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PIENZA, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - An Italian diocese is using paramilitary police to intimidate traditionalist nuns who refuse to submit to Vatican diktats, which include banishing the prioress to a progressive, quasi-Protestant community.
Thirteen nuns from the monastery of Mary Temple of the Holy Spirit have slammed Cdl. Augusto Paolo Lojudice of the Montepulciano–Chiusi–Pienza diocese for the "fake news and distortions" aimed at "defaming" them and "creating a gratuitous and inopportune climate of scandal."
Sources close to the monastery say that the Vatican and the cardinal are seeking to oust the nuns so that they can sell the prime property on the site of the diocese's former seminary and stamp out the Tridentine Mass, which the nuns "discovered" in 2020.
Cardinal Lojudice has also refused to allow the sisters to receive Holy Communion on the tongue while kneeling, humiliating them before the whole city by making them stand up and receive the Blessed Sacrament in the hand, Church Militant has learned.
Soon after his appointment as bishop of Montepulciano–Chiusi–Pienza, Lojudice rebuked the nuns while in the sacristy, telling them that they could do as they wished in their monastery, but they had to conform to common practice regarding the reception of Communion in public.
The nuns have also provoked the wrath of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life, headed by progressives Cdl. Braz de Aviz and Abp. José Rodriguez Carballo, by refusing to join a "federation" (a group of monasteries sharing a spiritual and governmental approach).
The community, consisting of mostly young and international sisters, is not obliged to be part of a "federation," since the previous Bp. Stefano Manetti constituted the monastery under the canonical status of sui juris — autonomous and directly under the jurisdiction of the Holy See.
In 2017, Manetti welcomed the sisters to the diocese after they were expelled from Holland by Bp. Jozef Marianus Punt under pressure from the Neocatechumenal Way — a controversial lay movement with allegedly heterodox teachings and liturgical practices.
The bishop also accommodated them in the defunct seminary, offered to pay their utilities and promised the sisters that he would find an appropriate permanent home — a canonical requirement for a monastery operating sui juris.
Months later, hoping to evict them from the site, Manetti offered the nuns a nine-year loan contract, revocable without any reason, on the condition that the sisters provide for their expenses and bear the costs of renovating and upgrading the building.
In April 2022, when he was transferred to the episcopal see of Fiesole, Manetti verbally revoked the permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass that he had granted to the nuns in 2020. The nuns were even deprived of Mass in the New Rite on Sundays and weekdays.
He also told them that Fr. Antonio Canestri, the rector of the abandoned seminary, was seeking to evict them. Days later, Canestri entered the seminary to claim ownership of the property, even violating the cloister by entering the cells of the nuns.
In September 2022, Cdl. Lojudice informed the nuns that he wanted to visit them to make a real estate valuation estimate of the building. The nuns, who were away on retreat, succeeded in postponing the cardinal's visit to Nov. 8.
However, on Oct. 11, Fr. Giordano Rota, consultor of the Vatican Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life, arrived unannounced at the monastery with a mother superior and another person. They found the monastery vacant because the nuns were still on retreat.
Rota returned on Nov. 2 and announced that he was instituting a three-day apostolic visitation — during which he subjected the sisters to rigorous interrogation. The questions included liturgical issues like the altar facing the wall and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in Latin.
On Nov. 15, Cdl. Lojudice visited the monastery with his vicar general, Fr. Canestri, and confronted the nuns, asking them if they were selling supermarket-purchased jam under the false pretext of making it themselves.
On Feb. 17, a posse of diocesan hierarchs accompanied by the Pienza carabinieri and two other armed officers from the local police arrived at the monastery. The sisters captured the incursion on video. Later, the carabinieri informed the sisters' relatives that they would be summoned to give statements about the monastery.
Two days later, the diocese published a press release stating that the Vatican had ordered a change of leadership at the monastery.
The diocese said it would continue to fulfill its financial obligations to the nuns if they were obedient "to civil laws and canonical provisions and in the acceptance of the provisions of the Holy See in communion with the Church."
On Saturday, the nuns issued a statement blasting the diocese press release as "mystifying and defamatory" and explained that the Vatican dicastery had ordered the removal of their abbess, Mother Diletta Forti, "for a surreal three-year period without any support."
The Vatican ordered that the prioress be transferred for one year "to the promiscuous and ecumenical community of Bose, which notoriously has nothing to do with Benedictine spirituality," the nuns said, noting, "Such measures are both lacking in reasoning and flawed in procedure and contain manifestly disproportionate measures."
"Obedience is a submission of the intellect and will to legitimate commands and according to justice, not blind and supine subordination to arbitrary commands," the sisters added.
Church Militant obtained a notice from diocesan legal advisor Alessandro Pasquazi that accused the nuns of engaging in "a series of behaviors that are totally misaligned with their choice of life, in open violation of the regulatory norms of the Code of Canon Law and of their Order."
"Women or men who freely and knowingly decide to embrace the religious path are certainly not allowed to contest publicly and through 'communications' published on the media, on the web and even on the gate of the monastery," the notice warned.
The notice also claimed that Mother Diletta Forti continues to use the title of "abbess," which "was revoked from her by the Holy See."
Earlier in February, the Vatican expelled cloistered nuns from their convent in Ravello despite the sisters offering the Holy See assets worth 50–60 million euros to prevent the closure of the ancient Santa Chiara monastery.
An order signed by Pope Francis also stripped two nuns, Sr. Massimiliana Panza and Sr. Angela Maria Punnackal, of their vows for refusal to leave a 13th-century convent, Church Militant reported.
Hoping to secure the future of the convent, the three remaining sisters transferred the assets of the monastery to the Vatican's papal charities.
"As soon as we made the donation to the pope, our transfer was decided," Sr. Panza told concerned locals. "In reality, we haven't been transferred but dismissed from the order."
Faithful Catholics have voiced concerns over the closure of several monasteries under the Francis pontificate, including the Dominican Monastery of the Most Holy Annunciation in Marradi, the Monastery of the Visitation in Milan, the Monastery of the Visitation in Pistoia, the Cenacle of Montauto in Anghiari and the Poor Clares convent of Montalto in Marche.
In his recent book Claustrofobia, Vaticanist Aldo Maria Vallihas demonstrated how cloistered orders are being targeted by the Vatican because the progressive hierarchy prioritizes social commitment over contemplative life. Observers say that the Vatican is also attempting to seize vast properties owned by the traditionalist orders.