In defence of the Capuchins as true sons of Saint Francis








(1536 – 1641)



from I Frati Cappuccini, a work of Costanzo Cargnoni, Edizioni Frate Indovino, Perugia, 1991, volume I, pages 1208-1227.

Prepared by Gary Devery OFM Cap

7. In defence of the Capuchins as true sons of Saint Francis

Introduction by Costanzo Cargnoni OFM Cap

A tireless researcher of local historical memory, Fr. Celestino Colleoni da Bergamo († 1635) left behind an impressive work that is still consulted today by those who want to know the history of Bergamo. The three-volume work is entitled: Historia quadripartita di Bergamo et suo territorio, nato gentile, e rinato christiano (Bergamo 1617 and Brescia 1618). In the third volume of the second part of the work, in ‘book XXXV’, he briefly gives an account of the time when the Capuchins came to Bergamo and built their friaries, prefacing it with a ‘short preamble’ in which he discusses the habit of the Capuchin Order.

Requested by many and for the benefit of the Order, he republished this chapter in Brescia in 1622 in a pocket-sized booklet dedicated to Count Giovanni Girolamo Albano.

We removed from this booklet some significant pages of Capuchin “apologetics” in response to some considerations of Francesco Gonzaga and other Observant Franciscans who in a certain way devalued the Capuchin reform by presenting it as an autogenous branch, detached, and without any dependence on St Francis.

The Capuchins are legitimate sons and true successors of the seraphic patriarch of the Friars minor of Saint Francis

1111 It will be easy for me to prove this proposition, that the Capuchins are legitimate sons and true successors of Saint Francis, because the reasons of those who deny it are not of that weight and value, which they show at first sight, as we shall see.

In a book printed in Rome in 1587, entitled: De origine seraphicae Religionis franciscanae eiusque progressibus, de regularis observantiae institutione,[1] etc., Father Francesco Gonzaga, who was elected General of the Zoccolanti Fathers around the year 1579 and who was about 33 years of age, openly says that the Capuchin Friars, although very religious, in no way have any dependence on the Seraphic Father, nor can they be said to be his children, etc.

1112 But before reporting his words and reasons and answering them, I warn you here that not only in this place, but in any other, where he speaks of them, he is well worthy of excuse, because, when he wrote, he had but little knowledge of them for various reasons which for the sake of brevity will be omitted. When he was later made bishop of Mantua (where, full of days at the age of 74, and rich in merits for the many good works he had done, as a good prelate he rendered his spirit to his Creator in the year 1620, leaving everyone with a great longing for him), finding himself fully instructed in them, he showed by his deeds that he had changed his mind. For he considered them to be true and legitimate sons of his seraphic father, and as such he always loved them, he granted them favours and large gifts, especially in the construction of their new friary; and in sum he made himself known to them as being most loving and devout, so that perhaps these demonstrations of his made at a mature and tested age might suffice to annul what he had written in his younger years, if it were not for the fact that these are known to few, and that book passes into the hands of men. So that it will not be improper, to the universal satisfaction of the readers, to refer to his words and reasons, and to reply to them without detriment to [his] esteem and reputation, in the manner in which sometimes some opinions of saints Thomas, Bonaventure and others are refuted without detriment to their authority.

These are his words: From what has been said it is evident that, although the Conventual fathers are much older than the Observants and the latter derive from the former, only the Observants, however, can be said to be the legitimate successors of the most blessed Father Francis. And this absolutely cannot be said of the Capuchin fathers who, even if they are religious fathers and all committed to observing the Franciscan Rule to the letter, in no way can they be said to be the true successors of the patriarch of the poor Francis. They are in fact detached and separated from the head of the whole Order, that is, from the general minister, vicar of the sovereign father. Instead, the right to succession really belongs (without any shadow of ambition, however) to the Observants as to legitimate sons.[2]

So that, according to these, the only lawful successors and sons of St. Francis are the so-called Observant Franciscan fathers, and not the Conventual fathers, who preceded them, nor the Capuchin friars, who came after them. With all this the contrary was stated in the sacred Council of Trent.[3]

1113 But let us hear, pray, the reasons for which he wants the Zoccolite fathers to have this prerogative, to the exclusion of all others, for it follows immediately:

1. It is because they do not want to accept annual income and property, two elements that clash with the Franciscan Rule.[4] The Capuchins also do this; and perhaps more strictly than that, as you will see.

2. It is because from the Supreme Pontiff Leo X they received the titles of the true succession and the seals of the Order that were previously held by the Conventual fathers.[5] This reason is in no way prejudicial to Capuchin friars who were not yet born in those days; and if they had been born then, perhaps the Supreme Pontiff would not have given these seals and titles to the Observants, but to them. Nor does it prejudice the Conventual fathers, because in the bulls, his Holiness makes no mention of sonship, nor does he exclude anyone from it.

3. It is because they tenaciously observe the promised Rule according to papal declarations, but excluding all privileges.[6] Among these declarations, some are found to relax the rigour of the Rule, and therefore rejected by Capuchins, as I will show below.

