G.C. Article 55 and I didn’t sign up for this!

From the OFS Constitution

Article 55

If a brother or sister, for any reasonable cause, desires transfer to another fraternity, he or she first informs the council of the fraternity to which he or she belongs and then makes the request, including the reasons for the transfer, to the minister of the fraternity to which he or she wishes to belong. The council makes its decision after having received the necessary information in writing from the fraternity of origin.

I experienced a sad yet interesting coincidence this past week at our OFS Fraternity Council meeting. We have a member officially requesting to transfer to another Fraternity. The reason “officially” given for the request to leave our OFS Fraternity?

“I cannot accept the ‘Alternate Theology’ that this fraternity embraces.”

I can guarantee you that this person did not see my last blog post. The individual is struggling and the only solution is to leave. There is no openness to dialogue.  Franciscan Theology and Spirituality was not a part of the bargain upon entrance to the Fraternity. All this is coming about after the past year and a half of ongoing formation where the F.U.N. (For Up to Now) Manual was used and our Theology and Spirituality studied.

A period of time was so tense that at the end of our studies from the F.U.N. Manual on Theology and Spirituality, our friar Spiritual Assistant recommended to the fratenrity that we only have ongoing formation once or twice a year rather than it be a part of every gathering.

My first thoughts?  The teaching of our Theology and Spirituality taken directly from the F.U.N Manual that was created for inquirers and candidates, those people who are thinking of entering the Order, is perceived as an act of violence and betrayal to our Catholic faith and the magisterim of the Church to some of our professed members.

Where will this individual go to find a Fraternity to walk with in the future?

In our Region, there are plenty of Fraternities whose foundation is not set on the bedrock of our theology and spirituality. In the past, the only focus was on a quite literal interpretation of our Rule and Constitutions and within the Rule and Constitutions no where is our theology and spirituality giving anything more than a passing mention. In fact our Rule and Constitutions are quite generic when read (if they are read) without a good understanding of the Charism, Rule, and Constitutions. With just a couple word changes, our Rule and Constitutions could quite easily fit any public association of the faithful or any third order.

What is the “personality” of a  fraternity that is not grounded in our theology and spirituality? What takes its place? The power of the dominant personality which might be a friar or secular Spiritual Assistant; or it might be the elected Minister; or it might even be a Regional or National Minister. There are a few other possibilities; yet, in almost every case  the strongest personalities in the fraternity at any level and their personal view of Catholisim and  Franciscanism will often dictate and dominate what it means to be Franciscan. Usually it is anything but that.

From the OFS Rule


Article 20.

The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into
fraternities of various levels — local, regional, national,
and international. Each one has its own moral
personality in the Church. These various fraternities
are coordinated and united according to the norm of
this rule and of the constitutions.


From the OFS Constitution’s

Article 33

1. In the guidance and co-ordination of the fraternities and of the Order, the personality and capacity of the individual brothers and sisters and of the individual fraternities should be promoted. The plurality of expressions of the Franciscan ideal and cultural variety must be respected.

Implied in these two quotes is an understanding that both the “moral personality” and the “plurality of expressions” of a fraternity at any level are built upon Franciscan thought, theology, and spirituality. It is not the thought, theology, or spirituality of the supposed authority figure whether that person be a Priest, Deacon, Spiritual Assistant, Minister, or Formation Director at any level of Fratenity.

As brothers and sisters of penance, we are going to have to come to terms with this. Creating the F.U.N. Manual  was a beginning. Its creation was a good start. Yet, its usage is optional. It was created for inquiry and candidacy without any mandate that it be studied and understood by the Professed.  There has been little if any follow up.  As stated in my last blog post,” People will ‘pick and choose’  and ‘from these pickings and choosings’  will construct his or her own deviant opinion” that will make them comfortable, and will vilify  anyone or anything that  makes them uncomfortable or sets outside of their belief system. If we as an Order don’t come to terms with this, all the good intention in the world will not help.  The movement will pass on into history.



Author: Mike Carsten OFS

Member of the Secular Franciscan Order; National Fraternity (NAFRA) Ecumenical and Interfaith Chair Minister, Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity; President, Franciscan Ministries Inc., Serving the poor in Southeast Michigan;

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