Saturday, May 3, 2014

Reflection : Protecting the Constitutions


St Ignatius legacy to the world and the church is immense and almost impossible to measure in a meaningful way.  However there are two works of his that we can focus on.  Firstly the Spiritual Exercises have changed the lives of  hundreds of thousands of people. Because of the incredible influence of the Exercises, the second great  written legacy of Ignatius, the Constitutions are often left in the shade.  Ignatius spent 15 years of his life working on the Constitutions in Rome, editing and refining.  When a Jesuit takes his final vows, amongst the sacristy vows is a vow never to change anything in the Jesuit Constitutions about poverty--unless to make it "more strict". 

Reflecting on the series of crises that preceded the Suppression and similarly the crisis that surrounded  the first General Congregation of the Restored Society - it is interesting to not how much pressure was resisted to change the Constitutions. Even before then, only two years after the death of Ignatius, in 1558, Pope Paul IV overrode the Constitutions insisting that Jesuits must chant the office in common and that the generals term must only last 3 years.  He was to die in the next year - and Laynez, General at the time, received the opinion of 5 distinguished canon lawyers that the Popes orders - verbally given - yielded at his death to legally promulgated bulls of earlier Popes and therefore ceased to carry any further obligation. 

As well as the pressure put on by the Gallicanists in France to change the Constitutions, resisted by the Fr General Ricci and the Pope, at  General Congregation 20, the first one after the universal restoration of the Society had to deal with a crisis around proposed changes to the constitutions.  Fr Luigi Rezzi, a fractious Sicilian tried his hardest to delay the start of eth Congregation so that he could control enough votes to make changes to the Constitutions.  His strategy to delaying the beginning of the meeting was to question the validity of those who took vows in Russia.  When the congregation elected Fr Luigi Fortis as General he (Rezzi) was expelled from the Society.

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