Order of Premontre, Premonstratensians, Norbertines, and White Canons

08 Chapter 6: The Government of the Order

08 Chapter 6: The Government of the Order



The prime purpose of the General Chapter is to give expression to and promote the bond of charity, the unity and the charismatic vitality of the entire Order. It is also to be a fraternal dialogue and a pastoral colloquium in which there is to be communication concerning the experiences and contemporary questions of religious life and the apostolates of our communities. It is to be a reflection of the manner in which the Order must respond to the needs of the modern Church and world. It is also to concern itself with the ways and means of affording solutions for the difficulties of the communities of the Order. It is to be the forum of review and watchfulness concerning the fidelity with which the houses and canonries manifest the charism of the Order. To this end the General Chapter, as the supreme authority in the Order, establishes laws and suitable norms, and shall be sometimes a fraternal, sometimes a judicial forum, in rooting out those obstacles, whether in persons or communities, which obstruct the development of "communio". It may reserve to itself those matters of importance which it considers as proper to itself as the sole supreme authority in the Order.


The General Chapter is a college comprised of the abbot general, who by right is its president, and delegates of the houses of the Order as well as the officials of the Order.

1. The following must be summoned to the General Chapter, except in the case provided for in n. 263.

    1. the abbot general and all reigning prelates;

    2. the definitors of the Order, an abbot general emeritus, the procurator general and the provisor of the Order;

    3. the superior and one deputy from each quasi-canonry duly recognized as such by the definitory of the Order (cf. Const. 133. 2);

    4. one deputy from each canonry, elected by the members of the canonry chapter, with the exception of those who are members of a house chapter or community, which has the right of having its own delegate according to the second part of this norm;

    5. one deputy from each house chapter or community properly recognized as such according to paragraph 2;

    6. the provosts of the exempt canonries of nuns of our Order.

  1. Those house chapters or communities which have at least eight solemnly professed members, and which have their own identity and also are recognized as such two years before the celebration of the General Chapter, both by the canonry chapter and the definitory of tt~e Order (also have the right to send a depu~). That recognition must be communicated to all canonries by the definitory of the Order.

    All the above mentioned must be called to the General Chapter; they enjoy deliberative vote in the chapter and are bound to attend, unless there intervenes a legitimate reason. Within three months of the notice of convocation, this reason must be communicated to and weighed by the definition of the Order.

  2. To a General Chapter:

a. prelates, legitimately impeded, are bound to send a delegate;
b. superiors of quasi-autonomous houses, legitimately impeded, may send a delegate;
c. If a deputy is legitimately impeded, there is to be a new election, if in the actual election
no one else by a separate vote was designated as a substitute. If there is not time for
arranging a new election, that one is the substitute deputy who obtained the next highest
number of votes after the elected deputy in the last ballot of the election.

5. Since no one may receive more than a simple mandate (proxy vote), a capitular who is legitimately impeded can appoint a delegate who may substitute conditionally as his proxy; he may even designate a second, a third, or a whole series.


The abbot general is a member and the head of the General Chapter, presiding over it by right. In the event that the abbot general is prevented from being present, and could not appoint a delegate, the first definitor of the Order shall be president.


To decide all questions which cannot be treated by the entire General Chapter, there shall be constituted by secret ballot four definitors of the Chapter, who shall act collegially with the abbot general. In addition to reigning abbots, other capitulars may also be elected definitors of the Chapter.


To avoid having a report about each and every house of the Order during a General Chapter, the abbot general shall be charged with the preparation of a general report on the state of all houses of the Order.


The ordinary General Chapter shall meet at least every sixth year. The General Chapter shall be convened, moreover, as often as the definitory of the Order shall deem it necessary, having in mind the needs of the Church and the Order in the modern world.


Announcement of a General Chapter shall be made to all canonries twelve months before its celebration. At least three years before the General Chapter, a secretariate shall be formed by the abbot general with the definitors which shall prepare for the General Chapter. This secretariate shall consist of a chairman named by the abbot general with the definitors of the Order and a sufficient number of assistants selected by the chairman under the vigilance of the definitors of the Order.


