American-Cassinese Congregation

The Constitutions and the Directory

 

Part I: Matters Pertaining to the Individual Monasteries

Chapter II: The Abbot and Governance of the Monastery

Article 1

THE ABBOT OF THE MONASTERY

C 10.1. The office of abbot is an essential element of Benedictine monastic life. The abbot of a monastery, a sacrament of the person and will of Christ, is principally a spiritual leader, helping and guiding the community and the individual monk to fulfill their respective roles in the Church through fidelity to the charism expressed in the Rule of Saint Benedict by which he himself is guided.

C 10.2. The abbot is father, teacher, and administrator, whose concern must extend to the entire way of life envisioned by the Rule of Saint Benedict.

C 11. In the monasteries of the Congregation an abbot is constituted by election and the subsequent confirmation of the election by the proper authority (cf. C 18; CIC 625).

C 12. All capitulars of the monastery have the right to vote in the election of an abbot.

D 12.1. 1. In addition to the capitulars, all other perpetually professed monks of the community have the right to vote in the election of an abbot.

D 12.1. 2. Those solemnly or perpetually professed monks who are legitimately living outside the monastery according to the provisions of CIC 665.1 have both active and passive voice unless other provisions were made when the permission to live outside the monastery was given and with due regard for the provisions of C 26.

D 12.1. 3. Exclaustrated members of the community lack active and passive voice in accordance with the prescriptions of CIC 687.

D 12.1. 4. A monk who has received the written permission of his abbot to begin the process of transfer lacks active and passive voice (cf. D 88.2.1; D 90.4).

D 12.1. 5. Monks who are unlawfully absent from the monastery (cf. C 92; CIC 665.2) are to be declared so by the council of seniors of the monastery. The decision is to be confirmed by the President of the Congregation. Those who are unlawfully absent lack active and passive voice. At the first meeting of the election chapter the written confirmation made by the President is to be entered into the record of the election chapter.

D 12.2. If the mental competency of a potential elector is questionable (cf. CIC 171.1), the superior is to appoint a curator to represent the monk and to defend his right to vote. The matter is to be decided by the council of seniors of the monastery. The decision is to be confirmed by the President of the Congregation. Those who are declared mentally incompetent lack active and passive voice. At the first meeting of the election chapter, the written confirmation made by the President is to be entered into the record of the election chapter.

D 12.3. In an abbatial election non-voting members of the community are not permitted to be present at any of the sessions of the election chapter but may be admitted after an election has been accepted.

C 13. In order to be validly elected to the office of abbot it is required that a monk be:

  1. at least thirty years of age;
  2. solemnly professed for at least seven years (CIC 623);
  3. an ordained priest;
  4. a member of the Congregation.

C 14. The provisions for the election of an abbot are contained in the proper law of the Congregation.

D 14.1. 1. Upon the death or resignation of an abbot with jurisdiction, or upon the raising of a conventual priory to the status of an abbey, an election of an abbot is to be held within three months.

D 14.1. 2. Because of particular circumstances, the chapter of a monastery may vote to postpone the election of an abbot. In this case the President of the Congregation is to appoint a temporary administrator under the same conditions as in D 17.1.

D 14.2. 1. The date for an abbatial election and the appointment of a secretary for the election process, who is to keep the President informed of the preparatory plans for the election, are to be determined by the President after consultation with the superior.

D 14.2. 2. Under the direction of the superior, the secretary will send written notification to every member of the community who has the right to participate in the election, indicating the time and place of the election.

D 14.2. 3. If the right of anyone to vote is doubtful, the secretary will consult the council of seniors. The final decision remains with the President.

D 14.2. 4. 1. With the notification the secretary will inform the members of the community that a monk who is legitimately impeded from attending the abbatial election may request the appointment of a proxy. Unless the monastic chapter determines otherwise, the monk may himself cast a nominating ballot by a letter sent to the secretary of the election.

