Administration and Vow of Poverty

[Translated from the original Spanish]

Rome, February 27, 2014

 

1. Introduction

218. During the course of the General Chapter, the chapter fathers have had several opportunities to reflect on the living of our vow of poverty, on the financial situation of the congregation, and on various aspects of the administration of temporal goods.

219. In the first place, Msgr. Mario Marchesi, member of the Economic Affairs Commission, presided by His Eminence Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, presented the results of their investigation to the Chapter assembly and affirmed that, according to the documents analyzed, “no irregularities were found in the handling of finances”. In his turn, Fr. Eduardo Vigneaux, general administrator, presented the chapter fathers a summary of the administration’s report from 2005-2014. The complete report was at our disposal during the Chapter.

220. We also reflected on the corresponding numbers of the Constitutions and discussed these topics at length.

2. Relation between finances, poverty, apostolate, and personal life

221. From a more general point of view, the chapter fathers analyzed the relation between the vow of poverty, the apostolate, and religious life. Above all, we looked to Christ who, though rich, became poor for our sake, and has called us to imitate and follow him more closely.

222. a. Virtue and vow of poverty. The vow and living of the virtue of poverty are essential elements of religious life. Poverty, understood as a condition of penury, misery, or lack of material goods, in itself is not something positive. On the other hand, as a Christian virtue, in imitation of the way of life that Jesus Christ chose to live, it is something positive: detachment from temporal goods in order to grow in inner freedom.

223. We must make a conscious choice to live poverty, taking care not to reduce our poverty to obedience, for it is not by simply getting permission from one’s superior that one lives in accord with the Gospel spirit of poverty: just because I may be able to obtain permission to use certain material things does not mean that I should necessarily ask for them or have them. The fact that someone offers them to me free of charge is not sufficient reason to accept or use them. We have chosen to be poor in response to Christ’s call by the profession of our religious vows, and we should live out the consequences of our poverty with authenticity.

224. It will be helpful for Legionaries to review their living of poverty, as a vow and as a virtue, periodically in spiritual direction and in formation dialogue.

225. Another consideration was made in reference to the relation between the specific apostolates of the Legion and the living of poverty. Our apostolic charism at times brings us to work with people in environments of economic abundance. For some this can imply certain risks in the living of the vow and the virtue of poverty.

226. We are aware that at the present moment within the Church and society there is an urgent need for bearing witness to true Gospel poverty. Although in almost all of our houses we live with religious austerity, we should take care to ensure that the communities and members of the Legion of Christ also give a clear testimony of poverty.

227. We asked ourselves how to fit several elements together that could seem contradictory: on the one hand, a true living of poverty on the institutional level combined with affective and real personal detachment from temporal goods, and on the other hand the demands of the apostolate in differing locations and circumstances. This reflection leads us, in practice, to review our use of and our stance towards the temporal goods that are at the disposal of our communities and members: money, cars, mobile phones, computers, cameras and other similar electronics, clothes, or other objects, etc. We have seen how some of these means can prove useful for the apostolate, but we also recognize that they present risks for our personal and community life.

228. Thus arises the need for a permanent personal and community watchfulness so as to be in the world but not of the world, to distinguish between that which is truly necessary, or at least helpful, for the apostolate, as well as for personal and community life. Great purity of intention is needed here. Money and temporal goods are always and only a means to an end.

229. On a more practical note, we invite everyone to reject the ever-present temptation to multiply travels without sufficient motives, or to seek to always have the “latest and greatest”; and to reflect when paying the necessary attention to one’s personal presentation so that it does not become an excuse to seek out better or nicer things.

230. We also invite everyone to value the temporal goods we have and to appreciate the great sacrifices that many Legionaries and benefactors of ours have made and are making. On many occasions they not only give us what they have an excess of, but even that which they themselves have need of.

231. Besides this, we need to learn to appreciate the reality of the lives of people who work every day, with great sacrifice, to earn enough to make ends meet in their personal lives, family, and workplace. Solidarity with them is shown by knowing how to appreciate what things cost, taking care of them with responsibility, and accepting with realism that it will not always be possible to have at our disposal all the means that we might wish for in the apostolate or our personal life.

