(Brasilia) The Heralds of the Gospel have announced in a press release their opposition to the Roman Commissar's decree. It is a "private" association, which is why the Vatican has no jurisdiction to put them under provisional administration. The Heralds therefore do not recognize the apostolic commissioner.
The press release "The Private Association of the Faithful Heralds of the Gospel on the Acting Administration" states that its president, Felipe Eugenio Lecaros Concha, met with the General Council of the Association on 17 October to ratify the Roman Commissar's Decree and to discuss further procedure. From Rome the Heralds of the Gospel had been informed that they were placed under temporary administration. Even before they got the Decree, they had to read it in the Vatican media.
The Gospel Heralds in 2017 had more than 40,000 members worldwide. They are tight and well organized.
The Congregation of Religious had appointed Raymundo Damasceno Assis, Commissar in late September, with the approval of Pope Francis Cardinal, and Bishop José Aparecido Gonçalves de Almeida as his assistant.
The meeting of the General Council took place "in a climate of complete transparency and profound sincerity as they form the basis of this ecclesial community."
There was discovered "the absolute invalidity and complete illegality of the above-mentioned decree." The reason for this is a "fundamental error contained therein," which means a "serious canonical illegality" and the result of "invalidity".
The press release contains the full statement by the President to the Commissioner appointed by Rome and his assistant, with whom he met on 18 October.
"We must declare that we do not recognize your eminence as "Commissioner" of the private association of faithful Heralds of the Gospel ."
The formal mistake, according to the Heralds, is that the Decree is directed to a "public union of believers," but that the heralds are a "private association." The legal difference lies in the degree of Church recognition and thus in the legal status. The "private association" represents a first stage of recognition at the diocesan level, which may lead to recognition as a "public association."
To illustrate the situation, the President wrote:
"It's as if a magistrate appears in the house of Antonio López with a notice to Pedro Rodríguez."
Mr López does not receive a valid judicial notification because of a personal error. Similarly, the Heralds of the Gospel can not receive a decree addressed to another union.
However, according to the President, it is crucial that the Heralds of the Gospel, as a "private association of believers," can not be the subject of a provisional administration, since such is not provided for by Church law. To subordinate a private association to a commissioner would mean "violating the sacred and inviolable right of the faithful to be able to unite in the Church with their own statutes and their own leadership."
"If the dicastery for lay people, family and life, to which we are directly responsible, takes no action, the matter is over for us, I have informed His Eminence."
The position of the Heralds of the Gospel is based on the opinions of canon lawyers, who were called in by the association. These stated that the Roman decree violates Canon 318 of the Codex Iuris Canonici, which provides for a provisional administration only for companies and public associations. Likewise, it violates the Canons 50 and 51 because it is not sufficiently substantiated and the association was not previously heard.
According to the report of "the renowned canonist, Lluis Martinez Sistach, only public associations of the competent ecclesiastical authority in serious cases and for serious reasons, temporarily" can be subordinated to a provisional leadership.
For private associations this jurisdiction does not apply. The ecclesiastical authority therefore has no possibility of replacing the chairman elected by the association's own statutes and the management of the association (Ius Canonicum, XXVI, No. 51, 1986, p. 173).
It should also be noted that in civil matters, the final judgment of the Tribunal de Relación de Coimbra, Portugal, of 17 May 2011, unanimously stated that "the private associations of faithful are subject to the supervision of the competent ecclesiastical authorities, but not by reference to their 'obligation of oversight' appointing commissioners as representatives of the association." Relations between Portugal and the Holy See are governed by a Concordat in force.
The most important testimony in this sense, however, comes from the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life itself: it annulled the commissioner's decree of the archdiocese of Diamantina (Brazil) against the private association of the faithful Palabra Viva. The decree was annulled by the Holy See on 15 March 2016. The reason given for the annulment was that, under existing law, the appointment of a Commissioner (Can., 318) is intended only for public associations of believers (Cann., 312-320). A corresponding application to a private association of the faithful is not legitimate and the appointment of a Commissioner is therefore not permitted.
Cardinal Assis and Bishop Aparecido took note of the remarks made by the leader of the Heralds of the Gospel on 18 October. Msgr. Aparecido, himself a canon lawyer, said that the message was that he would write to the Holy See explaining that "there is indeed an admissible objection".
The Congregation of Religious, say the Heralds, basically do not have jurisdiction over a private association of the faithful, regardless of whether their members are lay or clerical.
The leader of the Heralds of the Gospel also addresses the question of the reasons for the Roman Commissioner's decree. It was still "an unknown mystery," about what the association is being accused. The reasons given in the decree are of such a general nature and of "a suspicious inconsistency" that the only consequence is "great confusion":
"Because we are aware that the Heralds of the Gospel have committed no crime and have always maintained the integrity of the faith and customs. In this sense, it is noticeable that the previous Apostolic Visitation, which took place in an atmosphere of ecclesial communion and pervaded all of us, was completed without any "problematic" question, let alone a "serious one."
Rome wants to administer the association in a tacit and arbitrary manner. But why?
"Therefore, and because the purpose of the Congregation of Orders (an authority which has no jurisdiction over our lay association), is to ask the Prefect of this Congregation, Cardinal Braz de Aviz, with the necessary respect:
"If we did something wrong, then tell us clearly what. But if not, why are you trying to punish us at any cost?"
The meeting with the two prelates appointed by Rome also addressed the "moral lynching" of which the Heralds of the Gospel, since the Roman Commissioner's Decree, have undergone by the media-led through "anti-religious prejudices." This campaign had "caused irreparable moral damage," and the responsible leadership of the association must "react in time with the necessary means," even of a legal nature.
The broadcast concludes:
We turn our eyes to the mild and mighty Virgin Mary, of whose infallible help we are certain. We re-consecrate ourselves to Her and our apostolate of the Association of Heralds of the Gospel, which already belongs to her, all for the greater glory of God.
Sao Paulo, October 19, 2019
In memory of St. John of Brébeuf, St. Isaac Jogues and companions, martyrs, and St. Paul the Cross
Humberto Goedert Press Officer of the Heralds of the Gospel
Text: Giuseppe Nardi Image: Gospel Heralds (Screenshots)