THE HISTORY OF THE “NEW” CONSTITUTIONS OF REDEMPTORISTS – PART. II
“Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio” – “In Him there is plentiful redemption”. This slogan brings together the hearts of all Redemptorists and those committed to the Most Holy Redeemer and is contained in the first Constitution of our renewed legislation, which we are proud of today. At our first meeting, we focused on how the Redemptorists departed from the old, sacred, revered and devoutly venerated even the Papal Rule of 1749, and decided to introduce new legislation: the 1964 Constitution.
This was an important and courageous step for Redemptorists, who respected the Rules and treated them as sacred Rules. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, many textbooks for young Redemptorists being formed appeared in which the Rule was almost divine. The words were: “One must believe in the Rule, the Rule must be loved, and the Rule must be hoped for”. From our point of view today, it is almost idolatry, but also an expression of the Redemptorists’ immense respect for the legal order – for the Rule. So we have followed how it happened that the Redemptorists from 1947, through the 1953 Chapter to the 1963 Chapter, decided to abandon the old Rule and introduce the new, modern legislation that the Religious Constitutions are today. This booklet, completely unknown to many Redemptorists, the Constitutions of 1964, was first introduced for 7 years ad experimentum, and after that period, in 1971, these Constitutions became the legal basis of our Congregation. At that time, however, the working commission “eight husbands” – “otto viri”, which undertook the work, among others. The elaboration of these Constitutions for the Holy See, but also the creation of the necessary Chapter Statutes, as the General Statutes were then called, ended its activity just before the publication of a very important document, namely the Paul VI motu proprio “Ecclesiae Sanctae”. This document from the 6th of August 1966, one year after the end of the Second Vatican Council, was a concrete document on how aggiornamento, that is, the adapted renewal of all institutes of consecrated life, should be carried out. It was such a legal supplement to the “Perfectae Caritatis” that called for the renewal of the legislation.
Redemptorists already had their legislation renewed. However, both the commission of eight men and the Congregation as a whole felt that it was time to take the next step and develop new, more Alphonsian and more conciliar religious legislation. Besides, the Church called us to do it. For this reason, the Chapter of 1967 was prepared with great care, so that at this Chapter, which was to be the Extraordinary Chapter, it would exercise the rights conferred by the motu proprio “Ecclesiae sanctae”, it was a special, extraordinary Chapter, which had special competences – it was to prepare our new Constitutions. Preparatory work began, the letter of Father General Goudreau of 1967 appointed the Central Technical Commission, which was to prepare this event, which was the Chapter of 1967.
The response to Father General’s letter was unexpectedly great. There were over two thousand different postulates, guidelines that the Central Technical Commission had to work through, and divided them into at least two groups: the more important postulates and the less important ones. But in the history of the preparation of the 1967 Extraordinary Chapter, meetings occupy a special place. First within the provinces, then interprovincial and finally continental. The first meetings of this type took place during the otto viri commission in 1965. These were meetings in Etrelles, for the Province of Paris, it was a series of meetings at which our historian, Fr. Vereecke, presented the history of the institute and historical achievements or historical discoveries, especially when it comes to discovering the theology of our Founder’s spirituality, and they were very important historical meetings. Similar ones were held in Baden, Switzerland.
A very important meeting was the meeting in April 1969 in Lugano, Switzerland. There, several Provinces (eight European Provinces to be exact) first studied together the documents of the Second Vatican Council. First of all, “Presbyterorum Ordinis” – about the ministry and priestly life, that is also about the life of people dedicated to God and two documents about the Church: “Lumen Gentium” and “Gaudium et Spes”. This historical research, historical discoveries about the ideas of our Founder, the discovery of documents such as the Ristretto from 1747, allowed us to learn about the Founder’s intentions. The study of the documents of Vatican II led to the fact that ultimately our current legislation, the language of the Second Vatican Council, and not of the Founder, translates more fully and accurately the ideas of our Founder – St. Alphonsus much more than the original Papal Rule of 1749. At this meeting in Lugano, the material of our Constitutions was also divided into several themes and asked for study by our famous theologians. The first theme is the purpose of the Congregation. It has always been an important and essential element for us; this document was to be prepared and processed by the famous French theologian, Fr. Dürwell. The second issue is the goal expressed in the unity of the apostolic life, that is, vita apostolica. Vita apostolica, that is, the apostolic life that brings together, on the one hand, vows, that is, consecrated life, sanctification, and our apostolic activity as one. Vita apostolica has become not only a theme but a path to unity in our apostolic life. This subject was entrusted to two famous theologians: a Swiss, Fr. Paul Hitz and Fr. Bernard Häring of the Province of Munich. There was also the topic of formation, because it was always somehow underdeveloped in our legislation and finally also the board, the way of managing the Congregation – this element was to be worked out by Father Pfab from Munich. More meetings followed. In São Paulo in 1966, Campina Grande and finally São Paulo in July. These three South American meetings were very important because this world, detached from our European, Roman rigid imaginations, dealt with topics important to the community and the Redemptorist mission in a much more freeway and emphasizing certain primaries. What? – hence the apostolic primacy over the monastic one; ecclesial primacy over legal and legalistic. The idea of the apostolic life, which beautifully defined the unity of our life, was received very favorably. More topics appeared in São Paulo, that is: decentralization – one of the elements that shape our legal order today. This means removing all responsibilities from the sphere of the General, the General Government and distributing many responsibilities to the Provinces and even individual communities. The second thing was the need to create intermediate structures. Namely, the structures that we have in the Congregation today as Conferences, bringing together many Provinces in, for example, the continent.
