The delegates of the 31st General Congregation sought to improve the effectiveness of the governance of the Society of Jesus with the following decree explaining the roles of those chosen to assist the superior general. They issued this decree based on studies conducted by the Jesuits’ previous superior general. Among the roles explained here are those for the general assistants (the number being set at four), the general consultors, the regional assistants, and the expert consultors.
For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.
1. In order that the Society may better exercise its providence with respect to the General according to the norms of our Constitutions, and that the General may be better aided by the advice he needs in directing and deciding the grave matters that come before him, the 31st General Congregation has made the following arrangements which are by way of experiment only and are to be submitted to the judgment of the next General Congregation.
I. General Assistants
1. Four General Assistants only are elected to carry out the Society’s providence with respect to the General.
2. These four General Assistants have a deliberative or consultative vote in those cases in which the common law requires, even in the Society, that the General must act with the consent of his consultors or listen to their advice.
3. The General has the right and duty to replace them with others, if, after consultation with the other General Assistants, he judges that, either because of notably impaired strength or for another reason, they are so unequal to their task that it can be foreseen that the Society may thereby be in danger of serious harm.
The General ought, however, immediately to seek the approval of the General Assistants and the provincials after he has passed on to them suitable information about the man he has chosen.
Approval of a majority of the General Assistants and provincials is needed for validity. Therefore, until such time as this majority is established, the new General Assistant does not have the right to cast a vote on matters in which the Institute gives a deliberative vote to Assistants, nor does he have a right to attend congregations, whether a general congregation, a congregation of procurators or provincials, or a congregation to elect a temporary Vicar-General.
4. If a general congregation convoked ad negotia declares its intention of proceeding to the election of new General Assistants, the incumbent Assistants ipso facto leave office, but can be reelected to the same office.
5. The following is to be added in No. 136 of the Formula of the General Congregation: The first two Assistants are to be elected individually by separate, successive ballots in the same session, the third in the following session, the fourth in the third session.
6. All provisions to the contrary, whether in the Collection of Decrees, or in the norms of the Formula of the General Congregation, or in the rules of the Assistants, and specifically in decrees 263; 268, §2; 269, §2, 3° and §§4, 5; and in No. 130 of the Formula, are suspended until the next general congregation shall have passed judgment on the present provision, which is introduced as an experiment. Decree 264, however, is for the time being simply suspended.
II. Other Consultors of the General
7. These will aid in advising the General:
1° General Consultors, especially in considering matters pertaining to the whole Society;
2° Regional Assistants, especially in considering matters pertaining to different regions of the Society;
3° Expert Consultors, in considering matters, whether pertaining to the whole Society or to principal works of the Society, in which they are experts.
All these can give their advice either individually or gathered in a common consultation, as the General shall ask it of them.
8. The General Consultors, the Regional Assistants and the Expert Consultors are named by the General; before he names a Regional Assistant, however, he should hear the views of the provincials of that region or assistancy, and if the appointment is made while a general congregation is in session, also of all the other electors of the same region or assistancy.
9. All provisions to the contrary in the decrees of previous general congregations are suspended until the next general congregation shall have laid down a definitive judgment.
III. Rights of Assistants and Consultors of the General respecting Congregations of the Society
10. General Assistants, General Consultors and Regional Assistants have the right to attend a general congregation, congregations of procurators or provincials, and a congregation for the election of a temporary Vicar-General. General Assistants, however, attend a general congregation with full rights, i.e., as electors, with the right to vote in the election of the General and General Assistants; while General Consultors and Regional Assistants, attend only ad negotia. If any at all of these assistants and consultors are changed or cease functioning in their office during a general congregation, both former and new men keep the same right.
11. General Consultors and Regional Assistants by reason of their office have active voice in the congregation of their own provinces.
12. Expert Consultors have no right, by virtue of their office, respecting congregations of the Society.
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 44, “Assistants and Consultors of the General,” pg. 200–202 [648–663].