4. It is because in their titles and functions they do not admit anything other than the precepts of the Rule (if one is to abide by the declarations of the supreme pontiffs, for it would be an execrable evil not to pay attention to them); on the contrary they possess and faithfully preserve the tesseram [lit. ‘membership card’; reference to the Rule] accredited by the founder of the Order, Blessed Father Francis.[7] There is no doubt that it is evil not to obey the precepts of the supreme pontiffs, but when, in order to condone human frailty and weakness, they concede something, just as it is not evil to avail oneself of such a concession, so it is a good and meritorious act to abstain from it for the love of God. And if they are in all things subject and obedient to the holy Church, as the Rule commands (which is how I interpret this tesseram), so are the Conventual fathers and Capuchins; and therefore there is nothing inferior in them.

1114 5. It is because it is only for them that the promise of Christ the Lord to the blessed Father Francis would come true, namely, that his Order would extend from east to west and from north to south. For if one were to raise the question for the Conventual fathers, they live only in Italy, in parts of Narbonne France and in small parts of Upper and Lower Germany. For the Capuchins, they do not go beyond the borders of Italy and the Spanish principality of Catalonia. If we turn instead to the Observants, in which part of the Catholic world are they not present?[8] It is not true that this promise is only fulfilled by the cloistered fathers, since Pisano in the Conformities attests that it has already been fulfilled by the Conventual fathers, which is where he writes about them at present: The saying was fulfilled: You will extend yourself etc. (cf. Gen 28:14). That this has happened is attested by the friaries of the brothers scattered in all parts of the world, and there are more than 1600 of them, apart from those that are being rebuilt every day. And elsewhere: To blessed Francis it was revealed by the Lord that his Order would spread throughout the whole world, etc., and so it has been, that there is hardly a corner of the earth where there is not a friary of brothers. And further along: That this has been achieved is shown by the houses of the Order built in every part of the world.[9]

As for the Capuchins then, the good father has not calculated well. Does he want to say that the Capuchins have been scattered over the world in seventy years, as much as his in two hundred and nineteen? That so many had passed since the beginning of their reform and of the Capuchins, when he printed his book, as can be seen in it.[10] Wait until the Capuchins are so much in the world, that perhaps they will occupy more places. If this promise is now seen to have been fulfilled in his own, as before them it was seen to have been fulfilled in the Conventual fathers, so it is to be hoped that it will be fulfilled in time in the Capuchins; of which we are assured by the increase made so far that they have twice as much as he writes.[11]

From what has been said, it clearly appears that the reasons for which the aforementioned father attributes the legitimate succession to them alone [Observants], to the exclusion of all others, conclude nothing to the detriment of the others.

1115 It remains for us to show that it is of no moment to deny that the Capuchins have any dependence on or are sons of the Seraphic Father, because (it says) they are not in any way subject to the Minister General of the Zoccolante Fathers.[12] I answer that just as, among those subject to the said Minister General, there are some who are not sons of Saint Francis; of which we are assured by many examples recorded in the Conformities, in the chronicles and elsewhere; some of which have been referred to above; so precisely some can, with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff and for some other reasonable cause, be separated from him and enjoy the privilege and honour of such sonship, and we will deal with this in a moment. Now we say that the true mark and the certain sign and the infallible proof of true and legitimate children is not absolutely, nor principally the aforesaid reason adopted by him, but another that is to be placed as a firm foundation of such descent and sonship, nobler and more eminent; and this is without doubt that we shall conclude from the following authorities.

1116 Saint Cyprian discussing those words of the Apostle writes: Abraham believed in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.[13] If this is true [which he says], it necessarily follows that whoever believes God and lives by faith, he is found righteous; and from then on, he shows himself blessed and justified in the faith Abraham, and concludes: if Abraham believed in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness; surely, whoever believes in God and lives by faith is found righteous and long ago was blessed and justified in Abraham the faithful, as the blessed apostle Paul proves, saying: Abraham believed in God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Therefore, you know that those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham.[14] That for this also the apostle, the father of all believers, named him. And for this reason, our Lord also, as St. John writes, once said to the Jews who boasted that they were Abraham’s children: “If you are Abraham’s children, be conformed to him in your deeds. Si fili Abrahae estis, opera Abrabae facite”.[15] And elsewhere, wishing to persuade them that he was the son of God, he said to them: “The works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me. And a little further on: ‘If I do not do the works of my Father, believe me not; but if I do them, and if ye will not believe me, believe the works. Opera, quae ego facio in nomine Patris mei, baec testimonium perbibent de me. Si non facio opera Patris mei, nolite credere mibi. Si autem facio, et si mibi non vultis credere, operibus credite”.[16] Elsewhere, speaking with his disciples, he said: “The words that I say to you, I do not speak them of myself, but the Father, who is in me, himself does the works. Do ye not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? Surely the works themselves must move you to believe this. Verba quae ego loquor vobis, a me ipso non loquor. Pater autem in me manens ipse facit opera. Non creditis quia ego in Patre et Pater in me est? Alioquin propter opera ipsa credite”.[17] Another time, while he was preaching to the crowds, one said to him that his mother and brothers had come here to speak to him, and he gave them the following answer: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers? And extending his hand to his disciples: – Behold, he added, my mother and my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, this is my brother and sister and mother. Adhuc eo loquente ad turbas, scrive san Matteo, ecce mater eius et fratres stabant foris, quaerentes loqui ei. Dixit autem ei quidam: Ecce mater tua et fratres tui foris stant quaerentes te. At ipse respondens dicenti sibi ait: Quae est mater mea, et qui sunt fratres mei? Et extendens manum in discipulos suos, dixit: Ecce mater mea et fratres mei. Quicumque enim fecerit voluntatem Patris mei, qui in coelis est, ipse meus frater et soror et mater est”.[18]

