Translated by P Kiley April 2000
But in the plan set out previously by Monsignor d’Enos it is no longer a question of establishing this seminary on some island in central Oceania; the prelate wishes to put it in Sydney in the procurator’s office.
Father Founder is submitting first of all to Father Barnabo, secretary of the Holy Congregation, the following reflections:
The Sydney Procuratorship has been established several years ago by the efforts of the Superior-General of the Society of Mary. The spirit of conciliation and compliance, the deep respect for the ecclesiastical authority of the area, had gradually driven away the atmosphere of suspicion that its establishment had brought about; and for some time the procurators had been enjoying peace. Submissive to the Archbishop for everything which concerned the spiritual jurisdiction and the administration of the Sacraments, they depended immediately for the rest on the Superior-General. Full of zeal for the missions they performed all the services they could; the plans of Bishop d’Enos have the procurators into a state of worry and discouragement. Bishop Bataillon has, without doubt, not considered the fact that the procurator’s house being outside his Vicariate, was equally, in a sense, outside his jurisdiction, that this house was established for the service of all the Oceania missions entrusted to the Society; that since then, a sole Apostolic Vicar, by himself, has not the right to change its purpose without prior consultation with the other Apostolic Vicars and the Superior-General; that by going directly to the highest authority without this precaution he was, through that, even annulling the whole order of the lower hierarchy; that he was exposing himself to numerous claims and was perpetuating that sort of confusion which troubles the Oceania missions, breaks down the unity of those who are working for their success and leads to harming them.
Seminary Project – The zeal of the Bishop d’Enos has already established several years ago a sort of college at Wallis in which lessons in the Latin language were being given; another in the island of Futuna. It is regrettable that the prelate didn’t say in his letter to Propaganda what result he obtained in these establishments. Knowledge of this would have been able to clarify our judgment on what he is planning to establish in Sydney. I know only that the Director of the school or college of Wallis has shown himself, in his letters, to be particularly discouraged, and that he has complained bitterly several times about the state of penury that he and his college was left in by the Apostolic Vicar. But whatever the case, is the creation of a seminary, outside the Vicariate, opportune in the present circumstances? It would be difficult to give with prudence an affirmative reply to this question. Nothing has been prepared for such an enterprise from the point of view of personnel who have to contribute to it, of financial resources, of buildings… Would the seminary have any real immediate advantage for the mission? This question doesn’t seem to me any less difficult to resolve than the previous one. No people are more fickle, changeable than those of Oceania; will their children want to or be able to tie themselves down to study, to regular work? Perhaps they will agree with pleasure to leave for the seminary; but isn’t it to be feared that, following the known habits of these people, they’ll soon be begging more eagerly still to return to their own country? Commander Marceau, captain of the Arche d’alliance who has visited all the Oceania missions, on returning to Europe, had taken with him a young man from the island of Wallis. This young man seemed pious enough; we took all possible care over him; we had placed him in one of our houses in Toulon, the warmest ares in France. Well, he gave us no peace or rest; it has been necessary to bring him back, at great expense, to Wallis, where his conduct gave rise to some worry, which led us to marry him off to keep him virtuous. Isn’t it to be feared that the young people who would be sent to the seminary at Sydney wouldn’t act like him? Can we hope, in the near future, to be able to raise up some natives to the priesthood? Perhaps this would mean opening ourselves up to disappointments and to other serious problems. The people of Oceania have, too recently, come out of its uncivilised state and from cannibalism, for them not to keep their instincts for a long time yet; prudence would therefore seem to suggest letting three or four generations pass before thinking seriously of having native priests. Passions are so strong in these hot countries that it would be dangerous to go quickly; also the missionaries are putting all their zeal into getting the young people married as soon as possible, in order to preserve their morals.
In 1854 the Holy Congregation of Propaganda communicates to Fr Colin a plan of regulation between the Apostolic Vicar of the two Guineas and the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and of the Sacred Heart of Mary and asks his opinion.
On the 28th September he was writing to Bishop Barnabo, the secretary of Propaganda:
- 1) The question of the powers given by the Holy Congregation to the Vicars or Apostolic Prefects, for the good administration of the temporal matters of the Mission, is important and delicate. To prevent wrong interpretations, it would be essential that it was clearly determined, in the Regulation, what are the temporal matters, properly speaking, of the mission? And what are those matters, which are not. If these temporal matters include the things which are necessary and indispensable for the food, the clothing, the lodging etc of the missionary, there is no danger, for the peace and success of the mission if its administration is entrusted exclusively to the Vicars or the Apostolic Prefects alone, because both cannot have the ability required for good administration and this administration is a door which leads too easily to complaints and claims…
- 2) The Regulation says: The missionaries are under the direction and dependence of the Apostolic Vicar. It seems to me that it would be necessary to add: for all that concerns the direction of the mission; and under the dependence of the Superior, for all that concerns religious discipline. We read again: The authority of the Apostolic Vicar remains always intact, whether through the faculties themselves or through the places and times of exercising them. This last part of the sentence must, without doubt, be understood with this restriction: that the Apostolic Vicar will create no new station which would require an increase of workers, without having beforehand, the agreement of the Superior-General; otherwise he would impose on the Society an increase with regard to a burden which, in certain circumstances, it would not be able to carry. What is more, it can happen that some missionary, to safeguard his virtue, would be obliged to move away from some person, from some place, and that the Superior alone knows his unfortunate position, by secret confidences that he is not able to communicate. In this and other similar cases, should the Superior not provide for the salvation of this missionary by shifting him? The right of his position makes it an obligation for him, but how will he be able to do it with this article in the regulation? It seems then that the article is not complete, that it contains an important omission, and creates for the Superior an obstacle to the performance of his essential duties. The first goal of a religious Society is the sanctification of its members, and the Superior must have all the authority necessary for that goal. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be necessary at least to formulate the end of this article in the sense of the decision of Benedict XIV, contained in his Apostolic Letter of the 6th November 1247.
