The 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus convened nearly a decade after the previous congregation closed in 1966. During the intervening years, as the following decree states, “the life of the Society has been an effort under the leadership of Father General to implement the decrees of the 31st General Congregation.” So, rather than meeting to elect a new superior general, the delegates at the 32nd General Congregation had the purpose of addressing the problem that “progress” in implementing the previous congregation’s decrees “has not been uniform,” as noted below. The introductory decree also states that those decrees to follow were “an invitation to even greater progress in the way of the Lord.” In short, the congregation’s decrees were for the “practical implementation” through “cooperation of all Jesuits under the leadership of their superiors.”
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1. The past decade in the life of the Society has been an effort under the leadership of Father General to implement the decrees of the 31st General Congregation, which aimed at adapting our life to the directives of the Second Vatican Council. The success of this effort has been significant in our apostolic work as a community, in our prayer and our faith. This is clearly a gift of God’s generosity, though not realized without a painful struggle for sincere renewal.
2. The 32nd General Congregation makes its own and confirms all of the declarations and dispositions of the 31st General Congregation unless they are explicitly changed in the present decrees. The documents of the preceding Congregation accurately and faithfully express the genuine spirit and tradition of the Society. Therefore, the whole Society is urged to reflect thoughtfully and sincerely upon those documents once again, and superiors are directed to see to their ever fuller implementation.
3. One reason for this directive is that the progress mentioned above has not been uniform. Some Jesuits have resisted renewal and have even criticized the 31st General Congregation publicly, as though it were somehow a departure from the genuine Ignatian spirit. Others, at times, have carried new orientations to excess in their impatience to accommodate themselves and their work to the needs of the world. Out of their desire to overcome a distorted emphasis upon the transcendence of the Christian religion—one which would divorce it from experience of the world—they have fallen into a type of “immanentism” which runs counter to the Gospel message.
4. These two exaggerations, each tending in an opposite direction, have threatened unity within the Society and have given non-Jesuits cause for concern and wonder. Some among them fear that the Society may have lost the forcefulness and precision with which it once exercised its priestly and apostolic mission of service to the faith. Others, when they read publications in which Jesuits unsympathetically criticize one another, their own Father General, the magisterium of the Church, and even the Holy Father, ask whether Jesuits have lost their traditional loyalty, obedience, and devotion to the Society and the Church. Sometimes they wonder, too, and not without reason, about the depth and sincerity of faith in those Jesuits who live independent lives, unmarked by poverty, and comfortably accommodated to the world.
5. Out of his deep affection and concern for the Society, the Holy Father brought these points to the attention of the Congregation in his allocution of December 3, 1974. He took that occasion to request that the 32nd General Congregation preserve and reaffirm the Society as a priestly, apostolic, and religious body, bound to the Holy Father by a special vow regarding missions. It was to a balanced renewal of religious life and a discerning rededication to apostolic service that the Holy Father clearly wished to call us. In his various letters to the whole Society, Father General has expressed the same desire.
6. The whole Society ought to take the firm and paternal words of the Holy Father gratefully and humbly to heart. We sincerely acknowledge our failings and seek, with God’s grace, a more radical renewal and closer unity, both among ourselves and with the Holy Father.
7. Mindful that for the majority of Jesuits the years since the 31st General Congregation have been a time of grace and spiritual and apostolic growth, the 32nd General Congregation has formulated these decrees as an invitation to even greater progress in the way of the Lord. We offer them now to our fellow Jesuits in a spirit of humility and hope—not forgetful of past shortcomings, but, with God’s help, looking confidently to the future.
8. The following documents treat of challenges and opportunities arising out of our life and work; of our identity as companions of Jesus in today’s world; of the Society’s apostolic mission as the service of faith and the promotion of justice; of prayer and obedience, and of discernment of spirits in common, nourished by and further strengthening our union together; of a more authentic poverty and of the formation of young Jesuits.
9. These documents are commended to personal reading and community dialog in a spirit of prayer and discernment. They look far beyond words and verbal analysis. They are offered as a stimulus for conversion of heart and apostolic renewal.
10. These decrees, then, are meant for practical implementation. Only the cooperation of all Jesuits under the leadership of their superiors can achieve this goal.
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 32, Decree 1, “Introductory Decree,” pg. 287–288 [1–10].