There was also a talk about Provincial Chapters as an indispensable element in the management and creation of the Congregation’s legislation. Finally, there was also a meeting in Delemont, Switzerland, where the results of this work were presented. There it was decided that a completely new text of our Constitutions would be created.
Finally, the meetings across the Atlantic, that is, in Chicago – there were two meetings: one in November 1966 and the other later, in April 1967, just before the beginning of the first extraordinary session of the Legislative Chapter in 1967. This meeting, especially the second one in Chicago, was very important because the representatives represented a large part, almost half of the Redemptorists – about 3,000 Redemptorists. Some accents different from those emerging in Europe were noticed, so these meetings influenced each other.
Finally, these documents developed in Europe were also discussed. There, across the Atlantic, the idea of naming St. Clement, “co-founder” or “second founder”, because St. Clement was so badly needed to justify completely different methods of work, the actions of American Redemptorists who, following the tradition of St. John of Nepomuk Neumann, founded schools, operated schools, and also established parishes. Finally, there were several more meetings in Europe: in Delemont in 1966, then another meeting in Delemont in April 1967 and finally another in São Paulo.
Certain specific texts were also written at the end of these meetings. The London text was created, the European text, the text from Cebu – this is a very interesting text, edited by Father Baily, who, as a Bible professor, created the Constitutions based on biblical texts. Obviously, this text was not suitable as a legal text, but that is why our Constitutions today are saturated with so many biblical ways or elements, because many of them were taken from this Cebu text. There was also an Edmonton text as well as a Warsaw text. The Province of Warsaw, then the only one behind the Iron Curtain, under communism – Redemptorists from this Province could not participate in the meetings, in this work of the majority of the Congregation, so at least they prepared their text and sent to work for the Chapter of 1967. The first session of this extraordinary Chapter was held between the 8th of September and the 23rd of October 1967. It began with the resignation of Fr. Wilhelm Goudreau, and the new General was Fr. Ariovaldo Amaral – a Brazilian who, participating in meetings in South America, also guaranteed the transfer and implementation of the ideas that arose there. He was also generally keen to work on our new legislation, so the 1967 Chapter was promising, well prepared. But a problem arose, because it was not very clear what text to work on. This impasse was resolved by the Italian confreres who presented the italicus text, a compromise text behind which was, among others, Father Sante Raponi, author of the most important publication on the history and theology of our Constitutions. The chapter agreed to this text and it became the starting text.
However, this first session was not able to work out all the texts. Maybe it’s also good, because in the meantime the Vatican was issuing several very important documents, including about formation, and thus it was possible to take advantage of them at the next extraordinary session of the Chapter in 1969. Instead, he worked out what was most needed for life, that is, the last chapter on the governance and life of the Congregation. And work began under the direction of the preparatory and editorial committee chaired by Father Sante Raponi, to prepare the next session of the Extraordinary Chapter – it was to take place in 1969.
In the meantime, several texts were written, which were sent out, then they returned back to the committee … Let’s leave the texts that were quite numerous. Finally, a very good text was finally prepared for the upcoming second session of the Extraordinary Chapter. At this time, also on the already proven track, regional meetings were held. And these were meetings: in Manila for the East – it was October 1968, in Delemont in January 1969, also in January there was a meeting in Tascon in North America and finally in Lima for South America. The second session of the General Chapter, from the 14th of April to the 28th of May, 1969, arrived. This very dynamic session worked out the text of our present Constitutions, more or less in a booklet like this. It contained not only the text of the new Constitutions, but also the text of the prepared General Statutes. Here, in this case, we have the 1969 edition.