D 14.2. 4. 2. The secretary is likewise to send a form to be returned to him by each recipient, indicating that he has received the notification and whether he intends to be present for the election. If he cannot attend, he is to explain the reason(s). If he wishes to vote by proxy, he is to list in the order of his preference a specified number, determined by the council of seniors, of names of electors whom he would choose as his proxy; otherwise he is to indicate that he does not wish to vote in the election.

D 14.2. 5. The secretary will request that the form be returned to him as soon as possible, or at least within a specified number of days, so that there will be sufficient time for the council of seniors of the monastery to ascertain whether the reasons are valid and whether, therefore, a proxy is to be named for the absent elector. The final decision in this matter lies with the President, who will name the proxies at the first meeting of the election chapter.

D 14.3. Those who are unable to be present at an abbatial election may vote by proxy. If two or more monks choose the same proxy (cf. D 14.2.4.2), the absent elector who is senior by profession shall have the preference. An elector may act as proxy for one person only, and he must cast both ballots for the same candidate. This proxy vote is exercised in all the balloting strictly related to the election, i.e., for tellers, the nominating ballot, unless a nominating ballot has been cast by letter (cf. D 14.2.4.1), and in the election ballot itself.

D 14.4. The first meeting of the election chapter is to be convoked for the purpose of:

  1. the President’s officially naming the proxies and confirming decisions made regarding unlawful absences and mental competence;
  2. the calling of the roll by the secretary;
  3. the election of tellers or confirmation of previously elected tellers;
  4. the naming and evaluating of candidates for the office of abbot.

D 14.5. 1. For the election of tellers one ballot is taken; those (as many as may be needed) with the highest number of votes are elected.

D 14.5. 2. After they have been elected, the tellers take the prescribed oath to perform their functions conscientiously and to preserve secrecy if they come to know the vote of anyone, e.g., in obtaining the votes of the sick in the monastery.

D 14.6. 1. After the election of tellers, each elector may name by secret ballot two monks whom he considers best suited for the office of abbot, in order that their qualifications may be evaluated by the election chapter.

D 14.6. 2. If a monk who has been named in the balloting wishes to withdraw his name, he may state that, as of the moment, he would not accept the election and he may request that the electors do not vote for him. The electors, however, remain free to vote for him if they wish to do so.

D 14.6. 3. Beginning with the one most frequently named, each monk who has been named as a candidate will leave the room while his qualifications for the office of abbot are evaluated. After his evaluation has been completed, the monk is free to return for the evaluation of the others named.

D 14.6. 4. If there is anyone in the chapter, including the superior or the President, who is related to the monk being discussed by blood or marriage to the fourth degree (i.e., up to first cousins) inclusive, the relative will leave the meeting for the evaluation of that candidate. If the President must leave he is to appoint someone to preside during his temporary absence.

D 14.6. 5. In an election that follows the resignation of an abbot, the abbot who resigned will absent himself from the entire evaluation process.

D 14.6. 6. The President may determine, in consultation with the electors, whether every monk named should be evaluated, or only those who have been named a specified number of times. Even if a minimum number has been set, the electors remain free to vote for candidates who have not been evaluated. Prior to the election ballot, the President will state that, if someone not evaluated draws a specified number of votes, he will stop the balloting and ask the chapter to evaluate that candidate.

D 14.7. An elector who has definite knowledge of something of a serious moral or canonical nature that is not publicly known and that he judges in conscience makes the monk unfit for the office of abbot, must inform the President privately. If he judges the information well founded, the President, respecting the right to self-defense on the part of the candidate concerned, must speak with him privately. If he is convinced in conscience that the candidate is unworthy, he must state that, if the candidate is elected, he will not confirm the election.

D 14.8. In order to allow sufficient time for prayer and reflection, the balloting for candidates for the office of abbot is not to begin until several hours have elapsed after the close of the evaluation.

D 14.9. 1. To be valid a vote must be free, secret, certain, absolute, and determinate (CIC 172.1).

D 14.9. 2. Any condition attached to a vote prior to the election is to be considered as not having been attached (CIC 172.2).

