Government, Authority and Obedience

[Translated from the Original Spanish]

Rome, February 27, 2014

 

178. The government of the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ, the exercise of authority, and the way obedience has been lived have been topics frequently dealt with, both in the apostolic visitation and in the revision and reflection that the Legionaries have undertaken in the last three years under the guidance of the Papal Delegate. Because authority and obedience are two fundamental aspects in religious life, we the chapter fathers would like to share with our brother Legionaries some of the reflections made in the chapter hall, in the hope they can help us in our ongoing journey of renewal.

179. The main problems identified in the government of the congregation were the following: excessive centralization, a diffused and fragmented authority, deficiencies in the functioning and performance of councils, lack of sufficient rotation in leadership positions, little opportunity for consultations and other forms of greater participation provided for by canon law for religious institutes, and the tendency to multiply norms. We also recognize that some of our religious have not always followed the example of Jesus Christ in his fundamental attitude, “Father, here I come to do your will” (Heb 10:7, 9) present in the living of their obedience.

1. Religious authority as a service

180. Religious superiors receive their authority “from God through the ministry of the Church,”1 not from the community. A religious congregation is not a group of faithful who pursue an ecclesial objective because of their own initiative; it is an institute of consecrated life that acts on behalf of and by order of the Church.

181. Authority in religious life must be exercised in a spirit of service, respect for the individual, and in dialogue for the good of the institute and the Church2. The superior of the community should personally and prudently guide the religious life, health, and the material and spiritual needs of the religious entrusted to him. In particular, he has to give his attention to the apostolic work of his subjects, respecting the scope of his own competence and the authority of those leading various apostolates. To do this he may also have to visit members of his community in their workplaces or collaborate with them in their apostolates.

182 . The moral authority of the superior comes from the witness of his life and this facilitates the exercise of his canonical authority and the obedience of his subjects. The superior, in addition to trying to be a witness of religious and priestly life (CLC 36.1)3, exercises authority under the law (CIC. 617) and in obedience to the major superiors. Religious for their part should always keep in mind the meaning and the gospel value of redemptive obedience and that “The Christian, like Christ, is defined as an obedient being. The unquestionable primacy of love in Christian life cannot make us forget that such love has acquired a face and a name in Christ Jesus and has become Obedience.”4

2. Personal authority

183. In the recent review of our practices and in the new constitutions, various figures surrounding the superiors no longer exist (e.g. nuncios, delegates of general director for the apostolate, or assistants of the territorial director). Delegating tasks to these figures ran the risk of diluting authority and making the relationship of government between superiors and subjects less direct and personal. These changes are aimed at strengthening personal authority within three canonical levels of government: general, territorial and local. Each level has its respective superior, with its own responsibilities and functions. The superior has authority under canon and proper law with the power to decide and command what serves to promote the good of the Church, the congregation, the community, and each member (CLC 125).

184. As permitted by law, a superior may delegate his authority. Delegations must be made in writing and judiciously, for if the superior habitually delegates many of his powers he ceases to exercise his authority as such or can fragment it. Although a large delegation could be useful for efficiency, it would be harmful to the relationship between the superior and the religious.

3. The council of the superior

185. The superior’s authority, although personal, is aided by the assistance of his council.5 The council is not a governmental body but rather one of collaboration. Indeed, its consent or opinion regarding some of the superior’s decisions, as established by law, is necessary; it also helps the superior discern the will of God, advises the general director in the analysis of government issues and on matters falling within its competence, gathers information, makes suggestions in the decision-making process, proposes solutions, actions and initiatives that nurture good governance, and helps monitor projects of the community or the congregation.

186. Councilors should express their opinion freely and clearly, and, if the gravity of the matter calls for it, carefully maintain professional secrecy.6 The superior, meanwhile, has to take responsibility for his decisions without passing it on to the councilors. Once the superior has decided, the councilors are called to support him loyally in the communication and implementation of the decision.

4. Participation and co-responsibility

187. In addition to the council, the superior has the help of participatory bodies, such as assemblies and consultations (CLC 126 § 5; 134). These are institutional forms by which co-responsibility is put into action and expressed; they channel the care of all who live in the institute towards the good of the community.7 We have seen the positive results that these bodies and consultations have brought about in recent years.

