Friday, December 27, 2013

Sad Christmas for Franciscans of the Immaculate -- Three More Mass Locations Closed Down Just Before Christmas

(Rome) The joy of Christmas 2013 has brought another sad note for the Franciscans of the Immaculate. Shortly before the Solemnity, the Apostolic Commissioner, Father Fidenzio Volpi OFM Cap  has closed up three more branches of the Order. Many Traditional Mass locations in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite were connected to the closings. The  faithful were faced with this fact just before the holidays, that they would be without priests and  Mass locations for Christmas.
Of the convents that were closed, one held two Marian shrines, that of Our Lady della Rovere in San Bartolomeo al Mare on the Italian Riviera and that of Our Lady of Pontelungo in Albenga and at the Church of Saint Leonard of Porto Maurizio in Imperia. The reason used by  the Apostolic Commissioner was that the Franciscans of the Immaculate have a missionary charism, which is why they should also be active in the mission and is displacing the brothers to the Third World countries. The papal commissioner has already directed the closure of other convents and the exile of leading religious representatives (see separate reports After Rebuilding the Desolation Follows - Commissioner Disbands Convents of the Franciscans of the Immaculate on and The Road to Exile - Purge of Franciscans of the Immaculata ).
All three branches and Mass sites were located in the diocese of Albenga-Imperia in Liguria. The diocese is led by Bishop Mario Oliveri, a traditional diocesan bishop, like Bishop Dominique Rey in the nearby French Diocese of Frejus-Toulon on the Cote d'Azur, who promotes the establishment of old and biritual communities and gives them the task of the care of souls.
The closure of the three religious houses by the papal commissioner came after Bishop Oliveri gave permission for the brothers to live in his diocese, also supporting them in continuing to be able to celebrate in the traditional Rite. The Bishop drew particular attention to the pastoral care of the faithful at the three  Mass sites. "Messa in Latino" refers to a "retaliatory action" against the bishop, if he "had dared to defend the Franciscans of the Immaculate."
Bishop Oliveri in 2008 was the world's first diocesan bishop, after the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, of Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate a Pontifical Mass from the throne. Seven Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate took their solemn profession in the Co-Cathedral of Imperia  before the bishop.
"The Commissioner and some brothers collaborating with him, have imposed a climate of intimidation and fear  in the Order," says a Catholic from Albenga in a letter to Libertà e Persona . "In dealing with the Franciscans of the Immaculate itself, there is little sense of 'mercy' and 'justice' and  even less 'brotherly love'. And what can we  ordinary believers do? We pray. But we should also write Pope Francis write personal, because only he can put an end to this destruction of this thriving Order ".
Text: Giuseppe Nardi
Image: Santuario della Rovere NS / Santuario NS di Pontelungo
Trans: Tancred


Anonymous said...

Thanks for reporting these news. I share this exclusive document on the real estate pinching allegations:



Genty said...

This is beginning to look like a personal vendetta by the Commissioner. Could his actions be motivated by jealousy that the FFI has attracted large numbers of young men and women whilst other orders have experienced a catastrophic decline in vocations?

Tancred said...

So you're saying that there's a real-estate angle here, also? Figures. They've been selling off our patrimony for a song for a very long time.

Tancred said...

From your link, I think this really says it all, as the Scriptures say, "the Son of Man hath nowhere to lay his head."

"The good friars wanted not to own the real estate and rather have it being owned by a non-profit association. And in order to do it thoroughly, the non-profit association leadership changed and laymen got the leadership shortly after the purchase of the building. And Apostolic Commissioner was informed."

Damask Rose said...

Seems to me there's a massive attack on Our Lady at the moment. What with the Franciscan Friars of the "Immaculate" being obliterated, two of their churches being Marian Shrines closing, Our Lady della Rovere and Our Lady of Pontelungo. Earlier we had the transvestite priest appearing at a youth gathering on the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, and interestingly now a church dedicated to the Virgin of da Barca has burnt to the ground on the Camino de Santiago. Then add the "lies" and "I have been cheated" comments from the Pope regarding Our Lady... Add to this the use of the TLM...

