Religious brothers can be superiors of orders with priests

Pope Francis with the then-superiors of the four main men’s branches of the Franciscan family at the Vatican in 2017 (CNS/Vatican Media)

Granting an exception to canon law, Pope Francis said male religious orders that are made up of both priests and brothers can choose one of the brothers to be a provincial superior or even the superior general. Source: Crux.

A rescript from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published by the Vatican May 18 said the approval for appointing or electing a brother to head a “clerical institute” would be given “discretionally and in individual cases”.

Pope Francis approved the change on February 11, said the rescript, which was signed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, congregation prefect, and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary.

In 2017, the heads of the four men’s branches of the Franciscan family – the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans and the Third Order Regulars – asked Pope Francis to allow them to elect brothers to leadership positions, including those with authority over ordained priests.

Fr Michael Perry OFM, who was minister general of the Friars Minor at the time, said such permission would allow the Franciscans to live the order’s ideal of leadership, which should challenge the friars – brothers among themselves, whether ordained or not – “to ‘minority’, to not going up, but going down.”

Minority, Fr Perry, told CNS, is the opposite of clericalism, which is “a drive upward as if upward mobility offered something, some security and guarantee of fidelity, a way of controlling people so they remain faithful to the truth. Franciscans, we don’t see it this way”.

St Francis of Assisi was never a priest, he noted, and for the first 30 years of the order’s existence the friars were allowed to elect brothers to leadership roles, including as minister general, and they did so.


Religious brothers can be superiors of orders with priests, pope says By Cindy Wooden, CNS via Crux)

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