Soon after the spread of the news about the commissariat of the Heralds of the Gospel published by the Holy See, the Association was inserted into the headlines of some of the most famous news agencies in the world. While some bodies sought to focus on the situation with professionalism, others preferred to provide themselves – before proving the reality of the facts – to the delivery of partial, or even distorted, versions of the facts in a way that, consciously or unconsciously, denigrate the entity's reputation.
Desirous of finding the truth in the midst of all the information, including contradictory, that has circulated on the Internet and social networks in recent days, we have carried out an exclusive report with the authorities and members of the Heralds of the Gospel, to determine its version of the facts, and present it to the general public.
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Spokesperson bets on "religious persecution" with "modern model"
The Heralds regret that some agencies have not followed the ethical code of journalism because they have not heard the victims' version, giving rise to distorted and unfounded news. According to Humberto Goedert (lawyer, Brazilian, 53 years old), spokesman for the entity, "it is notorious that there is a criminal organization behind it, driven by personal hatreds, and not interested in the truth. An authentic religious persecution in the middle of the 21st century, disguised under the veils of false ideologies. All this has caused irreparable damage, not only to the image of the Heralds, but also for the Church itself. It's vexaminoso."
"The incriminators are always the same, who are disaffected of the institution; they take refuge in the shadows of the internet and seek to disguise their small number in anonymity"
— Humberto Goedert
Furthermore, Goedert explained that the press department of the institution – after investigation of the various slanderous statements, seeking to reassemble to its sources – always finds in the end the same defamatory script, rejected and refitted, changing only the names of those involved. The spokesman says he believes that the reason for this happens is that the real motivation is not in the facts, but in hatred: "The incriminators are always the same, who are disaffected of the institution; they take refuge in the shadows of the internet and seek to disguise their small numbers in anonymity," he added.
According to the limb, this group of disgruntled, however, is like a hollow vase, as the saying goes: it only makes noise. Goedert refers to Christ, who was also persecuted and condemned to the worst of ignominies, but – he notes, with a tip of irony – Jesus went through a judgment, though wicked, where he was at least called by his own name: "Whoever you want to release you, Barabbas or Jesus , what do they call Christ?" (Mt 27:17). Indeed, the spokesperson deplores that neither this was granted to the Heralds, because in the decree drawn up by the Holy See were treated as "public association", which does not correspond to the legal reality of the entity.
Goedert regrets that there has been "very trampling and little dialogue" in the procedures of which the institution has been the subject since 2017. "We have always been open to dialogue, a dialogue, which, unfortunately, has not always been reciprocal. We only ask that the minimum legality be observed in the proceedings, because even in the unjust judgment of Jesus a certain simulacrum of legal procedure was observed. But the justice of scribes and Pharisees is a thing of the past: it seems that the modern model of ecclesiastical judgment dispenses with facts, evidence and arguments", concludes the lawyer.
Positive Apostolic Visit, but with unknown result
As has already been widely disseminated, even before the official communication through the Commissioners, the Heralds of the Gospel were the subject of an Apostolic Visit, during which – according to the note released by the entity – "nothing has been found against morals, sound doctrine or ecclesiastical and civil laws."
Goedert recalls that, at the end of the Visit, a voluminous dossier of answers to questions was still delivered, coming in part from the same murmurers as always, and refers to the press release that states that "the Visitors and the Holy See did not comment on that response from the Institution."
The spokesman told our report the astonishment and discomfort of many Members of the Heralds when they were informed that, despite all this, a Commissariat had been declared, based only on generic reasons.
"The Commissioner is invalid," says President
On October 17, the President of the Heralds of the Gospel, Felipe Eugenio Lecaros Concha (Chilean, 60 years old), along with his General Council, received the visit of Don Raymundo Damasceno Assis and Dom José Aparecido Gonçalves de Almeida, appointed commissioner and assist for the "Heralds International Public Association of the Gospel". The report had access to the minutes of the meeting. In it, the President addresses the following initial words to the prelates:
"We revere you as bishops of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as such both are the object of our consideration, but we must declare that we do not recognize Your Eminence as 'Commissioner' of the Private Association of Herald stalwarts of the Gospel, which I am the legitimately elected President."