1117 From the aforesaid authorities and other indications, which for the sake of brevity will be omitted, it is clearly concluded that whoever most completely fulfils the will of the Father, he must be called the truest and most lawful son.[19]

So, to our purpose: Whoever more completely fulfils the will of St. Francis, he will be his truest and most lawful son, whether he be a Zoccolante or Capuchin or Conventual; and either subject to the Minister General of the Zoccolante friars, or by reasonable cause removed from [his] obedience. In this regard, what we read that Christ said of the true monk of Saint Benedict:[20] “He is a monk of Benedict who obeys the rule rather than the flesh”. And a little later: “He who is solicitous in what way he has to render account for the rule of Benedict. Ile est monachus Benedicti qui plus obcedit Regulae, quam carni etc. et sollicitus est quomodo reddat rationem de Regula Benedicti“. But what is this will of St Francis that is to be done? There is no doubt whatsoever that it was always the will of the Seraphic Father that the Rule be observed simply, according to the letter and without comment, in the manner in which he and those early Seraphic Fathers of ours observed it; and as Saint Bonaventure and Pisano write, and it is inferred in the Chronicles,[21] that our Lord said to the holy father in these words “Francis, just as in this Rule there is nothing that is yours, but everything is mine; so I want it to be observed ad litteram, ad litteram, sine glossa, sine glossa [to the letter, to the letter, without gloss, without gloss]”.

Now who are those who observe it in this manner? From what the aforesaid author writes, dealing with the difference between the Conventual fathers, the Zoccolanti and the Capuchins, regarding this observance of the Rule, one can see this openly. He therefore says: However, there is a distinction between these Capuchin fathers and us Observants, as well as between Capuchin fathers and Conventual fathers; for these pontiffs entertained certain concessions, privileges, or dispensations concerning the Franciscan Rule; whereas Capuchins strictly adhere to the same Rule according to its core, that is, according to the letter; and we Observants completely adhere to the same Rule, but in accordance with the pontifical declarations.[22] And this is attested elsewhere, as seen above.

1118 But if the one who does the will of the Father is the legitimate filial son; and if the will of St. Francis is that the Rule be observed according to the letter; and if the Capuchins observe it in this manner, it necessarily follows that they are entitled to the name and title of true and legitimate filial sons of the most holy Father; nor can they be deprived of it by any other. Which will be seen even more clearly from what we are going to add.

Good, reverent, and truly obedient sons are expected not only to fulfil the things commanded them by their father, but also to please him in every other thing that they know to be pleasing and satisfying to him. Hence it is that the Capuchins, in order to show themselves as such, are not content to observe the Rule literally, as they do; but many other things they strive to do in conformity with the intention of their father,[23] even if they could leave them aside without sin, as can be understood from some of them, which we will mention below.

1. It is clear that, by the declaration of the supreme pontiffs Gregory IX, Innocent IV, Alexander IV and Nicholas III, the friars are not obliged to observe the Testament of Saint Francis;[24] but the Capuchins, knowing it to be an act of perfection and meritorious to observe it, for this reason have as an ordinance in their constitutions: “As true and legitimate sons of Christ, our Father and Lord, born again by Him in Saint Francis, we share in his inheritance. We instruct all (the friars) to observe the Testament our Father Saint Francis himself set down when close to death, marked with the sacred stigmata. Full of fervour and holy spirit he longed for our salvation. And we accept this (the Testament) as a spiritual gloss and exposition of our Rule since it was written so that the promised Rule be observed in a better and more catholic way”.[25]

1119 2. He taught his brothers, as we read in Conformities,[26] to build poor houses, as the poor do, and small churches; and he expressly ordered this in his Testament in these words: “Let the brothers be careful not to receive in any way churches or dwellings or anything else built for them unless they are according to the holy poverty we have promised in the Rule. As pilgrims and strangers, let them always be guests there”.[27] In accordance with this in the Capuchin Constitutions: “Therefore we direct that places may not be received, whether made by us or by others, much less ought they be built, nor may the friars allow such to be built for them, if the places are not in accord with the most holy poverty that we have promised etc. The churches should also be small, poor and fitting” etc.[28] And truly the excessive buildings containing curious and superflous things are forbidden to the Friars Minor, according to the declaration of Clement V, Hinc est etiam.[29] And the seraphic father, foreseeing the relaxation that was to take place in the buildings, with extreme pain, as Pisano,[30] in writing used to say: Listen, my brothers. After us, our brothers will come, who will build great houses, in which secular people would be able to live honourably; and they will make very fine habits. But it is enough for me during that time, that my brothers guard themselves from mortal sins. However, since the Capuchins flee from being among these, they dress and construct, as anyone can see, knowing to whom they dress and construct other than that which the blessed Giles[31] said to some friars in Assisi, when he once went to see the place newly enlarged and while the friars were showing him the place, glorying in the sumptuous constructions they had made, Pisano writes that Giles had to tell them: Dico fratres quod nibil deficit vobis, nisi uxores [I say to you, brothers, that nothing is lacking for you except wives]. Whereupon, they being troubled and scandalised, the servant of God added:

