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Thursday, 29 May 2008


Have not found a link to the document itself yet.

Vatican Gives Guidelines on Religious Obedience
Congregation for Consecrated Life Releases Instruction
VATICAN CITY, MAY 28, 2008 (
Zenit.org).- Obedience in the consecrated life is a journey in search of God, aiming at becoming aware of the design of his love, says a 50-page document released by the Vatican.The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life today published a 50-page instruction titled: "The Service of Authority and Obedience." It was presented this morning at an assembly of men and women superiors-general being held at the Salesianum in Rome.
A communiqué released by the congregation reported: "In the first place, the text examines the theme of religious obedience, the root of which is seen in that search for God and for his will which is particular to believers. [...] Christian and religious obedience does not, then, appear simply as the implementation of ecclesiastical or religious laws and rulings, but as the momentum of a journey in search of God, which involves listening to his Word and becoming aware of his design of love -- the fundamental experience of Christ, who, out of love, was obedient unto death on the cross."Authority in religious life must be understood in this light, in other words, as a way to help the community -- or institute -- to seek and achieve the will of God. Obedience, then, is not justified on the basis of religious authority, because everyone in a religious community -- first and foremost the authorities themselves -- are called to obedience. Authority places itself at the service on the community so that God's will may be sought and achieved together."The communiqué noted that the question of religious authority should be placed in the context of a "great shared commitment to obedience."DifficultiesThe instruction also considers "the delicate matter of 'difficult obedience,' that in which what is requested of the religious is particularly hard to carry out, or in which the subject feels he sees 'things which are better and more useful for his soul than those which the superior orders him to do,'" the communiqué added. "Drawing from a still-relevant text of Paul VI, the document also dwells upon the possibility of 'objections of conscience' in the subject who must obey."It continued: "The instruction seeks to recall, above all, that obedience in religious life can give rise to difficult moments, to situations of suffering in which it is necessary to refer back to the Obedient One par excellence, Christ. [...] It must, moreover, be borne in mind that authority too can be 'difficult,' experiencing moments of discouragement and fatigue which can lead to resignation or inattention in exercising an appropriate guidance [...] of the community."The reference to conscience helps people to consider obedience not just as a passive and irresponsible execution of orders, but as a conscious shouldering of commitments [...] which are a real actuation of the will of God."
"If the document contains a serene and faith-motivated exhortation to obedience, it also offers a vast and coherent set of guidelines for the exercise of authority," such as "inviting people to listen, favoring dialogue, sharing, co-responsibility, [...] and the merciful treatment of people" entrusted to authority, the communiqué added.
The instruction, the statement concluded, "gives particular resonance to the religious community as a place in which, under the guidance of the superior, a form of 'community discernment' must be exercised in decision-making. This practice, for the implementation of which important suggestions are offered, does not however eliminate the role of authority. [...] And it must not be forgotten that, by ancient tradition, the highest authority within religious institutes resides in the general chapter -- or similar institution -- which is a collegial body."

Vatican, May. 28, 2008 (CWNews.com) - The Vatican has issued a new document underlining the importance of obedience in religious life.
Entitled "The Service of Authority and Obedience," the 50-page document from the Congregation for Religious takes the form of an Instruction. It was presented to the superiors of male and female religious orders on May 28 at an assembly held in the Salesianum in Rome.
Obedience, the Vatican document says, should be understood by religious as "a way to help the community or institute to seek and achieve the will of God." The basis for religious obedience, the Instruction notes, is found "in that search for God and for his will which is particular to believers." In offering their obedience, religious imitate "the fundamental experience of Christ Who, out of love, was obedient unto his death on the Cross."
The document from the Congregation for Religious explicitly takes up the question of "difficult obedience," which arises when the individual religious finds the superior's directions "particularly hard to carry out." It also considers situations in which the superior's orders might cause conflicts in the individual's conscience.
Obedience can "give rise to difficult moments," the Vatican document acknowledges. Nevertheless the Instruction observes that religious should reflect on the fundamental role of obedience as a path to understanding God's will. The exercise of religious authority can also be difficult for the superior, the document notes. Everyone in religious life is called to embrace obedience "not just as a passive and irresponsible execution of orders, but as a conscious shouldering of commitments."
The Instruction offers some direction for religious superiors, encouraging them to use their authority prudently, "inviting people to listen, favoring dialogue, sharing, co-responsibility." Superiors should show pastoral concern and mercy for those living under their rule, the document notes.
The Vatican Instruction repeatedly calls readers back to the understanding that obedience is not only a means of structuring the life of religious communities, but a way of seeking and understanding God's will. Religious, the document stresses, should recognize in their obedience to superiors "a real actuation of the will of God."

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