C 15.1. Not more than six valid ballots are permitted in the election of an abbot. To be validly elected on one of the first three ballots a candidate must receive the votes of two-thirds of the electors responding to the roll call either in person or by proxy.

C 15.2. If there is no election after three ballots, time for reflection and prayer is to be given to the electors.

C 15.3. To be validly elected on one of the final three ballots a candidate must receive the votes of more than half of the number of electors responding to the roll call.

D 15. Before each ballot the secretary is to determine if the number of electors present has changed since the roll call. If it has, he is to inform the President, who will announce the new number of votes required for the appropriate majority.

C 16.1. If a candidate is impeded from being elected by a canonical impediment that can be dispensed, he may be postulated in accordance with the norms of universal law and the proper law of the Benedictine Confederation (CIC 180-183; Lex Propria, 45).

C 16.2. The monk being postulated must receive on any ballot at least two-thirds of the votes of the electors responding to the roll call.

D 16.1. After the electors have gathered for the balloting:

  1. The secretary will call the roll;
  2. The President or his delegate will read chapter 64 of the Rule of Saint Benedict;
  3. After the President has given an exhortation, he will take the prescribed oath;
  4. The electors also take the prescribed oath.

D 16.2. After each ballot, the President will ask the tellers to count the ballots; if the number is equal to, or less than, the number of electors, he will instruct the tellers to open the ballots. If the number of ballots exceeds the number of electors, the ballots are not opened but sealed and set aside to be destroyed later with the valid ballots. Such an invalid ballot does not count in the six ballots permitted.

D 16.3. 1. After each ballot has been opened, read aloud, and passed to another teller for verification, it is passed to the President. If any question arises concerning the validity or the meaning of a ballot, the tellers ask the President for a decision.

D 16.3. 2. After each balloting the teller announces the results.

D 16.4. 1. When all the ballots have been counted and the required majority has been reached, the secretary asks the President to declare an election. After doing so, the President will inform the monk elected that, in accord with CIC 177.1, he has eight days to accept or reject the election. At the same time the President will remind the monk of the difficulties a lengthy delay could cause. The President may then declare a recess of at least half an hour.

D 16.4. 2. The President, either immediately or after the chapter has reconvened, asks the monk elected if he accepts. If he does accept, the process continues with C 18.

D 16.5. 1. If the monk elected does not accept the election, he loses any right deriving from the election and does not regain such right by a subsequent acceptance; such a monk can, however, be elected again (CIC 177.2).

D 16.5. 2. If the monk elected refuses the election, a new election must begin within a month after such refusal. In the new election, which may begin immediately, six ballots are permitted, with the same majorities required: two-thirds on the first three ballots; and an absolute majority on the next three.

C 17. The right of appointing a temporary administrator devolves upon the President of the Congregation if there is no election after the specified number of ballots.

D 17.1. If there is no election after six ballots the election of an abbot is deferred. Except in the case of a territorial abbacy, the right of appointing a temporary administrator devolves upon the President of the Congregation, after consulting with the community and his own council. The term of the temporary administrator, who must have the same qualifications as an abbot, is determined by the President after consulting with his council; however, it must not exceed three years, computed from the date of taking office. At the end of the term the President, after consulting his council, may reappoint the administrator or make other suitable provisions.

D 17.2. The temporary administrator has the full jurisdiction of a major superior.

D 17.3. The President, with the consent of his council, may terminate the office of a temporary administrator at any time, either when the community appears ready before the end of three years to elect an abbot, or when the temporary administrator, for any reason, is unable to continue. In the former case, the community will proceed to the election of an abbot in the usual manner; in the latter, the President, after consulting his council, will make suitable provision.

C 18. A monk who is elected abbot and who accepts the office must request confirmation of the election from the President of the Congregation. In the case of a territorial abbacy, confirmation of the election must be sought from the Apostolic See.

D 18. Before the election can be confirmed, the newly-elected abbot is to make a profession of faith (CIC 833; see Appendix 1).