Fratres mei, vos bene scitis quod ita est vobis illicitum dispensare in paupertate, sicut in castitate, postquam paupertatem a vobis reiecistis, de facili reücere potestis et castitatem [My brothers, you are well aware that it is equally prohibited for you to compromise in poverty as it is in chastity. After you have rejected poverty, it is easy for you to also abandon chastity]. These fabrications were granted by Sixtus V, as Fr Gonzaga says.[32]

1120 2. Not only did the holy father want the rooms to be poor, but he also wanted the friars to live in them, not as their own, but as someone else’s, not as masters, but as pilgrims and forced labourers, and sometimes he commanded that the buildings be demolished, or that the friars leave, if he found anything in them contrary to evangelical poverty, either for reasons of ownership, or for reasons of sumptuousness; Saint Bonaventure[33] writes in his life: Docebat fratres sanctus Franciscus, ut pauperum more, pauperculas casas erigerent, quas non habitarent ut propria, sed sicut peregrini et adonenae alienas [The holy Francis exhorted his brothers, in the manner of the poor, to build small houses which they would not live in as their own, but rather as pilgrims and foreigners]. And further on: Mandabat dimi quando domos erectas, aut fratres exinde amoveri, et aliquid in eis percipere, quod ratione appropriationis, vel sumptuositas contrarium esset evangelicae paupertati. [Please inform me when you have constructed the houses, or when the brothers have been removed from there, or receive something in them, which in terms of appropriation or extravagance would be contrary to the evangelical poverty]. And with good reason, since he, indeed Jesus Christ, commanded in the Rule that: Fratres nibil sibi approprient, nec domum, nec locum, nec aliquam rem [Brothers, let none appropriate anything for themselves, neither a house, nor a place, nor any possession] etc.[34] The Capuchins not only do not seek any privilege from the Holy See, nor from others, to take possession of the places where they live, but in their constitutions[35] they openly protest and say: “Wishing in such a worthy example to imitate Christ in truth, and really to observe the seraphic precept of celestial poverty, we make it clear that in effect we have no jurisdiction, dominion, ownership, juridical possession, usufruct, or juridical use of anything; nor even of those which we use by necessity; nor of the places where we dwell. So that the true and proper masters can send us away whenever they please, and take all their things for themselves,” etc.

1121 4. Certain declarations, concessions, dispensations, exemptions, there is no doubt that they relax the regular observance; however, the Capuchins protest about these in their Constitutions:[36] “We renounce all privileges and dispensations that relax the Rule and take it away from its pure observance, and withdraw it from the pious, just and holy mind of Christ our Lord, who spoke in Saint Francis; only accepting, as a singular and lively commentary on it, the declarations of the supreme pontiffs, and especially of Nicholas III and Clement V, of holy memory, and the life, doctrine and examples of our Seraphic Father” etc.

1122 5. The Capuchins do not make bell towers, nor do they use more than one small bell, knowing that the number of bells and similar towers are contrary to professed poverty; and these as such are forbidden by Saint Bonaventure,[37] who was general. Such bells more in number and larger were granted by Sixtus IV and Leo X, as Roderic says.

1123 6. By a particular statute it is forbidden to make ordinary burials for seculars in their churches, although they were granted by Alexander IV and Sixtus IV,[38] and this is for the sake of a purer and more rigorous observance of poverty, knowing that such burials are the occasion of more abundant donations, and in a certain way in the guise of annual income, while pious people, which they are, have anniversaries celebrated for their dead, in addition to those of the third, seventh and thirtieth days; and, however, with much regard to some particular benefactor or patron, it is sometimes granted for his person alone to be able to be buried in these Capuchin churches.[39]

1124 7. Out of the same zeal for poverty, they reject all kinds of legacies that do not conform to the declaration of Nicholas III in c. Exiit.[40] And in regard to those that can be accepted, how circumspectly theyproceed from what is ordained in their constitutions in these words: “Our brothers are to be careful that when they visit any sick person they do not induce them directly or indirectly to leave us anything temporal. On the contrary, if they wish to do so themselves, let the brothers resist as much as they rightly can, thinking that one cannot at the same time possess riches poverty”.[41]

1125 8. They reject many concessions that have been made by Martin IV and V and by Clement VII concerning the syndic or procurator, for no other reason than to keep the observance of poverty pure and strict; and they have this in the constitutions:[42] “We order that the friars [in] no way have a procurator or other person on earth in whatever other way they may be called, who keeps or receives money or any other form of pecunary for them, or in their name, contrary to the declarations of Nicholas III in Exiit and of Clement V in Exivi. But our procurator is to be Jesus Christ our God; and his sweetest mother is to be our substitute and advocate, and all the angels and saints be our spiritual friends”.

1126 9. Since the vestments of the Church, as Clement V says, must be few and poor, and in accordance with holy poverty, it is therefore ordained in the Capuchin Constitutions[43] that “in the vestments and cloths of the altar no gold or silver or other curiosities or preciousness according to [Pope} Clement is to be used; and everything is to be clean and unblemished etc. The candlesticks are to be of simple wood made on the lathe”, etc. Sixtus IV and Leo X conceded the use of precious vestments.