Anonymous said...

Damask: Excellent synopsis of this worsening reality. For those who think that Bergo, er Francis is unaware of this is to be truly blind. We will add one more remembrance to your list: the night lightning struck the Dome of St. Peter's.

Anonymous said...

This is seeming more demonic all the time.

Unknown said...

Hold on Tancred. The Catholics Come Home guy over at catholic vote . Org told me the whole FFI thing is a non-issue. Who am I to believe?

Geremia said...

"the mystery of iniquity"
I have had much trouble following all the evil attacking the FFI; it seems very irrational to me. Evil is irrational.

Anonymous said...

May God protect the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

Tancred said...

You can see for yourself. They're attempting to close down one of the only orders that is both part of the official Church and showing growth, (one of the others being the Legionaries of Christ.) And they're doing it without just cause with a great deal of vindictiveness.

I'd suggest that Catholic.bloat is part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

"For in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true pastor but a destroyer.' -- Saint Francis prophecy. Anyone still think it's a false prophecy or not for our times? Just look at a video of the demon from you know where dancing on the altar table in Cologne..this can only come from one place.

Anonymous said...

I would say that the FFI situation is being deliberately played down to make it an non-issue.

Only those who love the true Catholic Mass see it as a big issue. The "banal on the spot product" of Bugnini mass-goers don't see it at all ....just like ecclesial movements (for example Neocatechumenal Way) who have invented a reality that is just not Catholic but cannot extricate themselves from it - because they think it's the real thing - a sort of mental paraòysis which comes from reading too much 'new theology' and the likes of Kiko Arguello and not enough of Thomas Aquinas and the great Saint Doctors of the Church.

The present modernist (thus non-Catholic) hierarchy are going to ignore our pleas from the the blogsphere. They don't care. I never wanted to admit this. Butt they don't care. They being the present church -leaders.

The lightly tinged rose-tinted spectacles that my Catholic hope donned - have fallen off for good. For the most part I would say they have lost the faith in Rome.


Nicolas Bellord said...

I have tried to keep a balanced view on all of this as the saga unfolds but it is not easy! You may be interested in the comment I have made on Father Ray Blake's blog but although made a couple of days ago it is a comment on a rather old item so may not be seen by many. Anyway here it is in two parts:

The FFI saga continues to develop and I owe what follows to the Rorate Coeli blog. Evidently Father Volpi is saying one thing and Rorate Coeli are saying something different. One might say that it is impossible to know which version is correct and therefore reserve judgement. However Rorate Coeli refers us to statements on two sites - one which purports to be the official website of the friars and the other of the sisters.

Now Father Volpi in his letter of 8th December blames the Sisters for "distortions" which have influenced the Friars saying:

"All this reveals serious errors in the ecclesiological sphere with regard to basic principles of religious
life. It reveals a great spiritual poverty and a psychological dependence that is incompatible with that
"freedom of the children of God" (cf. Rom 8:21) that is presupposed in whoever sets himself to live
total self-donation to the Lord through religious consecration.
Obedience, as the Second Vatican Council has shown, is not slavish automatism, but the responsible
assumption of the will of God expressed by legitimate authority (d. PC14). This authority is not to
be identified with this or that person, even if he should be the Founder, but with Christ Himself, who
speaks through the hierarchical Church, of which one's legitimate Superior is the immediate
expression insofar, and only insofar, as he is faithful to the Church itself
At the present moment, as you all know, the Superior of the Institute, according to the will of the
Church, is the Apostolic Commissioner, that is, my humble self.
The formation of this "distorted" mentality has been contributed to in a notable way by some
prominent members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate. They have strongly influenced the
style of life of the male branch."

