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Authority and Obedience



Instruction from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

11/06/2008: Vatican

Under the date May 11, 2008, Pentecost Sunday, the Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life published an Instruction bearing the Pope’s signature. The Instruc-tion, entitled “Authority and Obedience,” is addressed to those who are living the consecrated life in community; that is: men and women who belong to religious institutes. The Instruction is also addressed to those who belong to Societies of Apostolic Life. Other consecrated persons, however, can also take from the Instruction useful advice in regard to the form of consecrated life which they are living.

The document began to take shape when the Congregation had its plenary session, September 28-30, 2005. At that time is was clear that the theme of obedience requires more than the usual amount of reflection because of the changes which have arisen over recent years in the heart of religious Institutes and communities. Reflection is needed too in light of the most recent documents issued by the Magisterium on the theme of: renewal of consecrated life.

Over recent years, in the Church and in society itself, a change has emerged in the conception and practice of authority and obedience. The change has been occasioned, among other reasons, by: (1) a new consciousness of the value of persons as individuals, with their own callings and gifts (intellectual, affective and spiritual), their freedom and their potential for relationships; (2) because of the central place being given to the spirituality of communion, and new value being given to various means which assist in developing such a spirituality; (3) a different, less self-focused way of carrying out mission, seeing mission as something shared with all the People of God, with the resulting, practical forms of collaboration which such mission requires.

The main goal of the Instruction is to re-emphasize that authority and obedience, in whatever concrete fashion they may be exercised, always involve a special bond with Jesus, Lord and Obedient Servant. The Instruction aims furthermore, to assist authority in its three-fold service which affects: the people called to live out their consecration (Fi
rst Part); the creation of family-like communities (Second Part); shared mission (Third Part).
The reflections and the directives contained in the Instruction fall within the same series of docu-mentation that has accompanied the path traversed by Consecrated Life over these difficult years. Notable in this connection are the Instructions On Formation in Religious Institutes (l990) and Frat-ernal Life in Community (1994); the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation called Vita Consecrata (1996); and the 2002 Instruction, Starting Afresh from Christ.

The complete text may be found at the following languages:

Spanish, French, English, Italian

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