232. From another point of view, we acknowledge that the need or the demand that our houses and apostolates be self-financing due to tight cash flow and budgets has put pressure on some and has brought others to slacken in the diligence with which they live the vow of poverty by managing funds apart from legitimate superiors and administrators. We invite all to overcome the temptation to hold on to money without permission, even for apostolic or organizational purposes, and to always operate within a budget approved by the appropriate superior.

233. b. Poverty lived in a spirit of communion. We have seen that Legionaries can improve the living of poverty as a community, which implies that we are all united as one body. We feel called to live a poverty like that of the first Christian communities, in which they had all things in common.

234. Each one of us needs to be supportive of and feel responsible for his brothers, for the Legion, and for the Regnum Christi movement as a whole; when I have, I share, and when I am in need, I ask for help from my brothers knowing that they are going to help me out. We are all brothers. Although one may be the director of an apostolic work or a superior, in community life he is one like any other and takes part in everything without distinctions or privileges. These are demands of religious life and of the common law of work.

235. This communion also has certain community and organizational implications: the need for a joint organization, for budgets that are approved, respected and made one’s own; for the participation and responsibility of all in seeking out the necessary financial resources, avoiding any kind of indifference when able to take part in helping obtain them.

236. In accordance with the demands of our vow of poverty, we should consider temporal goods not as our own, but as a patrimony at the service of the Church, the Legion, and the Regnum Christi movement. Everything we receive is for the community, for the Congregation, for the Movement, and one should have the necessary permission if anything is to be kept for one’s own use.

237. At the same time, given that different times, places, and circumstances entail differing needs, we cannot realistically imagine that there will be no difference at all between the apostolic means at the disposal of different Legionaries. We should avoid making comparisons that generate conflict and envy or foster coldness and division. It is rather in our personal and community life in which, yes, equality should be sought, not out of uniformity, but from an equally genuine living of religious poverty.

238. When reviewing the new text of the Constitutions we have tried to make sure all these elements remain clearly reflected in our proper law, albeit in a general way, as corresponds to a constitutional text. Other concrete aspects will be taken up in other texts of our proper law.

239. c. Work with the poor. We could not leave out a reflection on this topic. In the Chapter assembly we have seen that, besides having a special love for the poor, Legionaries are invited to know, appreciate, and better participate in the good that the Legion and the Movement do, directly or indirectly, for those who suffer poverty. We look with gratitude upon the numerous Legionaries who have spent their lives working in the Cancún-Chetumal Prelature, in the Helping Hands schools, in the evangelizing missions and in various works of Christian charity. We acknowledge that just as material poverty and want must be attended to, neither can concern for moral and spiritual poverty be set aside.

240. Above all, we recall that, in agreement with our apostolic charism, we seek to lead people to commit themselves, according to their possibilities, qualities, and capabilities, to help meet the needs of society, so that by giving themselves to the task of transforming its structures with the message of Christ, they will reach out to their neighbor in order to bring him not only the light of the Gospel, but also relief in his needs.

241. While we value direct apostolic action towards those most in need, we also have in mind that we can reach a greater number of them and do them greater good by means of the action of many others, above all of Regnum Christi members. In saying this, we are not forgetting that evangelizing social or economic leaders is not always easy, but it is part of our vocation to bring them to Christ and encourage them to know and put into practice the Social Doctrine of the Church, and in so doing to transform social structures in accordance with justice and charity.1

3. Practical considerations

242. At the end of the presentation of the financial situation of the Legion, the chapter fathers had time for community reflection in which the following points were highlighted:

243. a. Patrimony. We reflected on the need to increase our patrimony in order to sustain our members, and the shared responsibility of all Legionaries in this task.

244. b. The current debt. At the present moment we find ourselves in a situation of high indebtedness. Although it is a manageable debt and the repayment plans are being fulfilled, the Pontifical Delegate and the General Chapter judge that it is necessary to make an effort to reduce it.