He restricts his accusation to "some prominent members" of the Sisters. But what is astonishing is a flat denial of this on the official website of the Sisters in a note of clarification dated 13th December 2013:


"It is with deep sadness and consternation we learn that in the circular letter of the 8th December, addressed to all the Friars of the Immaculate, the most Reverend Father Volpi, accuses some of the most prominent exponents of the Sisters of the Immaculate, “of having contributed to the creation of a ‘distorted mentality’ in the Friars, strongly influencing their lifestyle.”

We retain that such accusations are totally unfounded, and because of the generalizations, they offend our entire Institute, and consequently, we refute them completely, at the same time recalling the words of our Pope Francis “Whoever speaks badly about his brother, kills him." (2.9.2013) while “mercy changes the world.” (17.3.2013).

On our part, we endeavor to follow the invitation from the Vicar of Christ “to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord; to edify the Church with the blood of the Lord, shed upon the Cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And like this the Church goes forth.” (14.3.2013).

Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate"

This can be found at:

So here we have not some outside group or some minority of the Sisters but the official website of the Sisters directly refusing to accept Father Volpi's accusation. The whole saga would therefore appear to be much more serious than previously thought.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Second part of my comment on Father Ray Blake's blog:

Then there is the accusation by Father Volpi that the founder had insisted that the EF be used exclusively throughout the order. The official website of the Friars contradicted this as far back as August:

"It is our duty to respond, with knowledge and in conscience, that in reality, Fr. Stefano not only has never imposed on all the F.I. communities the use—much less the exclusive use—of the Vetus Ordo, but he does not even want it to become the exclusive use, and he has personally given the example, celebrating everywhere according to the one and the other Ordo."


So here again we have an official website of the Friars directly contradicting the assertion made by Father Volpi.

There may be documentary or other evidence lending weight to one or other version of the truth but so far this has not been disclosed if it exists. But this is a very serious dispute as to the facts and it suggests that somebody is not telling the truth.

Rorate Coeli have a further explanation regarding the allegations of embezzlement. They say the FFI wanted to follow their vow of poverty and not own anything at all. In respect of real property they did this by allowing independent lay associations to hold the title to any property they occupied. Thus such property would be controlled by the lay association who would allow the Friars to occupy the property. The Friars would have no control over the property. The recent change in the statutes of the Association was designed to make this policy clear. They further say this was not alienation of ecclesial property contrary to Canon Law as the property was acquired by the lay association and never belonged to the Friars so not ecclesial property. To me, a retired lawyer, dealing with religious this does seem a perfectly plausible explanation. Father Volpi is going to have to produce evidence to refute this explanation.

In summary the dispute seems much more serious than I previously thought. Father Volpi's letter of 8th December is worth re-reading as it strikes me as intemperate. At one point he says:
"I wondered why there is this oftentimes ardent interest in our affairs, and I concluded that the
Institute has become the battleground of a struggle between different currents in the Curia, with the
specific involvement of persons in opposition to the new pontificate of Pope Francis."

That is an astonishing statement pointing at the Curia which can only give support to the idea that this is really a battle between the orthodox and liberal wings in the Church. No evidence is given in support of this but I find it extraordinary that someone acting in a quasi-judicial capacity should be flailing around with that kind of accusation.

Anonymous said...

Every Order follows the charism of its founders and loves them--or a person does not belong in the Order! 800 years later, Franciscans love St. Francis for example. Those who have come to hate the founders of this Order and its charism should have left it but, no, they stirred up negative attitudes and went to sympathetic ears in the curia. This 'take it directly to Christ' is how protestants view things and leaves everyone to be their own authority. The lies, accusations, and incredibly unjust and harsh treatment coupled with threats and intimidations are something we have not seen in living memory and all with NO crime, NO heresy. A bishop marrying a moonie gets better treatment!

But now it is taking a new shape--against the Mother of God. This is her Order and the Days with Mary were for her, most of the books are on her, the symposiums and conferences are on her....and these are what are being suppressed. God help a Marian shrine with a TLM!

Anonymous said...

