Capuchin Constitutions Project 2006

Presentation of Project 2006 to General Chapter 2006

Dear Brother Capitular,

the Commission for Constitutions and General Statutes, established by the General Minister and Definitory in November 2004, has now completed the two documents it was mandated to draft, and these texts are being sent to you with this letter. We hope these two documents will prove useful as “working papers” and tools for the new task now confronting the Order as it strives to meet the requirements of canon 587 of the Code of Canon Law. This states:

§1. To protect more faithfully the vocation and identity of each institute, the fundamental code or constitutions of every institute must contain, besides those things which are to be preserved in accordance with can. 578, basic norms regarding the governance of the institute, the discipline of its members, the admission and formation of members, and the proper object of the sacred bonds.

§2. This code is approved by competent authority of the Church and can be changed only with its consent.

§3. In the constitutions, spiritual and juridical elements are to be suitably harmonised. However, norms are not to be multiplied without necessity.

§4. Other norms established by competent authority of an institute are appropriately collected in other codes, which can be conveniently reviewed and adapted according to the needs of time and place.

1. The two texts are presented side by side, and are the fruit of the work done by many brothers. This began with the decision of the 82nd General Chapter held in the year 2000, to give an affirmative response to the following motion:

“Do the Capitulars wish the new Superiors of the Order to appoint a commission to undertake the task envisaged in canon 578 of the Code of Canon Law, and to present its conclusions to a General Chapter?”

Among the many brothers who made their contribution to the realisation of this desire of the Chapter, we remember:

The Minister General and his Definitory, who supported and directed the work in all its stages with specific and timely advice, constantly clarifying the objectives of each stage.

The Presidents of the Conferences of Major Superiors who, on two occasions (September 2002 and November 2004) after being informed of the work completed to date, gave their positive assessment and opened up further prospects;

The brothers, most of them canonists, appointed in October 2000, who did the delicate work of separating out the contents of the Constitutions, which has now produced the two distinct documents;

The brothers who were members of the two commissions appointed in 2003, which had a two-fold task: to enrich the doctrinal content of the two documents, especially in the case of the Constitutions; and to produce a suitable draft of both;

Those brothers who were entrusted with the delicate and multiple task expressed in the letter of November 24th 2004:

“……….. to redraft the two texts (Constitutions and General Statutes), produced by the two working parties, ensuring a harmony of language used in both……………… To receive the suggestions of the various Circumscriptions ………To incorporate the findings of PCO VII ……. To draw up a working paper for presentation to the General Chapter of 2006”;

And finally we must not forget the many brothers who were consulted, either by the General Minister and his Definitory or by the Major Superiors’ Conferences.

2. Taking an overall view of the two texts we are now presenting to you, it can be said that:

Practically the whole of the “content” which since 1968 has been contained in a single document (the present Constitutions) is now presented in two documents, Constitutions and General Statutes. There is therefore no new legislation or new “proper law” of the Capuchins.

The new text of the Constitutions has certainly been considerably enriched doctrinally, because in the 40 years since the last major reform of the Constitutions – the same period that elapsed between the Constitutions of 1925 and those of 1968 – the Order has engaged in profound and far-reaching reflection. Suffice it to recall the seven Plenary Councils held during this period, in the light of the teachings of Vatican II, of the Church’s Magisterium and of the advances made in Franciscan spirituality.

The non-fundamental norms, which are properly the domain of the General Statutes, contain those laws which the Order has passed during this same period of time. Some of these laws go back to the “General Chapter Ordinances” and others to decisions of the General Minister and his Definitory.

Finally, some important changes have also been made to avoid concepts that are no longer in harmony with current sensitivities, or to present things more positively, using terminology that is more satisfactory and understandable.

3. We hope that the fruits of all this work, achieved with the participation of so many brothers, will be seen as a “useful tool” with which to continue the work of reflection. Thanks to their efforts, we members of this Commission have been able to collaborate in the final stage, and we hope that the final result can now be “sent to all the brothers of the Order so that all may offer their own contribution”, and that “definitive approval can be given by a Special Chapter” (Letter of the General Minister, November 2004).

