Pope Francis enumerated a series of concerns for new communities when he received the members of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on December 11, 2021, at the Vatican. On the occasion of their general assembly, he insisted particularly on the separation of the internal forum and the external forum, and on preventing the abuse of power.
Pope Francis asked the members of the dicastery headed by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, for a “serious and patient” discernment of the complex issues they have to evaluate, especially with regard to recently founded communities, “which are even more exposed to the risk of self-referentiality.”
Pope Francis then drew up a list of points that require constant vigilance, beginning with the founders themselves, who sometimes “tend to feel that they are the only depositories or interpreters of the charism, as if they were above the Church.” Other areas of attention include: vocation ministry, the formation of candidates, the way authority is exercised, especially the length of mandates, the accumulation of power, and the separation between the internal forum — which is the secret of conscience — and the external forum. The latter is a theme “that concerns me a lot,” said the Pope.
The pontiff also called for the prevention of abuse of authority and power. In this regard, he cited the book The Veil of Silence by Italian journalist Salvatore Cernuzio. A book that reveals, he lamented, “not the glaring abuses, but the everyday abuses that harm the strength of a vocation.”
During his speech, the Argentine Pope gave an “essential” criterion for discernment: the capacity of a community to “integrate” into the life of the People of God. He charged the pastors to enlighten the faithful on “the authenticity of charisms” and “the reliability of those who present themselves as founders.”
Finally, for the approval of new institutes or communities, the pontiff invited them to develop collaboration with the diocesan bishops—and the latter to accept the accompaniment of the dicastery. This is to avoid the birth of institutes without sufficient motivation or vigor, despite their “good will.”