The authority of the Capuchin General Minister








(1536 – 1641)



from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 1204-1206.

Translated by Patrick Colbourne OFM Cap

5. A petition in support of the authority of the General Minister

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

Not long after the Capuchins had obtained juridical separation from the Conventuals it became necessary to define the prerogatives of the General Minister and those of the Provincials and Provincial Chapters and to revoke the limitations that were expressed in the Bull In supremo Sedis that had been issued by Paul V on 29th October 1618. Pope Gregory XV granted the petition by issuing a verbal declaration on 29th October 1621 with the support of Cardinal Francesco di Sourdis.

Most Holy Father,

1109 In the Rule that he received from the Lord,[1] our Seraphic Father St Francis stated that the authority of the Minister General was a universal remedy and the first step on the way to sanctity and the most helpful thing in the entire Order. He wanted it to prevail over all other lesser authority and take care of any evil that came about through human weakness or any of the many things that could happen.

Because of this the General and the Procurator of the Capuchins[2] most humbly ask Your Holiness, through the singular devotion that you have towards our Seraphic Father St Francis, that you would please keep the light of the authority of the General alive in the Order because our Order needs this.[3]

This could be achieved by granting those who make this petition the authority to continue to visit all the Provinces as the founder laid down and as has been done since the beginning of the Order.[4] This would not contradict[5] what was said in the Brief by Paul V: Ipse vero minister generalis seu comisarit, durante visitatione huiusmodi graviora non decidat, aut resolvat absque capitulo provinciali, ac nisi servata forma praescripta per librum Ordinis Modum procedendi nuncupatum [But the minister general himself, or his commissionary, during the visitation, should not decide on more serious matters of this kind, or resolve it without the provincial chapter, and unless the form prescribed by the book called the Mode of Proceeding, is observed]. [6] If this was so the General Minister would have less authority than the Provincials and be subject to the priests in the Province and those at Chapter. This would mean that during his visitations the General could not command or attend to problems or decide anything no matter how urgent it was because this would have to be done by the priests or at Chapters.

Both because of this as well as because of other serious difficulties and consequences, we are submitting another petition to Your Holiness, [7] once more humbly kneeling at Your feet, in which we are asking that You take care of the difficulties being experienced by the Order by allowing the Generals[8] to exercise the authority that our Father St Francis gave them and which they have exercised up to the present like all the other Generals in the Franciscan Order.

I shall always feel obliged to constantly pray to the Lord God for the welfare of Your Holiness, quam Deus etc.

  1. This idea was shared by the Capuchins, the Spiritual and all the reform movements within the Order. It was based on what was said to have taken place at Fontecolombo. Cf. Spec. perf. 1. Leg. per. 113. The passages in the Rule that is cited here are Rb 1, 4 and 8, 2-5.
  2. This was 1621 and the General Minister was Clemente da Noto (+1631) and the General Procurator was Girolamo da Castelferreti (+ 1626).
  3. In small writing it says: “we know from this that it is certain that the good of the Order depends on this” etc. This was later cancelled and corrected.
  4. This was added in small writing and then cancelled up to “since the beginning of the Order.:
  5. Some words have been cancelled: “e la preghiamo che non ostino” etc.
  6. Concerning the book “Modus procedendi: see Lexicon cap. 1157-59.
  7. On the cover of the AGO there are three sheets that are headed “Difficulties occurring around the decree of N. S. around those words”, i.e. that sentence, underlined in the text, which is analysed word for word in its negative consequences to the exercise of the general’s authority. In the small writing, the following has been deleted: ‘which we offer to present”.
  8. The following has been added with a trembling hand: “which are presented on a separate page to Your Excellency; we humbly entreat you again Your Excellency that as protector you may obtain that the Holiness of our Lord is enjoyed by all” ect. At that time the Cardinal Protector was Alesandro Peretti di Montalto and he would have received this.