The definitory shall take care that the updated order for the celebration of the General Chapter is prepared.

The Abbot General


The abbot general will be the principal agent of unity among the abbeys, priories and houses of the Order and the principal agent of peace within and outside. He will be the first pattern of a charity that serves, an exemplar for prelates and confreres. He will be the pursuer of the spiritual life and vitality of the whole Norbertine community. He presides in the General Chapter with the definitory of the Chapter. Between General Chapters, he is the executive of the Chapter in his own person and with the definitors of the Order. He presides over the Order with his own proper authority, and he governs the Order according to the norms of law. To him must be given that cooperation on the part of prelates and all members which will provide for the welfare and the achievement of a perfect union of the entire Order.


The abbot general presides by right in the General Chapter and to it alone is he subject in the Order. He governs the entire Order as the supreme moderator. He exercises his office and has that authority over the members, canonries and circaries of the Order which is compatible with the office of abbot general of the Order.


He is the immediate superior of the governing prelates of the Order. As regards those members subject to their own prelates, he has the right of precept only in the case of visitation, recourse and appeal or as often as the matter concerned comes under his competence. In these last instances he may not take away an appointment imposed by virtue of the vow of obedience, unless the religious' own prelate, having been asked to do so, refuses.


He may call religious to offices directly connected with the government of the Order. In these cases, and as far as the office is concerned, that religious is subject to the abbot general. The religious, nonetheless, retains his incorporation in his own canonry. If he must call other religious to responsibilities not directly connected with Order government, prelates who have been asked to provide a religious in this fashion should provide them willingly and quickly.


At the time of his election, the abbot general must be a priest and at least five years solemnly professed in our Order. The abbot general remains in office for life. When, however, he has reached seventy years of age, and when the General Chapter is in session, he should of his own accord or when properly requested, resign. He should do the same whenever failing health or some other grave reason shall in his judgment render him unequal any longer to carry the burden of government.


The abbot general shall reside in Rome and he ought not be absent from the Generalate for a notable length of rime without entrusting to the procurator general or an official of the Order tasks of his office which must be carried out.


Since the abbot general is to protect and animate the vitality of the Order in every way and tirelessly to foster fraternal union and cooperation among the canonries, he shall not neglect to send occasional letters of encouragement and circulate necessary information to the prelates and their confreres. Prelates for their part shall, at least three months before the General Chapter, submit to the abbot general a report on the state of their canonries. The vicars of the abbot general shall forward to the abbot general a report on the state of the circaries, as well as the major happenings in those circaries.


The abbot general, for the good ordering of his administration, shall maintain separate books in which significant facts concerning the government of the Order are inscribed. Therein also are to be recorded the deliberations of the definitory of the Order. These minutes are to be signed by himself and the definitors of the Order. These accounts, as well as all documents concerning the government of the Order, are to be kept in the Order's archives. Material which must be maintained in secrecy is to be kept in a private file, but when sufficient time elapses and there is no prejudice to justice, these are to be destroyed. When the office of abbot general becomes vacant, this private file is to be sealed. Only with urgent necessity and without removing any documents, may the vicar general have access to this file.


The acceptance of the resignation of the abbot general, as well as any consideration of his being removed from office is reserved to the General Chapter alone. Once an abbot general has legitimately resigned, he once again enjoys the active and passive voice, suspended for the duration of his time in office, whether in the house of his profession or in the canonry which he formerly governed.

The Definitory of the Order


The definitors of the Order, as counselors general (can. 627) assist the abbot general in the ordinary and extraordinary government of the Order. They should be competent persons, and as far as possible, they should represent the various linguistic regions. Nonetheless, without concern for origin, they should be animated by the simple desire of serving the entire Order.


The council which assists the abbot general in governing the Order consists of four definitors elected by an absolute majority in the General Chapter and remaining in office until the next ordinary chapter. They may be elected from among the prelates or priests of the Order. Priests elected should be at least thirty-five years of age and have been perpetually professed in the Order for at least five years. As often as the office of definitor is vacated outside the time of a General Chapter, the abbor general, with the consent of the remaining definitors, shall appoint a successor.