I have been associated with the lay branch of the Franciscans of the Immaculate for over 10 years. I can tell you that this persecution is only too real. Lay people in the US are being warned not to say anything negative about Fr. Volpi as it is interpreted as disobedience to the pope. Contacts in Italy have said that the young men in formation have been relentlessly interrogated and pressured to say things that are not true. There was a letter published yesterday on an Italian website: (
It is written by a friar in Italy and you need to read it in Italian or google translate at this point but it gives a good picture of what they are going through. This is the road to martyrdom, brothers and sisters. Do not doubt it. But pray as much as you can for the holy friars and sisters who are carrying this cross with Our Lord.

Anonymous said...

Tell us more about the demon on the altar!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Barbara:

Are you the Barbara that used to post on Rorate? If so, I am surprised, but not really, at your post.

Speaking for myself, I am at a loss as to which way to turn.


Enoch said...

To Anonymous on Dec.28,

Thanks for providing the web address for the letter written by a friar in Italy which describes in greater detail the terrible reality of the situation for the FFI. The google translate worked well for the article, and it is fairly easy to read. I would encourage everyone who is concerned about the FFI to read it. Such a sad situation.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I do believe it is essential to keep this matter as simple as possible. I would suggest that Father Volpi needs to answer three simple questions:

1. He has accused the family of the founder of embezzlement - a civil tort and a crime. What solid evidence does he have of this that would be sufficient to support such an accusation in court?

2. What evidence does he have that the founder required the whole of the FFI to use the Extraordinary Form exclusively?

3. What are the "distortions" he says the Sisters fed to the male branch of the order?

He needs to answer these questions as a matter of simple Justice.

Lynda said...

Yes, his behaviour is extremely improper even just from a procedural standpoint, and highly prejudicial. If he were a judge or tribunal in civil arena, he'd have been removed - and disciplined. Yet, he seems to be able to carry on this flagrantly arbitrary, unjust and malicious extreme penalisation and defamatory campaign with impunity. It is tyrannical and extremely vicious.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes it's me Delphina. How nice to find you here! Well if a Catholic wants to live authentically they have to face the truth of what's happening in the institutional Church.

It is a tragedy and most distressing that the faithful cannot count on the present hierarchy to lead us in true Catholic ways, but as I said it would appear that most have lost the Faith of our Fathers. I haven't though as through the grace and providence of God I can attend the TLM regularly. Our priest and the faithful there all think as we do here. They are appalled at such relentless discrimination and persecution of the FFI. So we are not alone.
Our Lord will surely intervene soon as the prsent Vatican leaders so obviously do not love Him or His Church. I don't even know what they are doing there. I certainly won't follow them - they are no Catholic - not even cleraly protestant - but are creating something else that is most certainly cut off from any Divine authority.
I am with the Church ,Catholic Tradition transmitted for 2000 years and Peter. The present Pope and hierarchy I am unable to relate to. I have pleaded with Our Lord to straighten out my thinking if it is bad and non-Catholic and just my personal ideas - in the sense that I actually find the lot of "them" quite unbearable and at times nauseating. However I can quite easily pray for them all especially Pope Francis who I hope will receive a divine intervention and start being and talking like a real pope and not some worldy VIP filmstar type flattering the world.

Our Lady will win!
Let's pray for each other!


Anonymous said...

Help! Sorry about all the typing errors!


Anonymous said...

gollum we are, enjoying trial by blog & convicting the investigator, rather than letting it take its course, God forbid we let the findings get in the way, just as bad as those on the far left attacking the investigator of the women religious.

Tancred said...

Says you.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Anonymous of Dec 30: I do not think anyone is enjoying this and certainly we must not rush to judgement. As to letting the matter take its course many people are very concerned as to what that course would be and would like to see matters calm down and be taken somewhat more gently. As to "findings": so far we have seen several allegations by Father Volpi but nothing much to support any findings. As I have suggested above he needs to answer some questions as to what evidence he has to support his allegations.