The President of the Heralds of the Gospel states that the decree notifying the Association Commissioner is simply invalid, and gives the reasons
The President of the Heralds of the Gospel explains that the decree notifying the Association Commissioner is simply invalid for the following reasons:
1) The decree is intended for a "Public Association of The Faithful", when the Heralds of the Gospel are a "Private Association of the Faithful". The difference in legal nature between both associative forms makes it not correspond to the Heralds receiving this decree, just as Fernando dos Santos could not answer in court by Antonio dos Santos, without setting up a person error.
2) Private associations of the faithful, by their very nature, are not liable to be commissariat. Indeed, the Code of Canon Law provides for the Commission only for the public associations of the faithful (can. 318,1).
3) Given the impossibility of such Commissariat, the President and his Council shall take the case closed.
According to the minutes in question, the pronouncement was based on ecclesiastical laws and supported by eminent canonists, such as Lluis Martinez Sistach, who denies the possibility of such commissariat.
In addition, there is the precedent of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and life that did not allow the commissariat of the Private Association of Living Word Faithful, declaring that "the appointment of a commissioner (can. 318) is indicated in law among the measures provided for only for public associations of the faithful (can. 312-320) and therefore cannot be applied to a private association of the faithful. Therefore, the appointment of a commissioner in this case is not legitimate."
In Portugal, for example, civil law incorporated this understanding by allowing surveillance of the competent authorities, but not the Commission.
The President then concluded that: "It is therefore a null decree. It is not a question of wanting to accept it or not; in reality, it is not even destined for us."
"There's no place to appeal," canonista says
The canonist who advised the President of the Heralds during the meeting, Prof. Dr. José Manoel Jiménez (teacher, Spanish, 67 years old), explained that the Association does not even have the ability to appeal the decree, because it is a simply non-existent document (or infectus, in canonical language).
Prof. Dr. Jiménez also argued that the can was not followed either. 50, which provides for an obligation to listen to the injured party before a decree is issued.
Still on the fact that the document confuses the private entity with a public association, the Spanish canonist says he was astonished: "This is inexplicable. Was it a mistake, or did they do it on purpose? If it was a mistake, it's something you honestly can't admit in the Roman Curia. Now, if it's been done on purpose, what do you intend with that?"
Don Raymundo Damasceno and Don José Aparecido agreed on the fact that this issue is relevant and that therefore it will be taken by them to the Holy See. Moreover, they reiterated that they were not in possession of any other information, in addition to the generalities contained in the Decree, with regard to the problems and shortcomings to be supplied by the entity.
They also stated that they had no access to the Visiters' report or the response dossier provided by the Heralds. According to Goedert, the Herald stowed authorities are perplexed by these facts, because they cannot explain so many singularities in the process to their sympathizers.
The two Companies are a case apart from
The report also sought the representatives of the two other entities that are the subject, together with the Heralds of the Gospel, of the Decree of Commissariamento issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.
The two other entities, while acknowledging that they may be the subject of a Commissariat, complain of a lack of transparency in the manipulation of information by the Holy See, and ask that their rights be respected
On the one hand, the Clerical Society of Apostolic Life Virgo Flos Carmeli brings together the clerics who commune in the same charism of the Heralds of the Gospel, applied to the specificities of the priestly ministry. Just as the Regina Virginum Society is to female apostolic life.
The Ep. Jorge María Storni (Argentine, 77 years old), Superior General of Virgo Flos Carmeli, and Br. Anina Morazzani (Venezuelan, 51 years old), Superior General of Regina Virginum, referred us to the official communications where the respective entities spoke about the Commissariat.
It reads that "this decree is illegal for contradicting express canon law norms, in addition to containing serious irregularities", among which they mention: not being motivated by serious explicit reasons; o the directors of the entities concerning the outcome of the Visit and the reasons for the decree were not heard before the Commission; and contain serious material errors, such as confusion in associative forms, or affirm that Virgo Flos Carmeli and Regina Virginum are part of Heralds of the Gospel when they are autonomous institutions.
In the press releases there are also complaints of lack of transparency in the manipulation of information by the Holy See, disclosing to the press data that were kept hidden to the entities concerned themselves.
While they acknowledge that, under current law, they may be the subject of a Commissariat, because they are public entities of the Church, Societies ask that their rights be respected which they consider to be harmed in the ongoing process and, above all, to be clarifying the serious concrete reasons that have motivated it.
According to other members of the Heralds of the Gospel, contacted by our report, many puzzles are still unsolved in relation to this and other Commissioners.
"How can we explain that we seek to illegally commend the Heralds, when so many other things in the Church seem to be simply untouchable, even in the face of so many abuses?"