245. The greater part of this debt was taken on to finance the launch and development of educational institutions. At the time, it was thought that they themselves would be capable of paying off the debt in its totality in a more timely way than has actually been the case. On the other hand, the large investment in formation centers in various territories has also affected the economy of the congregation. The difficult financial situation of the world today has made our situation even worse. So that this does not happen again, in the future special attention will be paid to financial sustainability when evaluating projects, institutions, or new territories or communities.

246. Among other causes, the lack of global accounting information, prudence, and consideration when moving forward on the purchase and construction of various educational and formation centers were pointed out.

247. Over the last few years, the territories have been adopting measures to balance this out and these are already starting to bear fruit. Basically, the measures can be grouped into the following: diminishing of operational expenses, sale of properties, and delaying of investment in projects. We still need to continue to increase the generation of other sources of income that will allow a stable support for our houses of formation and apostolate.

248. c. Lay personnel that collaborate in our institutions and Integer. One concern that the Pontifical Delegate presented to us from the beginning of his mandate referred to the group of lay employees gathered into what was known as Integer. We also had the opportunity to touch on this theme during the days dedicated to the analysis of the congregation’s finances.

249. In recent decades, our apostolic initiatives expanded rapidly and grew immensely. In many cases, this growth was disordered and unbalanced due to a lack of adequate systems and procedures, of investment in personnel and resources, etc. A decrease in the operating margins of our educational institutions due to the ever more secularized society, a general reduction in birth rates, and the increasing educational offers from other entities were unforeseen, along with other causes.

250. With our sights set on seeking out better solutions to these problems, we involved lay professionals in the administration and management of our apostolic works at the local, territorial, and international levels by means of an internal organization named Integer, which focused on developing our schools and universities, as well as on human resources, financial information, and other similar sectors such as fundraising. As well, the operational and managerial divisions of our schools and universities were restructured, giving them greater autonomy. The involvement of territorial administrations in the supervision and direct management of our educational and apostolic institutions diminished, allowing them to concentrate on auditing, treasury, and legal areas. All this showed positive results, but also engendered no shortage of difficulties.

251. As of today, one clear line of authority has been reestablished (general director – territorial director – local directors), reintegrating parts of the Integer teams into the general, territorial, and local levels, while doing without other parts of them. We should gratefully acknowledge the dedication and professionalism showed by these lay men and women during this particularly difficult period. We would also like to thank the many Legionaries and consecrated men and women who for years have collaborated in the administrative tasks of our institutions.

252. d. Faculties delegated to the Territorial Directors. The General Chapter has confirmed, at least in principle, the provisions that Fr. Sylvester Heereman, acting general director, established, empowering the territorial directors in certain matters and procedures regarding decentralization in the administration of temporal goods (cf. Prot. V.G. 050-2012/1). It will be up to the administrative guidelines and the general director to confirm or modify these provisions, or to add other similar ones.

253. e. Fundraising. Temporal goods are necessary for us to fulfill our mission and, at the same time, fundraising is an experience of God’s providence and part of our evangelizing ministry. When evangelizing people, we put emphasis on the desire to seek each person’s good and to make the Gospel known to them. Often times from this there arises in them a desire to help the Church and the Legion in the task of evangelization. Likewise, the need to ask for economic help often opens the doors to bring our benefactors closer to the Lord and to cooperate with God’s grace so that He may transform their lives and make them into apostles according to their own vocation.

254. All Legionaries are called to cooperate in this effort to invite people to participate in our mission according to their possibilities, taking special care not to fall into materialism, attachment to the world, or an unhealthy independence in the use of temporal goods. For a Legionary, the task of fundraising should never become an obstacle to the formation of our religious, nor to the fervor and perseverance of our priests. On the contrary, it should contribute to a more genuine living of poverty and humility by means of coming to experience one’s own needs. It should also be of help to us to recognize the faith and generosity of so many people who support us and often give us an example of sacrifice.

255. Finally, esprit de corps demands that we never limit our fundraising goals to just our own individual needs or projects. A Legionary should take into account and be concerned for the needs and the good of the communities, while always respecting the donor’s intention. He should cultivate the awareness that God’s providence provides for the needs of those who trust in Him, and the assurance that the Legion strives to meet the needs of its members.

