Oblates of the Virgin Mary
Santuario Nostra Signora di Fatima
Padre Gino Burresi, ex Oblato di Maria Vergine, si affida alle vostre preghiere, nella novena a Padre Lanteri, iniziata il 12 maggio u.s., affinché Papa Benedetto XVI gli mostri la sua misericordia e voglia affrettare la sua riabilitazione. Padre Gino vuole di nuovo servire la sua amata Chiesa.
Voglia il Santo Padre fargli ancora pascere le sue pecore ed i suoi agnelli, prima che P. Gino lasci questa terra, revocando il Decreto di condanna del 27 maggio 2005, come segno di misericordia, per la rinascita alla vita di P. Gino.
Adriana Zarri e Riccardo Fontana
- Rev. Joseph Dwight
I, along with about 30 other Americans and Canadians, was a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary from August 1983 to September 1990. Up until June of 1988 my experience with the Oblates was a very good and rich experience in Italy. The Italians know how to create a family atmosphere and welcome.
In June of 1988 one of the first (if not the first) non-Italian General Superiors, Father Julio Cura from Argentina, had the courage to send Padre Gino away from the large Marian shrine at San Vittorino, due to strong evidence of improper sexual behavior with male seminarians, religious sisters and others. It was also discovered later that Padre Gino often broke the great seal of confession. This expulsion of Padre Gino from the Marian Shrine that he inspired was the beginning of a difficult and painful crisis in the congregation.
Given the shaky foundation of the American part of a congregation, as well as the fact that the congregation actually considered dissolving itself in the late 60's at a general chapter meeting, the American delegates experienced a considerable amount of insecurity especially since there was not even an American providence formed yet! Mother Italy was jerked out from under the feet of a small group of men trying to form a congregation "loyal to the Pope and the Magisterium" in a country where this loyalty was often very lacking.
In Italy, my superiors held me in their high esteem which they showed by their communications with me as well as in writing. It is a nice situation to be loved, trusted and appreciated by one's superiors. My Italian superiors even tried to obtain permission from the Apostolic Visitator to let me and a few others stay in Italy during and after the crisis but the North American Delegates maneuvered to take all Americans back to America. This was also in line with the Apostolic Visitator who from the very beginning supported the rebellious followers of Padre Gino. My new superiors in the States on the contrary exhibited an atmosphere of lack of trust and appreciation and even outright contempt. These young North American superiors felt their ways of doing things were far superior to that of the Oblates in Italy and thus felt they had to weed out, according to their superior criteria, those contaminated by the crisis and the “bad formation in Italy” even though these young superiors were formed in Italy a few years before us and were more shaken by the removal of Padre Gino than we who were sent away by them.
I realize that the crisis in the congregation was difficult for just about all the Oblates. I also realize that it is difficult to be a superior especially when one is young and thus often insecure. I also realize the natural tendency to be even more insecure before one in formation who is as old as the superiors are and who has had many other experiences with a good amount of intelligence. Besides those sent away, many Oblate priests and brothers left the Oblate congregation before, during and after the crisis.
I certainly think that it is very important to find a religious congregation that is loyal to the living Pope and to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Look at the confusion and differences of interpreting the Sacred Scripture and the natural law in the very numerous independent Christian groups as well as among those who call themselves “Catholic” but do not follow the teachings of the Church with the Pope as the head. But unfortunately there are many groups which crusade or hold up the banner for the truth while having a great lack in the fundamental virtues of humility and charity, as well as basic human maturity. Without these basic virtues and qualities, how can one be a good superior or possibly talk about or become an expert regarding the intricacies of the spiritual life and discernment? The saints tell us that without humility there is no virtue even if a person can speak eloquently, even if a person is charismatic, even if a person can write lots of books. Do superiors who “lord it over them” (Mt. 20:25-28; Lc. 22:26) want their subjects to imitate their example? "The truth without charity is an idol."