Rome, April 10th 2006.

The Commission for “Constitutions and General Statutes”


(Information regarding the work done during 2000-2006)

Br. Elias Cabodevilla


  1. nearly six years ago, on 11 th July 2000 i had to present to the 82 nd General Chapter the summary of Canon 587 of the Code of Canon Law, although, bit later than other Institutions of Consecrated Life, I could show what the Law of the Church and of the Capuchin Order demands.
  2. on 14 th July, the Chapter almost unanimously approved the Proposal: “Let the new Superiors of the Order constitute a Commission for determining the meaning of Canon 587 of the Code of Canon Law. Let this Commission present its findings to the forthcoming General Chapter”.
  3. Now – as the one deputed by the Commission of the new Superiors of the Order appointed by the General Chapter of 2000 – it is my turn, together with Dino Dozzi and Vincenzo Mancusi to present the fruit of the work done during these six years.
  4. This is an unfinished work and is presented to the 83 rd General Chapter of the order so that it may judge whether we can go forward with it as the “Norms for Functioning”.
  5. Since the evaluation and vote of the Chapter members are required, and all were not present in the last General Chapter, I believe it would be becoming to present again the essence of Canon 587 and the advantages as well as the practical difficulties in applying it.


    1. The Code of Canon Law of 1983, faithful to the principle of promoting pluriformity in unity, entrusts to the Particular Law of the Institutes of Consecrated Life, to promulgate norms regarding the various aspects of their life and activity.
    2. The Canon 587 obliges the Institutes of consecrated life, to separate in their legislation two types of documents:
      1. The fundamental laws or the Constitutions
      2. The Minor Rules commonly known as the Statutes or decisions
    3. As to the content of these documents:
      1. The fundamental law or the Constitutions must include the following points, in a suitable harmony of the spiritual and juridical elements (c.587, 3).
        1. The heritage of the Institute, in other words, the mind and the intention of the Founders, approved by the competent ecclesiastical authorities, pertaining to the nature, scope, spirit and characteristic of the Institute (c. 578 in the light of c. 587, 1).
        2. The basic norms concerning the government of the Institute, the discipline of its members, their admission and formation, and the objectives of the sacred vows (c. 587, 1).
      2. The other rules shall include all the norms that an Institute desires to have, either because they are demanded by the universal law of the Church or because the Institute considers them necessary.
    4. Concerning the approval of these rules:
      1. The fundamental rules or the Constitutions are approved by the competent authority of the Church and can be modified only by its permission (c. 587. 3; see also c. 583)
      2. The other Rules are approved by the competent authority of the Institute itself; for, it can revise and adapt when it deems appropriate, according to the needs of time and place (c. 587, 4)
    1. Three advantages may be mentioned here:
      1. the Clarification will indeed distinguish what are basic and permanent on the one hand, and what are secondary and transitory on the other hand. That will facilitate the identification of the Charism of the Order in the pastoral aspect and in the various stages of initial and on-going formation.
      2. The possibility of revising and adapting particular norms contained in the ‘other rules’, without the need of having recourse to an ‘outside’ authority or higher to the Institute.
      3. It guarantees greater success in promoting pluriformity in unity within the Order: a pluriformity that does not go counter to the content of the Constitutions; for, this latter constitute our spiritual heritage, and keep together the fundamental norms of government of the Order and the discipline of its members. Instead, it makes possible and advisable to offer appropriate guidance regarding the place, time, cold country, etc, including the essence of ‘other rules’.
    2. That we have to put up with a hard and delicate work is not a drawback. In our case, I believe, we had made more difficult steps, and of course with considerable success, according to the explicit statement of the Minister General and his Definitors, as well as of the Presidents of the Conferences of major Superiors.
  3. WORK DONE DURING 2000 – 2006