4. Mandates and assignments for the central government

256. a. The Chapter Fathers have asked our new government to draw up and approve some secondary legislation (i.e. Administrative guidelines) that, taking the text of the new Constitutions as a starting point, will regulate administration, promote responsibility at each level of government (international, territorial, local), facilitate due follow-up, and subordinate administration to the common good.

257. b. The central government was asked to attend to the following tasks: seek to increase the fund for the sustenance of elderly and sick members; continue implementing the territorial plans for self-sustainability, especially of those territories affected financially by the debts of their respective institutions.

258. c. The chapter fathers have asked that a study be carried out in order that the general director might formally designate some temporal goods as part of the stable patrimony of the congregation.2

259. d. The Chapter asks the general administration to continue, together with the territorial administrators and their teams, to create a culture of communication at all levels in order to achieve a greater spirit of cooperation and mutual solidarity.

260. e. The Chapter entrusted the general director with the task of determining the amount for extraordinary administrative acts at each level, which will be in place ad experimentum until further approval from the next general chapter.

Appendix – Reflection on ecclesiastical goods

261. Cardenal Velasio De Paolis took advantage of the opportunity to remind us of some of the provisions in the Code of Canon Law for the administration of ecclesiastical goods and, in particular, those which refer to religious institutes and which at times we have not applied with precision and constancy.

262. The Pontifical Delegate dwelt upon the explanation in Church law and the proper law of religious institutes regarding the acquisition, retention, administration and alienation of temporal goods. He also dwelt on the principles of subordinated administration.

263. He took the opportunity to stress that all goods of the Congregation, which is a public, ecclesiastical, legal entity, are ecclesiastical goods and should therefore be governed by Church law, even when it is also necessary to adapt to the civil law of each country. At the same time, he reminded us that there are countries that have not established concordats with the Holy See and that do not recognize Canon Law in this way. In such cases, one must seek the way to express the precepts of Canon Law in the civil statues or guidelines of the associations and societies through which the congregation acts in those countries.

264. He also explained the relationship between superiors and administrators. He presented their different functions and responsibilities, leaving clear that the former govern the people and the latter administer the temporal goods in dependence on the superiors. The superior is the one ultimately responsible for the administration, but he is not the one who runs it; rather, he is the one who looks after its management according to the approved budget. The administrator is not autonomous, for he must act according to the superior’s indications and give an account of his management.

265. Another point that Cardenal De Paolis amply explained was the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary administration.

266. Ordinary administration, which we have usually called or identified as “management of the approved budget”, is not subsequently regulated by common law, but rather by proper law.

267. Extraordinary administration is that which goes beyond the ordinary and legitimately established measure (quae excedit finem et modum). The acts of extraordinary administration, which are defined diversely for each of the three levels of government, must be approved by the corresponding authority with the consent of the respective council and, on occasion, of the Holy See. That is to say, if a certain act of administration exceeds the established parameters regarding the “finem et modum”, the administrator must turn to the corresponding authority, under pain , depending on the case, of the invalidity of his acts.

268. The acts of extraordinary administration can refer, among others and according to the established limits, to the following areas:

– patrimonial operations regarding movable or immovable goods of the congregation;

– construction projects;

– modification of buildings/properties or extraordinary maintenance of a cost superior to the limits approved by the corresponding superior;

– acquiring of credits approved by the corresponding superior;

– use of properties as mortgage collateral;

– constitution, dissolution, or sale of societies or foundations and the changing of legal structures approved for the territory;

– investments in financial instruments;

– lease of buildings/properties for amounts or duration superior to the limits approved by the corresponding superior;

– the defining of stable patrimony.

 

1 Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Ecclesia in America, n. 67.
2 By “stable patrimony” is understood that part of material goods that are considered as such, by indication of the corresponding superior, because they are of prime importance for the life and mission of the congregation, and are devoted to advancing its specific aims. Cf. can. 1291