'Br. Martin,' self-described monk with large Twitter following, says he won't heed bishop's warning

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 19, 2022 / 18:40 pm A social media-savvy layman, who uses the title “Brother” and wears a habit, will not obey his …
Ultraviolet
"A social media-savvy layman, who uses the title "Brother" and wears a habit..." Issues with (Br) Alexis Bugnolo, Ordo Militaris & FromRome.
Alex A
The Bishop has every right to ensure the faithful are not being 'ripped off' or deceived by somebody unaligned with a recognized religious body.
philosopher
Anyone whose orthodox and Traditional should do that if they care for souls. It's a spiritual work of mercy.
Credo .
@ MM O my! Here we go again. If you can't understand by now, especially after what, "On the contrary" had to say on the topic of SSPX. It would appear, nothing will convince you.
Alex A
@ Mathathias Maccabeus I see 'Credo', has beaten me to the punch. One can only add, ditto, to their comment.
V.R.S.
@Mathathias Maccabeus
If it is the most silly rhetorical question contest here you are - my proposal:
what's the difference between what Goebbels was doing and what you did above?
Darice Henriques
This is only side of the story. Br Martin has explained his side of the story in this video. youtu.be/LwDFCGEyt5w.
philosopher
One difference is that the SSPX does not claim any dioceses, and in the dioceses that they operate in, they always go and meet with their diocesan bishop (yes, you read that right -they acknowledge the bishop in the diocese as their bishop and include him in the prayers of the mass), to establish a cordial relationship with that bishop, and explain their mission.

However, its irrelevant that …More
One difference is that the SSPX does not claim any dioceses, and in the dioceses that they operate in, they always go and meet with their diocesan bishop (yes, you read that right -they acknowledge the bishop in the diocese as their bishop and include him in the prayers of the mass), to establish a cordial relationship with that bishop, and explain their mission.

However, its irrelevant that this guy claims to be a traditionalists. The SSPX would do the same to this laymen claiming to be a brother, and trying to join the SSPX order as a brother b/c he's not an actual brother, but a self described-self appointed brother. The SSPX is an actual canonical established order with actual brothers, and have allowed diocesan religious and even a retired Swiss bishop to join them.
Alex A
@Mathathias Maccabeus> Did the bishop of that diocese state that they couldn't?
philosopher
@Mathathias Maccabeus According Canon law, this is what defines a religious brother:

607.2. A religious institute is a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows…, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common. […]

608. A religious community must live in a legitimately established house under the authority of a superior designated according to the norm of law. …More
@Mathathias Maccabeus According Canon law, this is what defines a religious brother:

607.2. A religious institute is a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows…, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common. […]

608. A religious community must live in a legitimately established house under the authority of a superior designated according to the norm of law.
609.1 Houses of a religious institute are erected by the authority competent according to the constitutions, with the previous written consent of the diocesan bishop.

The layman, Alexis Bugnolo does belong to a society with a legitimately established house under a superior with a norm of law, and with the consent of a previous written diocesan bishop, professing public vows. The SSPX did have a "previous written consent of a docean bishop when they first established their order in 1970. He doesn't fit the criterion.

There are also, issues with Bugnolo's character. This was reported on by Through the Catholic Lens in Patheos.

The biography of Alexis Flavian Bugnolo claims he’s “a Franciscan hermit who observes the Rule of St Francis by private vows with tacit permission of Pope Benedict XVI and written permission of the Congregation for Religious in 2006.” He repeats this claim elsewhere.

So, I emailed the Congregation for Religious and got a response from the office: “On behalf of Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, I inform you that we have no record that Alexis Flavian Bugnolo is religious and we have no news that he is a hermit.” (That is my translation with the original at the end.)

I searched out evidence on whether he had permission to be a hermit in other sources. I found a 2010 note that he could be a hermit for 3 years in Noto (on page 98 of this PDF). He seemed to have some issue in 2009 as another Italian diocese (Patti) issued a statement against him (I could only find his reply). These two cases show that after his claimed 2006 permission from Rome to live as a hermit, he had moved to live as a hermit in two other dioceses. Canon 603 from Canon law deals with hermits. It notes that they are under a diocesan bishop. As such, permission from Rome ceased upon moving to these other dioceses. Thus, as far as can been seen he lacks the permission he claims.

Seeking further clarification, I emailed Don Antonio Panfilli, in charge of religious and consecrated (including hermits) for the diocese of Rome. He responded, noting that Bugnolo had presented himself to the diocese of Rome while on his three-year temporary period from Noto as he wanted to study in Rome. Don Panfilli followed this with: “He [Alexis Bugnolo] has never had permission from the diocese of Rome.” (Again, this is my translation with the original at the end.)