Anonymous said...

What we do know is that the founders have been deposed, many superiors demoted, faithful friars sent to faraway places in punishment, the seminary is closed, ordinations are suppressed, Third Order is suppressed, lay apostolates are suppressed (these honor Our Lady), book sales suppressed, intimidation and threats as well as unfounded accusations are public. And all this with NO proven heresy, crime, or schism. That is what we know.

Deacon Augustine said...

I didn't notice the "investigator of the women religious" closing any convents, transferring personnel to other continents, closing down publishing houses, suspending the taking of vows and formation, depriving sisters of their spiritual life, suppressing third orders, restricting the movement of sisters, preventing communication between sisters, leveling numerous serious allegations about their good faith and standing in the Church, and equating any questioning of his role and actions to disloyalty to the Vicar of Christ and constitutive of schism!

If this wolf among the sheep is an indication of the future direction of this Papacy, then the Pope is revealed as nothing but a worthless hireling - he is no shepherd.

Tancred said...

The LCWR had the world media pulling for it. None of the major networks have been roused to do a story on this. Where the LCWR nuns are clearly engaged in malfeasance and flagrant misrepresentation, the visitation has gone from criticism to adulation with the new guy in charge.

Anonymous said...

Is an order to say Mass in the Vernacular only (Novus Ordo) a form of persecution ? - Give me a break. That is not martyrdom. This whole episode is confusing and superficial. Persecution is when the Holy Mass is forbidden by force. We should be Thankful for the Eucharist in whatever language It is prayed .

Tancred said...

You're obviously not paying attention or are unconcerned with the facts.

Tancred said...

The suppression of the FFI goes way beyond the Liturgy, involves lies and the suppression of their work, their writings, devotional focus, not to mention the disruption in the spiritual lives of the laity who depend on the Friars for their spiritual life.

Nicolas Bellord said...

Anonymous: There are several people here using the Anonymous label which makes discussion very difficult. Why not use your own name or if you must a distinct pseudonym?

However I would reply to your question with a another question: Is an order to say Mass in the Extraordinary Form only, justification for all the sanctions which Father Vulpi has imposed on the FFI?

Even if you think so, you are left with the problem of whether the Founder of the FFI ever did make such a requirement to use the EF exclusively. Father Vulpi said he did; the FFI on their official website said he did not. Is there any documentary evidence to show that he did? If he did then surely there must be some contemporary written evidence of such a requirement or did he do it all by word of mouth? Just what is Father Vulpi's evidence for this?

I fail to see how you can suggest that the draconian sanctions can be regarded as superficial. Have you read Father Vulpi's letter of 8th December?

Anonymous said...

As someone close to the Order for many years...the anonymous moniker is to avoid persecution against the person writing if they are a member of the Order. Understand? The founders NEVER imposed the Vetus Ordo on all the friaries. At least one friary in the US never did accept it at all, for example. It is true that the EF was to be the 'Mass of predilection' but not imposed on all in the Order or to every friary.

There is still no reason for the suppressing of this faithful Order at least on the human level. But the persecution we know makes for the earning of many graces and is opportunity to grow in holiness. A good site is found at

A short video on the embracing of the EF is at

Anonymous said...

Barbara, I know exactly what you are going through. I, too, have prayed to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother to straighten out my thinking if it is wrong. For years I have prayed for this. Countless novenas have been prayed as well. I have been left with the thought that what I do during this crisis is up to me as I have gotten no clear direction. But. Relying on myself to make that decision is a scary prospect.

I will pray for you, Barbara, and it goes without saying that I need your prayers for me.

God bless you!


Nicolas Bellord said...

There was an article by Michael J Miller in the Catholic World Report of 16th December 2013. He was defending Father Volpi. In it he said:

“It is clear enough from the earlier documentation posted at that:

- Father Stefano M. Manelli imposed Mass in Latin as the only form of celebration permitted in the seminary and novitiates; again, this substantially modified the character of FFI formation and de factor changed the constitutions of the Institute without prior approval.”