188. Their purpose is not to democratize government, but to enlighten the superiors, allowing them to more prudently exercise their governance. They should not invade the field of government or replace the superiors’ responsibility. The opinions, consultations and counsels that the superior receives from these bodies are a valuable help in deciding prudently and responsibly at the service of authority.8

189. Consulting a religious prior to an appointment fosters a climate of respect and dialogue; it should not be interpreted either as the subject’s “right” or as a sign of reduced confidence in the religious’ availability. A consultation is not made regarding an appointment to ask if the subject will obey or not, but, assuming that everyone is willing to obey, its aim is to involve the religious in order to know his views and thus make the best possible decision.

5 . Accountability

190. While planning, methodology, systems of organization, having to report results and being held accountable are useful for our evangelizing objective, they do not guarantee it. The chapter fathers have realized that when religious are involved in the drawing up of programs, they become more realistic. At the same time, the religious see the task as their own, and hence are more responsible in its fulfillment (CLC 38 § 3).

191. We have also realized that the fact of having on occasion insisted too much on numeric results and reports (at times without having sufficiently verified their utility and their adequacy) has led to a certain resistance or even the rejection of the idea itself of accountability. Recognizing the errors of the past, we invite everyone to consider how necessary and useful some type of accountability is: to one’s own superior through evaluations, meetings, and periodic reports. All of this is an expression of personal responsibility at the service of the common good; it is a manifestation of the mature and generous living of religious obedience and a necessity of good government.

6. Norms for the exercise of government

192. One of the criteria in the process of revision of the Constitutions has been to clearly express the hierarchy of different norms. On the one hand, the Constitutions contain fundamental norms regarding the government, discipline, formation and apostolate of the institute; they seek to harmonize the spiritual and juridical and avoid unnecessary elements. On the other hand, the secondary codes of proper law contain more particular norms that are in harmony with the Constitutions. These secondary codes can be revised and adapted when needed according to the demands of time and place9. The Constitutions and secondary codes are equally binding for the members of the institute, however (CLC 232). The difference between them lies in their stability and the authority needed to sanction changes in them: changes in the Constitutions require the approval of the Holy See, while the secondary codes can be modified by the competent authority in the congregation itself.

193. These codes indicate, each according to its nature, the path that a religious has at his disposal in order to fulfill the Supreme Rule of his life: the following of Christ10. Superiors should help their religious discover the correct value and meaning of the norms of the institute so that having interiorized them with religious spirit, conviction, and maturity, they may be followed with the true liberty of a son of God.

7. Criteria of government with reference to expansion and consolidation

194. In these last years the central government of the congregation has followed a path of greater consolidation and a more prudent plan of expansion in the founding new houses and starting new apostolates. For this reason, it has been more diligent in seeking an adequate assignment of personnel and of the available material recourses. It has followed the following criteria in the assignment of personnel: strengthening of religious life, perseverance, and permanent formation of legionaries; assigning persons to more appropriate places; reducing, not without costly sacrifices at times, the geographic dispersion that was present in some territories; assigning religious in apostolic practices to houses and apostolates that favored close accompaniment; maintaining apostolic schools and novitiates with vocations largely from the territory itself.

195. Following these criteria a series of measures were implemented that aimed at increasing the quality and sustainability of the respective programs, territories, and centers of formation: the merging of the territories of Germany and France; the merging of the territories of Atlanta and New York; the separation between the territory of Italy and the centers of formation in Rome; the closing of the apostolic schools in Santiago (Chile), Cordoba (Argentina), Colfax (California) and Porto Alegre (Brazil); the closing of the novitiates of Dublin and Cornwall; the closing of the center of Humanities in Salamanca; the closing of the Center of Higher Studies in Thornwood.

I. Recommendations to Legionaries

a. Recovering confidence: a task for all

196. In these last years the relation of confidence and closeness between superiors and subjects, so characteristic of the family spirit with which God has gifted us and which is necessary for good government, has been adversely affected. The various causes of this situation include the lack of attentive listening and clear and quick communication on the part of the superiors. This has caused confusion and has resulted in misunderstandings and inadequate interpretations of the actions and words of the superiors. It has also led some to interpret the communiqués from the Holy See as a global condemnation of the congregation’s superiors.