1127 10. Knowing, as we read in Chronicles,[44] how dangerous it is to take care of nuns, when he was told once that Brother Philip, one of his first companions, had accepted it at the request of his protector, he bitterly reproved him saying: “You did wrong, Brother Philip, because in this way you are a destroyer of the Order” etc. Therefore in the Capuchin Constitutions we have this decree[45] that: “In no way whatsoever, neither under any species of goodness or holiness, nor to the prayers of peoples or lords, is care to be accepted of monasteries of women, nor of confraternities, nor of any congregation of men or women, nor are confessors to be given to them” etc. It is true that, as obedient sons, they have yielded to the Holy Apostolic See which has compelled them to accept the care of only three or four,[46] in principal cities, founded in strict poverty, and in the pure observance of the first Rule given by their father St. Francis to St. Clare.

1128 11. Although we read in the Gospel about preachers that dignus est operarius mercede sua [The worker is worthy of his wages];[47] and it is commonly said that every effort requires a reward, nevertheless in the Capuchin constitutions: “Preachers are commanded not to look out for themselves, nor for the brothers, so that, according to the apostolic doctrine, it may be known to all that they do not seek their own things, but those of Jesus Christ, that is, the glory of God and the health of souls bought with his precious blood. All the more is it forbidden and commanded that they should not collect any reward or monetary pecuniary gifts from communities or others[48] etc.

1129 12. Because the Seraphic Father said that begging superfluous things was stealing from God, therefore among the Capuchins: “It is ordered that in our places no provision be made, even though necessary for human sustenance, of those things which can be daily begged, except for a few days, according to the necessity of the times”[49] etc.

1130 13. Father Br Giovanni da Fano[50] says that it is forbidden for friars to keep keys to cells, chests and the like, as a sign of ownership in using them. For this reason, it is ordained among the Capuchins that “no friar may have a cell key, chest, footlocker or anything else, except for the officials to keep those things that have to be dispensed for the community of friars”[51] etc.

The above and many other things are ordained and observed by the Capuchin friars, which greatly help them to carry out the will of their seraphic father.

But for this reason I do not harm those who neglect them and make use of the graces, pardons, declarations, concessions and privileges granted to them by the supreme pontiffs, because, if they relax them somewhat, as we have in the sacred Council of Trent:[52] Privilegia et exemptiones, exemptis occasionem laxioris vitae praebere dignoscuntur [privileges and exemptions give to those exempted occasion for a more relaxed life], they then have this good effect, that they assure the conscience of those who use them. Nor do I say that for this reason they have fallen from the succession and sonship of the holy father, nor can this be said absolutely, since he calls his brothers even those who guard against mere mortal sins”.[53]

1131 I say well done to whoever more fully observes and follows the will of the Seraphic Father, whether he be a Capuchin, a Zoccolante or a Conventual, he is more deserving of this name.[54] And therefore the Conventual fathers are sons of St. Francis, because they profess [his] Rule, even though in observing it they scrutinise the apostolic dispensations. And to the Zoccolante fathers this name is likewise due, provided they do not wear [his] habit,[55] as neither do the Conventual fathers, because they profess the same Rule and observe it, as Father Gonzaga affirms,[56] according to the declarations or concessions of the supreme pontiffs. And if this is the case of the aforesaid, it is clear that the Capuchins observe the same Rule ad litteran sine glossa, as Christ commanded Saint Francis, and as he observed it and wanted it to be observed by his friars; and thereafter, by putting on the habit which he put on, they show themselves to be, and must be said to be, true and legitimate sons of the holy father. And if they are sons, they are likewise heirs and successors, according to the doctrine of the apostle who writes to the Galatians: Quod si filius, et baeres [If a son then also an heir].[57]

1132 It remains for us to exhaust the reasons of Father Gonzaga who deprives the Capuchins of the succession and sonship of their seraphic father, he says: Cum ab ipso, totius Ordinis capite, a generali scilicet ministro ac tanti patris vicario seiuncti separatique sint [They should be separated from the Head of the whole Order, from such a vicar of the father]; and this minister he understands to be that of the Zoccolante fathers; this can be understood from the fact that he had already been placed by Pope Leo X above the Conventual fathers, and every other Franciscan congregation of the Clareni, that is, of the Amadeiti and others; and therefore by some called General of all. Indeed, since he asserts that the Zoccolante are right to have such sonship and succession, it is evident that he is speaking of them. And this can be corroborated by what we read in the Rule:[58] The brothers are bound to obey Brother Francis and his successors. And further on: Let all the brothers be always obliged to have one of the brothers of the Order as the general minister and servant of the whole fraternity and be bound to firmly obey him etc. And further on: I firmly command all the brothers to obey their ministers etc. And one could answer that this reason is not true, since the Capuchin friars are in truth were subject to such a minister in some way and depended on him not now immediately, but mediately, because they depended on the General of the Conventuals.[59] In the papal bulls it is stated that the Conventual General was confirmed by the Zoccolante, and then the Capuchins by the Conventual, and this dependence could and should have been sufficient for Father Gonzaga to allow the Conventual and Capuchin fathers to take part in the succession of the Holy Father. If for many years now[60] they have not asked for the confirmation of their Conventual General, this was not because they claimed not to be dependent on him, but only in accordance with the apostolic concessions, but because this Capuchin General was confirmed by the Pope through the Cardinal Commissioner of His Holiness over this election. And this confirmation was undoubtedly of greater force than that of which the Conventual General would have been.

But, as you will see, since they no longer ask for such confirmation, I shall omit all that, etc.

