Text of Council Speech on Religious Life by Head of Marist Fathers

This is a translation of the ecumenical council speech made Nov. 11 on the schema on Religious by Father Joseph Buckley, S.M., superior general of the Marist Fathers.

I would like to begin by thanking the 130 council Fathers who signed my request to speak.

There are some good aspects of this latest schema on Religious. It insists on the renewal which is the chief aim of this Second Vatican Council. It expressly pursues the adaptation which the Sacred Congregation of Religious began as far back as 1950 and has continued to push ever since.

But there are many defects in the schema:

1. For instance there is no gesture of friendship toward the diocesan clergy. It can be objected that this kind ofgesture does not belong to a schema on the renewal of Religious But the disagreements between Religious, and bishops and diocesan priests, are a serious difficulty in the Church.

Bishops want to exercise a greater authority over the Religious in their diocese. Religious are worried about this. But we Religious might as well face up to the fact that some of our habits irritate the diocesan clergy; for example, our inclination to talk as if we were the only ones in the state of perfection.

It is time we recognized that diocesan priests have their own sound spirituality. There is much in common between them and Religious. In many places they live in community. They observe the same chastity as we do. They all have to obey their bishop, and assistants have to obey their pastor. Their poverty is often not much different from ours. They carry out the same kinds of apostolic ministry in the same way. It is safe to say that Religious priests of active life are closer to diocesan priests than they are to contemplative Religious.

Even though we have to make a canonical distinction we don’t have to insist on it in practice. “What unites us is more important than what separates us” is good philosophy.

I put these ideas to Pope John in an audience. With that spontaneity of his he replied immediately, “Adesso c’intendiamo” — “That’s what I think too.”

2. The same principle of removing unnecessary differences suggests another step in renewing religious life: remove the distinctions between orders and congregations.

Congregations have already proved their worth in the Church. It is time to stop thinking of their members as second-class Religious, poor relations — dei parenti poveri. We are very grateful to the Holy Fathers John XXIII and Paul VI that the superiors general of congregations are members of the council, provided they have a thousand priests in their congregation. On the other hand, superiors general of orders that do not even have 100 priests are members of the council, not to mention bishops with less than 10 diocesan priests in their diocese.

It seems to me that a step in the renovation of the congregations, at least the congregations of men, is to grant them power of jurisdiction and faculties for the exercise of the sacred ministry in their own houses for their own subjects, without the obligation of continually asking for indults.

3. Number eight of the new schema is on religious obedience. This seems to apply to all religious a concept of obedience which might be all right for monks but it is not what the active-apostolic Religious need today.

Some superiors are always talking about the crisis in obedience. My opinion is that the crisis is with the superiors, not with the subjects. The truth is that today’s young people don’t swallow archaic formulas like “the will of the superior is exactly the same as the will of God.”

Nothing is said in the schema about the obligation of superiors to consult their council — local or provincial or general. There are many superiors, particularly among the nuns, among the men, too, who do not even understand the proper and efficient procedure for running a council meeting. I suggest that renovation of religious life is more a matter of the formation and efficiency of superiors than of greater obedience in the subject.

For these reasons, and others there is no time for now, it appears to me that the present schema does not give us a full response to the modern problems of Religious life.

Another revision, still more favorable to aggiornamento, is called for. I doubt if it can come from the commission unless new periti are added to it.

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