to see how many other religious communities have been made the object of similar summary trials (see for example here and here), always with specious excuses, always in violation of the law, always involving prestigious properties that someone wants to liquidate in order to raise cash, always directed against communities who do not want to renounce their charism simply because the Bergoglian junta has decided so.
At the end of the second part, I would like to quote the exhortation addressed by José Rodriguez Carballo to cloistered sisters on 21 November 2018, commenting on the Instruction Cor Orans (here). These words, despite the paradox of having been spoken with a completely different intention, are valid for the nuns of Pienza and for all persecuted sisters:
Don’t let yourselves be manipulated! You are the ones who have to manage your life, as adult women! It takes not one grill but three to separate you from those people who want to manipulate you, even if they are bishops, cardinals, friars, or other people. It is you who must make discernment, because there are people who are doing you a lot of harm. Because they are projecting their own ideas onto you.
And if a person like Carballo, involved in financial scandals that bankrupted the Order of Friars Minor, has been appointed as Secretary of the Dicastery for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, we should not be surprised if he continues in his new position with his devastating work on a much vaster scale. We can only pray and hope that “not one grill but three” await him and his accomplices.
Someone, in Rome and in Pienza, is forgetting that the Nuns are mystically married to the Lord. I do not dare to think what the Divine Bridegroom’s punishment will be against those who lay hands on the consecrated Virgins and hold them next to fornicators and heretics.
+ Carlo Maria Viganò, Archbishop
Dominica II in Quadragesima
March 5, 2023