This claim of a 2006 permission from Benedict seems odd given that in 2006, Alexis Bugnolo was attacking Pope Benedict for being “Gay friendly” and implying maybe he should resign. Why would he seek exceptional permission for being a different type of hermit from Benedict if Bugnolo thought he should resign and why would Benedict give it if Bugnolo was attacking him.

Bugnolo published my DM to him on his site, claiming that Benedict knows he lives in Rome as a hermit since 2012 and approves it. However, provides no proof or evidence. Also, I highly doubt Benedict would approve a hermit for Rome with neither the diocese nor the Congregation of Religious having any record of it as Benedict followed the Church’s structure on such matters. Usually, such permissions are first given for a period of years then permanently, yet Bugnolo replies angrily to my question about whether the 2006 permission is still valid in 2021 (I did not use canonically precise terms and he attacks me for that without going to the essence).

Alexis did join the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in the 1990s but left before final vows. Emailing them, they confirmed this. He also seems to have done a partial translation of Bonaventure’s sentences of Peter Lombard. However, it seems at about the same place it was in 2012. (I wrote my STB thesis on this work and thus sought out an English version then. As I was dealing with a later passage, I ended up doing original translations from Latin.)

Further, in 2002, after leaving the Franciscans, but before he supposedly got permission from Benedict XVI, Bugnolo was going by “brother.” (In this case, Bugnolo is right in reporting suspicious behavior of a priest later suspended over abuse of minors.) He also used “Brother” when writing stories for this website from 2002-2004. This shows a pattern of him using “brother” when not appropriate.

Bugnolo does not seem to qualify under any normal category of the Church as a “brother,” so should not use the term so as to not confuse Catholics.

Bugnolo Is Not a Reliable Source

Bugnolo also makes me wonder as he presents contrary messages online. This leads to issues with his credibility. In 2018, he posted a letter renouncing his role on the Ordo Militaris on the Board of Directors to return to being a Franciscan hermit. Yet, in 2020 he allows himself to be introduced as the president of the group. Replying to my DM, he said he is the president of the legal corporation, which contradicts the 2018 letter where he said his motivation from stepping back was, “So that I might return to the pure observance of the Rule, in which I cannot undertake any legal or financial acts which dispose of property or monies,” when the President of a corporation is more involved in “disposing of property or monies” than a board member.

In the same video, he makes a claim that is factually questionable. He claims 300 have already signed up to join if he gets money but then says he has only talked to 30. It is hard to believe 90% of those willing to give their life for his cause haven’t even spoken to him. Also, this 300 seems questionable given other publicly available info such as their sparse view count on most videos save a few claiming that Benedict is the real Pope, and their apparently low number of donors and funds. (They seem to tweet when someone donates over $100 at once or over a year welcoming the member with an appropriate hashtag. By this metric, they have 9 at $100 a year, 2 at $300 a year, 2 at $600 a year, 3 at $1200 a year, and none at the higher ranks, although they may have others who do not wish to be recognized [the recognition does not name the person] and they have at least two smaller donors. Here we have 16 donors totally $6300 annually if they still all give. For comparison, my Patreon gets $4512 a year from 40 patrons.) I cannot imagine being willing to give my life for a cause but unwilling to give $100 a year or watch the relevant videos and share them with others. I can’t prove definitively Bugnolo is untruthful about the 300, but it seems highly unlikely given the evidence.

Furthermore, Bugnolo has a BA then claims he “graduated from Our Lady of Grace Seminary, Boston, in 1988” without noting the degree earned. However, Our Lady of Grace Seminary does not have classes. Instead, it is a formation house or residence for the Oblates of Virgin Mary attending nearby Saint John’s seminary. I can’t find evidence of Bugnolo being a member or even him claiming to have once been a member of the Oblates.

Bugnolo seems despite his claim of orthodoxy to not be that orthodox as he denies that Pope Francis is the Pope. However, the SSPX, do recognize that Francis is Pope and pray for him at every mass.

