The following decree, from the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, establishes rules for future general congregations and for the selection of a vicar general as well as rules for province congregations and for the congregations of procurators and provincials. Acting at the request of the superior general, the decree importantly modifies the central governance that would assist the superior general’s work, particularly with regard to the establishment of a twelve-member council to serve as “general counselors.”
For more from the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.
A. The General Congregation
1. General Congregation 34 has examined Decree 3 of GC 33 in the light of experience and the replies of the province congregations and has established the following:
1° The rules for the composition of a general congregation introduced by GC 33, D. 3, nn. 1 and 2, are to be maintained, but still ad experimentum.
2° Those elected in the province congregations should constitute a majority of the members of the general congregation.
2. In order to favor the participation of all members in the life of the Society, as recommended by Vatican Council II and prescribed in the revised Code of Canon Law, GC 34 decrees that all formed coadjutors have the right to be electors in a general congregation and establishes the following with regard to their representation:
1° All formed members of the Society who do not already have the right to attend the general congregation ex officio have passive voice in the province congregation to be chosen as electors (and substitutes) to the general congregation. During the latter, however, formed coadjutors will not have passive voice for election to an office for which the profession of four vows is required.
2° If the total number of formed coadjutors elected is more than 10 percent of the members (elected and ex officio) of the general congregation, the one most recently admitted to ﬁnal vows will be replaced by a substitute elected from the same province who is professed of four vows.
3° In any case, Father General (or Vicar General) will provide for the participation of some brothers, at least as procurators ad negotia.
3. The Formula of the Province Congregation and the Formula of the General Congregation are to be revised in conformity with what has been established in this present decree.
4. GC 34 recommends that Father General establish a commission to study the possibilities and advantages of a new model for the general congregation which, while maintaining the Ignatian principles for such a congregation, would make it both more effective and more efficient. Among the areas to be studied would be a new examination of the signiﬁcance and importance of the main criteria currently employed to determine the composition of a general congregation, which do not seem compatible with the goal of a notable reduction of its members. The results of these studies are to be discussed at the next general congregation.
5. Moreover, GC 34 recommends to Father General that an evaluation be done of the preparation for and the way of proceeding in this general congregation. In the light of this evaluation and in order to prepare more effective methods and dynamics for treating business in GC 35, Father General may, with the authority delegated by this general congregation, modify those prescriptions of the Formula of a General Congregation that deal with preparation and the treating of business, if he judges it opportune, with the deliberative vote of all the Fathers of the General Curia who have a right ex officio to attend a general congregation.
B. Congregation to Elect a Temporary Vicar General
1. Father General is to deposit in writing the name or names of the temporary vicar(s) general he wishes to appoint in case of his death and in case of his incapacity.
2. The congregation to elect a temporary vicar general, if held, is to be composed of the following:
1° All the Fathers of the General Curia who have a right ex officio to be electors in a general congregation
2° All those Fathers who have an office in the place where the congregation is to be held which gives them a right ex officio to attend a province congregation, and who are professed of four vows, to be called by seniority of profession in such a way that the total number of members of the congregation shall not exceed forty
3. The minimum number of members to begin the congregation is ten.
4. The Formula of the Congregation to Elect a Temporary Vicar General is to be revised in conformity with what has been established in the Complementary Norms to the Constitutions and in the present decree.
C. Congregations of Procurators and Provincials
1. GC 34 has examined Decree 39 of GC 31 in the light of experience and the replies of the province congregations and has established the following:
2. The congregation of procurators will take place every four years, according to the modalities prescribed in the Formula for the Congregation of Procurators, n. 1, §1.
3. The congregation of provincials is abolished.
4. Approximately every six years beginning from the last general congregation, Father General shall convoke a meeting of all provincials, in order to consider the state, the problems, and the initiatives of the universal Society, as well as international and supraprovincial cooperation.