197. We thus invite all Legionaries to strive to recover their confidence in authority and foster respect towards superiors in an open and sincere dialogue motivated by the supernatural virtues (CLC 40 § 2). Here are some elements that can help renew these virtues and attitudes:

a. Superiors, as good fathers and shephers, should welcome and listen to their subjects. They should be patient, humble, and sincerely open when they express disagreements or criticisms, even if in an inadequate manner, trusting instead in their good intentions. Religious, on the other hand, should remember the meaning of obedience, recognizing and respecting the authority of superiors, and be witnesses of an “Obedience, enlivened by charity, which unites the members of an Institute in the same witness and the same mission, while respecting the diversity of gifts and individual personalities.”11 All of us recognize and appreciate that a relationship of closeness and dependence in what concerns religious life and apostolate between superiors and subjects is necessary.

b. Superiors should communicate to the members of their community all that affects the life of the congregation and the community, and all that helps foster a family spirit. For this reason, they should try and ensure, in as much as possible, that news regarding the congregation reach Legionaries through their superiors. Given the dynamism and immediacy of today’s means of communication, this will not be possible in certain circumstances and hence we invite all to accept these limits with realism and understanding.

c. Superiors should foster confidence when they share reflections regarding religious life with their communities, inviting all to share in the common responsibility of programming, budgeting, and organizing apostolate or other themes that involve the whole community (CLC 38 § 2).

b. Exercise of authority

198. With the help of their councilors, the superiors should resolve those problems that pertain to them by law without deferring decisions to higher instances of authority. Religious, for their part, should become accustomed to speaking with the immediate competent superior when needed, avoiding words or actions that send the message that they only have to obey major superiors.

199. When confronting complex or irregular situations of a religious, superiors should proceed according to the law, learning to manage these cases with fortitude, rectitude, and charity. When the gravity of the situation requires it, recourse is to be made to the appropriate formal warnings.

200. When superiors give permissions or request tasks of a certain relevance of their subjects, they are to do so in writing. They should also inform other persons who may be affected by these decisions, so that there is clarity among all regarding the line of authority, areas of competence etc.

c. Fostering the participation of all

201. Superiors are to promote and favor the participation and co-responsibility of all in their own community and mission. For this reason, they should take advantage of the different forms of participation that exist in religious life such as: community meetings, consultations with those affected by a particular decision, the involvement of all in the elaboration and revision of programs, community projects, budgets, and other areas that involve the community. Religious, for their part, should recall that it is the superior who is called to make the final decision in a given matter and that obeying “means relying on the final decision of the person in authority, with the conviction that such obedience is a precious contribution — even if involving suffering — for the building of the Reign of God.’ 12

II. Tasks and suggestions for the central government

a. Elaboration of the secondary codes

202. The chapter fathers entrust to the new government of the congregation the elaboration of the appropriate secondary codes. These are to be approved ad experimentum by the general director and his counsel until the celebration of the next general chapter, which is the ordinary authority for the approval of such documents. These secondary codes are: Directory (Complementary Norms), Ratio Institutionis, Ratio Studiorum, Rules for administration, Rules for the General Chapter. These codes are to follow principles that are analogous to the ones that have guided the revision of the Constitutions (cf. CIC 578, 587) and are not to be too long or exhaustive.

203. We also ask the major superiors to promote among Legionaries an adequate canonical formation that allows them to recognize the hierarchy and obligatory nature of the different norms, thus understanding their correct sense and their gradual adaptation to the different stages of religious life. A good introduction to the new Constitutions can be an occasion for this formation and awaken in Legionaries the commitment to live the disciplinary norms of the congregation in a more mature and convinced way. The fact that there are fewer and less detailed norms should be the occasion for a better assimilation of the principles that inspire these norms and for the practice of the virtues which sustain the living of the demands of religious life.

b. Rotation of superiors

204. The General Chapter asks the new government to maintain their ongoing effort to change those superiors who have exceeded the established time for their post according to proper law13.

