Documents on the Vows in the Congregation of the Mission

From Vincentian Encyclopedia

THE VOWS WHICH ARE TAKEN IN THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSION

POPE ALEXANDER VII for the future remembrance of the matter

Because of the responsibility given to Us by the Supreme Shepherd of the Lord’s flock, We willingly devote Ourselves to those matters which We judge, as occasion arises, to be in the best interests of the status of Congregations of ecclesiastical persons founded for the greater glory of the Divine Name and the salvation of souls.

Accordingly, We wish to remove some doubts that have arisen in regard to the status of the Congregation of the Mission, begun in France and subsequently approved by the Apostolic See. We also wish to treat Our beloved son Vincent de Paul, Superior General of this Congregation, with special favors and kindness, absolving him and declaring him to be absolved from any ecclesiastical sentences, censures, and penalties of excommunication, suspension, and interdict a jure vel ab homine, whatever the occasion or cause of imposition, if he be in any way bound by any of these, but only for the purpose of obtaining the effect of this letter.

Taking into consideration the petition humbly submitted to Us in his name, and on the advice of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, interpreters of the Sacred Council of Trent, to whom We have referred the matter for examination, by Our Apostolic Authority and by the tenor of this letter, We confirm and approve the Congregation of the Mission, already begun and approved in the manner We have stated, with the taking, after two years of probation, of simple vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, as also of stability in the Congregation, with the object of devoting oneself all one’s life to the salvation of poor country people. While these vows are being pronounced, no one shall assist with the purpose of accepting them in the name of the Congregation, or of Ourselves, or of the Roman Pontiff at the time. Only the Roman Pontiff shall have the [power to dissolve these vows so taken, as well as the Superior General of the Congregation when dismissing anyone from the Congregation. No other person, even in virtue of any Jubilee or Bull of Crusade or other Privilege or Indult, or other Constitution or Concession whatsoever, shall have power to dissolve, commute, or dispense from them, if there be not therein special mention of these vows taken as above in the Congregation.

We further establish that the Congregation of the Mission be exempt from the jurisdiction of the local Ordinaries in all things except that the persons who have been assigned to the missions by the Superiors of the Congregation will be subject to the Ordinaries, but only in regard to the missions and to those things which concern the missions. We establish also that the Congregation should not therefore be considered of the number of Religious Orders, but that it is of the body of the secular clergy.

We decree that this letter is and always shall be firm, valid, and efficacious, and that it shall be approved and inviolably observed by all whom it concerns and will concern in the future; that it must be judged and defined by all judges, whether ordinary or delegated, even by auditors of the cases of the Apostolic Palace, according to what is stated above; and that any action to the contrary, whether done knowingly or in ignorance, by anyone or on any authority, is null and void; notwithstanding Apostolic Constitutions and Ordinances, even conciliar, or even, if the case should arise, ordinances of the said Congregation, even fortified by oath, by apostolic confirmation, or by any other strengthening whatsoever; and notwithstanding statutes, customs, privileges, or apostolic indults and letters, if contrary to what is stated above, no matter how granted, confirmed, or innovated. From all and each of these We at this time specially and expressly derogate, considering their contents as if this present letter were fully and sufficiently expressed and inserted in them in order to achieve the effects of this letter, other things to the contrary notwithstanding.

We wish further that the same acceptance, both in and outside of court, be granted to transcripts and printed copies of this letter, if signed in the hand of a public notary and stamped with the seal of a person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, as would be granted to the present letter itself if it were exhibited or presented.

Given at Rome, at St. Mary Major, under the ring of the Fisherman, the twenty-second day of September 1655. the first year of Our Pontificate.

THE FUNDAMENTAL STATUTE ON POVERTY

POPE ALEXANDER VII for the future remembrance of the matter

On a former occasion, in willing response to the petitions of our beloved son, Vincent de Paul, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission, We approved the said Congregation, according to the manner and form then expressly confirmed by Us, and also the pronouncing if simple vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as well as stability in the said Congregation with the object of devoting oneself for his entire life to the salvation of poor country people, these vows to be made after two years of probation.

When these vows are pronounced no one shall assist by way of accepting them in the name of the Congregation, or of Ourselves, or of the Roman Pontiff at the time. Only the Roman Pontiff and the Superior General of the said Congregation in the act of dismissal from the Congregation, may dispense from these vows. The said Congregation is not, however, on this account to be considered of the number of the Religious Orders, but is of the body of the secular clergy.

We have written more fully about this on a former occasion in a letter in the form of a Brief like this one, which was issued on the twenty-second day of September 155. The tenor of that former Brief we wish to be considered as properly and sufficiently expressed herein.

More recently, the aforesaid Vincent has represented to us that many difficulties could arise concerning the observance of the aforementioned simple vow of poverty in the said Congregation, difficulties which might disturb the Congregation unless opportunely provided for by Us. Wherefore the aforesaid Vincent earnestly desires that the Fundamental Statute on Poverty of the said Congregation be strengthened by our Apostolic confirmation, the text of the Statute being as follows:

“All and everyone received into our Congregation, having pronounced the said four vows, who posse immovable goods or simple benefices or will possess them in the future, though they retain dominion of all of them, shall not have free use of them; therefore, they may neither retain the fruits of such goods or benefices, nor turn them to their own use without the permission of the Superior, but are held to dispense these fruits in pious works, with the permission and according to the judgment of the Superior. If, however, they have parents or relatives in need, the Superior shall see to it in the Lord that their needs are relieved from these fruits before all else.”

We wish to treat Vincent, the Superior General, with special favors and kindness, absolving him and declaring him to be absolved absolving him and declaring him to be absolved from any ecclesiastical sentences, censures, and penalties of excommunication, suspension, and interdict a jure vel ab homine, whatever the occasion or cause of imposition, if he be in any way bound by any of these, but only for the purpose of obtaining the effect of this letter.

We, in willing response to the petitions humbly presented to Us in his name, and with the counsel of our venerable Brothers, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, interpreters of the Sacred Council of Trent, by means of the apostolic authority of his letter, confirm and approve the Statute quoted above, applying to it the force of an inviolable apostolic stability and supplying for every defect of law or fact should they in any way arise.

We decree that this present letter is and always shall be firm, valid, and efficacious, and that it shall be approved and inviolably observed by all whom it concerns and will concern in the future; that it must be judged and defined by all judges, whether ordinary or delegated, even by auditors of the cases of the Apostolic Palace, according to what is stated above; and that any action to the contrary, whether done knowingly or in ignorance, by anyone or on any authority, is null and void. Former provisions and all prescriptions of Our former letters and anything else to the contrary notwithstanding.

We wish further that the same acceptance, both in and outside of court, be granted to transcripts and printed copies of this letter, if signed in the hand of a public notary and stamped with the seal of the Superior General of the same Congregation or of some other person constituted in ecclesiastical dignity, as would be granted to the present letter itself if it were exhibited or presented.

Given at Rome, at St. Mary Major, under the ring of the Fisherman, the twelfth of August, sixteen hundred and fifty-nine, the fifth year of our Pontificate.

S. Ugolinus