5. Since province congregations will be convoked less frequently than in the past, it is recommended that provincials convoke other types of meetings which will promote the participation and coresponsibility of all its members in the discernment and life of the province.
6. The Formula of the Congregation of Procurators is to be revised in conformity with what has been established in this present decree:
1º Title: Formula of the Congregation of Procurators.
2º N. 1, §1: “Every four years after the end of the last general congregation, counting from 26 September (unless another day of the same civil year seems more suitable to Father General), procurators from all the provinces are to convene who have been elected according to the prescriptions of the Formula of the Province Congregation.”
3º N. 1, §2: “It is not to be postponed for another four years but is to be held the following year.”
4º Title I: the title itself is to be canceled (because there is no longer a Title II).
5º N. 2, §1, 2º: “Under the leadership of the Superior General, they are to confer on the state and more universal undertakings of the Society. For the better preparation of the members of the congregation of procurators, the Superior General should communicate to them in good time the points for consultation in the congregation.”
6º N. 2, §2: “The congregation may put together and offer to the Society a report on the state of the Society”: to be canceled.
7º N. 3: “The congregation is composed of the Superior General, the vicar or the coadjutor vicar, the assistants ad providentiam, the general counselors, the procurators elected by the provinces or their substitutes according to the Formula of the Province Congregation, nn. 3, § 1, 2°; 61; 96. The place of the assistants ad providentiam can be taken by their substitutes, named by the Superior General and approved by the majority of the provincials, provided the assistants whose substitutes they are, are not present.”
8º N. 6: “. . . the Superior General with the assistants ad providentiam is to examine the acts of the province congregations.”
9º Nn. 17, §§1 and 2: to be canceled.
10º N. 31, §1: “. . . are to be given to the Superior General with the assistants ad providentiam for approval.”
11º Title II (nn. 36–40): all to be canceled.
D. The Province Congregation
1. GC 34, in accord with the provisions of GC 33, Decree 5, has reexamined the norms for the province congregation in the light of experience and the responses of the provinces, and has established the following:
2. With regard to the number of participants in the province congregation by reason of the prior election, the norms now in force (Formula of a Province Congregation [FCP], 15, par. 1, 2%) are to be maintained.
3. The provincial, with the deliberative vote of the Cœtus praevius, can designate up to ﬁve members in those provinces which have at least 0.5 percent of the total membership of the Society, and three in the other provinces.
4. The participants in the province congregation must be
1° Professed of four vows: at least 50 percent
2° Formed members: at least 80 percent
5. Of the elected and ex officio participants in the province congregation, there must be at least
1° One formed brother
2° Two approved members, of whom at least one is not ordained
6. The socius of the provincial is to participate ex officio in the province congregation.
7. With regard to active and passive voice in the election prior to the province congregation, the norm currently in force is to be maintained: ﬁve years in the Society for active voice (FCP 18, 1°) and eight years in the Society for passive voice (FCP 18, 2°).
8. At the beginning of the congregation, the provincial will propose some questions on the state of the province, so that the congregation is able to have a consultation on the situation of the province, under the leadership of the provincial.
9. For a postulate to be proposed to the general congregation or to the Superior General in the name of the province congregation, it must be approved by more than half the votes of those present, nn. 44 and 45 notwithstanding.