    1. The Work of many Brothers. The new texts of the Constitutions and of the general Statutes that are sent, a few weeks ago, to the Capitulars as a possible “Norms for Functioning”, are the fruit of the labour of many brothers, as it was said in the Presentation. Among them mention must be made of:
      1. First of all, the Minister General and his Definitors who have underlined the various stages and their concrete objectives.
      2. The Presidents of the Conferences of the Major Superiors, who in two sessions (September 2002 and November 2004) have been informed of the progress of the work finished until that date. They have made positive assessment and have pointed out new perspectives for the work.
      3. Above all, the following:
        1. Those who were nominated on 24 th October 2000, and formed a small group for technical work, which has divided the contents of the Constitutions into two documents.
        2. Those who have been designated on 17 th January 2003, and who form two groups of work. They took upon themselves the task of enriching the doctrinal content of the above two documents, particularly that of the Constitutions. They have done a beautiful editing of the same.
        3. and lastly, the members of the Commission appointed by the General Chapter with its letter of 27 th November 2004. They were asked to re-elaborate the two documents, integrating into them the contributions of the VII CPO, and those points given by the various Circumscriptions of the Order. Their task was to bring about a harmonious editing of the style and terminology, so that it could be presented to the General Chapter of 2006 as a possible “Norms for Functioning”, and then to continue the work.
      4. Let us also remember the many who are consulted, both the Minister General and his Definitors and the Conferences of the Major Superiors. For, they have responded very positively by their ever valuable suggestions.
    2. Small group of technical Experts
      1. This is how the Minister General called them in his letter of 25 th October 2000. This group is comprised of six Canonists: Br. Elias Cabodevilla (Prov. Navarre, Cantabria, Aragon), the President; Br. Marco T. Guerra (VPG Guatemala-Honduras-El Salvador); Br. Fiorenzo Fiore (Prov. Messina); Br. Hailemikael Beraki (Prov. Eritrea); Br. Lawrence Thomas Paruthapara (Prov. St. Joseph-Kerala); Br. Vincenzo Mancusi (Prov. Lombardy). These have been working as secretaries and Br. Paul Hinder, Definitor General, who followed up.
      2. Responding to the suggestions given by the Minister General and his Definitors, this group of technical work separated the content of the Constitutions into two documents. At first they worked on II, VIII and XII chapters. Afterwards, receiving the letter of the Minister General of 7 th July 2001, they worked on the other nine chapters. As far as they could, they kept the text of the Constitutions unaltered, both in its meaning and its editing. The content was touched upon only where it required for integrating the changes approved by the General Chapter and by the Holy See. They did the editing in such a way that two documents could be presented. It may be remembered that the group sat in five sessions (8-10 January, 3-4 April, 22-23 May, 30-31 October, 12-13 December 2001), and within the date mentioned, they presented the work of the first Document to the Minister General in a booklet of 120 pages on 23 rd May 2001. The second with 260 pages was presented on 30 th December 2003.
      3. In his letter of 7 th July the Minister General asked the members of this group of technical work to submit their work done so far to “the judgment of various experts in various disciplines”. They were also asked, from the time they received the reply from the experts, “systematically to elaborate and edit the text in the light of their suggestions”.
      4. To complete this last task, the group sat in a session on 21-22 of May 2002, and in a booklet of 24 pages they handed it over to the Minister General on 31 st May. It contained:
        1. The list of 34 specialists who replied to the group’s consultation.
        2. A synthesis of the reply, made according to the twelve chapters of the Constitutions.
        3. A technical-juridical evaluation of the essence of the replies.
        4. A note in which the reasons for not re-elaborating the texts were given: almost all the replies accepted and spoke well of the work that was done. Some of them asked for changes. According to the judgment of the Group, some of their suggestions were not in accord with the Canon Law. Some suggestions that asked for change were not forceful to undertake a total change of the work. Some came very late.
