A conference on the proper law of our Order was held at the International College of the Friars Minor Conventual in Rome (Seraphicum). The conference started on the afternoon of March 21 and ended on the morning of March 23, 2019.
The conference speakers were all professors of ours or members of other religious Orders. Each professor was introduced by a brief personal bio. The professors presented their topics in a dynamic way, thanks in part to their use of some specially prepared PowerPoints.
The topics addressed were mainly focused on our recently approved Constitutions and the Instrumentum laboris of the General Statutes, which are being edited by the confreres of the Executive Committee for the Revision of the Constitutions (CERC) and the friars of the General Procuration Office. Those attending the conference sessions included the members of the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP) and several friars from the Seraphicum. There were some interesting questions and discussions at the end of each presentation.
Other presentations were about current legal issues. The Most Reverend Filippo IANNONE, O. Carm., Archbishop and President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, presented a lecture on the origin and nature governing power in the Order, namely, who governs the community and why. The Most Reverend José Rodríguez CARBALLO, OFM, Archbishop and Secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life gave a brilliant presentation on the abandonment of religious and priestly life. Cistercian Father Sebastiano PACIOLLA masterfully illustrated the new norms of the Holy See concerning the administration in religious institutes. Equally stimulating and engaging was the reflection on the criteria for the autonomy of Provinces led by Friar Antonio BELPIEDE, OFM Cap., General Procurator, and the presentation on the internal and external Forum in government and formation by Friar Robert LEŻOHUPSKI, OFM Conv., a sign of the confreres’ lively interest in these issues.
Our goal was to have a conference in which themes were developed in a “juridical” way, not just a historical or charismatic way. This will help the Capitulars, and all of the friars, to be better engaged with the proper law of the Order. In effect, the aim of the conference was to help the fraternity examine and discuss the law, which is fundamentally an instrument, and the Holy See, which was well represented by some speakers.
We need to use the proper law of the Order to protect our charism and the way we observe the vows in the Conventual tradition. We need to use it to protect the fraternity and its peaceful coexistence and to help fraternities and individuals clarify their own situations.
Choosing a non-juridical approach risks dealing with situations too emotionally, despite the use of great subjective discernment and “empirical” wisdom. It can result in neglecting serious irregularities and leaving them unresolved by the Superior and the friar, due to a lack of legal instruments and clarity. It can result in letting the heart rule, while neglecting the logic of the Church and the Order, and their “praxis”, which are summarized in the norms currently in effect.
There is a dual wish to publish the conference proceedings as soon as possible and to have a second meeting of this kind, perhaps on the issue of protecting minors and the guidance shown to friars accused of such crimes.
I offer my heartfelt thanks to the Minister General who immediately supported and financed this project, to the General Procuration Office, to the speakers, the moderators, the Seraphicum community that hosted the event, to Dr. Elisabetta LO IACONO for press coverage and last but not least, to the many friars who participated.
Friar Maurizio DI PAOLO, OFM Conv., Procurator General