According to historian John Padberg, the topic of cooperation between Jesuit provinces was “deliberated at length” by the delegates at the 31st General Congregation (see Jesuit Life & Mission Today, pg. 37). The delegates conclude, in the following decree, that the Society of Jesus should promote “open and complete cooperation” among its members, echoing the sentiment expressed by the previous general congregation. In particular, a provincial is encouraged here to “not look solely to the advantages of his own province, but give as much support as possible to the needs of the weaker provinces and missions.” Interprovincial cooperation was certainly underway at the time of the congregation, and the delegates state a desire not to “impede its progress and establishment by rigid or abstract regulations and recommendations.” They do use the decree to offer some “principles to be observed” when provinces experiment with cooperation.
For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.
I. Interprovincial Cooperation
A. Interprovincial Cooperation in General
1. That open and complete cooperation which is more and more a requisite for apostolic action today and which the Second Vatican Council strongly recommends to religious everywhere, should be promoted among all the Society’s members, whatever their province. Wherefore, the 31st General Congregation, in accordance with the 30th General Congregation, which already expressed the same earnest desire in its decree 49, again even more vigorously urges all members to bring about by concrete deeds that cooperation of all the provinces.
2. Therefore, among us from the very start of our training encouragement should be given to a spirit of union and charity that boldly rejects every brand of particularism and egoism, even of a collective kind, and reaches out readily and generously to the universal good of the Society in the service of God’s Church.
3. The organization and planning of all apostolic labors, whether of a province or a region, or the whole Society, can contribute greatly to cooperation among undertakings, especially those of a similar nature, of the same province, or region, or the whole Society.
4. Moreover, lest we be satisfied with empty words, each provincial should not look solely to the advantages of his own province, but give as much support as possible to the needs of the weaker provinces and missions that unfortunately lack both the means and instruments of the apostolate, and the resources and funds and especially the men. In addition, each meeting of all the provincials, when it is assembled under the presidency of Father General, is asked especially to treat explicitly of this interprovincial cooperation.
5. Thus generously observing its primitive tradition and eagerly following the prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council, our Society, like a body that is one and apostolic, will pursue more effectively under the standard of Jesus the one and same end, namely, the fraternal reconciliation and salvation of all men in Christ.
B. Economic Cooperation
6. The 31st General Congregation, in view of the need for this economic cooperation, asks the definitores on poverty to render this cooperation more complete by a new and truly appropriate law so that the fraternal charity of the provincials, which has been demonstrated in different ways (e.g., in supporting scholastics and other ways), may be expressed more easily and more universally. Economic cooperation should not be restricted to offering money and resources; for it can also find fulfillment through collaboration in methods of obtaining help from externs and in ways of using money and resources.
C. Cooperation among Neighboring Provinces
7. In view of the great importance, urgency, and complexity of interprovincial cooperation, the 31st General Congregation does not wish to impede its progress and establishment by rigid or abstract regulations and recommendations, but strongly endorses the idea that various experiments in different regions be approved by Father General with a view to achieving specific, well-adapted, and effective regional cooperation on the basis of which more suitable laws can be formulated at a later time.
D. Principles to Be Observed in Introducing Experiments
8. Nevertheless, it seems good that certain principles should be observed so that the development of interprovincial cooperation corresponds completely with the method of governing that is proper to the Society, and that certain experiments, among those that are possible, should receive special recommendation.
1° The provincials:
a. Progress in interprovincial cooperation should not so overburden the provincials with a multiplicity of difficult transactions that they abdicate their responsibility toward persons. One of the chief duties of their office is to become well acquainted with all who are ascribed or applied to their province, and competently, sincerely and honestly to adopt decisions that affect these persons and their ministries. For this is a fundamental principle of all government in the Society, which is above all a “Society of love.” This government does not consist in administration alone, however effective that may be.
b. Whatever these laws for interprovincial cooperation are, they will become useless unless the provincials themselves possess the qualities and endowments so absolutely necessary for the establishment of true and productive collaboration among themselves, that is, that intelligence of mind that can grasp the broader and more profound problems, and those special gifts of character that make for easy and sincere relationships among equals. Father General should, moreover, have these qualities in mind when naming provincials.
2° The board of provincials:
a. Meetings of provincials should take place as soon as interprovincial cooperation is begun, whatever form this cooperation may take. For these meetings greatly foster mutual understanding and are a good way by which each provincial can grasp the problems of other provincials and at the same time all can comprehend common problems. By such a method the common good of the whole region can be determined and similarly advanced.
b. At times, at least, because of his comprehensive knowledge of the whole region, the presence of the Regional Assistant at these meetings can be profitable in that the meeting may be helped in pursuing its own objectives by the counsels and judgment of the Assistant and the Assistant himself may be in a position to obtain fuller information for Father General.
c. The chairman of the board of provincials can be one of the provincials who fills this office for a brief time, e.g., for a year, and with the help of a secretary also attends to the preparation and summoning of the meetings and the execution of their decisions according to the objective goals or prescriptions determined by the board.
d. The designation of certain experts to investigate and prepare different questions, e.g., on apostolic planning, social, educational, pastoral affairs, etc., can greatly aid in promoting better interprovincial cooperation. These men may be assembled in some interprovincial commissions and can be called to the provincials’ meeting or send in a written report. In this way, interprovincial decisions, which are often of rather great importance, may be made in a more objective fashion and be more suited to the needs.
e. A board of provincials has no juridical authority in the Society. Even if the provincials agree on a certain decision, this agreement has no force except from the authority of each provincial, and even here the approval of Father General may be required according to the nature and importance of the question. However, if the provincials do not agree among themselves, the affair should be referred to Father General or to the person mentioned in No. 3° who has the power of decision from either his own or from delegated jurisdiction.
3° Delegations of authority made by Father General:
a. Father General, either by himself or through a delegate, solves interprovincial problems insofar as they exceed the power of the provincials.
b. To solve a particular problem, Father General can delegate authority to one of the provincials or another father. Such authority, however, should not be delegated too frequently to those whose own office is to serve as an adviser to Father General.
c. When interprovincial affairs are so multiplied that their resolution by the means mentioned above becomes increasingly difficult, it is necessary to go further and to initiate more radical and even novel experiments, e.g., through delegation of authority, conferred and determined by Father General, either to different fathers according to the diversity, importance, and urgency of the problems or to only one father, so that the common good of the whole region may be provided for in a more organized fashion.
d. However, these or various other methods of further extending interprovincial cooperation should be always so arranged that the common good of the region and unity of action are fittingly achieved, that provincials receive effective assistance, and that the rights of all members are fully safeguarded (namely, those mentioned above in No. 1° a).
II. Common Houses
9. The decisions necessary for the organization of common houses are entrusted to Father General so that norms may be formulated gradually from concrete experience with that flexibility and adaptation demanded by the purposes of those houses.
III. Establishing Houses in the Territory of Another Province
10. Decree 275 §2 of the Collection of Decrees should be revised to read:
Several provinces cannot be established in the same territory according to a difference in language or nationality, nor as a rule can houses of different provinces be established in the same territory. Father General can, however, after hearing the opinions of the provincials concerned, permit the establishment of houses of one province in the territory of another province under conditions approved by him and in favor of those who are suffering persecution on behalf of Christ or for other serious reasons.
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 48, “Interprovincial Cooperation,” pg. 206–209 [674–694].