154. All the brothers, following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ and of
our Seraphic Father should always wish to be obedient subjects, rather than
Prelates who give orders to others. Nevertheless, those on whom a prelacy is
imposed by obedience shall not obstinately refuse it, but shall fulfil the
ministry entrusted to them with all humility and care.
155. We order that the Father General Vicar, during his period of office, shall
endeavour to visit personally all the Provinces of our Order, and all the houses
and brothers, as far as he can, or at least to see all the brothers of our
Congregation. And the Provincial Vicars shall strive to visit all their houses
and brothers at least twice a year, and both they and the Guardians shall
continually and charitably exhort those same brothers to the perfect
observance of the divine evangelical precepts and the counsels of the Rule we
have promised, of the present Ordinances and especially of most holy poverty,
which is the firmest foundation of all religious observance, and shall correct
156. Since to leave a sinner unpunished is to open the door to every vice, and provokes the vicious to commit the same or even worse excesses, and to be a
hindrance to good and disciplined brothers, we order the Prelates to punish
them as they merit with holy rigour. As the illustrious Doctor St Augustine
says, both punishment and pardon have the same aim, namely, the reform of a
person's life. Therefore, when inflicting punishments, let justice be tempered
with mercy, in such a way that, while the rigour of discipline is not lacking, an
excess of cruelty is avoided. Punishment should be a cure for sickness, in such
a way that mercy and truth meet.
157. It is the duty of the Provincials to despatch all cases that are capable of
being despatched. If therefore at the time of the Provincial Chapter it is found
that one of them has been notably remiss in anything, we wish him to proclaim
his fault and be given an appropriate penance
158. In order to carry out similar punishments, some of our houses in each
Custody should be equipped with secure but humane prisons. No legal
subtleties or subterfuges are to be used (according to the concession of Boniface
159. The brothers should strive to safeguard the poor brother's reputation as
far as possible. Let no-one be scandalised over a brother's sin, or be ashamed
of him or avoid him or consider him with repugnance. On the contrary, he
should be shown even greater compassion and love than before, since he
needs it more, for it is certain, as our Father St Francis says, that each of us
would be worse than we are if God in His grace did not preserve us.
160. Superiors should refrain from binding the souls of their subjects by
imposing precepts under obedience, unless religious observance or the
demands of charity force them to do so. For this reason, Prelates are to be
elected from among brothers who are mature, discerning, knowledgeable,
conscientious and experienced, and who in all things will act according to the
advice of the most senior Fathers and brothers.
161. The brothers who are subjects shall obey their Prelates with all
humility, in all things which they know are not offensive to God. They are to
show due reverence to their prelates, as Vicars of St Francis, indeed of Christ
our God. And when they are rebuked and corrected by them, let them follow
the praiseworthy custom of our ancient humble Fathers and brothers, and
kneel down, bearing all rebukes and correction patiently, without answering
back proudly. And whenever they are corrected in chapter in the refectory
they shall in no way presume to answer their Prelates without first having
requested and received their permission, under pain of taking the discipline in
the presence of the brothers for the length of a Miserere. All the brothers shall
continuously strive to amend their defects, and through frequent acts of virtue
to run in the way of perfection, overcoming corrupting evil influences through
the acquisition of good habits. In this way, every exercise we engage in will be
for the glory and honour of God and an occasion of peace, edification and
salvation for our neighbours.
162. We exhort all the brothers not to appeal outside the Congregation against their Prelates, considering that we have come to religious life not to
engage in lawsuits but to weep for sin, amend our lives, and carry the Cross of
penance by following Christ, who patiently submitted to human judgements
even when they were unjust and impious.
163. But if we do wish to have recourse, it should be done in an orderly
fashion in accordance with the Decree of the Sacred Congregation for
Religious: namely, from Guardian to Provincial, from Provincial to General,
from the General to the Protector, and from the Protector to the Sacred
Congregation and the Supreme Pontiff. We point out that, under a
Constitution of Pope Gregory XIII, brothers are forbidden to appeal to other
Tribunals, especially secular ones, under pain of automatic excommunication
reserved to the Supreme Pontiff, and deprivation of all offices.
164. In order that the punishments inflicted by us with commendable zeal
are not impeded or misconstrued, and so that there may be greater freedom to
proceed against delinquents, we command that the secrets of the Order shall
not be disclosed, and that whoever does disclose them shall be severely
punished by the Father Vicar, or by the Provincial or General Chapter.
165. In addition, to avoid possible trouble, we order that no brother,
especially the young, shall send or receive letters without permission of his
Prelate. And those who do not know how to write should not be anxious to
learn; rather, they should endeavour above everything else to have the Spirit
of the Lord, and His holy operation, to pray to Him with an undivided heart,
and to have humility and patience in persecutions and infirmities.
166. We also exhort all the brothers, in accordance with the admonition
given by our blessed Father in the tenth chapter of the Rule, to beware of all
pride, vain glory, envy, avarice, care and solicitude about worldly matters, of
all detraction and complaining about any category of persons whatsoever,
especially about the Prelates of the Church, or clergy and all other religious.
We should show respect to everyone according to their state, considering them
all as our brothers, fathers and seniors in Christ Jesus our Saviour.