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ROME, February 9, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has stated that the rise of new religious institutes that attract numerous religious vocations “worries” him because they often promote “rigidity.” Francis denounced new traditional religious orders as “Pelagians,” who want a return to asceticism and penance.

In an obvious reference to the Legionaries of Christ, he called young people in traditional orders “soldiers who seem ready to do anything for the defense of faith and morality, and then some scandal emerges involving the founder [male or female].” 

“So, do not put hope in the sudden, mass blooming of these Institutes,” he added. 

“When they tell me that there is a congregation that draws so many vocations, I must confess that I worry,” he said during the closed-door meeting with 140 Superiors General of male religious orders and congregations that took place November 25. The transcript of the unscheduled Q&A was published this week by the leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Asked about how to fire the hearts of young people for the cause of the Gospel, the pope turned his focus to the training of “seminarians and future priests.”

Francis said that in priests’ training the “logic of black and white” that “can lead to abstract casuistry” must be avoided. 

“Discernment, meanwhile, means moving forward through the gray of life according to the will of God. And the will of God is to be sought according to the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the rigidity of an abstract doctrine,” he said. 

Asked what should be done about the plummeting number of vocations to the priesthood, the pope said that while the decline “worries me” he is also worried about the rise of new traditional religious orders.

“Some are, I might say, ‘restorationist’: they seem to offer security but instead give only rigidity,” he said. 

“When they tell me that there is a Congregation that draws so many vocations, I must confess that I worry. The Spirit does not follow the logic of human success: it works in another way. But they tell me that there are so many young people prepared to do anything, who pray a great deal, who are truly faithful. And I say to myself: ‘Wonderful: we will see if it is the Lord!’.”

Traditional orders do not simply worry Pope Francis. Within months of becoming pope in March 2013, Francis moved quickly to utterly dismantle the flourishing Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The order, which encouraged the Latin Mass, was one of the most faithful of all of the new Catholic religious orders, especially in regard to their pro-life commitment. The move stunned faithful Catholics. 

In 2015 the pope warned bishops against ordaining “traditionalist” seminarians, stating that doing so was like placing a “mortgage on the Church.” 

In 2012 under Benedict XVI, the Vatican was in the process of reforming the umbrella group of American nuns and sisters for their “secularist mentality [and] 'feminist' spirit.” After Francis took over the reigns of the Church, that process concluded by offering the nuns’ group a “positive message.”

During the November Q&A Francis also admitted that there is “corruption in the Vatican” but he is nevertheless “at peace” by the “grace of God.”