As part of their review of the formation of Jesuits, the delegates at the 31st General Congregation considered what norms ought to be in place as a member of the Society of Jesus works towards taking his final vows. These norms took shape in the following decree, which revised existing practices.
For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.
The General Congregation, desiring to meet requests of very many postulata that the claim to profession of four vows should be based more on the overall religious and apostolic capability of a man, supposing of course that he has suitable knowledge of theology, lays down by way of experiment the following revision of the norms for profession of four vows:
1. Decree 158 of the Collection of Decrees shall be revised to read: All who are to be advanced to final vows must be outstanding in that following of Christ proposed to us in the gospels since this is the ultimate norm of religious life; such men are those who:
1° regularly and for the most part, in ordinary matters, act according to the demands of virtue that is rooted in love of Christ, and are expected to do the same under more difficult circumstances if they occur;
2° humbly accept corrections concerning faults they have committed in religious life and generously strive to improve;
3° driven on by love, live more and more for Christ and His Body which is the Church, and in the daily practice of virtue bear witness both to their fellow Jesuits and to others of the new life that is had through the redemption of Christ.
2. Decree 160 of the Collection of Decrees shall be revised to read: In order that a man may be admitted to the solemn profession of four vows the following are required:
1° a high level of virtue in conformity with decree 158, one that is positively proved and evident to the extent that it stands out as a good example to others.” A deficiency in this regard cannot be supplied by any other endowments.
2° sound judgment and prudence in action, as well as tested and basic strength of character;
3° a more than ordinary talent for our ministries;
4° a high level of learning in conformity with decree 118 (of which §3 has been abrogated) or other outstanding endowments in conformity with Nos. 3 and 4 below;
5° the priesthood;
6° at least thirty-three years of age;
7° at least ten full years in the Society in addition to the years spent in initial studies of philosophy and theology in the Society;
8° at least three full years, after the completion of the course in theology and in addition to tertianship and to special studies, if any were made, spent in carrying out ministries or offices.
3. Decrees 161 and 162 of the Collection of Decrees and decree 36 of the 28th General Congregation are abrogated, and in their place a new decree is enacted which reads:
§1. Provided always that the requirements contained in No. 2 are kept, those men can be admitted to the solemn profession of four vows without an examination ad gradum who have a doctorate or licentiate or some other equivalent degree in the sacred sciences, or who have engaged in these sciences with success either in teaching or writing.
§2. In each individual case it is necessary that the provincial and his consultors have proof of the candidate’s high level of learning.
4. Decree 163 of the Collection of Decrees shall be revised to read:
§1. Provided always that the requirements contained above in No. 2 are kept, those men can be admitted to solemn profession without an examination ad gradum who show outstanding apostolic or ministerial capability. Such are:
1° those who have shown noteworthy talent in governing or preaching or writing;
2° men who are proficient in literature or the sciences and who have received higher academic degrees or who have taught successfully at an advanced level;
3° those who have filled any post or ministry proper to the Society in an outstanding way that has won general acclaim.
§2. In each individual case it is necessary that the provincial and his consultors have proof of the outstanding apostolic and ministerial capability of the candidate, in addition to his adequate theological learning.
5. A new decree is enacted which reads: Provincials and their consultors, when they are treating of those to be advanced to final vows, should inquire whether some spiritual coadjutors or approved scholastics deserve to be proposed to the General for the grade of the professed in conformity with Nn. 3 and 4 above. If any such are discovered, evidence of the sort specified in §2 of these decrees should be gathered, as well as all other personnel reports, so that they can be sent to the General. This can be done not only once but repeatedly.
6. Decree 165 of the Collection of Decrees shall be revised to read: No men should be admitted to the grade of formed coadjutor, whether spiritual or temporal, unless:
1° they have risen above mediocrity in virtue in conformity with decree 158;
2° they have shown sufficient talent for the works and ministries that are proper to the Society;
3° if they are brothers, they have completed ten years of religious life and thirty-three years of age; if they are approved scholastics, they have completed the time in the Society and are of the age specified in No. 2, 6°, 7° and 8° above.
7. The General Congregation recommends that:
1° the whole process for gathering personnel reports, whether for admission to theology, or for advancement to holy orders, or to final vows, or to an office of government should be thoroughly studied and reviewed;
2° the provincial and his consultors, when they are to pass on someone for advancement to the grade of professed, should have available:
a. a complete transcript of grades received in examinations throughout the course of philosophy as well as theology;
b. full information on other advanced studies, whether made in the Society or outside of it;
c. an accurate report of the ministries and works in which the candidate has engaged, along with judgments on his success, etc.
Original Source (English translation):
Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st–35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 11, “Norms for Promotion to Final Vows,” pg. 90–93 [193–200].