Again, on Bugnolo, according to Through the Catholic Lens:

The most famous part of his (Bugnolo's) website is the Benedict-truther articles. He believes that Benedict XVI is still the Pope and even has this link summarizing and indexing his thoughts on Benedict not resigning. Even the people at Novus Ordo Watch, who think Pius XII was the last valid Pope, think his arguments against Benedict’s resignation are ridiculous. Someone has written a 9,000+ word rebuttal of Bugnolo, point by point if you want to go deep. But the argument is pretty direct. The rules for papal transfer of power are determined by Popes. The Pope is only Pope because he freely wills to be Pope. At any moment, the Pope can will to no longer be Pope. All the structures like a life-long papacy, Cardinals, papal elections, etc. are small-t traditions that Popes could change. (Theoretically, the next Pope is free to announce he will retire after 5 years on his first day as Pope and that would be valid. The next Pope could then either continue a maximum of a 5-year reign or go for life.) Obviously, the Pope needs to be free in choosing to resign and a resignation made under duress would likely not be valid. However, Benedict XVI made it extra clear in his resignation text that the decision was made “with full freedom.” Also, Benedict himself has made it clear multiple times since then that he resigned. Not accepting the 2013 resignation is all the odder given Bugnolo said Benedict should resign in 2006, as noted above.

The Church is clear about who the Pope is.

There are a bunch of other issues with this site; I’ll cover rapid-fire some of the things I saw scrolling back 2 weeks.

He cites the Corbett report as a reliable source, yet this got a “Tin Foil Hat” rating from Media-bias / fact check and their top videos are 9-11 truther videos.
He cites another source that is strong for both conspiracy and pseudoscience.
He also cites Robert F. Kenedy Jr. as a reliable source on vaccines despite him being one of the biggest sources of misinformation on vaccines.
What is really a sad story about a priest who needed psychological medication but stopped it and then robbed a store is presented as a story about who is the Pope.
A lot of the posts are either videos with a few lines of text or rambling arguments by Bugnolo repeating the same themes.

And, he has questionable motives. Faux orthodoxy pays.

Thirdly, from Through the Catholic Lens:

Ordo Militaris claims it hopes to be a military order to protect persecuted Christians, but it appears to be highly questionable. They only mention two members – Bugnolo and Andrew J. Baalman – at any point I found on the site or in any news or about it, despite claiming to have 300 ready to fight for them as noted above. They act like this big organization, but there is no clear information I could find for anything beyond a post office box and these two men.

They repeatedly ask for a lot of money ($7-10 million total) without giving many specifics like most large fundraising efforts would.

They are a for-profit company, despite appearing in a way many would assume you were a non-profit, such as asking for donations. He claims the reason is: “U.S. tax laws to [sic] not allow religious non-profits to engage in offering services other than strictly religious.” However, many US non-profits offer foreign aid legally. Some activities they want to do may not be allowed but definitely initial projects like sending aid money to persecuted Christians or teaching strategies to avoid danger in areas of persecution would clearly be allowed as a US non-profit.

Now let’s get into the legal structure. In 2016, they were listed as a Wyoming company when they did an offering of securities. Why is an organization presenting itself as a charity that is getting donations also offering stocks? I’m not sure. They are listed as Suite #5259 in a building Google maps shows as having only two stories. However, the same building but with an address on the other street (it’s on the corner) is the address for a company that registers corporations in Wyoming providing virtual offices such that the person incorporating would never have to go to Wyoming. Such filings are often done for tax avoidance.

In 2018, they switched to Montana, with a similar arrangement. The legal address of the Ordo Militaris corporation is the address of a registry company in Montana, with that company listed as their officer. That address is home to at least 1000 other companies (I didn’t want to pay the website to get an exact number and they stop around 1000 unless you subscribe). The main company at this address is Deer Creek Corporate services (AKA Montana's Preferred Registered Agent | Lcltlc | United States, llc-tlc, FREELLC.COM). This company is mainly used for registering expensive vehicles from out of state in Montana to avoid other states’ vehicle fees. Montana NPR and Atlanta ABC each did a story explaining this practice with specific reference to this company. Both stories note the questionable legality of this practice. When asked, Bugnlo simply stated Montana state law requiring a register, while avoiding the real question of why the company is registered in Montana when they have no real presence there or why they use a registry company that is mainly used for questionably legal tax avoidance.

Ordo Militaris collected money for Beirut after the explosion in August 2020. They got $15,000 but then when it was difficult to get the money to people in Beirut, the funds were “redirected to other charitable works sponsored by Ordo Militaris Inc.” without specifying which charitable works. This may just be an issue in reporting but when asked multiple times about which charities, no details were given. Bugnoolo claimed, “Those who participated in our Relief Effort for Beirut asked that their funds be used according to specific instructions, the knowledge of which pertains to their private wishes, and which according to U. S. law you have no right to know.” A for-profit corporation does legally have such privacy, but most non-profits disclose such things. It would be in his interest to inform people where the money was spent if it was spent on causes people who are considering supporting him likely support.