Maintaining intact the responsibility of the abbot general, at least one of the definitors of the Order shall collect, coordinate and disseminate news concerning the experiences and work of the chapters as well as information concerning the apostolates and missions.


At least once a year the definitors must meet with the abbot general to conduct the affairs of the Order. They must also meet as often as business occurs in which the abbot general needs the consent of the definitors. Only in the case of a dispensation from temporary vows and the dispensation for the required age to receive sacred orders may the abbot general seek their consent by letter.


Should an urgent situation arise for which the consent of the definitors cannot in any way be sought even by mail, the abbot general may act with the prior consent of the procurator general and another member of the curia of the Generalate.


It is the abbot general who convokes the definitory and in due time provides them with the agenda of the matters to be treated. However, if two definitors request a meeting, the abbot general must as quickly as possible convene the definitory. It is the right of each definitor to propose matters to the abbot general for consideration in the definitory. Accurate minutes of definitory meetings shall be drawn up and decisions and news concerning the members of the Order shall be communicated to them.


The acceptance of the resignation of a definitor, as well as his removal from office, shall pertain to the abbot general with the consent of the other definitors.

Officials of the Order


As the Order's official representative at the Holy See, a priest perpetually professed, eminent in knowledge, prudence and devotion to the Order, and best fitted for the responsibility, should be chosen as procurator general. His term of office extends to the next ordinary General Chapter, and before that time he cannot be removed without consultation with the Holy See. If, for any reason, the office becomes vacant between General Chapters, the abbot general, with the consent of the definitors of the Order, shall appoint a new procurator.


In those matters which pertain either to his religious obligations or to his office, the procurator general is subject to the abbot general alone, who may request of him, as frequently as he wishes, a report on his administration. Annually he shall submit for the approval of the abbot general an accounting of his receipts and expenditures. He shall also submit annually to the abbot general, a report on his activities which will assist the abbot general in preparing his own report for the General Chapter.


In handling matters with the Holy See which affect the entire Order directly or indirectly, the procurator general will always consult with the abbot general and without his consent he will not act. In matters of the individual houses to be handled with the Holy See, or in asking for personal privileges, he will need, in addition to the consent of the prelate of the house concerned, the consent of the abbot general.

Other than those cases cited above, he must be free, as often as, by reason of his office, he has to give information or an opinion concerning business brought to the Holy See or yet to be presented.


Unless it is a matter of the internal forum, individual religious should handle affairs with the Holy See through the procurator general. The religious should have obtained the approval of his respective prelate, always keeping intact his right of free communication in regard to both the Holy See and the procurator general.

The procurator general shall live in Rome and not leave without the permission of the abbot general. In his absence, a substitute who will perform the duties of the office should be designated with the approval of the abbot general.


The procurator general shall record those acts of his administration which are worthy of note and these records, and any other documents of particular importance, shall remain in the archives of the Order.


He shall be reimbursed for the expenses incurred in negotiations for a canonry or religious by the respective canonry.


The resignation of the procurator general may be received by the abbot general, having heard the definitors of the Order.


For the ordinary administration of the goods of the Order, the abbot general shall appoint a provisor of the Order. He shall do this in a session of the definitory of the ordinary General Chapter and with the consent of the definitors of the Chapter. He may appoint any perpetually professed member whom he judges most suitable for the responsibilities to be assumed.

Outside the time of the General Chapter, should this office become vacant for any reason, the abbot general, with the consent of the definitors of the Order, shall appoint a new provisor of the Order.


The provisor carries out his responsibility under the direction of the abbot general.


Taking into consideration the circumstances involved, the abbot general, with the consent of the definitors of the Order, shall establish the limits of competence of the provisor of the Order. These shall be communicated to him in his letters of appointment.


A postulator general shall be elected by the General Chapter to handle the causes of saints of the Order with the Holy See. If outside the time of the General Chapter this office should become vacant, the abbot general with the consent of the definitors of the Order shall appoint a new postulator.


