Pope Francis Changes Catholic Canon Law to Allow Lay Brothers to Lead Religious Orders With Priests

Pope Francis greets Father Michael Perry, then-minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, during a meeting with the superiors of the four main men's branches of the Franciscan family at the Vatican in this April 10, 2017, file photo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Pope Francis greets Father Michael Perry, then-minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, during a meeting with the superiors of the four main men’s branches of the Franciscan family at the Vatican in this April 10, 2017, file photo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Granting an exception to canon law, Pope Francis said the Vatican office that deals with religious orders can permit men’s communities that are made up of both priests and brothers to choose one of the brothers to be a provincial superior or even the superior general.

A rescript from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published by the Vatican May 18 said the approval for appointing or electing a brother to head a “clerical institute” would be given “discretionally and in individual cases.”

Pope Francis approved the change Feb. 11, said the rescript, which was signed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, congregation prefect, and Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, secretary.

In 2017, the heads of the four men’s branches of the Franciscan family — the Friars Minor, Capuchins, Conventual Franciscans and the Third Order Regulars — asked Pope Francis to allow them to elect brothers to leadership positions, including those with authority over ordained priests.

Father Michael Perry, who was minister general of the Friars Minor at the time, said such permission would allow the Franciscans to live the order’s ideal of leadership, which should challenge the friars — brothers among themselves, whether ordained or not — “to ‘minority,’ to not going up, but going down.”

Minority, Father Perry had told Catholic News Service, is the opposite of clericalism, which is “a drive upward as if upward mobility offered something, some security and guarantee of fidelity, a way of controlling people so they remain faithful to the truth. Franciscans, we don’t see it this way.”

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Source: America Magazine