Nowhere on their website or the open internet could I find the financials for the corporation as most non-profits would provide. Legally, as a privately held for-profit company, they don’t have to, but when seeking donations, they should do so.

Stefan Jetchick runs a Canadian website called Let’s Adore Jesus in the Eucharist. He thinks that we could use a new military order but strongly says Ordo Militaris and Bugnolo are not the right group. He lists several normal questions he would have before donating or investing and notes Bugnolo was unable to answer them when he asked.

First, a little proof regarding qualifications (above I noted that Bugnolo claims to be a hermit with permission but definitely does not have the permission he claims and seems not to have any permission, plus his questionable academic credentials).
Second, financial track record (as noted above, they have not indicated where money that was donated was redirected and have no public info on financials).
Third, strategic plan in detail (which their website lacks, despite asking for a lot of money).
Fourth, honesty about bad news (the Beirut story at least indicated some bad news, but when you are asking for millions and hitting a few thousand it would be good to note that more honestly).
Fifth, honesty about turnover (as all I can ever see are Bugnolo and Baalman, there may not be turnover, but saying it’s just these two out loud might indicate how small they are).
Sixth, if it looks too good to be true it probably is.
I would add here the issues with incorporating as a for-profit corporation in a place and manner usually done for tax loopholes, then presenting yourself in a way that many would assume you are a charitable organization.

There are legitimate concerns for the bishops rejecting his requests, none of which are parallel with the SSPX.

I don't trust this guy, and the bishops shouldn't either.

Pax et bonum
philosopher
Oh, my bad, is Br. Martin Navarro in association with Bugnolo or the Ordo Militaris? Now I'm confused.
2 more comments from philosopher
philosopher
Why doesn't he just join the SSPX, or FSSP? They also have locations in Kansas. I mean, there are traditional Benedictine's and there is also one traditional Augustinian Canon, but he would have to relocate. If he has a vocation why not go with an established trad order? Its not necessary for him to go solo.
philosopher
Well, if he's legit and honest then he does have a right to form a Catholic Association according to Canon Law. The bishop can refuse to recognize his order, but he can still meet with his fellow laymen as an association, however, at some point if they wish to move beyond a mere association, they will need a bishop or someone higher up in the Vatican to approve of them as a religious order. I …More
Well, if he's legit and honest then he does have a right to form a Catholic Association according to Canon Law. The bishop can refuse to recognize his order, but he can still meet with his fellow laymen as an association, however, at some point if they wish to move beyond a mere association, they will need a bishop or someone higher up in the Vatican to approve of them as a religious order. I still don't see them being in the same position as the SSPX.
Alex A
@Mathathias Maccabeus If your original comment wasn't a "dig at the SSPX." then it's legitimate to ask why did you mention the SSPX in the first place? A Freudian slip, perhaps?
philosopher
@Mathathias Maccabeus In a way yes, but they are or were only an Association, not an established order. The SSPX founded in Nov of 1970 was a canonically established religious society with established norms and laws and episcopal approval albeit they never reached the level of a religious Congregation that Lefebvre wanted, due to the hostility of the modernist French bishops who attempted to …More
@Mathathias Maccabeus In a way yes, but they are or were only an Association, not an established order. The SSPX founded in Nov of 1970 was a canonically established religious society with established norms and laws and episcopal approval albeit they never reached the level of a religious Congregation that Lefebvre wanted, due to the hostility of the modernist French bishops who attempted to sabotage the new order.
Alex A
@ Mathathias Maccabeus You're a smart guy, and you love a debate/argument. Just look back on how many comments you make, especially it seems when SSPX is on the 'menu'. I suspect you knew, at least on an emotional level, that the SSPX was not a good comparison to the argument you were making. Why did the three of us react/respond if your original comment wasn't a 'dig' at the SSPX? If not a …More
@ Mathathias Maccabeus You're a smart guy, and you love a debate/argument. Just look back on how many comments you make, especially it seems when SSPX is on the 'menu'. I suspect you knew, at least on an emotional level, that the SSPX was not a good comparison to the argument you were making. Why did the three of us react/respond if your original comment wasn't a 'dig' at the SSPX? If not a dig, then a 'fishing' for a reaction, perhaps? What ever, the point being that you didn't need to mention SSPX in the context in which you did. Let us leave it there and move on. Or, in the words of Martin Sheen's character in "West Wing" "What's next." 😉
Louis IX
Why does CNA need to mention the Fr. Jackson situation? Many people believe him to be innocent of the charges and are willing to contribute to his defense. Shoddy journalism using sensationalism to paint a biased picture of the situation.
Wilma Lopez
Good point.