The publication of the new Constitutions and Directory of the American-Cassinese Congregation is the culmination of a process that has lasted for two decades. In accord with the directives of the Second Vatican Council and the later decrees of implementation, our former Constitutions and Declarations to the Holy Rule were abrogated by the thirty-sixth general chapter in its two sessions in 1968 and 1969. Since then the Congregation has been governed by temporary documents. The time has now come to reap the fruits of the experimentation conducted during these years, and to provide our monks with a clearer and more comprehensive legislation that better meets the needs of our time.
The work of preparing the Constitutions and Directory was performed by two committees. The Constitutions Commission was mandated by the forty-first general chapter held in 1983 at Assumption Abbey. The commission was established near the end of 1983, with Abbot Marion Balsavich (Bed) as chairman, and included the following members: Father Terrence Kardong (R), Father Jonathan DeFelice (A), Father Thomas Acklin (V), and Father Maur Dlouhy (P). Father Maur, a dedicated monk and a learned canonist, died in September 1984, and in November of that year Father Roman Galiardi (P) was appointed executive secretary of the Congregation and a member of the Constitutions Commission.
The first session of the forty-second general chapter mandated the formation of a Directory Committee. Though much of the content of the Directory had been prepared by the Constitutions Commission, the chairman and two of the members of that commission, Abbot Marion Balsavich, Father Terrence Kardong, and Father Thomas Acklin, chose not to serve on the Directory Committee because of other pressing duties. Immediately after the close of the first session of the forty-second general chapter, the newly-elected council met and prevailed upon the President, Abbot John Eidenschink (J), to serve as chairman of the Directory Committee, and later named Abbot Brian Clarke (M),
Father Jonathan DeFelice (A), Father Roman Galiardi (P), and Father Claude Peifer (Bed) as members.
The presence of two members of the Constitutions Commission greatly facilitated the work of the Directory Committee, which continued to follow the guiding principles established by the Constitutions Commission, as they were outlined by Abbot Marion Balsavich at the opening of the first session of the forty-second general chapter. These principles called for:
1. A document of the Congregation at the service of individual monasteries; the general principles of the Congregation are given first, then the individual monasteries are treated, and finally the Congregation’s means of serving them.
2. A useable document: not merely a compendium of references, but one available to the non-canonist.
3. A document organized in such a way that the material follows the structure of the Code itself without sacrificing the special nature of the monastic way of life.
The Constitutions Commission and the Directory Committee met from time to time at various monasteries, though most frequently at St. Procopius Abbey, for weekends of intensive work to prepare the preliminary texts and later to accept, reject, or modify the many constructive suggestions for changes made by individual members of the Congregation to the preliminary texts sent out before each session of the forty-second general chapter. The abbots, priors, and delegates of each session of this general chapter spent many hours in refining and approving, with substantial majorities, each of the paragraphs of the Constitutions and Directory. It is a tribute to the diligence, care, and concern of all that the Apostolic See requested no major changes when the Constitutions were submitted for approval; the few minor changes that were requested were readily accepted by the second session of the forty-second general chapter.
The Constitutions were approved by the Apostolic See on October 2, 1988, and were promulgated on February 10, 1989. They became effective on March 21, 1989. In the proper law of the Congregation, as clearly stated in C 5.1, the Constitutions "contain the more important norms for the ordering of life within the monasteries." The Apostolic See reserves to itself the authentic interpretation of the Constitutions, and any changes can be made in them only after an absolute majority vote of the general chapter and the consent of the Apostolic See.
The Directory, which was approved by the second session of the forty-second general chapter, was promulgated and became effective along with the Constitutions on the dates given above. It "contains more precise rules and directives for the government of the monasteries of the Congregation and of the Congregation itself" (C 5.2). These rules and directives may be changed or abrogated by the general chapter.
The second principle followed by the Constitutions Commission and the Directory Committee was to produce a useable document. The addition of the several appendices, it is hoped, will make the entire document even more useable and serviceable, that "in all things God may be glorified" (RB 46.7).
+ JOHN EIDENSCHINK, O.S.B.
June 2, 1989
THE CONSTITUTIONS were approved by the first session of the Forty-Second General Chapter of the American-Cassinese Congregation, 9-13 June 1986, and by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, 2 October 1988.
THE DIRECTORY was approved by the second session of the Forty-Second General Chapter of the American-Cassinese Congregation, 3-7 August 1987.
THE CONSTITUTIONS AND THE DIRECTORY were promulgated as the proper law of the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries on the Solemnity of the Passing of our Holy Father Benedict, 21 March 1989.
per i Religiosi
e gli Istituti Secolari
Prot. n. B 111 - 1/86
D E C R E E
This Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, by virtue of its authority to erect, guide and promote institutes of consecrated life, after careful consideration of the constitutions presented by the American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictine Monasteries, acceding to the request of the Abbot President and his Council, herewith approves, within the limits of canon law, these same constitutions as amended according to the observations of this Congregation. May the generous living of these constitutions encourage all the members of the American-Cassinese Congregation to an ever deeper commitment to their consecrated life in accordance with the spirit of St. Benedict and the ancient tradition of their Order.
Given at Rome, October 2, 1988
Feast of the Guardian Angels,
Patrons of the American-Cassinese Congregation.
AAS - Acta Apostolicae Sedis
Acts - Acts of the Apostles
C - Constitutions
CIC - Codex Iuris Canonici
D - Directory
Jn - Gospel According to John
Lk - Gospel According to Luke
Phil - Letter to the Phillipians
Prol - Prologue
RB - Rule of St. Benedict
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