C 19. Once an election has been confirmed, the newly elected abbot obtains full jurisdiction according to the norms of universal law and the proper law of the Congregation. He has all the rights and obligations attributed in universal law to the major superior of a clerical institute of pontifical right (CIC 596).

D 19. Within three months of the election, a new abbot is to receive the abbatial blessing. A superior who is not an abbot does not receive this blessing.

C 20. The tenure of an abbot is governed by the proper law of the Congregation (CIC 624.1).

D 20.1. The tenure of an abbot of a territorial abbacy is established by the norms of universal law (CIC 401).

D 20.2. Every other abbot is required to submit his resignation to the President of the Congregation three months before either:

D 20.2. 1. The completion of his seventy-fifth year of age if he has held office for at least eight years; or

D 20.2. 2. The end of his eighth year in office if he was elected after the completion of his sixty-seventh year of age.

D 20.3. The President, after consulting the abbot who is resigning and his own council, will set the date when the office becomes vacant and will inform the abbot and community concerned in writing (cf. CIC 186).

C 21. An abbot may for serious reasons voluntarily submit his resignation to the President of the Congregation who, after consulting his council, will make suitable provisions after the circumstances have been evaluated.

C 22. An abbot who has resigned retains the rights and obligations of other capitulars in his own community, with due regard for the prescription of C 122.

D 22.1. An abbot who has resigned in accordance with D 20.2 may be reelected for successive terms of eight years.

D 22.2. A resigned abbot may use the pontifical insignia according to the norms of universal law (cf. Motu Proprio Pontificalia Insignia, 3, in AAS 60 (1968) 374-377).

C 23. For very grave reason and for the welfare of a community the President of the Congregation with the consent of his council has the right to remove an abbot from office in accordance with the proper law of the Congregation.

D 23.1. 1. The abbot of a monastery is removed from office by universal law in the cases mentioned in CIC 194.

D 23.1. 2. The President of the Congregation is the authority competent to issue any required declarations.

D 23.2. 1. An abbot may be removed from office for other very grave reasons including the following:

  1. His inability to fulfill the obligations of his office for whatever reason, including prolonged absence or grave mental or physical illness;
  2. Habitual neglect of the obligations of his office;
  3. Continued disregard for the proper law of the Congregation or for the lawful mandates imposed on him by the President of the Congregation;
  4. Grave scandal arising from his culpable behavior.

D 23.2. 2. Once the President of the Congregation has been made aware of circumstances that may warrant the removal of an abbot from office, he is to examine the evidence to determine whether the complaint is well founded. If he judges that it is, he is to consult his council and determine whether a special visitation is to be conducted or whether some other course of action is to be followed.

D 23.2. 3. The abbot in question is to be informed of his right to self-defense and be given an opportunity to present his defense to the President.

D 23.2. 4. If, after examining all the evidence, the President and/or the visitators determine that there are sufficient grounds to remove the abbot from office, the President is to present the matter to his council and, acting collegially with them, is to review the matter and vote upon it. If it is decided that the abbot is to be removed, the President issues the decree.

D 23.2. 5. The abbot retains his right of recourse to the Apostolic See in accordance with the provisions of universal law on administrative recourse (CIC 1732-1739). During the recourse, the provisions of the President’s decree remain in effect. No election of a new abbot may take place. The President will appoint an administrator.

C 24. When the office of abbot becomes vacant, the prior becomes the temporary administrator of the monastery; or, if he is impeded, the subprior; if he also is impeded, the member of the council of seniors who is senior by profession, and so on.

D 24.1. It is the duty of the temporary administrator to send notice at once of the death or resignation of the abbot to the absent members of the community, the bishop of the diocese, the Abbot Primate, the President, and, if the monastery is a territorial abbacy, the Congregation of Bishops.

D 24.2. It is the responsibility of the President of the Congregation to decide if a particular superior or other capitular is impeded from assuming the position of temporary administrator.

  

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