1133 1. I say that from that supreme General one can be separated and enjoy the privilege of such sonship and succession at the same time whenever the supreme pontiff grants it; for it is true that by the Rule the friars are bound to obey the successors of Saint Francis, the ministers, and to have one of their number as general minister etc.; but it is also true that he wants all to be always subdites et subiectiibus pedibus sanctae romanae Ecclesiae [submissive and subject at the feet of the same Holy Church],[61] nor can there be any doubt that his successors and the General Minister with the other ministers are not also required to do this. Therefore, it is clear that with the authority of this same holy Church one can depart from obedience to this minister and be at the same time a true son and legitimate successor of Saint Francis. If the Holy See has been able to give the seal and titles of the Order to the Zoccolante fathers, why can it not grant the same to the Capuchin friars to support themselves? And if it has done so, because the whole Rule is subject to it along with all who profess it, and if it is the principal visible head of the whole Franciscan religion, how will the Capuchins be deprived of being true sons of the holy father, if they observe it completely and are subject to this head in everything? Now that the Holy See has allowed Capuchins to stand on their own and wear a square hood, as can be seen in the Constitution XXI of Clement VII given in Viterbo on 3rd July 1528, and the the Constitution II of Paul III given in Rome on 22nd August 1536, where he also declares that the Capuchins, by obeying their vicars, fully and entirely comply with the aforementioned precepts of the Rule, where he says: Declaramus et decernimus quod donec aliter super praemissis per praefatam Sedem ordinatum fuerit, fratres capuccini praedicti, eorum vicaris obediendo, plene et integre praefatae Regulae satisfaciunt [We declare and decree that until otherwise ordered by permission of the aforesaid See, the aforesaid Capuchin friars, obeying their vicars, fully and completely satisfy the aforesaid Rule].[62]

1134 2. I say that it is now indeed ordered by the Holy See. Because Paul V of happy memory, with great consideration for the abundant fruits that by the grace of the Lord the Capuchins bring to the Church, has freed them from the obligation of asking for the confirmation of their general by that of the Conventual, with a very ample brief[63] which begins: Paulus Papa V ad perpetuam rei memoria […].

Indeed, in various apostolic letters I find him referred to by this name of general minister, which for the sake of brevity I will leave out, only one by Paul V himself, where three times he expresses this name of general minister and begins: Pope Paul V in perpetual memory etc. hence it is that we are willing to consult with the prosperous and happy Order Friars minor of St. Francis named Capuchins, as far as we can in the Lord, for its government and direction, of our own motion and from certain knowledge and mature deliberation, for our time, as for the rest of the perpetual future times, the office of general minister, which up to now while it is customary to last for five years, will now endure for six years, with the general minister or another etc. The true general minister himself, etc. Given in Rome at Santa Maria Major under the fisherman’s ring on October 29, 1618, in the 14th year of our pontificate.[64]

It can therefore be concluded from what has been said that the Capuchins, although they are separated from the Zoccolante and from the obedience of their general minister, are in all respect successors and true sons of the seraphic father St Francis.

And although reason thus dictates and should suffice for the confirmation of this truth, in any case, for greater firmness, the authority of the Holy Apostolic See was added to the reason sufficient in itself. Hence Paul V himself declared it, as I shall shortly say.

1135 Others have said that the Capuchins are not the sons of Saint Francis because they were not in his time. This can be understood either as to the name or as to the habit. If it is understood in terms of the habit, from what has been said above in the second and third chapters, one can see the opposite, since it has been proved there that both Saint Francis and the whole Order for a long time wore such a habit.[65]

If one understands the name, one sees that since the name derives from the capuche, Saint Francis and all the brothers of the Order who have worn the habit with the capuche could be called Capuchins.

Now the friars who wear such a habit with such a habit with a capuche are called Capuchins in order to distinguish theirs from the other congregations of Franciscans, each of whom uses the appellative minors, ordained and imposed by the Seraphic Father, and then differentiate themselves each from the others, being called Conventuals, Observants or Zoccolante, and Capuchins. So that, even if they were not, as far as their name is concerned, in the time of St. Francis, they were nevertheless true Friars Minor and sons of the Seraphic Father, as the Supreme Pontiff Paul V declared and decreed, with the consent of the cardinals who interpreted the sacred Council of Trent, as can be seen in his constitution, given in Rome on the fifteenth day of October in the year 1608, the fourth of his pontificate, which is printed in the third volume of the new Bull, and under the figures mentioned above, drafted by Abbot Gioachino, where among other things are these words: We, with the advice of our venerable brothers, the cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, the interpreters of the Council of Trent, having taken mature deliberation, declare with this constitution of our perpetual validity, with apostolic authority, that the Capuchin friars are truly friars minor and as such etc. the sons of St. Francis.[66]

In addition to this, in many other apostolic constitutions and briefs, it can also be seen that they are said to be brothers of the Order of the Friars Minor of Saint Francis, as in the two made a short while ago by Paul V himself, leaving out the others.

1136 Now, even if there were not the aforesaid very effective reasons and irrefragable authorities and apostolic constitutions to prove our proposition, namely, that the Capuchin friars are true sons and lawful successors of the Seraphic Father St. Francis, what could be more convincing that the sacred Council of Trent,[67] which openly calls them friars of St. Francis where we read: Concedit sancta synodus omnibus monasteris et domibus tam virorum quam mulierum et mendicatium, exceptis domibus fratrum sancti Francisci capucinorum et eorum qui minorum de Observantia vocantur etc. [The holy synod grants to all monasteries and houses both men and women and mendicants, with the exception of the houses of the Capuchin brothers of St. Francis and of those who are called minors of Observance]. If the friars of St Francis are Capuchins, it follows that they are also sons and if sons, heirs also, as I have shown on the authority of the Apostle:[68] and if heirs, successors likewise.