The Chapter worked out the text not only of the Constitutions, but also of the General Statutes, and thus the text of the Constitutions was created, which were introduced, of course, ad experimentum. Note: in 1969, the legal basis of our Congregation was still the Papal Rule of 1749. For until 1971 the Constitutions of 1964 were ad experimentum. And at that time, in 1969, more Constitutions appeared, which were also introduced ad experimentum and replaced those of 1964. This legal complication was causing some confusion in the Congregation, so letters from the General and the capitular editorial committee were needed to explain which Constitutions the Redemptorists were ultimately to live by. In 1971, the old Rules ceased to apply, and the Constitutions of 1964 were promoted from the statutes ad experimentum to the legal basis of our Congregation. But these Constitutions were not lived, because at that time the new Constitutions and General Statutes were already in force.
Now there is a very important period of applying, examining and trying out our new documents. More meetings were held, incl. in Switzerland in Visp, in Saint Anne in Quebec, in Bello Horizonte for South America and in Bangkok, Asia and Australia.
Eventually, when the new Chapter arrived, Fr. Józef Pfab became the new General in 1973. One of those who have been deeply involved in the creation and implementation of our new legislation for a long time. Finally, there was the General Chapter in 1979. This one was to finally close the ad experimentum trial period.
In a Chapter of 1979, which was largely made up of completely different capitulars, our legislation was once again reviewed, worked on, approved and sent for approval to the Holy See. The General Statutes, on the other hand, have become binding in the life of the Congregation by the decision of our Chapters. The texts were handed over to the Holy See, but it turned out that dialogue between the Congregation for Religious and our Congregation was still needed, because we were pointed out to some deficiencies and errors in the text of our Constitutions. And this lacked certain legal decisions, and a certain precision, and these were certain provisions that were in the General Statutes, but it would have been appropriate for them to be in the Constitutions, as a document universal for the entire Congregation and permanent, i.e. unchanged, unless at the price of a new approval by the Vatican Congregation. The General Statutes, on the other hand, are universal, but changeable, and the Chapters may amend the General Statutes. The point was therefore to transfer certain legal provisions to the Constitution. This dialogue was quite tense, because we wanted certain elements of our legislation, and on the other hand, certain requirements presented by the Holy See were also respected. Finally, it was assessed by two experts. And here is consternation. The first specialist, the first expert, after reading our Constitutions, wrote to the Congregation in this way: “Very good text. Indeed, it is worthy of a great religious institute with its traditions and merits. It is not strictly legal, but balances between the spiritual and the normative aspects, even though the spiritual and exhorting elements are more numerous than the purely legal elements”. So, on the one hand, praise, but on the other hand, notice that our Constitutions are very spiritual. Perhaps on this occasion it is worth mentioning that at the Extraordinary Chapter the creation of the so-called Spiritual Directory – a lecture on spirituality, theology, and the charism of Redemptorists. Why? It is precisely because our Constitutions are an excellent teaching of theology. However, maybe sometimes there was a shortcoming of certain legal solutions. This was dramatically presented by a second expert who wrote a very categorical opinion: “On the basis of the methods used by the various committees delegated to scrutinize the Constitutions, at present they do not seem to be developed in accordance with the standards of the Ecclesiae Sanctae. Seeing the lack of legal detail in these constitutions, it is absolutely necessary to know what the latest Statutes contain”.
“A judgment on the text of the Constitution presupposes a prior analysis of the norms to be applied”. It turned out that the experts were given the Constitutions themselves, without the text of the General Statutes.
After such a differentiated assessment of our Constitutions, the Congregation started an even more decisive dialogue with our Congregation, and this dialogue took a while to explain, to explain that the texts of the General Statutes were also transmitted. It cost us again to transfer some texts to the Constitution, some clarifications, and finally there was the waiting, which took several months. Finally, on the 2nd of February 1982, the Constitutions of our Congregation were approved. And since then we have been able to enjoy the text of beautiful, renewed Constitutions, no longer ad experimentum, but Constitutions which have replaced all our previous Rules and Constitutions. There was also an element of re-approval, because in the meantime the Code of Canon Law of 1983 was created, so our Constitutions, revised, were again submitted to the Congregation and re-approved in 1986. And this is how the text was created, which today we nourish our spirituality, these Constitutions guide our action and are an expression of the theology of the spirituality of the apostolic thoughts of our Founder, St. Alphonsus, St. Clement, much more than all the texts so far.
Our channel is already analyzing the documents, wondering if it is going to the next chapters.
So let us end our episode thanking God for the efforts of so many of our confreres who have brought about the creation of so beautiful, exhausting and up-to-date Constitutions of our Congregation. Copiosa apud Eum Redemptio!
Author: o. Mariusz Chyrowski CSsR