— Elizabeth Titonelli
Elizabeth Titonelli (Brazilian, 58) is outraged: "How to explain that one seeks to violate the law, illegally commissised the Heralds, when so many other things in the Church seem to be simply untouchable, even in the face of so many abuses of doctrinal order moral and disciplinary?"
Guillermo Asurmendi (Argentine, 60), in turn, censors the recent behavior of high-profile people in the Church, which he qualifies as "barbarities", and who have never been punished in the meantime; and concludes: "It draws attention to this lack of equity, we are even without knowing what to think. It seems to indicate that there are, in addition to two weights and two measures, unconfessed intentions. The only thing we want is that our rights be observed, that there is at least a little proportionality and respect for justice for the good of all, including for the credibility of ecclesiastical bodies."
Elizabete Astorino (married, Brazilian, 61 years old) also said strange the confusion of the decree regarding the competence of the Vatican dicasteries. She recalls being against the very nature of lay associations that lay people – without vows, often married and exercising secular professions – be treated as religious: "Why insist on putting us under the tutelage of the Congregation for institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life? It doesn't make any sense!" In addition to demonstrating stupefaction because there are so many inconsistencies and improcences, Elizabete says that other couples also wonder how their families would look if, by absurdity, they were all commissariat: "In a joking tone, I asked my husband if Next time we want to change cars, we're going to need the Commissioner's OK. But my husband didn't even call; he laughed, and shrugged," he said.
"I asked my husband if the next time we want to change cars we're going to need the Commissioner's OK. But my husband didn't even call; he laughed, and shrugged"
— Astorino Elizabete
Dr. Jiménez assures that the prior practices to the Commissariat have not been followed. According to Goedert, evidence indicates that the Heralds had already been prejudged for destructive purpose, and that there are data according to which only one pretext has been sought since 2014 to promote an Apostolic Visit designed to necessarily lead, whatever the result, in a Commissariat. The spokesman believes that the illegal leak of some videos a few years ago, whose content would have been manipulated out of context, was instrumentalized for this purpose.
Wanted for our report, the President of the Heralds, Felipe Lecaros, mentioned there were recent reports of some Heralds that point to the animosity of a certain purpurado in relation to the Association.
According to these members, this has been the case for a long time, calling into check for good faith, impartiality and straight intent, whether from the Visit or the Commissariat, and claim to find the fingerprints of this prelate in the defamatory campaign promoted against the institution, which would have begun in the period and in the city where he was. Lecaros, however, did not want to give further details about it; said only that this matter is still under investigation, and that the entity reserves the right to promote any legal action aimed at defending its good fame in the face of the faithful and society.
Another source, who asked to remain anonymous, says he is frightened by the growing discontent he is seeing, not only among the Heralds, but also in the general public, about the trampling of which the Heralds have been objected to. "They really have a lot of patience, see?" he exclaims. "Too much, at least for now. But we are organizing; if they don't defend themselves, we will," he says. She says she is dissatisfied with the attitude that the Church authorities are taking, and asks, "After all, what do you intend with this?" And he concludes, "This is not good for the Church, right now…"
Heralds wonder, "What's the problem?"
"The government and the lives of members is governed by our Statutes, approved by the Holy See; the quality of the formation of the Heralds is something universally recognized… so what's the problem?"
— Felipe Lecaros
Felipe Lecaros regrets the lack of dialogue in the measures being taken against an entity that has always been characterized by ecclesial communion: "We do our best to maintain a good understanding in all the dioceses where we work, and this is proof the thousands of letters of support, congratulations and gratitude we have received from parish priests, bishops, and even cardinals, praising our apostolate." He explained that many current initiatives of the Heralds, such as revista and the Misericórdia Fund, were even suggestions from prelates, accepted by the Institution.
So, he insists, do we know that the oppositions come from an organised minority, and why do you ask why this constant non-transparency on the part of the ecclesiastical authority about any alleged complaints against an institution of exemplary behaviour?
As for the reasons currently alleged, Lecaros asks: "The government and the lives of members are governed by our Statutes, approved by the Holy See; the quality of the formation of the Heralds is something universally recognised, and so we could proceed with the other allegations; so what's the problem?"
Goedert confirms that this situation "leads us to wonder what we really have problematic." However, he prefers not to risk answering: "For now, we only have a few chances, which has not yet come time to comment," he added.