  1. On this work and the judgements, it expresses towards the Capuchins cf. part II, sect. I, doc. 12, nn. 1997-1998.
  2. Ex precedentibus, queste sono le sue parole, manifestum evadit quod, licet patres conventuales observantibus multo antiquiores sint, et isti ab illis suum genus originemque ducant, beatissimi tamen patris Fran-cisci legitimi successores isti, observantes videlicet, iure optimo dici pos-sint. Quod tamen de patribus capucinis asseri minime potest. Nam, licet patres religiosissimi sint, et franciscanam Regulam ad litteram servare contendant, ad veram tamen patriarchae pauperum Francisci successionem nullo pacto spectant, cum ab ipso totius Ordinis capite, a generale scilicet ministro, ac tanti patris vicario seiuncti separatique sint. Sed quidquid successionis atque haereditari iuris est, id profecto (longe absit ambitio) observantibus tamquam legitimis filis debetur. Cf. De origine seraphicae religionis franciscanae, Romae 1587, pars I, p. 44.
  3. Cf. Session 25, chapter III, decr. de regularibus et monialibus (cf. n. 2095).
  4. Tum quia annuos redditus rerumque proprietatem, quorum utrumque cum franciscana Regula e diametro pugnat, admittere nolint. (De origine cit., 44).
  5. Tum quia annuos redditus rerumque proprietatem, quorum utrumque cum franciscana Regula e diametro pugnat, admittere nolint. (Ibid.).
  6. Tum quia promissam Regulam, iuxta pontificias declarationes, quocumque escluso privilegio, mordicus observent. (Ibid.).
  7. Tum quia in suis titulis atque functionibus, nibil extranei a regularibus praeceptis (si summorum pontificum declarationibus, quibus tergiversari execrabile piaculum est, standum sit) admittant: imo potius tesseram, ab Ordinis institutore, beato scilicet patre Francisco creditam, pro viribus teneant fidelissimeque custodian (Ibid.).
  8. Tum quia de illis solis verificatur illud a Christo Domino, beato ipsi patri promissum, extendendum videlicet eius Ordinem ab oriente in occidentem, et ab aquilone in meraiem. Nam si de patribus conventualibus oriatur quesitio, ij tantum Italiam quasdamque tum Galliae Narbonensis tum quoque superioris atque inferioris Germaniae portiunculas incolunt. Si vero de capucinis fiat sermo, ij Italiae atque principatus Cathaloniae apud Hispanos, limites non transgrediuntur. Sed si de observantibus loquamur, quae mundi pars a catholicis inhabitata eos fuget? Nulla penitus, cum etc. (Ibid.).
  9. Impletum est illud: Dilataberis etc. Sic factum esse attestantur loca fratrum per orbem ditusa, quae ad numerum mile sexcentorum ascendunt, exceptis illis quae quotidie aedificantur denuo (cf. Conf. IV, 350, fruct. 8). Beato Francisco revelatum est a Domino, quod suus Ordo per totum orbem erat dilatandus etc. et sic factum est, quod quasi non est terrae angulus ubi non sit fratrum minorum aliguis locus (Ibid. 558 and 503, fol. 11). Hoc esse impletum ostendunt loca Ordinis sita in qualibet orbis parte (Conf. V, 161, 25-26, fruct. 18).
  10. Calculating backwards, the Capuchins would have arisen after 1517 (date of the bull Ite vos of Leo X) and the Observants in 1368, which corresponds to the initiative of Paoluccio Trinci da Foligno.
  11. In fact, in 1622 there were already about a thousand or more Capuchin friaries with about 16,000 religious and about forty provinces. Cf. L. Iriarte, Storia del francescanesimo, Naples 1982, 300f).
  12. This was an argument that from the very beginning of the reform was strongly debated, for example in the controversy in which Vittoria Colonna’s pen also intervened (cf. part II, sect. I, doc. 18 and 21).
  13. Rm 4:4, that refers to Gen 15:6.
  14. Cf. St. Cipriano, Ep. 63; Ad Caecilium de sacramento Dominici calicis, n. 4 (PL 4, 388).
  15. Jn 8:39.
  16. Cf. Jn 10:25, 37-38.
  17. Cf. Jn 14:10-11.
  18. Cf. Mt 12:46-50.
  19. A motivation that is more spiritual than juridica.
  20. Cf. Revelationes sanctae Brigittae olim a card. Turrecremata recognitae et approbatae, tomus I, Romae 1628, 517a (lib. IV, cap. 127).
  21. Cf. Leg, maior 4,11 (FF n. 1084); Conf. IV, 372, fruct. 9; Chroniche degli Ordini instituiti dal padre san Francesco, Venezia 1582, 15s (parte I, lib. I, cap. 7).
  22. Est autem discrimen inter huiusmodi patres capucinos nosque observantes atque inter patres conventuales; nam isti pontificüs quibusdam concessionibus atque privilegis sive dispensationibus circa franciscanam Regulam potiuntur; capucini vero eamdem Regulam secundum corticem, idest iuxta litteram, servant; atqui nos observantes eamdem prorsus, sed iuxta pontificias declarationes, mordicus tenemus. Cf. note 1.