Our materialistic societies as in the US and Europe and elsewhere tend to foster a type of spiritual desert. In these consumeristic environments the vast majority of the people fall into the attachment to all kinds of things and pleasures while avoiding at all cost the cross of Christ in following God’s commandments; these liberals make up their own truth and morals according to each one’s fancy (“the tyranny of relativism”, Benedict XVI). This causes a certain minority of Catholics to react and go toward the other extreme who then very often end up crusading for the truth as a special, holy group. Many people and groups, especially traditionalist Catholics, yearn to maintain or revive the Triumphalism, Clericalism and Juridicalism that was quite present in the Church before the Second Vatican Council. While being surrounded and consumed in this turmoil of our society, it is very difficult to find that exterior and interior peace and humility to simply live fully the Gospel. In this situation one so easily ends up concentrating on promoting and defending the truth at the expense of not realizing that he is not living very well at all the Gospel himself. How difficult it is to maintain humility and to love as Christ loves each of us, ready to die for Jesus in each person that is before us in each present moment! Is this not the real (perhaps tedious and slow) solution to all our problems in our egoistic and arrogant culture of today? “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). It is very difficult for seminarians to learn to serve in humility for God’s glory (not for the glory of themselves, even as priests with the prestige of the collar or whatever) if there is no example to follow in the religious house or province where they live. “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).
Other articles that I have written that might shed further light on this topic are: “Evangelization VS the trilogy of Devils in the Church: Triumphalism, Clericalism and Juridicalism” (http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com) as well as “A Common Sense Rebuttal to Schismatic Traditionalists and Sedevacantists” (http://schis-trad.blogspot.com).
I have taken off the web a 20-page letter (December 20, 1988) that my Italian superiors encouraged me to write during the crisis. I have also taken off the web a letter I wrote (April 13, 1990) to Father Gendrot, the temporary Apostolic Visitator, to ask him formally for permission to allow my vows to expire (September, 1990) while living outside of the Oblate community, after the North American superiors, without explanation, ask me to leave the Oblate community in Boston (January 31, 1990). This letter describes the details of my experiences with the Oblate superiors in Boston from September 1989 to the end of January 1990. Many other seminarians who were esteemed by their Oblate superiors in Italy were sent away by the superiors in Boston causing great pain, suffering and disruption. I have also taken off the web a brief summary of the history of the congregation in the last 40 years, beginning with the first influx of American and Canadian seminarians with Ronald Tangen as well as many of the details of the major crisis in the congregation beginning in June 1988.
I thank God now that I was not offered to take final vows with the Oblates in 1990. At that time I was ready to accept final vows even though something inside of me told me that something was not right with the Oblate superiors in Boston after knowing them a little while I was in Rome from 1983 to 1989, and then more closely from September 1989 to January 1990. But at least I was not afraid and I had the courage to voice these subtle contradictions in the behavior of these superiors, even to my superiors who felt they had nothing to learn from me or anyone else not in their little group. In the end I suffered tremendously to be suddenly thrown out of my religious family without explanation. Now with much more experience under my belt, I can see now that my expulsion was a true blessing from God.
I hope that the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in the United States succeed in maturing and overcoming their past because we certainly need good religious leadership in the U.S. in this particular period, especially in the field of spiritual formation. But while always remaining loyal to the Pope and to the Magisterium of the Church, one must maintain true humility and charity otherwise there will be no good and lasting fruits even if the truth is preached. Without these lived fundamental virtues, priests or religious or the religious congregation or province itself can actually be counterproductive and produce bad fruits.
If all those who offer constructive criticism different from the mindset of the superiors are sent away, how will the congregation, or the province, be able to improve and mature? Is not a healthy congregation or community made up of a variety of people with different characters and viewpoints and personalities and experiences just as God created the diversity of human beings? Is not the proper ideal that of unity in diversity, or is it rather an ideal of conformity to one human person or to a small group of human persons within the community who feel they are more enlightened than the others and do not feel that they need to listen to those who see things differently? Are we not most enlightened about the will of God when we succeed in doing our part so as to have the real and efficacious presence of Jesus in our midst (Mt 18:20; see “The Hope of the World at http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com)?