      5. In its work the Group unanimously considered the criterion that is most becoming, well aware that all the Friars of the Order would not think in the same way: namely, to leave as it is in the Constitutions everything that insists upon the legislation of the Church, and to pass over all the rest into ‘Statutes’. As everyone knows, the Code of Canon Law, besides giving the principles we have remembered while commenting on the essence of c. 587, brings in practical applications, and specifies which elements of the life and ministry of the Institutes of Consecrated Life ought to be legislative in the Constitutions and which should come under its Statutes. The former ones should not be missing in the Constitutions, and the latter can come either in the Constitutions or in the so called ‘Directives’.
      6. As a result of its reflections, the Group believed that it could and should formulate certain suggestions to be presented to the Minister General and his Definitors. Such as:
        1. To have appropriate methods to ascertain that all the Friars of the Order, above all those who carry on with the work they have started and those that need the approval in a General Chapter – ordinary or extra ordinary – be sufficiently clear about what the Code of Canon Law proposes and demands. It was not a small surprise for the Group to find in the replies of the specialists – consulted by the Minister General and his Definitors – affirmations that were not at all agreeing with and quite contrary to what Law of the Church actually prescribes.
        2. To make use of this opportunity not only for correcting the juridical errors, clarifying vague points, filling up the ‘lacuna’ that are in the Constitutions, as some think, but also to go beyond the division of a simple text into two and to proceed to reviewing the basis and the actualization of the same.
        3. To encourage pluriformity in the ‘Orders’, without ignoring a healthy equilibrium between unity and pluriformity – even more than what the Constitutions speak of.
        4. Finally, to give a specific name to the document, for example, “General Statutes”. From the beginning to the end, this is called prescriptions, and so, to retain the name “Prescriptions of the General Chapter”.
    3. Two Groups of Work
      1. as mentioned some time ago, on 17 th January 2003, the Minister General and his Definitory appointed the two groups and entrusted them with the task of enriching the content of the Document from a doctrinal point of view, above all for what pertains to the Constitutions and of editing it in an appropriate manner.
      2. The first group for the Constitutions, was comprised of: Br. Erhard Mayerl (Prov. Vienna), the President; Br. Serge Rufin Andrianjava (VPG Madagascar); Br. Regis Armstrong (Prov. New York-New England; Br. Moacir Casagrande (Prov. Central Brazil); Br. John Cooper (Prov. Australia); Br. Dino Rozzi (Prov. Bologna); Br. Kees van den Muijsenberg (Prov. of the Netherlands); Br. Pio Murat (Prov. Paris); Br. Joseph Santarelli (Prov. Marches); Secretary: Br. Ermano Ponzalli (Prov. Tuscany). The second Group for the General Statutes, was comprised of: Br. Elias Cabodevilla (Prov. Navrre, Cantabria, Aragon), the President; Br. Vincent Mancusi (Prov. Lombardy), Secretary; Br. Gabriel Bartoszewski (Prov. Warsaw); Br. Hailemikael Beraki (Prov. Eritrea); Br. Marco Tulio Guerra (VPG Gautemala-Honduras-El Salvador); Br. Thomas Morus Huber (Prov. Switzerland); Br. Stephen Jairaj (Prov. St. Joseph-Kerala). And Br. Paul Hinder who did the follow up with both the groups.
      3. In the judgment of the commission members, above all regarding the Constitutions, a rigorous work has been done, indeed worthy of all praise. From the moment this work is accepted by the Order and is going to be presented for the approval of the Holy See, the Capuchins of the coming years will benefit a great deal with regard to their religious life, lived Franciscan call – pregnant with meaning and nuance. In a short time, Br. Dino Dozzi and Br. Vincent Mancusi would be giving details of the work done by the two Groups.
    4. the Commission
      1. As has been said, the commission was formed by the last General Chapter from among the new Superiors of the Order. On 27 th November the Minister General with his Definitors nominated the following members: Br. Aurelio Laita (Vicar General), President; Br. Dino Dozzi (Prov. Bologna); Br. Pio Murat (Prov. France); Br. William Hugo (Prov. Calvary); Br. Jean Bertin Nadonye (VPG Congo); Br. Guido Situmorang (Prov. Medan); Br. Elias Cabodevilla (Prov. Navarre, Cantabria, Aragon); Br. Vincent Mancusi (Prov. Lombardy); Br. Moacir Casagrande (Prov. Central Brazil); Br. Mauro Johri (Prov. Switzerland). Secretary: Br. Carlo Calloni (Prov. Lombardy).