  23. This was a characteristic aspect of the imitation of Saint Francis on the part of the early Capuchins.
  24. Cf. Conf. IV, 3875, fruct. 9.
  25. Cf. Const. 1536, n. 6 and variations (cf. n. 156).
  26. Conf. V, 105-108, fruct. 16.
  27. Test. 28-29 (FF n. 122). [Quote used is the translation of Paul Hanbridge in CapDox which gives the number as 24].
  28. Cf., Cost. 1536, nn. 73-74 and variations (cf. nn. 260-261).
  29. Cf. Spec. Minorim, pars III, f.
  30. Conf. V, 106, fruct. 16.
  31. Conf. IV, 209, fruct. 8.
  32. De origine cit., 1362.
  33. Cf. Leg. maior 7,2 (FF n. 1120).
  34. Rb 6,2 (FF n. 90).
  35. Cf. Cost. 1536, n. 69 e successive redactions (cf. n. 256; as well as Nicolaus III, Exiit, Porro (cf. Seraphicae legislationis textus originales, Ad claras Aquas [Quaracchi] 1897, 1905).
  36. Cost, 1536, n. 5 and variations (cf. n. 155).
  37. Cf. Delle Croniche de’ frati minori, parte seconda, libro II, cap. 12 (Milano 1605, 97).
  38. Cf. Quaestiones regulares et canonicae, auctore Emanuele Roderico, tomus III,Turnoni 1609, 199ab (q. 68).
  39. Cf. Cost. 1536, nn. 38-39 with other redactions.
  40. Cf. Nicolaus III, Exiit, art. XI (Seraph. leg. textus originales, 209-211).
  41. Cost, 1536, nn. 39 e 59 (cf. nn. 213 e 241).
  42. Ibid., n. 57 (cf. n. 23)).
  43. Ibid., nn. 140 and 144 (cf. nn. 410 and 414).
  44. Cf. Delle Croniche de’ frati minori, parte seconda, lib. II, cap. 16, Milano 1605, 104.
  45. Cost. 1536, n. 135 (cf. n. 404).
  46. Cf. the section regarding the origin and first development of the Capuchinesses.
  47. Lk 10:7.
  48. Cf. Const. 1536, n. 115 (cf n. 366).
  49. Ibid., nn. 81 e 84 (cf. nn. 268 e 271).
  50. Cf. Giovanni da Fano, Breve discorso circa l’osservanza del voto della minorica povertà (above, sect. III, doc. 3, in correspondence to note 56).
  51. Cost. 1536, n. 86 (cf. n. 273
  52. Cf. Session XXIV, Decr. de reformatione, can. XI (Conc. oecum. decreta, 741).
  53. Cf. Conf. V, 329, fruct. 16.
  54. Celestino Colleoni does not exclude any Franciscan from sonship with Saint Francis; but he does hold that the Capuchins are favoured.
  55. He expounds this argument in the first chapters of his writing, Breve ragguaglio cit., 1-47.
  56. See note 22.
  57. Gal 4:7.
  58. CF. Rb 1,4; 8,2; 10,4 (FF nn. 76, 96, 101).
  59. An argument already used in the early polemic of V. Colonna (see note 12 above).
  60. That is from 1619 with the Brief of Paul V, Alias felicis recordationis if 28 January (cf. above, sect. 1, doc. 11, n. 72-74).
  61. Rb 12,5 (FF n. 109).
  62. Cf. Clemente VII, Religionis zelus, n. 5; and the Bull Exponi nobis of Paul III of 25 August 1536, n. 13 (see sect. I, doc. 1 and 4, nn. 6 e 23).
  63. The author here gives extensive quotes from the text of the brief referred to above at note 60.
  64. Paulus Papa V ad perpetuam rei memoriam etc. hinc est quod nos prospero felicique fratrum Ordinis minorum sancti Francisci capucinorum nuncupatorum, regimini atque directioni, quantum in Domino possumus, consulere volentes, motu proprio et ex certa scientia ac matura deliberatione, nostris quod de cetero perpetuis futuris temporibus, ministri generalis officium, quod hactenus ad quinquennium dumtaxat durare consuevit, ad sexennium durare, minister autem generalis aut alius etc. Ipse vero minister generalis etc. Dat. Romae apud Sanctam Maniam Maiorem sub anulo piscatoris die 29 octobris 1618, pontificatus nostri anno 14. Brief of Paul V, In supremo Sedis of 29 October 1618. Cf. the introductory study at sect. I, note 106.
  65. Arguments repeated repeatedly in the controversy over the Capuchin habit, as can already be seen in the early chronicles and especially in Boverio.
  66. Nos cum venerabilium fratrum nostrorum sanctae romanae Ecclesiae cardinalium, concilii tridentini interpretum consilio, matura deliberatione habita, hac nostra perpetuo valitura constitutione, autoritate apostolica declaramus fratres capucinos esse vere fratres minorres ac etiam quamvis etc. filios sancti Francisci. Brief of Paul V, Ecclesiae militantis of 15th October 1608. Cf. introductory study of Isidoro Agudo at sect. I, note 100.
  67. Cf. part II, sect. I, doc. 42,2.
  68. Cf. note 57.