- 3) It is said in the Regulation: The religious missionaries who work in a mission are under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicar in all which concerns the direction of the mission; and, in the case where there could be conflict between the religious authority and the ecclesiastic authority, obedience due to the latter must prevail. I fear that this article, if it isn’t rewritten in a clearer and more precise way, will increase confusion and encourage conflicts instead of preventing them. The authority of the Apostolic Vicar and that of the Superior-General seem to me to be two essentially distinct authorities; each comes from the same source, that is to say, the Holy See. Each of them needs what is proper to the exercise of its ministry, for the accomplishment of its duties. If one absorbs the other, it is, in my opinion, dangerous for good harmony, for the prosperity of the mission, for vocations to foreign mission, Therefore, it seems to me that it would be much better, on the same question, to distinguish with Benedict XIV, three sorts of rights: the right particular to the Apostolic Vicar, the right particular to the religious Superior, and a right common to both; and then, with the same great Pontiff, to declare that it is only in the cases relative to this common right, that is to say to ius cumulativum, that the authority of the Apostolic Vicar must prevail if an amicable agreement cannot be arrived at.
- 4) The article which bestows on the Vicar or Apostolic Prefect the title and functions of Provincial vis-à-vis all the religious in his jurisdiction seems to me one of the most serious in the regulation and likely to give rise to serious difficulties in practice. It supposes or creates three fundamental points of discipline, which are not found in the Rules of the majority of religious Corporations, notably in the Constitutions of the Society of Mary; and which, if they were imposed on it, would tend to destroy the unity and harmony of its religious government.
- It supposes that a priest of a religious society, raised to episcopal dignity, continues to be part of the this same Society; that this bishop or Apostolic Vicar becomes, of right, Provincial of all his former confrères who are within the limits of his jurisdiction, or who could be sent there; and that he keeps this right of Provincial all the time that he himself remains Apostolic Vicar.
- Now, our Constitutions, it is true, allow Marist priests to accept, in certain circumstances, the episcopate, if it is offered; but they establish, at the same time, that, by the very fact of their episcopal consecration, they cease, strictly speaking, to be part of the Society, and to be under the regular dependence of the Superior…
- I confess frankly that I would not like to be the Superior of a Religious Society, which would count several Apostolic Vicars amongst its Provincials, who had the right to be so, and the right to perform its functions, for all their lives. Eighteen years’ experience has taught me that with such a kind of government, there would be no effective way of maintaining discipline and religious spirit in the missions, and preventing abuses and discouragement amongst the missionaries; and, while the demands of the religious, the expectations of the Apostolic Vicars, the complaints of both would be examined and discussed at Rome, with the ordinary maturity of the Holy See, the conflicts in the missions, lack of discipline in the Society would get worse and worse, and the evil would often become incurable.
- 5. The Regulation recognises two elements, the religious and the apostolic, and supposes that these two elements are two essentially different things. On first sight, this assertion does not seem to be completely exact: 1* The two elements come from the same source, that is to say, from the Holy See; therefore they are not in this respect two essentially distinct things; 2* It is the Holy See that entrusts the mission to the Religious Congregation; therefore it is the Holy See that identifies the religious element and the apostolic element in the Congregation and makes of them only one for the direction of the mission; but this unity of the religious element and the apostolic element exists in reality, only in so far as the direction of the mission is entrusted directly to the Religious Congregation, represented by its Superior-General. The Superior-General, no doubt, will not be in person on the mission site to stamp the religious movement and the apostolic direction on it; but this will be done equivalently by the man of his choice approved by the Holy See; by a Provincial invested with all appropriate authority, chosen with maturity, able to be called at any time… Often missioners are patient only because they see that there will soon be a change of Superior, a new Provincial, in whom they hope to have more confidence; from whom they expect more aptitude, more justice, more gentleness or firmness.
The foreign missions are an honourable exile. They are laborious and full of dangers for body and soul. Few Superiors-General have the right, in virtue of the vows, to send their subjects there; and even those who have this right wouldn’t be able to use it charitably against the will of the religious who feel repugnance for this kind of ministry. Only zeal, and a spontaneous zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls, strongly impregnated in the religious element and directed by it, will give rise to real supernatural vocations for this voluntary exile, and only this will maintain the energy for action and regular discipline, the only foundation for a good administration for religious. Now, regular discipline, in the missions as elsewhere, united to this energy for action, can be kept intact only by one sole principle of direction, that is to say, by the Superior-General.