Only the Pope has been given the attribute of infallibility when speaking or writing to the whole Church regarding faith and morals. Obedience is certainly important. But the superiors in charge of formation in Boston (OMV) when I was there from September 1989 to the end of January 1990 did not seek to, or were probably not capable of, creating an atmosphere of a wholesome family based on their own example of humility and charity; there was rather a decisive, insecure, authoritarian imposition. Some seminarians succeed in putting up with this type of structure and in surviving in this type of environment without being asked to leave. But is this the way to form a well-rounded, healthy and mature province within a religious congregation?
The Holy Spirit has given to the Church many tremendous and powerful charismas in the last 100 years or so precisely for our difficult times. One of the greatest incarnations of the true teachings and spirit of the Second Vatican Council, of which I have had more exposure and contact, can be found in the charisma and spirituality of Unity from the Holy Spirit precisely for our particular times; I would highly recommend the reading of the books by and about Chiara Lubich. There are thousands of religious (as well as millions of people from all walks of life) who seek to live the spirituality of Unity precisely to become better religious in their respective religious orders and congregations. After having become acquainted with several spiritualities, I have come to realize, along with many other knowledgeable people, that this new charisma from the Holy Spirit combines the best of all these past spiritualities while being adapted precisely for the needs of today. The great charisma of Saint Francis of Assisi was basically for his first order for men, the second order for women, and the third order for some laypeople. But this charisma of Unity is seen and understood by many experts today as not only for all people of all walks of life but even for the renewal of all facets and sectors of society, culture, economics, sociology, psychology, etc. Chiara Lubich died on March 14, 2008; I think in a hundred years we will realize better the impact that the Holy Spirit intended by way of this tremendous gift from God for our times. Compared with the rest of the world (statistically), such a profound and yet simple spirituality of a renewed living of the Gospel in a radical way is far more difficult to understand, to appreciate and to embrace in materialistic societies such as is present today in the USA.
Just as Christ never wrote anything but rather lived with the apostles and disciples, so too one rarely is able to grasp the awesomeness and need of this charisma of Unity except by meeting, associating and living with those who truly live this ideal, which does not always occur even among the card-carrying, badge wearing members of the Church or of religious congregations or of ecclesial movements within the Church who have been given various charismas from the Holy Spirit. One needs to personally experience this special, real and efficacious presence of Jesus “where two or three are gathered in my name” (Mt 18:20) which is rendered possible only by those who truly live the Gospel fully (http://trueevangelization.blogspot.com). There are many priests and bishops who are not in the state of grace but their Masses are still totally valid Masses! There are many people in ecclesial movements and religious congregations who, unfortunately, do not live their respective charismas but often end up at least serving as channels of their respective charismas which arrive to others of good will who render fruitful these precious gifts from God. “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham” (Mt 3:9; Lk 3:8). It is so easy to short-circuit and loose the graces and possible fruits of our endeavors by yielding to hidden personal selfish motives for all that we do instead of pursuing the pure intention of love of God and love of Jesus in our neighbor. Very often, unfortunately, we foolish ones in positions of leadership, even while speaking the truth, lead astray and scandalize many due to our example of false humility and of false charity. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1Cor 13:1).
Let us pray for the Oblates of the Virgin Mary in the United States that they succeed in maturing and learning from Christ who is “meek and humble of heart”. The US could certainly use a good, holy congregation which has the important apostolate and charisma of spiritual formation according to the Magisterium of the Church with the Pope as the head.
For the young men who might be seeking a good religious congregation, I have also discovered several good congregations in the United States and abroad by watching EWTN.
Rev. Joseph Dwight
(See also “The Second Visit of the Pope to the USA” at
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The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the decree May 27, 2005 in the case of 73-year-old Italian Fr. Luigi (Gino) Burresi (born July 6, 1932), founder of a religious congregation called the Congregation of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The contents of the decree, which drew little public notice, were announced by the Italian bishops' conference on July 19, 2005. It specifies that:
- Burresi's faculties to hear confessions are revoked;
- He is definitively prohibited from providing spiritual direction;
- He is barred from preaching, as well as from celebrating the sacraments and sacramentals in public;
- He is barred from giving interviews, publishing and taking part in broadcasts that have anything to do with faith, morals, or supernatural phenomena.
The decree, in effect, amounts to removal from public ministry. The only thing left is private celebration of the Mass.