10. The Formula for a Province Congregation is to be revised in accord with the present decree.
11. Moreover, the general congregation mandates Father General to study and, insofar as is necessary, authorizes him to modify, with the deliberative vote of the Fathers of the Curia who have the right ex officio to attend a general congregation, the following points of the Formula of a Province Congregation:
1º Drawing by lot the letter of the alphabet which will come ﬁrst in the list for the prior election (FCP n. 20)
2º Simpliﬁcation of the process of handling the ballots in the prior election (FCP nn. 22, 23, 24, 25)
3º Modiﬁcation of the norm for translating into Latin the documents of the province congregation (FCP n. 90, 3, 2%)
4º Passive voice of the superiors of common houses: possibly retaining this right in one’s own province (FCP n. 17, 1, 3%)
5º Passive voice of the “applied” to other provinces: retaining and using this right in one’s own province, with the prior agreement of the provincials involved (FCP n. 10, 1)
6º Incompatibility of the office of Procurator, Relator, or Substitute with that of the provincial-designate, whatever the time when he is to enter into office (before or after the congregation in question) (FCP nn. 61, 3, 4; 62; 93, 2, 3)
E. Father General’s Assistants and Counselors
In response to Father General’s invitation, GC 34 has considered various questions having to do with the central government of the Society, especially with regard to the assistants and counselors of the Superior General. It has established the following norms, which modify some norms in Decree 44 of GC 31 and Decree 15 of GC 32.
i. Father General’s Council
1. Father General shall have a council composed of about twelve members.
2. The four assistants ad providentiam shall be general counselors.
3. All regional assistants shall be general counselors.
4. Thus, the general council will be composed of the four assistants ad providentiam, the regional assistants, and those general counselors charged with looking after important aspects of the life of the universal Society. One person can combine different functions. The secretary of the Society, as secretary, shall take part in the meetings but will not be a general counselor.
5. The other major officials and the sectoral secretaries will participate in meetings of the general council whenever their particular competence would be helpful and in enlarged meetings which will be called periodically.
6. If Father General constitutes a reduced group within the council to deal with administrative matters and current questions which do not require that his entire council meet together in consultation, it is recommended that
* the four assistants ad providentiam be part of this reduced group
* the members should have a certain stability, which means they should not be changed too often, nor should different members be changed at the same time
ii. Election of the Assistants ad Providentiam and Appointment of the General Counselors during the General Congregation
1. Each general congregation will proceed to elect the four assistants ad providentiam, and Father General will renew his council according to the following procedure. This procedure is to be reviewed by the next general congregation.
1º The electors of each assistancy will propose to Father General by secret ballot the names of three candidates, normally from their own assistancy, who would be suitable to become general counselors and to be appointed as regional assistant.
2º From these names, Father General will appoint a sufficient number of general counselors, at least to cover the need for regional assistants.
3º The congregation will elect the four assistants ad providentiam according to the Formula of a General Congregation, nn. 130–37, choosing them from four different assistancies and taking account of the names of those appointed by Father General as general counselors (while retaining the freedom also to elect other persons).
4º Former assistants ad providentiam may be reelected by the general congregation, and former general counselors may be reappointed by Father General.
5º In addition to those appointed in the process described above, Father General retains the right to appoint other general counselors for the care of important sectors of the Society’s life. These appointments are to be made after hearing the opinions of the other general counselors, and with the deliberative vote of the four assistants ad providentiam.
iii. Replacement of the Four Assistants ad Providentiam and of the General Counselors outside a General Congregation
1. The four assistants ad providentiam normally remain in office until the next general congregation. For their replacement outside a general congregation, the norms presently in force are conﬁrmed.
2. It is recommended that the general counselors who are not assistants ad providentiam remain in office for six to eight years, and that they not all be replaced at the same time.
3. When there is to be a change of a general counselor who is not an assistant ad providentiam but who will have to perform the task of regional assistant, Father General will ask the provincials of the assistancy concerned to propose to him three names of possible candidates, from among whom he will name the new general counselor.
4. For the replacement of a general counselor who is not an assistant ad providentiam and who will not have the task of a regional assistant, Father General will name the new general counselor after hearing the opinion of the other general counselors and with the deliberative vote of the assistants ad providentiam.
iv. Final Provisions
1. Once approved by the general congregation, this decree will come into force immediately after the three days allowed for intercessions (FCG 128, §1) have ended.
2. This decree abrogates contrary dispositions in Decree 44 of GC 31 and Decree 15 of GC 32.
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 34, Decree 23, “Congregations and Governance,” pg. 648–654 [467–520].