c. An adequate decentralization

205. The growth of the congregation has made the centralization of government outlined in the 1983 Constitutions unsustainable. Under the guidance of the Papal Delegate, the central government already put into practice certain steps in decentralization without waiting for the end of the process of the revision of the Constitutions. In particular, it delegated to the territorial directors certain faculties previously reserved to the general director (CLC 197): admission to novitiate, first profession, and renewal of vows14; some faculties in the areas of administration15, academics, and apostolate in schools16; and in some aspects of religious life and discipline17.These delegations of authority remain in effect since until the new Constitutions and the other secondary codes receive approval, as they were already approved by the Papal Delegate and confirmed by the General Chapter when so needed. With the help of his councilors and in conformity with our legislation, the general director should reflect on the degree and modes of centralization that should be conserved in the congregation, especially in the assignment of personnel and economic resources in order to guarantee the unity and efficient apostolic action of the congregation.

d. Establishing criteria for expansion and consolidation

206. The chapter fathers ask the general director, together with the territorial directors, to analyze the procedures and establish the general and territorial criteria for consolidation and expansion of territories and communities, in view of the common good and the sustainability of the territories, houses, and works of apostolate.

e. Archives and history of the congregation

207. The archives are where the memory of the government and life of the congregation are conserved. The chapter fathers ask the central government to:

a. gather the sources and necessary testimonies for future studies regarding the history of the Legion.

b. name a commission to prepare a succinct and objective history of the most relevant canonical events in the life of the congregation, especially for use in centers of formation.

c. reorganize the current archive, the depository of the historical documents of the congregation, and the secret archive according to the science of archiving, common law, and proper law. For this end, it is necessary to elaborate and approve instruction manuals with norms on administrative praxis, regarding the writing, registration, expedition, and classification of documents, regarding the ordering, inventory, and conservation of documents valuable for the patrimony of the congregation, and regarding the structure, organization, and personnel of the archives.

f. Reports

208. The chapter fathers ask the general director to analyze the practice of personal reports that the superiors prepare when their subjects change community or stage of formation in order to guarantee the accompaniment of the religious during formation and especially during apostolic practices.

g. Institutionalize the establishment of safe environments

209. In his letter of December 5, 201318, the acting general director informed the congregation of the principles that the central government was following to prevent abuses and attend any allegation of a crime presented against a Legionary. The territorial directors also informed the General Chapter about the implementation in their territories of the “code of conduct” for Legionaries regarding dealings with minors, women, vulnerable adults, and the procedures to be followed in the case of an allegation of misconduct by a priest or religious in compliance with civil legislation of each country.

210. The chapter fathers have noted that the general director and the territorial directors have named personnel and created commissions to help local superiors fulfill these norms contained in the codes of conduct and fulfill independent accreditation standards to favor safe environments in our houses and apostolates in these last years. We ask the new government to continue these efforts so that preventive measures are enforced on an ongoing basis so that all those we work with receive the maximum possible protection to reduce risks as much as possible.

211. We also ask the general director that, with the approval of his council, he establish procedures and standards for safe environments that all the territories should meet in the next 6 years. In those territories where there is no independent organization to certify the quality of abuse prevention measures, of the response to allegations, and the pastoral care of alleged or real victims, the general directorate should function as accreditor and offer assistance to the territorial directors and the coordinators for safe environments so that all necessary procedures and accreditation requisites are fulfilled.

h. Define the figure of the local coordinator of apostolate

212. In light of a clearer distinction between the three levels of government and the personal responsibility that pertains to each of these, the general director should promote reflection on and clarification of the role of the local coordinator of apostolate. The General Chapter has preferred not to pronounce itself on this matter, because for the moment we encounter a variety of experiences on the matter and the other branches of the Movement must participate in the discussion. It is up to the territorial governments to issue adequate orientation for each locality.

213. In the Legion, unity of religious and apostolic authority is found in the person of the territorial and general director, each at their level. This unity, however, is not present at the local level: it is the superior of the center (or directors of teams of consecrated men or women) who has canonical religious authority over persons, while authority over apostolic work is in the hands of the directors of apostolates and sections. The local coordinator of apostolate is neither a religious superior nor a figure with intermediary apostolic authority between the directors of apostolate and the territorial director. Unless the territorial director wishes to delegate specific faculties to him, the local coordinator of apostolate only has the task of coordinating the apostolic activities in a locality and should not interfere with the internal running of apostolates or sections, or in the life of communities.