      2. In order to carry out efficiently the task entrusted by the Minister General and his Definitory, the Commission met four times (24 th January, 28-29 th May, 28-29 th November 2005 and 10 th April 2006). What we have in hand is the fruit of their labour in two Groups.
      3. I would like to mention that Br. Dino Dozzi and Br. Vincent Mancusi will give us certain information regarding the integration of VII CPO into the new text of the Constitutions and the General Statutes. Let it be noted that nothing of the replies from the Circumscriptions of the Order is integrated into the text, because that was very little and consisted of assessment of the work of the Group.
    1. IV.1. It is evident that the work done is far more than what was foreseen and requested by the 82 nd General Chapter. It needs to be underlined that the work was done in a very responsible manner. The small Group of technical work went far beyond only after requesting the Minister General and getting his consent. They also obtained support from the Presidents of the Major Superiors’ Conferences. This is true of the session held in San Giovanni Rotondo in September 2002 and in Rome in November 2004. They left no stone unturned. Now the matter is in the hand of competent authority to decide. It is up to the General Chapter to determine whether to continue the work, to obtain approval of the Church, to accept the content of the Constitutions in two classifications with doctrinal enrichment; for, it is offered after a long and hard work of many Friars including the Minister General and his Definitory.
    2. It is with a purpose that I have mentioned the names of the Friars who worked, and the Circumscription to which they belong. This is the work done not only by many Friars, but also Friars of five Continents. In other words, the ‘going beyond’ what was asked by the Minister General in 2000 was desired by the entire Capuchin Order.
    3. Lastly a suggestion: let not this 83 rd General Chapter ask a minute study of the two documents, but only pronounce on the following:
      1. Does the Chapter accept the separation of the present Constitutions into two, namely, Constitutions and General Statutes?
      2. If affirmative, are the texts presented here considered as “Norms for Functioning”, valid for going forward?
      3. Whatever be the choice, what the General Chapter need to do is to conclude the work in conformity with the demands of the Code of Canon Law. Just for information, I would like to mention that in the letter of 27 th November 2004 of the Minister General – referring to the findings of the Presidents of the Conferences of the Major Superiors in Rome, he wrote: “If the General Chapter of 2006 approves such a text, it will be sent to all the Friars of the Order for conscientization and their involvement, soliciting their contribution. This will be taken into consideration for the final drafting of the text. Lastly that elaborated text would be submitted to the judgment and definitive approval of an extraordinary Chapter (2009?)”.
    4. In view of this the Commission has formulated certain questions that will be given to you. Undoubtedly these questions can be of great use for reflection on the subject in language-Groups. If found necessary, they will again be brought to the Chapter – re-formulated basing on the suggestions of these groups:
      1. Do you believe that the work done by the Groups and the Commission as the new text of the Constitutions and the General Statutes would adequately respond to the mind of the 82 nd General Chapter that says: “Let the new Superiors of the Order appoint a Commission to bring to light the meaning of Canon 587of the Code of Canon Law. Let the Commission present its findings to a General Chapter”?
      2. Would you accept this ‘Project’ as Norms for Functioning of an extraordinary General Chapter – to be held during the coming six years – that will study and define the new legislative input of the Order.
      3. What suggestions do you have to give to the new government of the Order? For, this process of preparation would also be a spiritual pilgrimage for celebrating the VIII centenary of the approval of our Rule in 2009.

Given in Rome, September 2006.

[Following on was the draft of the Project 2006 Constitutions and Statutes placed side by side and can be accessed by pdf here]