Decree 2: “The Renewal of Our Vows,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

The delegates of the 31st General Congregation promulgated the following decree, which recognizes both the limitations of the reforms encouraged by the Second Vatican Council and Paul VI’s Magno gaudio (1964) as well as the need for change nonetheless. The decree concludes that “the entire government of the Society must be adapted to modern necessities and ways of living.”

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1.     The adaptation and renewal of our way of living and acting extends itself, as it should, even to the body of laws which contain the spirit and end of the Society and also describe its structures and govern its apostolic action. Although the Council and the post-Conciliar documents invite us to this renewal, they carefully and clearly distinguish between fundamental or permanent elements of the Institute (whether this is understood as a way of living or as a collection of laws), and elements which are contingent and therefore changeable in response to the circumstances and needs of various times.

2.     The former, since they flow either from the very nature of the evangelical counsels, or constitute the specific nature of our Institute, are to be conserved as having a perennial value. At the same time, however, they are to be renewed by a continuous return to the sources of all Christian life, to the spirit of the founder, and to the originating inspiration of the Institute. Contingent elements, however, should be so skillfully adapted that the religious life is purified of foreign elements and freed from those that are obsolete. Indeed, with a view to this end experiments in matters at variance with our own law may be instituted prudently by legitimate authority, or even in matters at variance with the common law, insofar as the Holy See, in suitable cases, will permit.

3.     The 31st General Congregation has approached the task of adapting and renewing the Society in this manner, called by our mother the Church and under her guidance, and in a certain continuing tension between the faithful desire of retaining what is permanent and ought to remain as fundamental, and the vital necessity of adapting the Institute to those circumstances in which its life is led and its mission is carried out.

Thus it has determined that the entire government of the Society must be adapted to modern necessities and ways of living; that our whole training in spirituality and in studies must be changed; that religious and apostolic life itself is to be renewed; that our ministries are to be weighed in relation to the pastoral spirit of the Council according to the criterion of the greater and more universal service of God in the modern world; and that the very spiritual heritage of our Institute, containing both new and old elements, is to be purified and enriched anew according to the necessities of our times.

4.     Finally, since every true law seeks to enunciate the will of God, and since this will can be manifested under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through subjects as well as through superiors and congregations, the Holy See properly urges full and free consultation of all members as a means of helping and directing the work of the congregation. Indeed, as much as time and the circumstances of its convocation permitted, our present Congregation has enjoyed this help.

But since a suitable renovation cannot be made once and for all but must be continually promoted, consultation can be employed even more extensively in the future, both with a view to the preparation of future general congregations, and in order that the Superior General together with his council may make use of it for carrying on the renewal of the Society in virtue of the faculties granted him by the Holy See until the next congregation.



Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 2, “The Renewal of Our Vows,” pg. 51–52 [18–23].

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