214. The General Chapter recognizes that as long as the person named for this role has the needed qualities, he can pertain to any branch of the Movement. We invite both Legionaries and members of the other branches of the Movement to actively and generously collaborate in their apostolate for the common good (CLC 16), especially in those localities where the distinct branches and sections share the same center, direct schools that are close to each other, or administer the same budget.

i. Government and institutional communication

215. Although our internal and external communication has been improving, we ask the general director to foster an appreciation for the value of communication in superiors and subjects. He should also oversee the implementation of institutional principles of communication so that a direct, clear, objective and constant style in our communications is achieved. For this purpose, we need to establish a consistent institutional communication regarding our identity and mission, create updated sources of accessible institutional information such as statistics and news etc., and regularly publish a bulletin with information from the central and territorial governments.

216. In order to achieve adequate communication at all levels, we should ensure that each territory has, in proportion to its size and capacity, a department of communication with the necessary personnel and means to perform their job in a professional manner. We ask the territorial directors, local superiors, and directors of works of apostolate to make an ongoing effort to improve their mode of communication. We also ask that all religious be familiar with our principles of institutional communication and the criteria for the use of the social media as a means of communication and apostolate. It is also necessary that Legionaries and other members of Regnum Christi who are dedicated to apostolate in these areas be adequately trained.

Conclusion

217. We would like to end this document asking the Lord that the Legion be profoundly renewed in the areas of the exercise of authority and the living of religious obedience. On the one hand “it is necessary to recognize that the task of being a guide for others is not easy, especially when the sense of personal autonomy is excessive or conflictive and competitive in its relations with others. Therefore, it is necessary on everyone’s part to sharpen his or her ability to see the encounters of this task in faith, in order that he or she might be inspired to have the attitude of Jesus the Servant who washes the feet of his apostles so that they might have a part in his life and in his love (cf. Jn 13:1-17)”19 . On the other hand, our obedience should offer to all men and women the testimony of a holy life in imitation of Jesus Christ and his acceptance of the will of the Father. In this way we can repeat the words of the Blessed Virgin: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1: 38).

1 CIC 618: “The authority which Superiors receive from God through the ministry of the Church is to be exercised by them in a spirit of service. In fulfilling their office they are to be docile to the will of God, and are to govern those subject to them as children of God. By their reverence for the human person, they are to promote voluntary obedience. They are to listen willingly to their subjects and foster their cooperation for the good of the institute and the Church, without prejudice however to their authority to decide and to command what is to be done.”; cfr. Perfectae Caritatis, 14.
2 Cf. CIC 618; Jn 13: 13-14; Phil 2:7; CICLSAL, Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on Religious Life, 49.
3 Translator’s note: The abbreviation “CLC” refers to the constitutional text which was approved by the Holy See on October 16th, 2014.
4 CICLSAL, The Service of Authority and Obedience, 8.
5 Cf. CIC 127, 627.
6 Cf. CIC 127 § 3.
7 CIC 633 § 1: “Participatory and consultative bodies are faithfully to carry out the task entrusted to them, in accordance with the universal law and the institute’s own law. In their own way they are to express the care and participation of all the members for the good of the whole institute or community.”
8 CIC 626: “Superiors in conferring offices, and members in electing to office, are to observe the norms of the universal law and the institute’s own law, avoiding any abuse or preference of persons. They are to have nothing but God and the good of the institute before their eyes, and appoint or elect those whom, in the Lord, they know to be worthy and fitting. In elections, besides, they are to avoid directly or indirectly lobbying for votes, either for themselves or for others.”
9 Cf. CIC 587, 4.
10 Cf. CIC 662; CLC 235.
11 Vita Consecrata, 92.
12 CICLSAL, The Service of Authority and Obedience, 20 d.
13 Cf. CIC 624.
14 Cf. Prot. D.G. 409-2011/1.
15 Cf. Prot. V.G. 50-2012/1.
16 Cf. Prot. V.G. 193-2012/5.
17 Cf. Prot. V.G. 75-2012/1.
18 Cf. Prot. V.G. 1351-2013/11.
19 CICLSAL, The Service of Authority and Obedience, 12.