Religious brothers can be superiors of orders with priests, pope says

May 19, 2022
Pope Francis meets with the superiors of the four main men's branches of the Franciscan family at the Vatican in this April 10, 2017, file photo. The pope has decided that in some cases religious orders made up of both priests and brothers can elect one of the brothers to be a provincial superior or even the superior general. From left are Marco Tasca, then-minister general of the Conventual Franciscans; Mauro Johri, then-minister general of the Capuchins; Fathers Michael Perry, then-minister general of the

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Granting an exception to canon law, Pope Francis said the Vatican office that deals with religious orders can permit men's communities that are made up of both priests and brothers to choose one of the brothers to be a provincial superior or even the superior general.

A rescript from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published by the Vatican May 18 said the approval for appointing or electing a brother to head a "clerical institute" would be given "discretionally and in individual cases."

Pope Francis approved the change Feb. 11, said the rescript, which was signed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, congregation prefect, and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary.

In 2017, the heads of the four men's branches of the Franciscan family -- the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans and the Third Order Regulars -- asked Pope Francis to allow them to elect brothers to leadership positions, including those with authority over ordained priests.

Father Michael Perry, who was minister general of the Friars Minor at the time, said such permission would allow the Franciscans to live the order's ideal of leadership, which should challenge the friars -- brothers among themselves, whether ordained or not -- "to 'minority,' to not going up, but going down."

Minority, Father Perry had told Catholic News Service, is the opposite of clericalism, which is "a drive upward as if upward mobility offered something, some security and guarantee of fidelity, a way of controlling people so they remain faithful to the truth. Franciscans, we don't see it this way."

St. Francis of Assisi was never a priest, he noted, and for the first 30 years of the order's existence the friars were allowed to elect brothers to leadership roles, including as minister general, and they did so.

Father Perry said that if Pope Francis granted the request, it also would have implications for leadership, authority and governance in the wider church because, while affirming the special and irreplaceable role of the ministerial priesthood within the Catholic Church and within religious orders because of the sacraments, it also would recognize that governance does not have to be tied to ordination.

The rescript does not give permanent permission to the Franciscans to elect a brother as superior nor does not mention the order or any other community by name.

Instead, the rescript said a superior general, with the consent of his council, can appoint a brother to be the local or provincial superior of a religious order with both brothers and priests. However, it said, for a brother to be appointed or elected superior general, a "license" must be obtained from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The Vatican office, it said, "reserves the right to evaluate the individual case and the reasons given by the supreme moderator or the general chapter" of the order for choosing a brot

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service



Mike Reininger
Thu, 05/19/2022 - 11:12 AM
Mike Reininger
That seems to make sense since the priesthood shouldn't be about power anyways. I remember one woman who attended the recent local synod at my parish who wanted women to be allowed to be priests! I then blurted out, "That wasn't possible," since I knew Jesus was a man himself. I think that woman seemed to associate the priesthood with power, and that was her problem. She wanted that imagined power for herself.
Catherine Miller
Thu, 05/19/2022 - 07:14 PM
Catherine Miller
Yes, Mike, I think you're picking up on the confusion people have about service versus power. Priests are servants. Some of us mistake titles for power, definitely forgetting all the service and responsibilities behind the titles. I'm hoping maybe through discernment, that gal sees the servanthood of priests. If she doesn't see the power in the primarily female parish secretaries, lol, well...again, we tend to mistakenly accord power to only certain titles. It's probably a societal problem, not strictly just in our church. But IDK. I'm getting ready to give up all my titles! I'm truly burned out. So, in many peoples eyes, I'm saying bye bye to power, ( and money). But, I see it as hello to more peace. Maybe that gal can only see the vestments and collars, the superficial. If she knew how hard priests work, (and how hard parish secretaries work)! But, lately our culture just thinks everyone is an interchangeable part, when in reality, I think we're all called to be different parts of this same body. I'm bowing out from being an RN and NP. God's grace will find me another way to serve.But not a clue as to what, except it won't be as a priest! Or a Parish Secretary! A lot of people think not allowing ladies into the Catholic priesthood is blatant gender discrimination. When, it's simply being discriminatory- following the biblical Christology, instead of the societal mores of the time. I'm glad you spoke up. Hopefully she will find her niche, a welcoming niche, in your parish.
Mon, 06/06/2022 - 07:28 AM
This is the beauty of the Franciscan order. St. Francis was always about preaching thr Gospel "and when necessary use words." And if a brother is able and willing to govern to allow priests to continue to do tbe better part for which they are called, it should be.

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