The impression has been given that this alleged imposition was what led to Father Volpi's appointment as Commissioner. I had therefore asked what evidence Father Volpi had to make the assertion that Father Manelli had made this “imposition”. However I cannot find any evidence that Father Volpi made that assertion – if anyone knows anything to the contrary please correct me. It seems that this may have been an invention or misunderstanding by Miller and others in the Press. The friars on their website clarified the situation:

“With a letter, Prot. 77/2011, dated 21 Nov 2011, our General Secretary, in the name of our General Council, sent all the F.F.I. Marian Houses (Friaries), some indicative (not preceptive!) norms regarding the use of the Vetus Ordo and the harmony between the Vetus Ordo and the Novus Ordo in our Communities and our Institute.
After this letter, various communities peacefully continued to give pride of place to the Vetus or the Novus Ordo. So there was no imposition on the part of Fr. Manelli.
Some Friars, however, contested the aforesaid letter. Therefore, we consulted the Pontificial Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which with a  R e s c r i p t   of 14 Apr 2012, Prot. 39/2011L, found conformity between this letter (Prot. 77/2011) and the "mens" of Holy Father Benedict XVI, expressed in the already-mentioned Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, n° 8a.”

So it seems that Father Manelli merely exhorted the friars to use the EF at conventual masses but did NOT order it. His exhortation was then checked out by “Ecclesia Dei” who said it was okay. So what then seems to have happened is that “some Friars” not satisfied with the decision of “Ecclesia Dei” made another protest, this time successfully, to the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and got the Commissioner, Father Volpi, appointed.

So it rather looks as though this appointment was made in response to protests over a mere exhortation and not an imposition. This only makes the sanctions imposed by Father Volpi even more strange and over the top. Secondly does this suggest a conflict between Ecclesia Dei and the Institutes over the validity of the exhortation? Perhaps this explains Father Volpi's strange comment “"I wondered why there is this oftentimes ardent interest in our affairs, and I concluded that the Institute has become the battleground of a struggle between different currents in the Curia, with the specific involvement of persons in opposition to the new pontificate of Pope Francis."

Anyway this disposes of the question of the “imposition” by Father Manelli but we are left with the questions as to the alleged embezzlement and the “distortions” by the Sisters. Or is this a much wider conflict within the Curia and the FFI are just a victim of that?

Anonymous said...

And so the dismantling of true Catholicism begins and won't end here. This is only the beginning and no doubt we will see more sad things happening in our Church especially with the Holy Mass and all things traditional in the coming year. The faithful will suffer alot. We can only pray and persevere in our faith remembering that Jesus and Mary and all the Saints are with the faithful always.

Anonymous said...

This article at Rorate explains some of this:

also the Sisters were forced to issue a statement defending themselves:

The Manelli family hired an attorney to contest the false accusations and defamation against them as well.

To accuse Franciscans who live radical poverty is really something else indeed. Still no heresy, schism, or disobedience to be found!

Nicolas Bellord said...

In my previous comment I asked:

"Or is this a much wider conflict within the Curia and the FFI are just a victim of that?"

Well Father Volpi has answered in the affirmative – see the previous paragraph. It seems that Cardinal Braz de Aviz at the Institutes of Consecrated Life... has had disagreements with the CDF over the American Nuns. Does that suggest he is a liberal? His secretary is another Franciscan - Carballo. But here we are getting into speculations about individuals which at present should be avoided. However generally we may ask whether there is a liberal camp, in the Curia, who see Pope Francis's papacy as an opportunity to attack the orthodox? It is common in such disputes to blacken the character of the opposition by describing them as being "in opposition to the new pontificate of Pope Francis" just because they are defending orthodoxy. It is similar to claiming that anyone who does not accept some liberal idea must be a Lefebrvist or anyone who venerates Our Lady of Fatima belongs to an extreme group which attacks successive Popes on the grounds that they have not consecrated Russia to her Immaculate Heart. If Father Volpi is right about the Curia it does seem that both Pope Francis and the FFI are being used in some liberal attack on orthodoxy. We will have to wait and see! Perhaps Pope Francis will eventually see what is happening and put a stop to it.