The archives of the Order shall be under the direction of an archivist appointed from among the perpetually professed members of the Order by the abbot general with the consent of the definitors of the General Chapter. Outside the time of the General Chapter, as often as this office becomes vacant, the abbot general, with the consent of the definitors of the Order, shall appoint a new archivist.


It will be the archivist's principal responsibility to care for the acts of the general administration of the Order in the archives, to file them in an orderly fashion and to establish tables of contents.


In the public archives are to be kept those papers which are no longer necessary to the abbot general and which the abbot general himself shall each year hand over to the archivist.


The acceptance of the resignation of the archivist or his removal from office is reserved to the abbot general, having heard the definitors of the Order.


All officials of the Order shall work faithfully with the abbot general, following his direction in the carrying out of their functions. Those living in the Generalate, while retaining full incorporation in their respective canonries, are to comply faithfully with the directions of the abbot general in establishing the common life to be lived in the Generalate. Whoever is appointed to fill some office for the good of the Order shall be supported fittingly by him who made the appointment.

Members of the Order's commissions are named or confirmed by the definitory of the general chapter. Outside the time of a general chapter the appointment of a new member is to be done by the abbot general, having heard the definitors of the order and ordinarily after the commission itself proposes a candidate of proven competence.

Visitation and Visitators


As is to be seen in the Order of Visitation, visitations have as their prime object the increase of fidelity to "communio" which is the highest rule of our communities. Therefore, the first purpose of visitation is to confirm a dynamic spiritual life, strengthen legitimate local customs and see to the carrying out of the decrees of the General Chapter.


The definitory of the General Chapter shall in each General Chapter compile a list including the abbot general, prelates and other religious of the Order, who are judged suitable to fulfill correctly the responsibility of visitation. This list is to be submitted to the General Chapter for its approval.

From that list the definitory of the Order, acting collegially, by the authority of the General Chapter, chooses in due time Visitators to visit each canonry and provides them with letters confirming their appointment.

Outside the time of the ordinary General Chapter, and in case of necessity, the definitory of the Order has the faculty of supplementing this list.


To facilitate the appointment of good visitators, prelates before a General Chapter shall send to the abbot general a list of prelates and religious of the Order who are suited to fulfill correctly the responsibility of visitation.


Ordinarily there will be two visitators, one of whom is a prelate or definitor, the other a non-prelate. At least one visitator should be familiar with the customs, conditions, and language of the region in which the house is located. Moreover, one of the visitators, who would be free for this task, should remain for a time in the house visited. Visitators may not visit each other's houses and no visitator should be a blood relative of the prelate of the house under visitation.


If any religious is to be corrected. before anything is decided concerning him, he should first be heard by a visitator.


When the visitation is completed. data collected during it should be prudently brought to the attention of the prelate and council of the canonry or house: visited and the house chapter by the visitators so that fraternal and apt corrections may be promulgated where necessary.

Visitators should only correct those things which areĀ·e contrary to the common law or against the Constitutions of the Order and the decrees of the General Chapter. More serious matters are to be referred to the competent authority.


The visitators shall examine carefully the minutes of the meetings of the prelate's council, sign their names to them and ought not to omit rightful praise or words of prudent correction. Visitators shall also maintain strict secrecy concerning matters which they have heard or learned during the course of the visitation.


Once the visitation is completed, the visitators should accurately report the general condition of the visited house not only in the protocol but also in the other reports to be given to the prelate of the canonry, to the abbot general, and to the General Chapter. In this last report they are also to give an account for the proper execution of their responsibility.


It is the right and duty of the abbot general, either by himself or through others, to see that the visitation reports are put into effect,


By reason of his office:

1. The abbot general at any time has the right of undertaking a regular visitation in any canonry or house of the Order.

2. The prelate has the same right in houses dependent upon his canonry. However, this right should not be used in those years in which the ordinary visitations are to be conducted in view of the General Chapter, except for serious reasons,

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