Anonymous said...

Where are the severe disciplinary measures on that gay mafia? hmmm?

Anonymous said...

Hey. I just found out that "Volpe" means fox in Italian. (I know it doesn't say much. But...). Hmmm... Christ called someone a fox in the Gospels. Have we forgotten the reason? These are sad times for the Roman Catholic Church. But it is only the beginning. For the enemies of our Faith, the FI case is for study purposes. If, for them, all works out "well", then they will go over to plan "B" - the persecution of the whole Church. Christ said: "You know how to read weather signs, how come you do not know how to read the signs of the (end) times?"

Anonymous said...

Hey. I just found out that "Volpe" means fox in Italian. (I know it doesn't say much. But...). Hmmm... Christ called someone a fox in the Gospels. Have we forgotten the reason? These are sad times for the Roman Catholic Church. But it is only the beginning. For the enemies of our Faith, the FI case is for study purposes. If, for them, all works out "well", then they will go over to plan "B" - the persecution of the whole Church. Christ said: "You know how to read weather signs, how come you do not know how to read the signs of the (end) times?"

Nicolas Bellord said...

Regarding the dispute over property and the accusation of embezzlement I found in the latest edition of the Chesterton Review an extract from Chapter X of Chesterton's "St Francis of Assisi" published in 1923:
It reads as follows:

"... the general nature of the controversy that raged after the great saint's death, and to some extent troubled the last days of his life. The dominant detail was the interpretation of the vow of poverty, or the refusal of all possessions. Nobody, that is proposed to interfere with the negation of private property. But some Franciscans, invoking teh authority of Francis on their side, went further than this and further I think that anybody else has ever gone. They proposed to abolish not only private property but property. That is, they refused to be corporately responsible for anything at all; for any buildings or stores or tools; they refused to own to own them collectively even when they used them collectively. It is perfectly true that many, especially among the first supporters of this view, were men of a splendid and selfless spirit, wholly devotged to the great saint's ideal. It is also perfectly true that the Pope and the authorities did not think this conception was a workable arrangement, and went so far as modifying it as to set aside certain clauses in the great saint's will. But it is not at all easy to see that it was a workable arrangement or even an arrangement at all; for it was really a refusal to arrange anything. Everybody knew of course that Franciscans were communists; but this was not so much being a communist as being an anarchist. Surely upon any argument somebody or something must be answerable for what happened to or in or concerning a number of historic edifices and ordinary goods and chattels. Many idealists of a socialist sort, notably of the school of Mr Shaw or Mr Wells, have treated this dispute as if it were namely a case of the tyranny of wealthy and wicked pontiffs crushing the true Christianity of Christian Socialists. But in truth this extreme ideal was in a sense the very reverse of Socialist, or even social. Precisely the thing which these enthusiasts refused was that social ownership on which Socialism is built; what they primarily refused to do was what Socialists primarily exist to do; to own legally in their corporate capacity. Nor is it true that the tone of the Pope towards the enthusiasts was merely harsh and hostile. The Pope maintained for a long time a compromise which he had specially designed to meet their own conscientious objections; a compromise by which the Papacy itself held the property in a kind of trust for the owners who refused to touch it. The truth is that this incident shows two things which are common enough in Catholic history, but very little understood by the journalistic history of industrial civilisation. It shows that the Saints are sometimes great men where the Popes were small men. But it also shows that great men are sometimes wrong when small men are right. And it will be found, after all, very difficult for any candid and clear-headed outsider to deny that the Pope was right, when he insisted that the world was not made only for Franciscans."

The present situation is somewhat different in that it is separate lay organisations that hold their property but it is interesting that the dispute is not new!